Making polymer clay jewelry is fun and rewarding. You can wear your baubles or give them as gifts. Jewelry you create becomes wearable art!
Beads are Fun and Easy!
One of the easiest components to make for polymer clay jewelry is beads. You can make colored beads, covered beads, and painted beads. Using your clay scraps leftover from past projects is economical and will make your clay supply last longer. When you have bead “centers” ready to go, you will be able to create beautiful beads with any new technique you try. After you have made a new cane or veneer, you can grab your pre-made, pre-baked beads and cover them.
To create beads quickly and easily you will need a few tools. A bead maker will cut down on the time it takes and will insure that they are the same size. I use one from Sculpey. It comes with 3 sizes of bead rollers and 3 “measuring cups” so the beads will all come out the same size. It’s pretty inexpensive and I have left a link here.
After making your beads, you will need something to make the hole. You can use a lot of different things for this. A toothpick will work. So will a standard needle tool. But my favorite tool for this is Sculpey Etch and Pearl Tools. They come in three sizes and each one gradually gets wider. I will explain why this is important later in the tutorial. These are also metal and you can actually bake your beads on them if you wish.
There are a bunch of bead baking trays on the market. Some are pretty pricy. I will show you mine.
Fancy, huh? It’s actually just an aluminum foil pan from the Dollar Store. I accordion folded a piece of cardstock so the beads don’t roll around. It works great and costs very little.
Let’s Make Some Quick Beads!
The goal here is to make beads with your scrap clay in a few minutes. You don’t want to spend all day making bead centers.
Okay, grab your scrap (or new) clay that you want to use. Condition it and warm it up. Roll it into logs. If you are not using a the bead maker above, you want to make nice log that is evenly rolled. You can then cut it into equal slices so you get the same size beads. If you have the bead maker with the measuring cups, choose the size you want to use and fill the cup. Put each piece aside until you have used up all of your clay.
If you find that your clay is sticking to the cups, use a little cornstarch on the cup to act as a release.
Using your fingertip, rub a little cornstarch into the cup.
After you have uniform chunks of clay, roll each one in your palms to get a smooth round shape. Now you can use your bead maker to get them nice and perfectly round. I put three balls at a time in the beader maker.
Put the top of the bead maker on roll back and forth several times. I think it works better if you don’t roll too quickly.
Some people will spend a lot of time completely mixing their scrap clay until it is a uniform color. I don’t do this because,
- It takes extra time that can be used doing something more creative.
- You may find that you get some cool looking beads you didn’t expect like the ones above. The scrap I used had some pearlescent colors and they came out pretty neat. So now I can decide if I want to use them for a project or cover them later.
After rolling your beads, you can now make holes through them. I find it much easier to make the the holes before baking! Using a needle tool or your Etch and Pearl tool, find the center of the bead and gently push into the clay while twisting back and forth. Getting it exactly in the middle takes practice. You will discover after poking a few beads how to look at each side to know you are pretty close to the middle. If you mess it up, just re-roll it.
You will see that the bead kind of pokes out on the other side. No worries because you are going to go back through the other side.
By going through the other side, you will pushing the bead back into shape. The Etch and Pearl tools gradually get wider as you push the bead down, which makes the process easier. If you beads are a little out of shape, simply roll them gently between your thumb and fore finger while on the needle tool. Gently remove the bead and place in your pan or bead baker.
I bake my beads for one hour at 275 degrees. I am using Sculpey Premo. It is my clay of choice. Let these cool and put them in your stash or go ahead and cover them.
Ready To Go!
Now you have bead centers ready to go. And you have used up some clay scraps to boot! The next time you make a beautiful veneer, you will have beads to put it on. Just rebake after covering.
I hope you got a little something from this post. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.
Have a great polymer clay day!