6 Expert Tips for Creating Marbled Polymer Clay Beads

It's my pleasure to welcome Ronna Sarvas Weltman, contributing editor to Step by Step Wire Jewelry and a polymer clay and wirework instructor.  Ronna will be teaching classes at Bead Fest Philadelphia and Bead Fest Portland this year.  She is the author of the new book Ancient Modern: Polymer Clay + Wire Jewelry.  Her book covers a range of innovative techniques to help you create wearable art jewelry that is both organic and sophisticated.  Not only does the book include step-by-step instructions for specific jewelry projects, it's also packed with helpful design tips.  Plus, don't miss the new polymer clay bead design challenge at the end of this newsletter.–Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor 

Creating Marbled Polymer Clay Beads

by Ronna Sarvas Weltman

Bead Guilt 

If you’re like me, you’d rather not talk about how much you’ve spent on beads in your lifetime or how many of those beads have yet to be used in a piece of jewelry. Oh, the guilt!

Making your own beads out of polymer clay enables you to make them for a tiny fraction of the cost you’d pay for most beads. More important, you can make them exactly the size, shape and color you want. 

6 Tips for Creating Marbled Polymer Clay Beads

Polymer clay’s marbling properties enable you to achieve sophisticated and nuanced effects in your beads, disks, spacers and embellishments. There is no mystique to marbling polymer clay. You simply put different colors together and blend them by rolling in your hands or using a roller or a pasta machine. It’s easy to get a fabulous marble if you pay attention to these pointers:

1.  Always use colors that look good together. If the colors that are being blended are not harmonious, the marble blend won’t look good.

2.  Be sure to include dramatic contrasts. If all the colors in a marble blend are similar, it may be boring. All of my marbled blends have either black or white in them, and most have both.

3.  Pay attention to the saturation levels of different clays. A little black, for instance, goes a lot farther than a little white. Use highly-saturated colors in significantly smaller proportions to other colors. 

4.  Experiment with using translucent clay, which adds depth to marble blends, particularly if the beads are polished with shoe polish or wet/dry sandpaper after baking, or dipped in an ice-water bath to increase the translucent polymer clay’s transparency. 

5.  Pay attention to how colors will combine. Green and purple, for instance, can sometimes be fun together, but blend them together and you get mud.

6.  Finally – and perhaps most importantly – keep blending. Yes, sadly, if you blend too much, you’ll end up with a solid color, and it can be difficult to judge when you’ve passed the point of no return, but the vast majority of people will stop blending too soon. So take a risk and roll it or run it through the pasta machine again…and again.  

You'll find many more tips in my book Ancient Modern, including how to create your own organic-style jewelry from polymer clay and wire, unique texturing techniques for polymer clay and wire, and design considerations to take your necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins into the art-to-wear realm. I've arranged the projects in order of difficulty, so it's easy for you to continually expand and perfect your wirework and polymer clay skills. Although I’d rather not talk about how much I used to spend on pricey beads and gemstones, I do love to talk about designing your own beautifully-unique and affordable beads from polymer clay and wire. I look forward to chatting with you about polymer clay, wire, and jewelry design.

If you have questions or comments for Ronna, please post them on the website.

New Bead Challenge! 

To celebrate Ronna's new book, we're holding a polymer clay bead design challenge.  Create your own polymer clay bead, send in a photo, and you could win one of two handcrafted set of beads made by Ronna herself.  Deadline to enter is June 5, 2009.  Read the full contest rules.

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