Ultimate Guide on Learning How to Make Beads

By Jennifer VanBenschoten

Every beader and jewelry-maker knows that there’s something special about including handmade beads in your jewelry designs. Using beads that have been handcrafted by another artist gives your beaded jewelry a special touch. Learning how to make beads is an art all of its own, and there are so many ways in which you can learn bead making!

Handmade Glass Beads

Handmade glass beads, usually called lampwork beads, are made by heating up glass rods or strips, and then winding the hot glass around a metal mandrel. People have been making beads out of glass for thousands of years, going back to the ancient Romans.

Lampwork beads are also referred to as “wound glass” beads, from the winding motion used to wrap the glass around the metal mandrel. The term “lampwork” comes from the oil lamps that were used to heat the glass to melting temperatures in the early days of glass bead making.

Today, handmade glass beads can be found in practically every corner of the world, and glass artists are pushing the boundaries of what we thought glass could do to bring us beautiful, unique glass beads for our jewelry making projects.

Polymer Clay Beads

Polymer clay is a very accessible medium for bead making. All you need is a toaster oven, a small pasta machine, and a handful of toothpicks to get started!

Many bead makers get started using polymer clay because the supplies are readily available at most craft supply stores. If you love sparkle, you can even set small crystals in handmade beads made with polymer clay. Polymer clay beads can also be finished with a wide range of surface embellishments and finishes like mica powders, gloss, or paints.

Beads made with polymer clay can also be made to look like glass, wood, or gemstones.

Bead Making and Mixed Media

While most beads are made out of glass or clay, handmade beads can be made from all sorts of materials including fabric, paper, leather, wood, or even other beads. Using mixed media materials and techniques to create your own handmade beads allows you to explore new avenues in both your bead making and your finished jewelry designs!

Mixed media beads can also be made from upcycled or recycled materials to give your finished jewelry designs an eco-friendly touch.

If you want to start exploring bead making using materials like acrylic and wood, Candie Cooper’s Remixed Media: Making Custom Beads and Pendants with Acrylic and Wood is the perfect way to get started.

Jewelry-making techniques like cold connections, sawing, and working with resin aren’t just great for bead making, they’re great for all kinds of jewelry projects!