Bake Your Beads! Add Polymer Jewelry Making to Your Skills

Marlene Blessing is the
editorial director
Who knew that all those years of lovingly rolling yummy cookie dough into even little balls would prepare me for making polymer beads? That's exactly what I discovered this weekend when I finally stopped talking about polymer beads and started making them. The results aren't as delicious as my cookies yet, but the more I bake (technically "cure") these beads, the more bodacious they're going to be. I'm hooked!

Inspired by polymer artistsespecially Ronna Sarvas Weltman

I needed guidance, for sure. I've never played with polymer. However, I've been steadily accumulating artisan polymer beads by talented bead artists such as Sarah Shriver, Heather and Pam Wynn, Janet Farris, Julie Picarello, and Jana Roberts Benzon. I'm amazed at the variety and beauty of beads made from this pliable plastic.

Until I met Ronna Sarvas Weltman, author of the book Ancient Modern: Polymer Clay + Wire Jewelry, I was content to be on the purchasing end of things. Recently, she was in Interweave's Loveland, Colorado, studio to shoot her new DVD on making polymer beads. Like every expert artist, Ronna demo'd all her steps so effortlessly that I was seduced into trying this myself. I watched her knead, roll, texture, embellish, etc., with visions of polymer beads dancing in my head.

Bead styles for everyone

Ronna's bead style is sassy and energetic, brimming with bold colors and not-quite-symmetrical, sometimes rough-edged shapes. I'm not quite there yet. I still groove on earthtones. That's the great thing about the medium of polymer: there really are colors, shapes, and textures for everyone's style.

You don't need to follow my steps and blow your budget on every available color of polymer clay, a convection toaster oven (dedicated now to polymer only), pasta roller, a set of clay sculpting tools, etc. I went crazy at our local craft store. In fact, I failed to heed Ronna's advice on her DVD: she suggests trying a little of several brands of polymer to find the one that suits you most. I loaded up with one kind and will have to roll my little "cookie" bead rounds from now until the holidays to use up what I have!

What I learned from my first polymer clay experiments

Here's the takeaway from my maiden voyage with polymer clay:

Watch Ronna's video before you start so you don't miss out on all her great tips-including the one about sampling different polymer clays to find a favorite.

  1. Feed your dog(s) before you start, or you'll find him/her sniffing at the polymer beads you are rolling, even sneaking in a lick.
  2. You need only a small space to set up your polymer operation: I used a corner of my unfinished basement.
  3. You can embed metal bead caps into your freshly rolled bead after you've drilled your hole. (I couldn't wait to use some really cool bead caps from Tierra Cast.)
  4. First time's the charm. I made three simple beads with blue and white polymer clay that I call my "Sky" beads. Just like cookies, you can't make just one.

    If you're eager to start doing instead of just talking about polymer bead making, be sure to have my new favorite teacher by your side, Ronna Sarvas Weltman. Her Mixed Media: Making Polymer Beads DVD has a place of honor on my shelves. I'll be watching lots of reruns to feed my new passion for making polymer beads.


#1 Polymer Goddesses:
Clockwise, from left: Beads by polymer goddesses Heather Wynn, Janet Farris, Julie Picarello, and Jana Roberts Benzon.

#2 Smooth Edges:
Smooth edges on kneaded and rolled polymer are a sign it's conditioned and ready to go.

#3 Lulu:
My dog Lulu was lurking behind me, sure I was rolling out pasta. Yum!



#4 Cookies:
All that cookie dough rolling paid off.

#5 Sky Bead:
Here's the start of my "Sky" beads.

#6 First Batch:
They're all cured and ready to string!

Have fun and happy beading,


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