Exploring the World of Polymer Clay Bead Making

My journey into bead making wasn't exactly what you might expect, but sometimes it's the most unexpected of journeys that brings the best rewards, right?

A few years after I taught myself how to do off-loom bead-weaving, a friend suggested that I try my hand at making polymer clay beads. She had recently mastered sculptural polymer clay techniques and had created an entire Lord of the Rings chess set, based on the characters from the book. As I was summarily blown away by her work, I thought, why not?

After lots of trial and pretty much all errors, I decided that making beads out of polymer clay was just not for me. So I did what any aspiring bead maker would do: I went out and bought a single-fuel torch and taught myself how to make handmade lampwork glass beads in my garage.

When I tell polymer clay and lampwork glass bead artists that I found glass to be much easier to use than polymer, I get a lot of laughs, and a fair amount of perplexed looks. Was working with hot, melting glass in a torch flame really easier than conditioning, rolling, and making beads with polymer clay?

It took me a couple of years to come back to polymer clay, mostly thanks to some weekend craft projects with my son and his modeling clay. Once I allowed myself to open up and experiment with bead making using polymer clay, I discovered that anybody can create spectacular handmade beads using this versatile medium. If you're brand-new to making beads with polymer clay, here are a few tips before you get started:

  1. Use the right tools and supplies. It sounds sort of silly to be saying this, but half of my problems at the beginning of my polymer clay bead making misadventures were because I wasn't using the right tools for the job! While I tried to get away without a dedicated pasta roller for rolling and conditioning my clay, and I tried to use old plastic flatware for cutting my clay, I finally invested in a set of real polymer clay tools, and it made all the difference in the world with the finished beads.
  2. Experiment with colors and finishes. You can turn ordinary polymer clay beads into extraordinary jewelry-making components with the addition of the right colors using things like patina or alcohol inks, and brush-on finishes for glossy or matte surfaces.
  3. Think outside the (bead) box. No one ever said that polymer clay beads have to be round, right? Shake things up by playing with a range of sizes and shapes in your polymer clay bead experiments, and you might just "accidentally" discover something glorious!

Learn how to create spectacularly beautiful polymer clay beads with bead and jewelry artist Erin Prais-Hintz in Fabulous Facets. This great instructional video will show you how to make polymer clay beads that mimic lustrous and richly-colored gemstones through the addition of colors, finishes, and easy-to-cut facets. Whether you prefer to learn from a DVD or a digital download on your favorite desktop or laptop computer, you can get your copy of Fabulous Facets with Erin Prais-Hintz and bring spectacular texture and color to your handmade polymer clay beads!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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