Finding the Zen in Polymer Clay Beads

"Know the rules well so you can break them effectively." – HRH the Dalai Lama

I have to believe that when the Dalai Lama said this, he was talking about bead making and jewelry making, too. Isn't that what creativity is about? You can't follow your creative impulses and bring your artistic vision to life unless you know the basics. And then, of course, how to break those basic rules in order to create new and innovative objects like polymer clay beads!

When Buddhist monks begin their training, they are taught how to breathe properly and how to sit properly. Those are two pretty basic things, right? Breathing and sitting – we do them every day. But when a student of Zen practices breathing and sitting, they are turned into something else entirely: two powerful tools for traveling along the path to Enlightenment.

You might not think that learning how to sit and breathe properly like a Buddhist monk in training has anything at all to do with making polymer clay beads, but the two are actually pretty similar. Just as a Buddhist monk can't progress in his training without knowing the basic techniques, you can't make beautiful handmade polymer clay beads without learning basic techniques like blending, layering and rolling.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and social activist, reminds us that when we are washing the dishes, we should simply be "washing the dishes". In the same way, you should be just as mindful when making your polymer clay beads. Paying attention to form and technique will result in a more perfect, beautiful bead. Remember: a wonky base bead, no matter how much you embellish it, will end up as a wonky finished bead. Being mindful of your basic polymer clay techniques will not only make your finished beads look better, it will turn you into a better bead maker!

You can see brilliant examples of just how far you can go with polymer clay beads in the new book Enlightened Polymer Clay. The twenty-nine gorgeous polymer clay bead projects in this book might look like a skilled polymer clay master created them, but each project is really created with just a few basic skills. Combined with fine silver findings and assembled with basic jewelry making techniques, these finished polymer clay bead projects reflect the gentle side of nature in their serene colors and forms.

Pre-order your copy of Enlightened Polymer Clay and see how far your basic polymer clay skills can take you!

Do you love working with polymer clay? Share your best tips, secrets and techniques for making beautiful polymer clay beads with us here on the blog!

Bead Happy,


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