Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Make Big Beads from Polymer Clay

I love to make necklaces with big beads. Larger beads and pendants are a great way to combine a variety of techniques and play with color and texture. Big beads can be attention-grabbing, beautiful and bold. They're in style right now and many people are interested in creating them for their own pieces.

Here I'll show you how I make my big beads from start to finish.

In making larger polymer clay beads, two issues that come up are dealing with the heavier weight (for the largest beads) and not wanting to use up valuable clay for the inside of the bead, which no one will see anyway. There are simple solutions for these problems.

1. Create a "Dummy Bead" Inside the Bead

For medium size beads, I roll junk clay into balls. I keep a plastic bag of "junk clay" bits and pieces from other projects for this purpose. The recycled junk clay makes up most of the bulk of the large bead.

For really large beads, I use a crumpled tin foil core. The foil cure helps to ensure even, proper curing in the oven and cuts down on the weight. If you choose to use foil, the foil ball should be nice and tightly compacted.

2. Cover the Junk Clay or Foil With the Desired Colors

Cover the junk clay bead with the desired color of clay. To get a nice, smooth covering on the bead, roll out your desired colors into thin sheets which you can tear pieces from.

Watch that no air bubbles are left in the clay. If you do see them, slit into the bubble with your tissue blade and smooth to remove. Round off your beads in your palms to smooth.

3. Add Canes and Coverings to the Bead

Make up your canes and coverings to apply to your beads. Here I have made a mokume-gane to use in some of the beads. (Try a tutorial for polymer clay mokume-game here or here.)

Layers of caning and patterns have been applied
and smoothed...
Not bad, but I feel they are lacking a bit of something.

Now I am satisfied!

4. Pierce, Cure and Sand

I carefully cure these in a calibrated oven for one hour.  The beads above have been pierced and cured and are ready for sanding.

Making big beads is a wonderful way to experiment with various techniques and color combinations. Enjoy creating! ❉

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