I’ve been making polymer clay beads for… uh… a long time. First for
myself and my own jewelry designs, and now in the past two years for
jewelry makers around the world. I have to say it’s quite an honor to
have my little creations put into YOUR jewelry designs.
In this bead-making journey, I went from just making beads whenever the
whimsy struck to artists NEEDING my beads. Right. Now. (Yikes!) And so I had to do some things to keep my beads consistent in shape and size,
streamline production, and reduce the turn out of ho-hum beads.
might be thinking, “well, I don’t make lots of beads. I don’t even sell
my beads. I do it for fun!” That’s perfectly fine. But I’ve always
found simplifying the mundane of any sort of creating leaves more time
for imagination and play… so new ideas actually have a chance to
So here are three of my favorite tips and time savers…
Freezing molded polymer. This one is my all-time favorite! (I have to thank my Aunt for convincing me to actually use molds for my beads in the first place… long story!! 😉 And the only
way I can keep my beads consistently the same size. It also enables me
to make deep molds and have my castings come out perfect each time.
Simply fill your molds with softened polymer, pack in, pop in the
freezer for about 10 minutes, remove from the freezer and pop your
molded creation out of the mold! They turn out perfect every time!
no way I could make all these guys in an afternoon without the help of
molds! I use Art Clay World USA five minute cold molding compound. The
molds I make for these critters are simple——only to keep the basic shape and size——I add their fur, tails, eyes, and noses after casting. Mold details that
are too fine, usually just get obscured.
Leaching over-soft polymer. For my bead making, I do a lot of
hand-sculpting and if the polymer is too soft, pair that up with the
warmth of my hands… and you have one very squishy bead with very poor
detail. So frustrating! Here’s how I solve that problem:
First I slice the blocks of polymer to a thickness that will fit through the thickest setting on my pasta machine.
is about 2 hours later——you can see already the excess oils are leaching
out. Normally I leave the polymer on the paper for a day or two, depending on
how soft it is, and then it is so much firmer and easier
to handle and work with.
This last tip is
really, really simple——many of you probably already use it——I thought
about not including it… but it has saved many of my creations from the
scrap pile, so I’ll share it anyway…
Tip #3. Clean hands
and light colored polymer. How many times have you ruined a perfectly good
polymer bead by just touching it? And you had just washed your hands!?
But now it has little bits of dust and lint stuck to it… into the trash it goes! For most of my dragon beads
I use light colored polymer and one tiny bit of dust can mean I have to
start all over. How do you solve the problem? Wash your hands, of course.
And DON’T dry them on a towel——lint will always stick to your hands and
then stick to the polymer. Use paper towels to dry your hands instead.
And then the fool-proof way to be absolutely sure your hands are lint
and dust free——roll a ball of scrap clay in your hands——it picks up
anything on your hands and you’re now safe to work that light colored
polymer! I also always work on a sheet of copy paper so I never have to place my beads directly on the tabletop.
I don’t have any photos of that one… but I bet
most of you can picture it in your mind’s eye pretty well… the poor
dirty beads… and the perfect ones. Ahhh! Wonderful!
tips and tricks have you learned from working with polymer? Any problems
have you still stumped about what to do and frustrated?
Do share! 🙂