Making beads with polymer clay is fun and rewarding, but you’ll need a few things to make this job a little easier. One thing which is helpful is a large tile square for working the clay and for baking it. Ceramic tiles keep the clay cool while molding it, and are oven safe making them perfect for baking your creations. Glass and Formica are also good surfaces to use for working the clay. Before actually molding the clay, you’ll have to make it more pliable by working with it –
stretching, pulling, folding, and stretching some more. For those who have trouble working with their hands for long periods of time, or for those who wish to make large amounts of bead, a pasta machine can be used to work the clay, but if this method is used, the machine will no longer be suitable for pasta making. After working the clay, take a piece and roll it between the palms of both hands, fashioning a snake-like roll. Try to make this roll as tight, smooth, and long as possible. The roll should be even all the way down, not larger or smaller in some places.
Choose a rubber stamp with an interesting or intriguing pattern, or make your own rubber stamp with the designs you wish. Break off a piece of the clay, slightly smaller in length than the stamp. Place a second rubber stamp on top of the clay. Using only a little pressure, roll the top stamp, pressing down slightly, until your clay rolls across the bottom stamp.
This will imprint the clay all the way around with some intricate designs. Mark the clay in half-inch or one-inch sections, then use a razor blade to cut the beads into the desired section lengths. A sharp knife is not ideal since a knife will flatten the clay somewhat as you slice through it. You can choose from several different implements for making the hole in the bead. Many crafters use a needle tool, but you can also use a section of wire which has been filed down on one end. After creating the holes, arrange the beads on your ceramic tile, not allowing them to touch each other.
If you don’t have a ceramic tile, a Pyrex dish can be substituted. Line the bottom of the dish with polyester batting to prevent the beads from getting too brown on the bottom. Check the instructions on the clay for the recommended oven temperature, and preheat. You can use an oven thermometer, if desired, but don’t allow the clay to cook at a higher temperature than is recommended by the manufacturer.
Bake the beads for about 30 minutes, and then let them cool in the oven for about 30 minutes. After the beads have cooled completely, they are ready to paint. Acrylic paints are ideal since they dry quickly and are waterproof. Placing each bead on the hole-punching wire will make it easier to cover the entire bead with paint. After the beads have all been painted, use a clear, spray-on acrylic sealer to protect the paint.
Another method of making these beads is to cut your clay into triangles, and then lay them flat on the rubber stamp. The bottom of the triangle should be the desired length of the finished bead. Press slightly to get the design of the stamp imbedded in the clay. Lay a toothpick across the bottom of the triangle, and then roll the clay around the toothpick.
Roll the clay, starting with the bottom of the triangle, rolling towards the peak of the triangle. After finishing, remove the toothpick by twisting slightly as you pull it out. Do not bake the beads with the toothpick still inserted. After baking, you can re-insert the toothpick for easier handling of the bead while painting. There are other ways to make intricate patterns on your beads.
After rolling up, you can use any number of items to make a pattern on them, such as serrated knives, pencils, or even metal pins. Just scrape or press the pattern in various places on the bead. The stamp method is the easiest way to make the patterns on your beads, since it allows you to do the entire bead at one time, rather than trying to make tiny patterns all over the bead. Polymer clay, after baked, is heavy, so when stringing the beads, use a heavyweight cord.After rolling up