When I say making round beads, I mean making round beads with cane slices (like the ones pictured above) since that’s been my obsession for a long time. This is, pretty much, my process. I use:
- clay and an assortment of canes
- tools like a pasta machine, a roller or brayer, small circle cutters
- a good, sharp tissue blade
- a tray to bake on (I put round beads in an accordion folded paper ON the baking sheet)
- whatever you like to finish your pieces with. For this type of bead, that’s sandpaper and varnish for me
1. Starting with the basics! Some of the stuff you should have around
2. Slice yourself some clay. One 2oz package of Premo (the small ones not the big block I have there) will make about 45 bead bases the size I’m prepping.
3. Flatten your slices a little before putting them through the pasta machine. This is much easier than trying to warm up a chunk of clay by rolling it in your hands. Then, put the sheet through the pasta machine at the thickest setting on the machine. You’ll end up with a nice sheet of clay.
4. Use your little cutter to cut out circles from the sheet. This way you get identical sized balls to start with. The 5/8″ cookie cutter I’m using and the sheet of clay at the thickest setting on my Atlas pasta machine makes a 10-11mm ball. Once I add canes to it, the ball is around 12-13mm.
5. Roll your cut out pieces into balls. Don’t worry about perfect, smooth balls at this point. Just get them warm and without cracks.
6. Making a little stack of beads since I tend to make tons when I make them. Like cookies, you can never have enough.
7. Decide how you want to arrange the design on your beads. On mine, the leaves go first, then flowers arranged however I want and finally whatever accent canes I am using, usually a little butterfly or two. Yes, you really are making a teeny miniature scene on each bead.
8. A bead and some of the other cane slices and bits.
9. The bead before the canes are “rolled” into it.
10. Gently rolling the bead until the slices melt into the surface of the bead and you end up with a smooth bead. Everyone has a different technique for this but you’ll want to be careful to not smear the slices and to roll the bead into a round shape. As with all things, practicing with scrap a few times is a super idea.
If you plan to poke holes in the beads BEFORE baking, now is the time. A tip for holes is to drill or screw whatever you use to poke the hole through the bead one direction then flip it and do it from the other. That way your holes will be neater. I use a Dremel rotary tool with a small drill bit to drill holes in my beads after I bake.
Bake your beads at the temperature and time recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t skimp here – durable beads require both the time and heat. For Premo clay, in the size I am making beads, that’s an hour in the oven minimum. For baking round beads, I accordion fold a sheet of copy paper to keep the silly things from rolling around on their baking tray. At the low clay temperatures the paper is fine.
11. Here are examples of similar, finished beads. After these were baked, they were sanded with wet dry sandpaper starting with 400 grit and going through as many grits as you’re comfortable with. They were then buffed a little on fabric and varnished with two coats of waterbased, indoor formula Rustoleum Varathane.