I get asked occasionally (ok, often) how do you get the little pictures on those cute beads. So I launch gamely into my explaination of how you take a base of clay and some canes (“canes? what are those?” “yeah… one thing at a time”), slice the canes up very, very thinly, layer the slices to build up a picture on the sheet. Smooth the sheet a lot. Then use the sheet like fabric.
Pattern sheets are best for beads where seams won’t matter too much. Pillows, flat discs, pendants and so on. And faux-fabric applications like the kanzashi in the picture coming up.
I make a flat sheet of a coordinating colour, in this case a very light violet-purple. Thin it down on the pasta machine to about a half machine setting. Then I start slicing canes as neatly and small as I can. Once I have a lot – several hundred for this sheet which was about 4 inches by 6 – I start laying them out, collage style, building the design up as I go. As you add items, it’s important to smooth them in so that the sheet remains even and sooth. In my case that means using a tiny little acrylic rod to smooth in, gloved fingers and my pasta machine. The end result is this:
A much larger swatch of the ‘fabric’ can be seen here.
Once I have the sheet decorated and smoothed I set to work – I’ve usually got an idea of what I want to make before I set out doing this. So in this case I knew I wanted some very small, very dainty pillow type beads and a few faux-fabric flowers. And, voila, some little beadies (more like Chiclets than pillows) and some Kanzashi-style polyclay!