A lot of the canes that I make are designed to be used in layered designs. What does layered designs mean? Well, you build up the image on your piece with lots of little slices. It’s collage with clay. And since I make beads, I figured I’d outline my bead process with some of my canes, all available in my shops, here or on Etsy.

These beads need basic tools: canes, base clay, a way of measuring (I use circle cutters to get me even sized amounts), a sharp blade and a work surface. You can make holes while they’re soft, with a pin or needle tool or a drill after they’re cured. To finish them you’ll need to cure them in an oven, sand them if you like, and polish or varnish them if you like.

1) This is my selection of stuff: zinnia canes, an accent flower cane, leaf cane. A sharp blade. A circle cutter that makes 1/2″ (13mm) balls. A sheet of clay rolled to the thickest setting on my pasta machine

2) This is how you make evenly sized beads: use a cutter to punch out pieces.

3) And then the beads all rolled into bases. Don’t worry about roundness at this stage – just make sure they’re not cracked.

4) Cut a lot of cane slices! I had to reduce my canes and sort of decide on a design. In this case I decided on “completely covered” but you don’t have to do that.

5) Here are the beads in progress. I’ve stuck the leaves on first and then moving onto the next flowers in my design (light pink zinnias!). I tend to big batches of beads that need to be similar so I’m a fan of assembly line. You may not need to do this.

6) Here are the beads with all the slices lightly pressed on. Next they’ll get rolled / pressed until the slices are smoothed.

7) These are all rolled in and fairly round. If you want to do your holes BEFORE baking, now is the time. Next they’ll go onto accordion folded copy paper, on an old cookie sheet, and into the oven. These beads are a little over a half inch so that’ll be an hour in the oven to make sure they’re correctly cured.

Next Steps

  • All of the beads like this that I make get at least some sanding, usually in a tumbler with lots of bead friends. That’s optional of course!
  • Afterwards they usually get some polishing, buffing or varnish. Also optional. I just prefer the way it looks.