Make Beautiful Polymer Clay Beads

Try Your Hand at Spotted Cane

A couple months ago Beading Daily’s Michelle Mach sent me a book she wanted me to check out—she was very excited about it. But it never arrived–I think my crafty neighbor must have swiped it (Eileeeen!!). I’ll have to admit, I was secretly relieved because Michelle told me the book was about polymer clay.

Now listen, I’m not down on polymer clay—it’s a beautiful medium that can be made into sensational-looking beads. It’s just that I can’t seem to turn it into anything sensational whatsoever. I feel like I’m all thumbs when I work with it, which is just ridiculous since I work with metal clay quite a bit. Maybe it’s the daunting color blending? Yeah, that’s part of it. I’m also not a very clean worker, what with the ever-present cat hair and dust in my home. With metal clay the kiln magically whisks that stuff away; not so with polymer clay.

Michelle was determined that I see this book, though, so sent me another copy and it arrived. I figured if she was that determined for me to see it, I needed to be determined, too.

I breathed deep and opened Making Polymer Clay Beads by Carol Blackburn. And . . . um . . . went right out to the store and bought a bunch of polymer clay. Wow. This book is so inspirational, with easy-to-follow step-by-step photos, it feels like even a 10-thumbed-bandit like me could make something nice. Plus, there are tips jammed in every corner of every page and there are so many samples of work, you can’t help but be impressed.

Spotted Cane

Want to join me as I follow one of Carol’s instructions? I’ll try the spotted cane:

1. Working on a smooth, flat surface, roll out a sheet of soft white polymer clay. (I used a piece of PVC pipe to roll the clay flat).


2. Use your palm to roll soft black polymer clay into a skinny snake.


3. Cut the white sheet into a rectangle and lay the black snake inside it. Pinch the sheet around the snake completely cover it.


4. Slice the cane into even pieces.


5. Gather the pieces together and lightly squish them together.

6. Roll this new bunch into a snake, cut it into even pieces, and lightly squish it together.


7. Repeat the previous step.


8. I pressed my cane into a triangle shape and covered it with a sheet of black polymer clay, then sliced it into triangles. I’ll drill holes in the clay after it’s baked so I can string them.

Not too shabby for my first “real” try, eh? I can tell this could be addicting. I can also tell I’m going to need a couple of classes and lots of practice to get cleaner results, but I’m definitely encouraged. Are you a polymer clay bead maker? What tips do you have for me as I engage in building up yet another arm of my stash? Please share them on the website!  

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website.  

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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

51 thoughts on “Make Beautiful Polymer Clay Beads

  1. I think the cat (and dog) hair plus dust and stickiness are what keeps me from enjoying polymer clay. To have a room free of animal hair and dust is a dream so guess I need to just get past it and do something as you did.

  2. I borrowed this book from the library and just had to purchase it. Asked a friend to get it for me fr the US (I’m in Singapore) and am totally ecstatic. Now to get an oven and I’m all set 🙂

  3. I have been doing PC for about 3 years now and your effort is really great!! We have a saying at the polymer clay guild here in Las Vegas, “it’s not a mistake it’s a chance to be creative or embellish!!And yes polymer clay is additve!!!!

  4. I have been doing PC for about 3 years now and your effort is really great!! We have a saying at the polymer clay guild here in Las Vegas, “it’s not a mistake it’s a chance to be creative or embellish!!And yes polymer clay is addictive

  5. I totally know what you mean about feeling like all thumbs when you first start working with polymer clay. When I started there really wasn’t that much information on polymer clay that really helped you with the medium.

    That is why I started making video tutorials to help people with the learning curve. Even if you are a beginner you can get professional looking results if you know a few tricks.

    I am happy to share those tips, if you want. Btw, cat hair and lint can be removed from the clay with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol, so do worry about having a pet around!
    ~Cindy Lietz

  6. I thought it was messy at firts too, but you got to get down. And stop thinking everything is about being clean all the time. Live life to the fullest and have fun with everything you do. Never regret anything!!!!!!!!! This activity is too fun. Remember I am only 13 and this is so easy for me!!!

  7. The first time that I bought Polymer Clay I returned it back to the store because I thought it was damaged, to me was dry and too hard for my hand. A while later in a visit to the local book store I bought a Judy Belcher book, since then I am polymer clay adict, I can´t stop because it is a versatile product.
    I have a cat who is always in my studio, the solution for me is to clean my table everytime with alcohol and when I finish working I put a plastic black bag on the table to protect all my polymer clay equipment.

  8. After classes from Christi Friesen and Janet Farris, you might figure I was hooked ~ YUP ! Keep a moveable magnified on the desk so that just before you bake, you can check it over. A way to NOT have fingerprints is to use disposable gloves, but they can give texture to feathers and leaves, etc. Put on good, relaxing music to sooth the soul. You don’t need a kiln, but a standard little cook oven or your own big oven ~ just be careful and wipe it down before you cook food. Also use a temp. gauge so that it doesn’t spike and burn your pretty efforts. Any dishes or tools used must be for clay ONLY = toxic but great way to get rid of mice. (yipee!) marilyn peters

  9. This is a geat project, and really good instructions. A 2-year addict, I’m suffering from polymer withdrawal. My workroom is under construction, and I have no place for my worktable. I keep seeing all of these nifty project ideas and I can’t try them…yuck! The capenter says he’ss be done soon, though, and I can’t wait!

  10. This is a geat project, and really good instructions. A 2-year addict, I’m suffering from polymer withdrawal. My workroom is under construction, and I have no place for my worktable. I keep seeing all of these nifty project ideas and I can’t try them…yuck! The capenter says he’ss be done soon, though, and I can’t wait!



  12. I have been working with this wonderful stuff for a number of years now and I am constantly on line looking at different projects and I also have a subscription to PolymerCafe`~~a fantastic magazine that is published every other month. It is full of incredible projects that you can do and they show detailed instructions for what you are making.go to to subscribe.

  13. I’m so jealous……my cat is actually my design expert and I don’t think she’d approve of a project without cat hair, she’s a door opener, so this could be a project I never get to. Boo Hoo

  14. I never tryed the polymer clay but after seeing this I just might have to. This was I would be able to make my own style of beads. When I finally do try this I will have to send a picture in for all to see. Great work Happy Beading

  15. I was watching a Carol Duvall show on DIY Network and that was 2 years ago, I have a cat , a dog , husband , full time job and nothing and nobody gets in my way ! I am also a member of our local Guild in Bakersfield California and we are planning our 1st Polymer Clay Retreat in 2010!! I love polymer clay it’s so versatile and so forgiving there are no such things as mistakes just happy accidents!! I would give it another try I love making my own beads, and working with alcohol inks, foils , pigment powders ect… I don’t think there is anything you can’t do with clay! Good Luck! Happy Claying & Beading !!!

  16. I’ve been working with polymer clay for several years and have most of the books/magazines that are out there on the subject. I consider Carol Blackburn’s book one of the best for making a variety of polymer clay items and often peruse through it when I need a little inspiration.

  17. Debra you make a point when you want to do something like making beads out of polymer clay, Don’t let anything step in your way.

    Abby- I also like Firemountian but I love how Beading Daily show the directions in pictures and words. Sometimes you can not get the directions off line. So you should keep you mind open to all styles not just one.

  18. Tammy, I agree with you about keeping your mind open. I am always searching the web looking for new sites that have free patterns and designs with instructions. I am in the process of finishing my studio and as soon as that is done I have tons of ideas stored on my computer and in binders. I can’t wait to get started. And I will also make polymer clay one of my mediums.

  19. I’m a polymer clay artist and a jewelry maker and I love that your theme was polymer clay this week. I make beautiful beads, but it wasn’t like that at first, and now they are so pretty, people buy them. Practice makes perfect and this book is great introduction for us beaders into polymer clay. I encourage all those who are curious to buy the book and try polymer clay and not to get dissapointed if your first attempt don’t yield perfect beads, soon enough, you will have them.

  20. I’ve never tried the Polymer clay because a majority of my customers are in love with my gold (findings) and crystal designs. I saw that a silver effect was possible but is there a way to incorporate a ‘gold’ effect into Polymer clay designs?I’m always looking for ways to diversity my products. Thanks.

  21. Jean – How serendipitous to find your review of “Make Beautiful Polymer Clay Beads” on Beading Daily this morning, as I just bought Carol’s book and was totally inspired. I tried PC a few years ago and it didn’t “stick;” my jewellery making went in a different direction. Now, I’m really longing to make my own beads (and components with silver clay) and will be trying out the book’s very clear instructions.
    BD is my favourite newsletter. I enjoy every issue and was very excited when you joined Michelle as I love all your books. Thank you for contributing so much beading knowledge and enthusiasm to the craft world.

  22. Rosie, I’m not sure what findings you’re thinking of making with PC, but do a search for “mica shift” and i think you’ll be thrilled with the gold (and many other colored) effects you can get. In addition, you can make some pretty incredible faux effects – opal, malachite, tortise shell, ivory, bone, etc. – with polymer clay that will enhance your jewellery making enormously. I’m really excited about the possibilities PC offers that you can’t find elsewhere.

  23. Jean:
    I own this book. I agree with you, it’s inspires you to create. Like others who have responded, I am also a jewelry maker. My question to you. The book says not to use your primary oven to bake clay as the polymers are toxic. Other articles I’ve read have said you can use your oven but thoroughly cover your work. If clay cannot be baked in the primary oven of a home, why do the manufacturers not label the product as toxic. I have used Sculpey, Primo, and a variety of others and have never seen a warning. Had I not purchased the book in this topic, I would never have known of the toxicity of the clay. Fortunately, I do have another oven that I use. Thanks for doing a great job.

  24. Hi Jean, welcome to your next addiction! No kidding! I have been working with polymer clay for almost 20 years and Im still not bored with it. Just when I think I have done all that can be done with this versatile medium, I look around and there are a million new ideas! And it can be combined with so many other mediums like beading and stamping etc. What other hobby can you say that about? Oh and if you are going to do more with clay, please do check out Cindy Lietz site. She has wonderful tips and ideas there. It is a great place for beginners or experienced clayers to learn lots of little secrets about this fun stuff. As for the cat hair etc? I own 3 kitties and 2 dogs. And even if they dont come in my work area, their hair often does. If they get in my clay I just call them inclusions and tell my customers there is no extra charge for those! LOL! Just have fun with the clay and you cant go wrong. Isnt that the point of a hobby anyway? Happy claying. XOXO Jamie

  25. To reply to Crafty Lady. Polymer clay is not toxic. It says so on every package of Sculpey III I own. Thats why it is such a favorite with teachers for school projects, and with others who work with kids. But it does release polymers when baking, which can coat the inside of your oven over time, depending on how often you use it. This can cause an unpleasant aroma when heating the oven. You can scrub your oven each time if you want to remove it. But covering your work simply contains that residue inside your baking container so it doesnt even reach the walls of your oven. I used to use 2 throw away aluminum pans held closed like a clam shell with clothes pins when baking, and it worked great. It also keeps thinner pieces from burning so quickly. But now I too use a dedicated counter top convection oven to bake my clay. Simply because it is less expensive to run it for small batches of beads, (my favorite to make) rather than heat my whole kitchen oven. Plus the hot air moving around the pieces seems to bake more evenly. And I use dedicated baking dishes to hold my clay which are never used for food. Because after all you are working with polymer clay. Which is plastic. Who wants to eat plastic? Yuck! Dont worry about working with this clay. I have been using it for a long time with no adverse effect. XO Jamie

  26. I just sold my first pair of polymer clay earrings, and have an order for two more pair. They are a specialty piece for a Convention. I followed the basic directions in “Making Polymer Clay Beads” for prep, glazing, using color and baking. I have had the book for over a year and was so glad I had it when the time came. I will admit clay scared me. I also have a pet hairy and dust filled house. But I cleared one small spot out and went to work, nothing quite as ambitious as a cane. I took a small daisy stamp and after my clay was ready I stamped it and cut the daisy out. I made a hole for a jump ring and earwire . After baking, I sanded and finished with a glaze. I used parchment paper to bake the pieces on, it is a lot easier to manuver in the Poly Oven I purchased (about the same time I got the book.). Now, after seeing what you have done I am going back into the book and see if I can make ‘real’ beads. Thanks!!!

  27. Hi, I’ve been a Polymer Clay person for many years now and I’m telling you it’s a powerful way to release tension, be creative, and make something beautiful! If you think beads are great then you’re just at the tip of the iceberg! ! First after you get a pasta roller/maker then you never use it for anything else in the way of food. Then you get an toaster oven and watch it carefully and again nothing but clay for this oven. If you use a regular over toxic chemicals build on the walls and it’s not nice. You can find web stites with so much on coloring , stamping , shaping on polymer clay that it’s truly a great thing to do. I’ve made every color of bead except the diamond and it’s hard to tell a turquoise (clay) from the real turquoise from the earth. It’s so fun – GO FOR IT.

  28. I love polymer clay! I like to layer sheets of different colors and manipulate it, cut & stack, manipulate, etc. then slice- I end up with beautiful marbleized pieces that I like to coat with a clear high gloss. I often make entire sets (earrings & pendants) out of each color concoction People stop me and ask if they are glass!

  29. I have been working with polymer clay for only a few months and am totally addicted to making my own unique beads. I am so busy making beads that I haven’t had much time to do something with them, except for a cuff that I just finished.

  30. You make that look so easy. I have seen other tutorials before and couldn’t quite figure it out. I have always wanted to use PC and now I am definitely going to have a go. And I will look to see if this book is available in the UK!

  31. “As artists, we belong to an ancient and holy tribe. We are the carriers of the truth that spirit moves through us all. Art is an act of the soul. . We all start out the same way, rich in dreams and if we are lucky we find friends to believe in our dreams with us.” You’ve discovered polymer clay. “You now belong to the sacred circle of artists.”-Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.
    Want to make some really beautiful polymer clay beads and objects? Check out your local polymer clay guild (practically every state has one) now that the polymer ball is rolling big and beautiful. They’re the best places to be immersed in the clay experience with other like “addicts”. And, they are great fun, too, learning and playing alongside people who
    are totally bonkers about polymer. You will make lifelong friendships, I
    promise. Been working in polymer for 18 plus years now and am still adding to my repertoire of techniques by attending workshops given by the masters: Gwen Gibson, Tory Hughes, Donna Kato, Elise Winters, Lindly Haunani, Maggie Maggio (look for their new book in August on COLOR. Lynne Anne Schwarzenberg for incredible flower canes, Jana Benzon for her Arabesque Canes, Dayle Doroshow for her figures.Just to name a few. Take lessons while these “greats” are still giving them. Purchase their books and videos. I tell my students at our Guild workshops for beginners to mix your own colors with clay. To be fearless! Check into for anything polymer. Get a lifetime subscription to Polymer Cafe AND Ornament Magazine. Go to http://www.polymerclaydaily for inspiration. Read Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way (quoted above) and then go and revel in Tory Hughes blog on her site. Make polymer your own. Put your own twist on your work after you’ve taken a class or seen a video. Just ask yourself: “What if?” What if I did this? Or That to it? Dream it. Don’t copy it, create for yourself. Tory also taught me (and us) to “stop waiting. Just start. And always, always to act on your intuition. Have fun! There are no mistakes! If you can’t fix it
    feature it! It’s ONLY clay! I hear their words even today.

    Cameron taught me that we are “meant to midwife dreams for one another.” I’ve seen that happen in workshops in the most amazing ways. To bring forth our own creations with encouragement, respect and honesty. I feel that Polymer artists are a member of a “Sacred Circle” that is built on that kind of respect and trust. The techniques that these artists discoverd could easily have been “hidden” and not shared, but thanks to these artists who shared their work with us, we now stand on their shoulders and are “flying.” Lucky for us. So, come be rich in your
    polymer dreams with us. Let’s make some lovely things together.
    Laura in New York

  32. I will some day try poylmer clay beads to go with my wireing ..I think you can put a lot of your self in each peace ..Thank you……you are very good ..

  33. I Have got the clay(and a curious cat) and am still getting up the nerve to try it out. I’m a bit concerned about baking it and storing the left over clay, what sort of containers/baking sheets should I use?

  34. I’ve been making Polymer Clay designs for a while and I just love it!! I find it very relaxing and very forgiving! Once you get your basics (the oven … any toaster oven will do, and your pasta machine) you are ready to roll. For those of you who are afraid to try it, please give it a try, it’s not as difficult as you think and it’s very fun. My 13 year old daughter makes her own projects. I must warn you that it is addicting and it can get expesive as there are a lot of little gadgets out there that you will want to buy. My next project to tackel is Preciuos Metal Clay. Good Luck to everyone!!

  35. Good to know a toaster oven will work. I’ve been thinking of making beads and wondered about the Metal Clay. I have lots of great rubber stamps and would like to utilize them, but don’t want to damage them either. Specifically, and I use Metal Clay in a toaster oven? Also any idea about damage to my rubberstamp use with this clay?
    Thank you for anyone that can answer me.

  36. Luv-
    PMC (precious metal clay – silver, copper, bronze) must be kiln fired or torch fired (silver only.) Silver can be fired by laying it on a fireproof surface or torched, but copper and bronze must be fired within a bed of carbon, typically contained within a stainless steel pan and cover. Silver is pretty expensive. Copper and bronze are much more reasonably priced. Copper is my passion, therefore, this is what I use most.

    Polymer clay can be baked in a toaster (or other dedicate) oven. You can use stamps, cutting tools, etc. for both BUT they must be cleaned exceptionally well after each use. And NEVER use these items to consume food, such as a butter knife or cookie cutters. It’s best to keep crafting supplies separate from everything else.

    I’m just getting into polymer clay myself. I have made a few things but haven’t really made anything I plan to use in my jewelry making. I have all the bells and whistles and will be watching more tutorials starting in January.

    Good luck and happy playing!

  37. It´s good idea. My daugter will be to have the leaving examination ball. (cotillion). This party is for finishing of high school. I´m going to try this Spotted cane and I´ll decorate myself with its. Stick up for me. 🙂
    I´m sorry for my English. ;)) Thanks