Learn the Secrets of Making Polymer Beads

Nov 23, 2009
Leslie Rogalski Spacer 10x10 pixels Polymer tips for beginners from a beginner.
Every culture has a legend about creating something from clay and bringing it to life. It’s very magical to change a lump of clay into something else. It also seemed so easy. I played with clay as a kid. I should have looked at Carol Blackburn's Making Polymer Clay Beads, but I didn't, at first. Like the ambitious sorcerer's apprentice, I tried stuff on my own. Totally scorched the holes in my beads.

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Spacer 10x10 pixels Make patterns with canes
Learning my lesson, I looked to the masters to make better magic with polymer clay. Making Polymer Clay Beads was chock-full of secrets revealed. One technique the book teaches is using cane to make striking graphic patterns, such as in these black-and-white beads.
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Spacer 10x10 pixels Transform clay into stone
One of my favorite polymer clay properties is how it can be transformed to look like something else. Check out these beads. Don't they look like marble? I just think this is an amazing effect, and can't wait to try it.
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Spacer 10x10 pixels It's easy to explore surface and texture
So many surfaces can be achieved in polymer clay. Matte, speckled, rough and gritty, or super slick. In this necklace, the clay looks like Venetian glass. Baked polymer can be sanded for such a shimmering finish. Who knew?
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Inspiration from the experts
There were, however, plenty of things I figured out by myself. For instance, working with clay is a heckuva lot more physical than stitching beads. Effort is transferred from fingers to hands, arms, and body. I rediscovered muscles I forgot I had. Here's a nice prospect: polymer clay beadmaking burns calories!

I talk a lot about being self-taught, but don’t get me wrong. Some materials have special qualities and safety features that would take years to discover on my own. But check out the pointers and inspiration from the pros such as those showcased in Making Polymer Clay Beads and presto!

You’ll be amazed what you learn!

Do you work with polymer clay? What tips do you have for absolute beginners? 
Share them here on Beading Daily!


Featured Product

Making Polymer Clay Beads Step-by-Step Techniques for Creating Beautiful Ornamental Beads

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Learn how to handle and work with polymer clay - a synthetic clay that doesn't shrink or change texture when cured - in a comprehensive introduction to materials, tools, and equipment for bead-making techniques.


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TrishH@11 wrote
on Nov 23, 2009 1:17 PM
If you purchase a clay machine (pasta machine), you will not burn as many calories but you will save lots of time and effort and get to the playing much faster. I work with polymer clay throughout each month designing, producing and writing the tutorials for at least 12 projects every month for the Poly Clay Play Club. I love my job. Warning!! Polymer clay playing is addictive! *´¨) .·´ .·*¨) ¸.·*¨) * (¸.·´ (¸.*´ ¸.·´ `·-* ~* Trish ~ Find the magic in art! Happy Poly Clay Playing! http://www.polyclayplay.com/Invitation.htm Join the Poly Clay Play Club! Join the Fun!
gilsma wrote
on Nov 23, 2009 2:25 PM
The most critical thing a beginner needs to know is that all polymer clay, even the very soft ones, must be fully conditioned before you try to make anything with it. Conditioning is necessary because the components of the clay can settle out after manufacturing, and they need to be remixed right before they are used. You just knead, roll, ball up, knead some more (or use a pasta machine) until the clay is smooth, glossy and elastic, With experience, you will know when this happens. Clay that is not properly conditioned will never develop its full strength and durability, and may be subject to breaking or shattering after it is cured. You can test clay for proper conditioning by rolling it into a "snake" and bending the snake tightly in half; if there is any cracking or breaking at the fold, continue with your conditioning until the cracking or breaking doesn't happen any more.
on Nov 23, 2009 3:59 PM
I started reading books on polymer clay a few years before I actually started playing with it. So many pc pioneers have made the mistakes so you don't have to make them yourself! You can learn technique from these books and still end up with your own unique style but books like Carol Blackburn's are SO valuable for basic technique and ideas for the huge range of possiblities that polymer clay offers. Then, just trust your intuition, play and lot and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Also, books like Maggie Maggio's latest on color are invaluable for color mixing and theory.
ALantain wrote
on Nov 23, 2009 5:27 PM
I don't usually work with polymer clay, but through experimentation I came up with an algebraic system for mixing primary colours. I select the colours I want to combine and I roll peices of the clay into tiny balls. I then add a certain number of balls of each colour and combine until I get a secondary colour. The algebraic system refers to each new colour. 1Bl1R means 1 blue ball and 1 red ball. 1Bl2R means 1 blue ball and 2 red balls, and so forth. It's rather like mixing drops of food colouring for decorating easter eggs.
Agnes@13 wrote
on Nov 23, 2009 5:50 PM
I am so excited - i want to learn and have bought carol blackburns book and it is so easy to read and she explains everything....i just got my pasta machine today and plan the day after thanksgiving to try my hand at it. Wish me luck - i think I am ready to get hooked.....
MarieG10 wrote
on Nov 24, 2009 5:17 AM
I agree Leslie. This is the best book I've ever found on polymer clay. If someone is new to polymere clay, it will open your eyes to the possibilities and walk you through every step. Fabulous book. Tips: When working on a project, I roll sheets of paper towel through my pasta machine between colors to pick up any clay or color from the rollers before rolling my next color. I also use round clay cutters of different sized to make uniform sized beads. Roll the clay to a uniform size with a pasta machine, cut out a bunch of circles, roll them into balls and you will have uniform sized beads.
Flowermouse wrote
on Nov 24, 2009 1:07 PM
Polymer clay is often known as a difficult medium to work with in the beginning. You can struggle a lot before you get the right result. I´ve been working with polymer clay for a year and a half now - and I love it. Best thing I´ve ever tried because you can do anything with it. And you can make wonderful things in any level with simple techniques. I also recommend this book - it´s really something for a new beginner. I also recommend looking up tutorials online. There are A LOT of free tutorials for all levels. Also: A pasta machine is a must. And with a clay gun you can easy make wonderful beads in a very easy way. Just check this out: http://paroledepate.canalblog.com/archives/2009/09/28/15190504.html Best advice: Don´t give up and have fun. Check out Flickr for jewellry made of polymer clay - that was a new world to me!! Good luck!!
Gyspy Mary wrote
on Dec 9, 2009 4:53 PM
http://www.polyclayplay.com/Invitation.htm "Not a Free Site", The books listed gives me some place to start with Polymer clay. Thanks everyone.mary