DIY: Polymer Clay Beads

Bead Bounty

Bead Bounty

Have you ever caught yourself – mid-act – doing something quite kooky?
The other day, I was lost in thought, busy massaging and moulding these polymer clay beads, when I started bestowing names upon them!
Not ‘people-names’ like Sally, Larry and Gary, but “punny” names like those you see on the bottom of nail polish bottles.

Think Pink: nail polish names for my pink polymer clay beads!

Think Pink: nail polish names for my pink polymer clay beads!

I love a good pedicure! One hour of bliss to sit back and flick through (outdated) glossy mags while my tootsies get tickled pink. And row upon row of nail polish bottles beckoning, “Choose me!”

Guess what? My choice is often based on their quirky names rather than the actual shade of nail polish itself! Check out these OPI names:
Teal the Cows Come Home
You Are So Outta Lime
Didgeridoo Your Nails?
Life is a Cabernet
Did You ‘ear About Van Gogh?
Eiffel for this Color

But as much as I love pedicures, I don’t do manicures. I’ve figured, what’s the point? The colour chips as soon as I do the dishes (yes, even with gloves on. No, I don’t like shellac.). But I desperately needed one after I worked my fingers to the bone making these beads.

blue green yellow polymer clay beads
I’ve been meaning to make these polymer clay beads for a while now. Heaps of mums have been sporting them at school drop-off. I love their simplicity and ice-cream colours. While they’re fun to make, be warned: your hands WILL hurt. It lends a whole new meaning to the phrase “manual labour”…

How to Make Polymer Clay Beads

Tools of the Bead Trade

Tools of the Bead Trade

What You Need:
Different shades of polymer clay (I used the brand Fimo)
Sharp knife
Toothpick/ skewer/ knitting needle
Leather cording
Disposable gloves (optional)
Baking paper
Baking tray
Oven
Oven thermometer (optional)

Method:

First things first, make sure your work surface is squeaky clean, free of lint and dust. There’s nothing worse than tell-tale signs of fibre or fur stuck to your baked beads.

Start with your lightest colours first. Why? Polymer clay leaves a residue on your palms (or gloves) when you massage it. So if you start with a darker colour (say, ruby red) this will transfer onto your lighter shades once you start to condition them. Not a good look!

Start small. Using a knife, cut off a tiny 1cm cube of clay and massage it. I think I was misguided by the Fimo label that said ‘Soft’, thinking it would be malleable like my kids’ playdough. It wasn’t! I’ve got blisters as proof! 😦

Massage the clay between your thumb and forefinger to condition it until it is soft and pliable. Another trick it to roll the clay between your palms into thin “sausages”. Professional bead makers use pasta machines to do this – lucky ducks!

Shape as desired: round, oval, cubical, flat, cylindrical…

Using a toothpick or skewer or, in my case, a knitting needle, gently poke a hole down the centre. Turn over and repeat. This hole needs to be big enough for your cording to pass through easily.


To Bake Polymer Clay Beads:

Make sure there are no irregularities or stray bits of clay stuck to your beads because once they are put in the oven, these will be baked hard onto your beads.

Place beads on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Bake in a preheated oven at 110°C (230°F) for 35-45 minutes. Each brand of clay has its own baking time. If your oven is unreliable, make sure you use a food thermometer to accurately check the inside temperature or else your beads could brown. The good thing is, unlike food, you cannot burn your beads.

Turn off the oven and leave the beads inside until the oven cools down. Once baked and cooled, the beads will have hardened.

To get rid of the residue that stains your palms, clean them with hand sanitizer first – the alcohol loosens the colour. Then wash with soap and water.

They’re ready to wear, so string them along. Fancy! 😉

Ombré Effect Polymer Clay Beads

ombre clay
To get the ombré effect (shades from dark to light of one particular colour), first choose your colour (e.g. dark pink) as well as white.

Keep one 1/2 inch square each of both colours (dark pink and white) as they are. Roll them separately into a white bead and a dark pink bead.

For the rest of the beads, gradually increase one colour while decreasing the other (see picture to left to see how it’s done).

Massage and mix each combination really well until the colours have blended uniformly and seamlessly and there are no spots or streaks.

Roll into your desired shape (round, flat, cube, oval). Bake.

Marble Effect Polymer Clay Beads


To do this, take two or more colours, but do not blend them completely.
Roll them into thin logs between your palms and put together. Then twist and turn the strips of colour in opposite directions.
Roll out some more, bend in half, refold and mix until you’re happy with the effect. Don’t over-mix it or blend it too much, or you could end up with a strange, unappealing colour.

Me wearing my polymer 'pops of colour'

Me wearing my polymer ‘pops of colour’

So tell me, what kind of jewellery do you like? Or does the occasion dictate the style? Do you like bright pops of colour or subtle neutrals?

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5 responses to “DIY: Polymer Clay Beads

  1. Hey those beads rock!! Can I place some orders please? Perfect gift idea too. I love the red, green and blue. I will be calling you about these soon. You are super talented Alison!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Giselle, I was wearing the beads you see in the pic with the black top when we met D & you for lunch on Saturday! When we meet next, you can pick and choose the ones you like. Early birthday pressie. 😉

      Like

  2. Thank you so much for a cute and easy to follow tutorial. Your beads turned out so cute- I can’t wait to make mine! I’ve had a bunch of polymer clay I’ve been wanting to make jewelery with for a while now- Fimo none the less! Thanks again and keep up the good work! 🙂

    Like

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