A tiny bead day

Today was a day I had  looked forward to and dreaded. I made PMC beads, using a package of PMC I had purchased at a higher price than I would have paid today. Ah well, I will just have to get used to the up and down of the silver market. Once I let go of worrying about how much it cost, I got to work.  It had been a while since I last worked with PMC and I sat down with a blank feeling as to what I would make first. I looked through my sketch book and made a list of the kinds of beads I wanted to make.

I started with the beads at the top of my list. Some flat “heishi” type beads made from my old scrap clay. The flat sections won’t show, but the burnished edges will, and they  give a nice accent to other beads in a necklace. This is my new favorite thing to do with rehydrated dried clay. I then left off the list to make some tiny beads to use in some specific necklace designs.  Tomorrow I’ll work on earring components and a few brooch ideas.

You can see the flat heishi beads in the background of the photo above. Once I used up my scrap clay, I got going on hollow beads. I made some fat coin shapes (but tiny) and some flat rectangles. The sides are smooth and the tops and bottoms are textured. These hollow beads are production pieces. I make a bunch at a time by wrapping a brass tube with metal clay, scoring it to mark off bead sections, drying it on a cup warmer, then sliding the dried tube of clay off the brass tubing. With a jeweler’s saw I cut the bead sections off the clay tube. With just a slight bit of sanding they are ready for the tops and bottoms.

I had a rectangular brass tube so I gave that a try for a batch of beads. I drilled some widthwise and some lengthwise. Do these shapes remind you of anything?

16 Comments

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16 responses to “A tiny bead day

  1. I had no idea how this was done. So interesting. And labor intensive.

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    • Barb Fernald

      I think most bead making is pretty labor intensive, but these are less so than others for me. If I had to fabricate each of these hollow beads from silver sheet, the intensity of the labor would be prohibitive for me! It’s why I love metal clay so much. I can make hollow forms without ever soldering. All the edges/seams are sealed before they go into the kiln.

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  2. Aww. I’m sure what you make will be fabulous, though. These are all fantastic. I especially like the heishi and the Pez-size beads. ;)

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    • Barb Fernald

      I had a good time making these. That Pez was in the back of a cupboard for who knows how long. Years! (Yes, I tried one. They were incredibly stale.)

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  3. oh my gosh….i’m so inspired! tonight is a no-sport night….maybe i can squeeze an hour in the studio….

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    • Barb Fernald

      A rare “no sport” night. This must be a crazy time of year for you as a teacher and as a mom with everything winding up before school is out. Just think of all the studio time you will have when you get back from Poland. Maybe the price of silver will be at its lowest by then!

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  4. Those are really cool, Barb! I am in awe at the patience it must take to make those hollow beads!

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    • Barb Fernald

      After I took that beginning flame working class in March, I’m still in awe that you can make two beads that match, much less making 5 that match! Yesterday’s bead making felt calm and meditative for me. No patience required. Is that how you feel at the torch?

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  5. Janelle Delicata

    Love the “pez” beads!

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    • Barb Fernald

      Janelle! I love just saying the word Pez. And you know all about the heishi from Fred’s workshop. Are you taking his cold connections workshop in June? I would love to be there, but we have some family commitments then.

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  6. LeAnn

    I really like those rectangles.

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  7. Wow, Barb! Thanks for all the great info about making small beads. I love the heishi bead idea from re-hydrated clay. And making a long shape on tubes and then slicing them! So much to learn from you! I can just imagine you stringing necklaces in your studio, taking little Pez beads out of a goofy Pez dispenser…wouldn’t that be fun! Both of us send hugs from Santa Barbara…your namesake!

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    • Barb Fernald

      Hi Marly. Hi to Angie too. I hope you guys are having a great time. No goofy Pez dispenser around! Just a really stale package in the cupboard. My friend Susie said, “You actually had Pez on hand?”

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  8. Ah yes, the price of silver…..it was just too stressful for me. I couldn’t enjoy myself and my creativity was stifled by it.

    Your beads are so lovely. I still have some packages of clay and I will use them again. I want to make some Kate McKinnon headpins. I figure that is a good way to make it go further.

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    • Barb Fernald

      Thanks Roberta. Yeah, I’m definitely being more conservative with the silver clay. The headpins are a great idea.
      I’ve been able to send in scrap a few times to Rio, so I bought some metal clay with the credit. I’m also figuring how i can use brass and copper in some of my designs to make affordable earrings. I have more experimenting to do with patinas. Keep up the great work with polymer clay. It looks like a great medium for you! (Though you seem to do well with any medium!)

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