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Here is an excellent tutorial from PCC member Barbara Poland-Waters! Follow these directions for a truly beautiful and unique bead design!
  • 1 block (1-2 oz.) of black clay
  • 1 block (1-2 oz.) of white clay
  • Liquid clay
  • Pinata inks or oil paints (to tint the liquid clay)
  • Varathane gloss or Future floor finish
  • Rectangular cutter (I use Makins Clay brand, 1 ¼ x 9/16)
  • Cornstarch for release
  • Ceramic tile
  • Brayer
  • Bead piercing pins
  • Skewer or thin knitting needle
  • Tissue blade
  • Clay gun with two smallest multi-round hole discs
  • 400, 600, 800 wet/dry sandpaper
Note: These beads are time-consuming to make but I believe they are worth it. The multiple bakings indicated in the steps below are not mandatory, but I have found the more often I bake between steps, the less chance there is for accidentally distorting the clay or the "leading" at the various stages of assembly.

Click Pictures for a Larger View
1. Roll out a conditioned sheet of black clay on #3 (for an Atlas) of your pasta machine.

2. Place clay on ceramic tile, smoothing with the brayer to prevent air bubbles from forming underneath the sheet of clay. Cut rectangular shapes into this sheet using a rectangle cutter that has been dipped in cornstarch. I usually space the cuts close together, two or three in a row, to save on bead piercing pins, which are used in the next step. (photo below)

3. Remove the surrounding black clay, leaving the rectangular shapes in place on the ceramic tile.

4. Align two bead piercing pins horizontally, spaced evenly, on the rectangular shapes. Press these down into the clay until the tops of them are just about level with the clay itself. Don't worry about distorting the edges of the bead at this point. (photo below)

5. Roll out a sheet of black clay on #5 of the pasta machine.

6. Cut rectangular shapes out of this sheet and place on top of the previous shapes that have the bead piercing pins. Lightly brayer over them to adhere the two clay layers together.(photo below)

7. Trim the tops and bottoms of these rectangles using a tissue blade. I generally do this by "eyeing" the rectangles, but you can measure with a ruler to do this evenly, if you wish. After trimming, mine measure about 1/2 x 1 inch. (photo below)

8. Bake the clay at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes. If you undercure at this point, it is not a problem, as these beads will be put back in the oven numerous times before they are completed.

9. Remove the bead piercing pins after beads have cooled. Sand the edges of the beads with wet/dry sandpaper from 400 to 800 grit in order to even out any distortions that were created by the bead pins and the two layers of clay. After the beads are dry, reinsert bead piercing pins (this step is optional, but I have found it easier to handle and work with the beads when they are on the pins).

10. Roll out a sheet of white clay on the thinnest setting of the pasta machine. Cut rectangular shapes into this sheet and lay one each on each of the tile beads you just made. They will be bigger than the tile beads at this point, which is okay as you will trim them. Press the white clay down firmly onto the black bead, so it adheres. Don't worry about fingerprints, as the tinted liquid clay will conceal those.

11. Trim the white clay, leaving about 1/16 of an inch, or 2 cm, of black clay showing on each side of the bead. (photo below)

12. Condition the black clay and insert a small log (only 2 inches or so is needed) into the extruder. Using the disc with the smallest round holes, extrude the clay. (Although the lengths that will be extruded with this disc are really thin and somewhat hard to work with, I have found that the thinner the "leading" between the shapes, the more delicate the bead will look when completed. If the clay is too difficult for you to work with, experiment with the different sized discs for the lengths of extruded clay that you like the best.)

13. I find that cutting the extruded clay snakes into 2 inch lengths makes them easier to manage at this point. Take one piece at a time and begin to lay them onto the white section of the bead in various formations, creating a "stained glass" design. Clay this thin can stretch and be hard to handle. If you have difficulty placing one piece or pull it too thin, just discard and use another piece. Be careful not to extend the snakes past the white portion of the bead. It is important to make sure the snake is adhering to the bead all along its length, as this is what will hold the liquid clay in place and prevent it from seeping into another section. Press down lightly, enough to adhere the black snake to the white clay, but not enough to flatten it. When completed, bake beads again for 10-15 minutes. (photo below)

14. Using another 1 to 2 inch log of black clay and the second-to-smallest round holes, extrude more snakes of clay. Cut these pieces into 2-inch lengths and use to border the bead, placing on the edge of the bead where the white clay ends and the black clay shows. I do one edge at a time, cutting the clay snake with the tissue blade at the end of each edge. After the entire border is covered, gently roll over the corners with the end of a knitting needle to adhere the corners to each other and smooth any seam. Bake beads again for 10-15 minutes.

15. Now the fun part. While beads are cooling, tint your liquid clays (if you have not already done so) with either Piñata inks (allowing the a drop of ink to sit on top of the liquid clay for a few minutes before mixing in - - this allows the alcohol to evaporate) or oil paints. You can also use Pearl Ex powders, pastel chalks, or anything else, but I have found Piñata inks and oil paints to give the brightest, clearest color.

16. Once beads have cooled, dip a skewer or knitting needle into the liquid clay and place a drop or two of liquid clay into one of the compartments created by Step 13. Rather than completing one bead at a time, I tend to move from bead to bead using the same color as often as I can on different beads, then moving to another color, and so on. (For example, I use purple on at least one compartment of each bead, then pink, etc.) If you have not pressed down the black extruded lengths onto the tile bead securely, the liquid clay can bleed from one section to another. To minimize the chances of this happening, make sure you liquid clay mixture is not TOO thin, and also bake for at least 5 minutes between every 2-3 sections filled. Once you have completely filled the spaces on the beads, cure them for the full amount of time recommended by the manufacturer of the liquid clay brand you are using.

17. Once beads have cooled, apply multiple coats of gloss finish to the tops and sides, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly for 2-3 hours before applying more. (Three coats usually achieves the glass-like finish, but if you can apply more or less as you wish.) This gloss finish is what will allow the beads to look like glass when completed.(photo below)

18. Remove bead pins, string with spacers and beads and admire your work!

Barbara Poland-Waters
©2006 Text and Photos

We want to thank Barbara for sharing this terrific lesson with Polymer Clay Central. If you have a lesson or tutorial, or something you would like to share with PCC, please email Leigh or Stephen and we will help you prepare your project for the PCC Website!

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