Polymer clay beads are getting a lot of attention in the crafting world. Suitable for both adults and children (ages 8 and up), working with polymer clay beads can give you a whole new way of having fun with your kids, too.
What are polymer clay beads?
Polymer clay beads are beads fashioned out of polymer clay (which is sometimes known simply as "Fimo," a brand name of the clay.)
This polymer clay can be molded into a variety of different creations. Then you bake the clay in your home oven to create a hard, durable material that you can drill, slice, sand, and paint to achieve various creative effects.
Because polymer clay is so easy to work with, it has become a popular way to make your own beads for jewelry making.
Making Polymer Clay Beads
The process of making the beads is fairly straightforward. Just pinch off a bit of the clay, knead it in your hands and shape it into the form you like.
You can make polymer clay beads in a variety of different shapes, using a variety of techniques and tools. And you can work with the clay over and over again (until it has been baked.)
Molding the clay requires firm pressure, but it keeps its shape well once fixed. It is easiest to work with when it's slightly warm, so if you are having trouble getting it to cooperate, you may want to move to a warmer work area or warm up your hands a bit.
Rounded beads are simplest for the beginner but you can soon learn how to make beads that are square, star shaped, heart shaped or designed to look like tiny animals. Flower shaped beads are also very popular.
To make the beads in different colors, start by choosing from the numerous colors of polymer clay that are commercially available. You can achieve a marbled effect by working with multiple colors at once. Once your creations have been baked, you can paint them with acrylics or fingernail polish to give them extra gloss and sparkle.
It's easy to make holes in Fimo beads, so you can thread them together into bracelets or necklaces or sew them onto clothes. You can drill holes in the hard beads, once they have been baked. Or you can make holes in the soft clay before you bake your beads.
A toothpick is perfect for piercing holes through Fimo clay once the beads have been shaped. Wiggle the toothpick around to make sure that the sides of the holes are smooth and bits won't fall down to clog them during baking.
You can also use a wooden skewer to make holes in your beads. Carefully push a skewer through the center of your finished bead, being careful not to change its shape. Fill the skewer with beads (being careful that they don't touch each other). Then support the skewer on a baking rack or other oven-proof container so the beads don't change shape during baking. Bake the beads directly on the skewer.
Baking Your Beads
You'll need to bake all your clay creations to make them hard and shiny and to ensure that they keep their shape. You can do this in an ordinary oven on a baking sheet, but follow the instructions on each packet of the product to make sure you get the temperature just right. (If the polymer clay is baked at too high of a temperature, it can emit dangerous gases.) Your beads will be hard and ready to string together into jewelry once the clay is baked and cooled.
The manufacturer recommends this type of polymer modeling compound for ages 8 and up, with adult supervision, because the use of an oven is required, and the product should not be ingested.
Once you have the basics down, experiment with different varieties and brands of polymer clay, each of which has a different level of malleability. You can also get polymer clay in a variety of effects, such as translucent, iridescent, and glow-in-the-dark, to create beads and jewelry that are truly one-of-a-kind.