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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Making Beads in Clay

 I love to make beads in raku. This technique will work as well for polymer and other clay as well. To make beads all the same size, I start with two square sticks to use as thickness guides. I place the clay between and roll it out to an even thickness.
 This thickness and the diameter of the cut out tool will determine the finished size of the bead.
 I like to use metal tubes from Hobby Lobby. I get a package of them and the square sticks there as well. My roller is a large diameter dowel. This tube is about 3/4 inch in diameter and with the 1/2 inch square sticks gives me a 1/2 inch bead. Just by changing the tube or thickness sticks you can change the finished size.
 After stamping I use the stick to push out the clay.
 If you wanted to you could make cylinder beads just by smoothing the edges...
 I hand roll the beads in my palms.
Next I pierce with a wire a little larger than the wire I will fire them on. After drying the beads for an hour on the mat, I trim the holes and burnish the surface for a gloss or add textures. They are then fired to 1900 degrees and after cooling they get glazed and re-fired and finally put into a reduction container. I use a pressure cooker and place some flammable material into the bottom. When the tray with the fired clay is placed inside the paper or sawdust bursts into flame and then the cover is put on. The fire burns the oxygen and creates a vacuum . This oxygen free low pressure is called reduction. If it were left open it would be oxidation.
The final results speak for themselves. Hand rolled raku beads. Ready for use in jewelry. These have a nice mottled finish with green and bronze highlights. With the same glaze and different firing sequences I can send the color into many different directions from pure copper to deep blue and beyond.  Try making your own beads, its simple and fun.

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