In this bead-making journey, I went from just making beads whenever the whimsy struck to artists NEEDING my beads. Right. Now. (Yikes!) And so I had to do some things to keep my beads consistent in shape and size, streamline production, and reduce the turn out of ho-hum beads.
You might be thinking, "well, I don't make lots of beads. I don't even sell my beads. I do it for fun!" That's perfectly fine. But I've always found simplifying the mundane of any sort of creating leaves more time for imagination and play… so new ideas actually have a chance to develop.
So here are three of my favorite tips and time savers…
Tip #1. Freezing molded polymer. This one is my all-time favorite! (I have to thank my Aunt for convincing me to actually use molds for my beads in the first place… long story!! ;-) And the only way I can keep my beads consistently the same size. It also enables me to make deep molds and have my castings come out perfect each time.
Simply fill your molds with softened polymer, pack in, pop in the freezer for about 10 minutes, remove from the freezer and pop your molded creation out of the mold! They turn out perfect every time!
See the difference? The rose on the left is without freezing, the one on the right is after freezing.
My stash of most-used molds.
Tip #2. Leaching over-soft polymer. For my bead making, I do a lot of hand-sculpting and if the polymer is too soft, pair that up with the warmth of my hands… and you have one very squishy bead with very poor detail. So frustrating! Here's how I solve that problem:
Then I roll each section through on the thickest setting.
Next I sandwich them between layers of white copy paper.
And roll over the top with an acrylic roller so they stick to the paper.
This last tip is really, really simple——many of you probably already use it——I thought about not including it… but it has saved many of my creations from the scrap pile, so I'll share it anyway…
Tip #3. Clean hands and light colored polymer. How many times have you ruined a perfectly good polymer bead by just touching it? And you had just washed your hands!? But now it has little bits of dust and lint stuck to it… into the trash it goes! For most of my dragon beads I use light colored polymer and one tiny bit of dust can mean I have to start all over. How do you solve the problem? Wash your hands, of course. And DON'T dry them on a towel——lint will always stick to your hands and then stick to the polymer. Use paper towels to dry your hands instead. And then the fool-proof way to be absolutely sure your hands are lint and dust free——roll a ball of scrap clay in your hands——it picks up anything on your hands and you're now safe to work that light colored polymer! I also always work on a sheet of copy paper so I never have to place my beads directly on the tabletop.
I don't have any photos of that one… but I bet most of you can picture it in your mind's eye pretty well… the poor dirty beads… and the perfect ones. Ahhh! Wonderful!
What tips and tricks have you learned from working with polymer? Any problems have you still stumped about what to do and frustrated?
Do share! :-)