Monday, November 5, 2012


...Bead of Unusual Size. 

Having not made a B.O.U.S. before, I combined scrap with fresh color (pink) that I wasn't likely to use otherwise. That way, if I didn't care for the results it wouldn't be too tragic. Interesting, but not something I think I would do very often. I wore down two sander belts and still think it needs to be shortened up a bit. For some reason the pink is really bright in the photo - I honestly didn't color correct the image.

If you study the image closely you'll find hints of some of the challenges I have with this process. Occasionally, layers don't stick together well and the ends of the bead cane are less accurate than the center. Because all of the cane is included in this bead the ends are what show up in the grind making it difficult to create a very precise AND large bead. It's the reduction of the cane or snaking it out that makes the process more forgiving.

Last night I started two new patterns that break from some of my recent designs. Hoping to post some finished beads this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beads and Faith

Back in July of this year, I posted an image of some black and white beads. They are some of the most precise that I’ve ever made as well as some of the biggest. They are also the only chevron beads that I’ve built into a finished necklace.

The beads were made specifically for a music video project. I sent them to Africa with a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which is an all-volunteer group comprised of 360 voices. They’re based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and produce the weekly radio program Music and The Spoken Word which is the longest continually-running radio broadcast in the United States.

The soloist in the video is recording artist Alex Boye, who is also a member of the Choir. Those in Europe may recognize him from his former gig in the boy band “Awesome.”

I think the video is awesome! I knew that Alex was traveling to Ghana and that my beads would be around his neck during filming, but I didn’t know they were on-location at Cape Coast Castle. I also didn’t know he would be singing a spiritual. Here is the video or you can go to the choir's new YouTube channel.

I think the result is haunting. Alex seems to me a ghost representative of every soul who passed through the castle bound for the western hemisphere. What a tragedy slavery is. It’s difficult to comprehend and impossible to make sense of.

I hope that people watching the video recognize that there is hope to be found even in the most difficult of personal circumstances. The video expresses the Christian view that hope comes through “walking” with Jesus Christ. I’ve found that to be true in my own life and being part of this project has been a unique opportunity to bring together my personal interests in beads with my personal faith – something common to people of many different faiths found around the world. If curious, you can read more about my personal beliefs at

Monday, July 9, 2012

Now boarding beads one through five

These beads are off to find their way in the world. Good-bye beads of awesomeness. I hope you have a fantastic adventure!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Nature of Selection

Making chevron beads kicks off a bit of scrap. As I clean up, I loosely organize the pieces by color similarity and then run the piles through the pasta machine creating some sizable sheets of mixed, muted clay.

After making several “planned” bead canes I had enough sheets to make one from leftovers. So I selected colors, alternating between vivid and muted clay, and constructed a new bead cane. The process was both random and intentional, artistic but serendipitous. I would not have intuitively selected these colors for a bead, but on a table of beads, I would probably pick this one up.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Experimental Grinds

I mixed it up here a bit and am glad that I did. It's interesting how subtle changes to the same stock can create contrasting results.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


As I mentioned yesterday, my beads involve creating bead blanks or stock that are baked and then shaped after they have been hardened. Here are some examples of beads awaiting a date with the belt sander. Sadly, some may never make it there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tangerine Eclipse Chevrons

I built this bead cane  the day of the eclipse. Perhaps there is some poetic metaphor here, the way the dark color overshadows the glow from deeper within the bead.

Thank you to everyone for your comments both here and at Polymer Clay Daily. I am so grateful and feel like I've gained many more friends from around the globe.

I wanted to share that my beads are in fact shaped after they have been baked. But rather than a lathe, I'm just using a belt sander with a fine grit. This process is pretty similar to what glass bead makers do, only their tools are a bit more industrial grade and usually involve a wet sander. I do some wet sanding at the very end of the process with a fine grit paper. I imagine many of you do the same. Getting a symmetrical bicone shape is half the fun for me. Plus that's when the magic happens as I watch the layers come to the surface (and discover if the cane is spot on, so-so, or... garbage). I think there is huge potential in this kind of lapidary process and would encourage everyone to experiment (just take safety precautions and protect yourself from the dust)!

I use the same process for my tablet beads. I find that shape to be really appealing. Because I've thought about Chevron beads for so long, they are very exciting for me, but tablet beads are quicker to make, require less clay and are a great way to use scraps. They're actually pretty fun and have endless possibilities.

I'll post some images this week of both the "unground" chevrons and tablet bead blanks so you can see what they look like. Sometimes I just don't have the time to actually get around to the grinding process. For every bead that is finalized, there are a dozen or so that have yet to see the sander.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shield? Tablet?

A large tablet bead or a shield bead. You choose. Either way, it's still two-sided.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chevrons: A Fresh Approach

I've been working to improve my approach to polymer clay chevron beads. I'm happy with the results.

Monday, April 20, 2009

History Lesson

Though not particularly free-spirited, my parents had a plastic bead curtain hanging in their bathroom for years. It came with the house when we moved there in 1979 and hung there, separating the toilet and shower from the countertop and twin sinks, until my parents updated their living space with some iteration of early 1990’s design sense. The red and clear beads were fused onto several dozen strings hanging neatly in a row, nearly reaching the floor. There seemed no better entertainment for a three-year-old (but in retrospect long strands of beads seem to present quite the strangulation hazard, don’t they?). Most of all I loved the sound they made when disrupted. First elegantly swinging in unison and then spastically crashing together.

Bead curtains, a few lost and lonely bead discoveries and the Cub Scout program, which recognizes merit and advancement with beads, all laid the foundation for my interest in collecting and making beads. To be certain, I don’t “bead.” I don’t make necklaces, bracelets or watch bands and I certainly don’t embellish figure skating dresses. My interest is in each individual bead and its inherent, intrinsic value.

I discovered polymer clay in a craft store and immediately realized the clay’s ability to mimic glass millefiori (me and everyone else). My early beads are generally predictable and mimic the polymer pioneers of the time but overall I loved this new found ability to make my own beads. By 1994, I discovered glass lampworking and polymer clay instantly seemed so passé. Glass carries status.

Since that time, I’ve gone back and forth. Glass. Polymer. Glass. Polymer. I still love both, but ultimately feel most expressive when working in polymer which is why I continue with this medium today.