I had a 40% off coupon for Michael's Craft Store, and I used it to buy a polymer clay kit for $6. The kit included five colors of moldable clay, a razor blade, a plastic roller, and several jewelry supplies, including french hooks for earrings, silk cord for a necklace and wire to create bracelets.
This stuff is amazing. There's something therapeutic about kneading the clay in your hands. My favorite part is the surprise you get when you've rolled a cane and cut the first slice to see how your design came out. I found several websites online to give me design ideas. This one has a fabulous list of links to tutorials for creating canes and shapes. And it's fairly inexpensive to buy individual packages of clay. Michael's had a variety of colors. A package the same size as the purple clay above sold for $1.29.
Here are two montages which show the steps I used to create several of the beads. Knead a small amount of clay in your hands to warm it and make it more pliable. Use the roller to create flat sheets on wax paper or a metal baking sheet (to prevent sticking). Stack three colors on top of each other. Roll the layers tightly into a cane. Lengthen the cane by rolling it to compress the layers. Use the razor blade to cut off thin slices. Waste clay (or extra clay from the ends of your cane) can be rolled into a base ball. Cover the base ball with the slices. Roll the ball until the slices create a smooth outer layer.
I followed the same steps to create these "giraffe" spheres. I'm calling them giraffes because I love the way the gold and white combination mimics the skin pattern on a giraffe. A tip: once you've rolled the canes, put them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. They will harden slightly and won't distort or flatten as much when you apply pressure with the razor blade.
Here are the beads before they went into the oven to bake and harden. Use a toothpick to drill holes (before baking) in each bead for stringing. A tip: hold the ball steady in the palm of your hand (to prevent fingerprints on the surface of your bead), apply pressure and twist the toothpick to drill through the clay. Poke the holes immediately after rolling your ball. As the beads sit, they become less pliable for drilling. Remove the toothpick before baking.
Bake at 275 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Turn the beads several times during baking to avoid getting a flat spot where the bead rests on the baking sheet. The beads will harden even more as they cool. In the foreground, you can see the flat spiral beads created by taking thicker slices off the cane and drilling side-to-side through the slice with the toothpick.
Then you can select complementary beads to string your jewelry. I used mother of pearl beads and Stretch Magic elastic jewelry cord to create this bracelet. The bracelet at the beginning of the post combines sterling silver beads and clear crystals with the swirl beads.
Finally, I used sterling silver beads and black jewelry wire to create the hanger through which the silk cord is strung. This pendant was created on a larger waste ball (approximately 1" in size) with slices cut from all of the different canes I made.
To make all of this jewelry, I only used about one-third of the clay provided in the kit. I'm so excited to see what new designs I can create tomorrow. Do you use Polymer Clay in your crafting? I would love any tips or links to tutorials that you love. Be sure to send pictures of your own polymer creations to sara(at)thehandyhausfrau(dot)com.