I am learning the ins and outs of using my dual media kiln (does glass, class, and ceramics). I wanted to make my own beads. Pictured is a handmade ceramic coin bead bracelet, my first official piece of jewelry made from kiln fired beads I did myself. It incorporates a glazed pastel blue coin bead, recycled wire wrapped glass like beach glass wrapped with copper wire and brass wire. I tumbled the glass from recycled wine bottles. Also included are white glazed round beads, also kiln fired. The bracelet has two green accent beads and closes with a handmade “S” clasp. I can take orders for these in the following colors: bright yellow, pink, lavender, blue, green, and white.
To make the coin beads I rolled out low fire Lyman Red clay to 1/8″ using a rolling pin on a scrap of sheetrock. Clay can shrink up to 20 percent during the firing process. Normally, for larger items, I roll them thicker, 3/8″ but for the beads I reduce it.
I cut these out using a round drink top, the kind you pop onto a plastic cup to make it into a bottle. Almost any round bottle cap will do. You have to be able to push the clay out of the cutter so having one end open on the top makes it easier. It’s the same principle as using a cookie cutter.
Next, I used metal buttons and an ornate metal earring to make an imprint design.
I reshaped the edges of each coin bead since pressing into them and removing them from the cutout mold can distort them. To do this, I gently picked them up and rolled them on their edges.
I moved the cut out pieces to a plastic lined metal tray to let them dry to the chocolate hard stage. This is the stage where you can still work with the clay but it’s a little less pliable and retains its shape better. I used a wooden shish kabob skewer to make holes in them. If using bead racks you want to make sure the hole after firing with fit the wire on your racks.
Afterwards I cleaned up any “boogers”. The cleaner you get your clay at this stage, the less clean up you have to do after you bisque fire. If you find your clay bead cracks on the edge when you make the hole, you might want to spritz the beads with a fine mist of water.
The next step is letting them air dry to the leather hard stage, another day or so.
Now they are ready to be turned into bisque. I fired them at slow bisque (cone 04). Since they are not glazed, you can lay them right on the kiln shelves or use bead racks, or tile racks with Nichrome wire, a heat-resistant wire.
After bisque firing, take out and clean up, sanding as necessary. Blow off or wipe off each bead so the glaze will adhere.
Glaze each bead according to your glaze directions. I found that the red clay showed through the Stroke and Coat glaze after firing . Stroke and Coat is more for ceramics. By painting them with an undercoat of white Stoke and Coat, and them painting two coats of glaze, I got a more pronounced color. Place on bead racks or tile racks with Nichrome wire. Be aware that the heavier the bead and the thinner the wire, the more sag. When using the tile racks and wire pieces I only put three beads on each wire. I loaded more on to the bead rack since the wire used for those is much thicker. The photo on the left shows you the results after firing them.
I won’t go into the entire process of making the bracelet. I used wire wrapping and basic jewelry design techniques to put it all together.
This bracelet is available in my Etsy shop but from July 2 – July 13 the shop will be on vacation mode while I travel. I can take custom orders on color and size. If you are interested, email me with your desired color. If you email me before July 14, you will get it at half off. It will list for $40 but I’m offering it at $20 if you pre-order. (I may not be able to respond to your order until after July 13.
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