Making Polymer Clay Beads for No Reason Other Than to Learn How

Polymer Clay Beads “Make beads just for the making… this was an eye opener for me.” ~Rose-M

Before Christmas, a member of the Polymer Clay Tutor Library (Rose-M), made an interesting comment that many of you probably missed because of all the other things happening during the festive holiday season. It was an important “eye opening” comment that’s worth repeating. So today I’m re-posting Rose’s story, along with my original response… plus a bit of added commentary.

Here’s What Rose Said…

I love the idea of having leftover beads. Somewhere in my subconscious is the idea that everything I make has to have a purpose. Watching Cindy’s videos showed me that people make beads just for the making. I’m sure you all are thinking duh, but this was an eye opener for me.

So, for the past few days, I’ve been making lentil beads – one of a kinds – just for the practice and fun. I plan to make some book beads to use with the book hooks I’m planing to make for a few friends. I made one yesterday for myself (I confess to being a page corner turner) and like the look of it. Maybe having a pretty book hook will get me using it.

I’m looking forward to making more of the beads in the videos I purchased. I see a future with a big container of beads.


And Here Is My Original Response…

Rose, excellent point you brought up! I think that when you are learning to master a material such as polymer clay, the goal is to ‘work with’ the clay and learn the techniques even if the style is not your choice, or you have no end ‘purpose’ for that particular kind of bead.

Just by doing the techniques in every video, you will become a better clayer. You don’t have to do large amounts of them, just try every single technique. You can figure out what to do with the beads later.

In fact many polymer clay artists, sell their beads rather than make anything with them.

If you wait until you need a certain style of bead for a project before you try the technique, you may never get around learning the wonderful nuances of the clay.

For example, if you wait until you need faux bone beads for a tribal jewelry project, before you learn how to make a faux bone cane, you may never get the chance to see how the translucent and opaque layers mingle with each other. Or how the antiquing medium, sits in the scratches and grooves of the wonderfully polished bone beads.

You may never make more faux bone beads, but the experience will lead you to more discoveries about the medium, that you may not have found otherwise.

So think of this bead making journey more as a “Build the Bead and the Purpose will Come” kind of thing. It will be a much more freeing and creative experience for you that way!

~Cindy-L (me)

Ever since I wrote that response for Rose, I’ve been wondering just how many others may be holding back too. Waiting for the day when you need a Jupiter Bead, a Faux Raku Bead or a Gerbera Flower Cane?

Did you realize that while you are waiting for the perfect day to make that certain bead, or practice a particular technique demonstrated in one of the weekly video tutorial lessons, that you are also losing out on valuable learning opportunities?

That the techniques you could have been learning, even if they weren’t your particular taste, could be the stepping stones you need to finding your own artistic voice?

When new knowledge (whatever it is), comes your way, embrace it. Learn everything you can from it and then move on. That is how you become the artist and craft person that many of you are craving to become.

So come on everyone… mix those color recipes, do those techniques, make those beads and live the creative life, you came here for in the first place!

** Win Some Beads: Would you like to win a gift package of handmade beads made by me personally? If so, I sure would appreciate your feedback about a new giveaway contest I’m thinking about launching: Polymer Clay Beads, Handmade by Cindy Lietz

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Freda, 06 January, 2010

    What a good idea. I usually start with too much clay, add a little more of one of the colors and end up with a bigger project that doesn’t turn out very good. Because of that I don’t go back and start again but go on to something else that did turn out good. I’m going to start small and go back and make more of the same thing until I get one that satisfies me. Of course, some of the things that don’t turn out right are great in their own way.

  2. Elizabeth S., 06 January, 2010

    You are so right! Some of the happiest days in my craft room are those when I get distracted and start working on a technique or combining colors just for the sake of wanting to know how it would turn out. Interestingly, the results are often those I love the most.

  3. JoyceM, 06 January, 2010

    Before Christmas I wanted to add to Rose-M’s comment about having so many beads etc. Your thoughts, Rose, hit home with me and I had planned that “after things settle down again” I need to revisit the techniques that have given me a challenge that I didn’t conquer. Not that something interesting didn’t happen but I moved on and now like you say, Cindy, when the need for that accomplished technique comes it will take that much longer to have the sense of accomplishment that a finished project always gives.

    I’ve told my granddaughters many times to “learn whatever you can now because you don’t know when you’ll need it later on”. Now I need to do the same in my clay world. It is all fun and rewarding so now I’ll enjoy the “happy accidents” (as artist Bob Ross would say) but stay with the technique to really make it mine before going on to something else. It’ll just take a mite longer to get to that something else but there will great satisfaction in mastering that new technique.

    Many thanks to you, Rose and Cindy, for putting more light on this subject. What a year 2010 has started out to be!


  4. Jocelyn, 06 January, 2010

    Having a box load of any type of art collected or made over the years is a treasure, like finding great sea glass on a beach and adding it to the jar.

    For me, the best thing about this site has been that it’s provoked me to “start over” and relearn skills and tasks. The tutorials and sites here have been incredibly informative and well worth the cost.

    Taking the bead making course from scratch, then, forcing myself to use the new methods Cindy demonstrates and not revert back has been a challenge and has dramatically increased my enjoyment of the process as well as seeing a lot of progress in my capabilities.

    So many times we can get “locked in” to where we are, and forget that lot’s of life is about the achievement of positive change. My Dad grew tired of my petulance in childhood, and began responding simply, “then, change it.”
    (or shut UP, lol).

    It instilled a deep “can do” attitude, that I think Cindy exemplifies perfectly.

  5. Linda-D, 06 January, 2010

    Cindy, thanks for re-running Rose’s comment, since I did miss it the first time around.

    Rose, not only did I not think “duh,” but my reaction was more along the “aha!” line, with that all-too-usually dark lightbulb over my head finally lighting. Thanks to your comment, I started thinking that the only way I’ll get better at creating with polymer clay is to create with polymer clay, and I don’t need a purpose. Thank you! Even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t make any resolutions this year, I think I have one now.

  6. Catherine R, 06 January, 2010

    Thank you, Cindy, for re-posting Rose’s comment. I have worked in different mediums and I’ve never worked on something just for the heck of it. I will give these items away and seldom have any extras to remind me of the items I have made (some I’m amazed that I was able to make and no longer do because I’ve moved on to some new craft!). I love your comment “Build the Bead and the Purpose will Come” and some how this will make it ok in my “I can’t waste anything” mentality! Thanks again to all that give such inspiring comments here and freeing me to just do it!

  7. DJ, 06 January, 2010

    I think it’s true we tend to put pressure on ourselves about being practical along with things/actions having a specific use. Funny how as adults we often try to get back to some of the qualities we lost when we were young.
    You never see a child put off something enjoyable because it didn’t have a purpose! They just do….it’s something I’m trying to get back to as well.

  8. lynn watts, 06 January, 2010

    I posted before, I would love that bead giveaway idea. If I win I would LOVE the graffiti bead,lentil,deep raku. Those intrigue me the most and I love them alot.

    I have worked in polymer clay for years,when they first had it in stores. I bought alot of molds, cutters, books, videos and CLAY. It was mostly Fimo, then Sculpey 111. I found sculpey was to soft and smeared the details in the canes. Now it is Kato and Fimo I use. They hold the details really well. I have alot of pieces (slices) that I cut and bake sometimes just for the heck of it and sometimes as a record of my progress in techniques and color blending that I did not know before.

    I recently sent every single cane I had made (slices) to a dear friend I knew when my husband was in the military and was stationed in Dade County in Flordia. She lives in Pa. and I have not seen her in several years but we have stayed in touch. I look back on my first and preceding work and laugh, frown, and ask “what were you thinking”.

    Anywho I see how far I have come in my adventure with this medium and how versatile this stuff is. I get amazed at what other artisans has done with this medium. The figures of animals, people, things, etc; blows my mind. I know everybody appreciates all you do to further their knowledge in this field of Polymer clay.

    It took me a long time to realize that earth tone colors without separations with another lighter color the details just got lost. I was told to go brighter and a little bigger. I was so scared of using up my clay cuz money was minimal and I had to make everything stretch. I could make a penny squeal. But that was from my earlier days growing up without a father cuz he left and never came back.

    I love this site it has so many good people on it and we all could use a good friend every now and then, even positive feedback on our work or stories.

    Lynn Watts

  9. Shannon L, 07 January, 2010

    This is a great point. As much as I try to add meaning to my clay work, I sometimes forget that the best, most finely executed ideas didn’t just happen. They came from periods of time where simply playing, getting a feel for the clay, making mistakes, changing a technique and so forth were the bulk of time spent at the clay table. Thank you for reminding me!

  10. carolyn, 07 January, 2010

    Thanks for this post! I’ve not been with Cindy very long and have been trying to work my way forward from the beginning. Now I realize that I have to do double duty – one of the older video lessons PLUS the newest one. I had thought that I would just work my way through all the videos from the beginning, but this isn’t working. It is like taking one step forward and two steps back. I’ll never get ‘caught up’ this way.

    And thanks for the reminder about the book beads. When I first saw that video I thought how perfect they would be for making little Bible bookmarks for my church sales … and then I forgot all about them. So, that’s my goal for today: make a book bead today before the new video comes out tomorrow.

    I’ll also start making those color cards ‘dots’. For that I had been waiting until I could print all the cards and then start making the dots. That’s not going to happen either, so I’ll also make a couple color dots today.

    This is great! Now I won’t be wandering around this empty house wondering what to do besides housecleaning! If I carry through with this I will have something to look forward to each day and this will help me through my grief over losing Don. I feel really connected to this new (to me) community and thank you all.

  11. Cindy Lietz, 08 January, 2010

    Your feedback on this everyone was wonderful to read! We are alll on a creative journey and sometimes I think we put too many restrictions and limitations on our learning. If we try and learn from as many ideas that cross our path, that we can… we grow.

    So that people can try every technique that comes out, I try and keep the projects/canes/techniques small and with as many uses and variations as possible, so that you never feel like you time or supplies have been wasted during the learning process.

    I love it that this point came through for you all. Just do it. And before you know it you will become a great bead artist!

  12. DawnB, 08 January, 2010

    This is a great topic. I have boxes of beads, but haven’t done very much with them. I LOVE making them, but when it comes to wires and chains, not so much. LOL I’ve made a few pairs of earring which I wear regularly and hubby even sold quite a few pieces I’d put into something (earring, bracelets, etc.). I just like getting my hands in the clay! I made a concerted effort to put together a necklace and earrings for my niece for Christmas which turned out quite well. It made me realize that the beads need a vehicle. They’re not fulfilling the joy and purpose I intended when they’re sitting in a box.

  13. lynn watts, 08 January, 2010

    I made some Memory Beads for my Granddaughter cause her GrandMother on her Dad’s side died. It ended up me making 7 all together for the rest of the family.It was greatly appreciated all the effort I put into each one, they all were different.

  14. Elizabeth K, 09 January, 2010

    Hi Cindy and all, on my way to watch the Tribal tutorial I stopped to read all the comments re Make the bead and the purpose will come.
    In working with PC I have never thought that way so it is good that it has made me think.
    I just try every tut even if I don’t think it is me, or have done it before, as every time I look I find something new from it.
    Even an inspiration I hadn’t thought of before comes up.
    As to what to do with all the weird and wonderful beads I test out on, I just love having them around and they get used for something, even just to go back and to look at.
    As Cindy said, try everything as it all comes in useful sometime and expands your mind to becoming the creative artist you want to be in whatever medium. Every craft lends itself to some other craft and with Polymer clay you can usually find a way to incorporate your left overs.
    Recently I had my daughter here who does beautiful paintings and incorporates them in her journals. Now I am not one to give advise here, but she liked my extruder canes so much that I found a way to give her some for her journals. I sliced the extruder millifiore canes very thinly and baked them not really knowing what they would be like. Well I and her, we were tickled pink as they came out nicely and can be pasted on to her pages. I am looking to the future to see what they are like.

    cane-painting by Elizabeth Kerr

    Here is a small example to show you what I mean, but by no means as good as some of them were. Hope you all great loads of interesting canes just to look at, remember nothing is not useful in our craft it is our love of what we do that builds up our supplies and we meant to have it all as we are all worth it, (like the Hair ad) LOL. Bye E.

  15. Cindy Lietz, 09 January, 2010

    Wow! I wish everyone in the polymer clay community had the opportunity read all of these wonderful stories. They are SO touching and endearing. Thank you again everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts and emotions. I appreciate it and I’m sure many others do as well. BIG HUGS!

  16. Sandra J, 22 October, 2010

    I have come home from a week of R & R at our holiday place at the beach, where I took all of my clay, some clay books, a few of Cindy’s videos and had a great time just rolling, making, polishing and putting together a couple of pieces of jewellery, and then I wondered why on earth I was doing this. then I went to the computer looking foward to catching the latest video (which is wonderful), and just browsing thru the comments and came across the article “Making polymer clay beads for no other reason than to learn how” This article is great and gave me back my “that’s why I’m doing this. Its in us to create and this is my creative outlet. Thanks for all your inspiration. Cindy, your website is the bestest. I love it. And thanks for giving so much of yourself.

  17. Cindy Lietz, 23 October, 2010

    You are more than welcome Sandra! You are exactly the reason why I love my work… it is very satisfying to be doing something that brings artistic pleasure to so many people. Just like you. Keep on enjoying the Journey! :-)

  18. Phaedrakat, 27 October, 2010

    I had forgotten about this post! I remember loving the message when I read it…it’s such a great way to learn and find your artistic voice. I had planned to follow every tutorial, and do every technique — practice, practice…until I had that big container of beads! Unfortunately, life and dozens of major obstacles got in the way for me this year. So I’m going to re-create my vow to follow all of Cindy’s videos. I still love the message of this post. It’s a fantastic (probably the best!) way to find your artistic voice, & discover your likes & dislikes when it comes to clay! I hope others follow the examples here…Now if I can only find a way to make this possible for myself, as well! :D

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