Upcycle Old Ugly Polymer Clay Beads into Heishi Beads

Heishi Beads Tips & TricksVideo #362: Even wonky and weird beads can be used creatively… so never ever throw anything away.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • How to re-purpose your orphan or downgraded polymer clay beads by making them into Heishi Beads.
  • See examples of some of my old beads that didn’t turn out so well… and watch as I chop them into bits.
  • Because of their shape, Heishi Beads can be used as spacers and even sequins.
  • Depending on the look of your original polymer clay beads destined for the chopping block, your heishi beads can end up looking like shell or bone, taking on an organic, tropical or even tribal appearance.
  • Tips and tricks for easily warming and cutting your old beads into Heishi beads, as well as things to avoid that would make the task tricky.

Question of the Day:

Do you have any ugly beads that could be used in could be used as I showed in the video? Why don’t you chop them up and let me know how it works out for you.

By the way, if you have a polymer clay question or challenge you’d like me to address in an upcoming video vlog, do post it in the comments below. I’d love to help you find quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Sue F, 21 March, 2013

    Great idea, Cindy! :)

    I definitely have some ugly beads, but almost all of them are round and unfortunately don’t really suit this particular recycling tip. I usually use them as bead cores and cover them with a decorative layer that will hopefully be less bad.

  2. Tantesherry, 21 March, 2013

    Boy do I have some yucky beads that will benefit from this !!!
    There you go being “scary smart” again Cindy :)
    What a super tip !!! thanks for always thinking of ways to keep
    our polymer clay lives interesting -sherry

  3. Ifama J, 21 March, 2013

    I absolutely loved this tip, Cindy!

  4. Bennie D, 21 March, 2013

    Cindy I look forward to your tips. Love the tip for old wonky beads.Thanks

  5. Tantesherry, 21 March, 2013

    OT: Anyone remember which tutorial was the one that Cindy made a pair of earrings by using beading wire, small seed beads and crimps?
    With out being able to find it I went ahead and made a pair of earrings with 2 beads from volume 050 Ranunculus and now I’m having design problems – the wires come unhooked and the bead fall off …. I put a pic up at the members gallery (blurry but there) Thanks bunches -Sherry

  6. Monique U., 21 March, 2013

    Sherry, check the mica-shift video (vol-18), a couple of minutes in. Not sure if that’s the design you were remembering. Cindy, as always, you have the best “simple” ideas that nobody else seems to work out LOL.

    A Half-Baked Notion

  7. Cindy Lietz, 21 March, 2013

    Hi Sherry, Are you talking about the earring samples I showed in the Faux Coral Heishi Bead tutorial Vol-040-2 ? I don’t think I actually did a full tutorial on them, just showed how they were made. Hope that helps!

  8. Kimberly G, 21 March, 2013

    LOVE this idea thank you!

  9. Maureen T, 21 March, 2013

    Thanks, Cindy! :D

  10. Stephanie B, 21 March, 2013

    LOVE this idea for old tube beads!!!!

  11. Lena S, 21 March, 2013

    Cindy you are lovely! :-)

  12. Marcela S, 21 March, 2013

    Wow great!!!! I loved it!!! Thank you. I do have ugly beads ajajaj

  13. Carol G, 21 March, 2013

    What a great idea!!!

  14. Elsie S, 21 March, 2013

    I just made a set out of a very ugly blue & yellow long tube bead – now they are pretty cool. Thanks Cindy!

  15. Sandra B, 21 March, 2013

    Great idea!

  16. Amy H, 21 March, 2013

    Thank you Cindy. you’re so kind to share what you know!

  17. Sandra J, 21 March, 2013

    i have a couple of bangles that i made that i am unhappy with not sure if this idea will work with those as they are curved all the way round, i will give it a co though and see what happens.

  18. Cecilia Kirketerp, 21 March, 2013

    Me like! :D I think I have a few of those. Great tip, will try it. :)

  19. Michelle L, 21 March, 2013

    Love, love, love this video! And, YES, I have a few old beads that I will be using this tip on . . . So nice to know I’m not the only one who has beads laying around that I’m not happy with but just couldn’t throw away! :)

  20. Melissa M, 21 March, 2013

    Great idea Cindy!

  21. Patty J, 21 March, 2013

    all your videos are cool

  22. Ella M, 21 March, 2013

    Pretty neat idea, gotta try it.

  23. Pam D, 21 March, 2013

    This is so cool, I’ll have to try it, I think we all have some ugly beads.

  24. Bonnie K, 21 March, 2013

    That’s a great idea. I have a ton of those laying around that were going to the landfill.

  25. Cassie C, 21 March, 2013

    Thanks Cindy. I love these tips. I don’t know if I have any beads to do this with. I will look around.

  26. Olcik K, 21 March, 2013

    I really like this idea ;) and all your youtube channel too, thanks so much for tips :)

  27. Patricia R, 21 March, 2013

    What a neat idea! Now I know what to do with some of these not so cool looking beads. Thanks Cindy

  28. Patt W, 21 March, 2013

    Cool tip – yep I have some wonky, ugly, almost ugly beads, tube beads. This is such a neat idea. I may even make some tube beads to cut up! Ty as always…………..;}

  29. Rhonda L, 21 March, 2013

    Thx!! It was a great video!!!

  30. Darla D, 21 March, 2013

    Great Video as always! Definitely going to try this with some of the old beads that I have! Got my Renaissance Wax today in mail so between the Heishi Beads and? using my wax on things.. I am going to be a busy crafter this weekend! LOL.. Thanks again for your great videos!

  31. Linda K., 21 March, 2013

    This is a terrific idea. I love the look of the bead cut up, but with the pieces in the correct order, side-by-side, but there are so many things that can be done with the pieces. I think a round bead cut into 3 pieces could be interesting, too.

  32. Maria C, 21 March, 2013

    Oh this is such a great idea! I made these big tubular beads with the thought of putting them as focal beads for bracelets – turned out yucky – this technique is going to give them a useful life!

  33. Jacqueline M, 22 March, 2013

    Cindy you never cease to amaze me ….I love this video and I have a jar full of wonky beads I didn’t know what to do with. Now I know. I just adore your video’s ….Keep em comin girl …bye for now and Happy beading

  34. Cheyrl B, 22 March, 2013

    Thanks! Great tip I do have wonky beads, I also save all of my small even tiny scraps and crumbs in a dish while I am making beads and when I have enough I roll them ( no matter what or how many colors ) together as round beads or if there is more I roll them bend them in half and twist a few time then roll them into a tube bead, I get some of my most unique beads this way. but not all are a success and now I know what to do with them.

  35. Ingrid G, 22 March, 2013

    What a fabulous idea! Thanks, Cindy.

  36. Gayle Thompson, 22 March, 2013

    Great idea! You have such a creative mind!

    What are those wires that you are keeping your beads on? I am not a beader so it may be a common tool.

  37. Cindy Lietz, 22 March, 2013

    Hi Gayle, I just strung the beads on short pieces of bead stringing wire and clipped the ends with a bead stopper (this brand is called a Bead Bug and their sold at Michaels) to keep them from sliding off.

  38. Becca A, 22 March, 2013

    Oh, do I have wonky beads. But like you, I just can’t throw them out. They’re like orphan children! :-) I think this would also work if I used a wavy blade instead of a straight razor blade, to add a little further interest. Look out “dead bead pile”… mama’s coming back!

  39. Cindy Lietz, 22 March, 2013

    That is an awesome idea Becca! You’ll want a really sharp ripple blade though or it could be tricky to cut. Do show us pics if you end up trying it!

  40. Elaine Faulks, 22 March, 2013

    Wow Cindy you must have read my mind. I was sorting though my stash and came upon two sets of Arizona beads I had semi-burnt. The embossing powder had turned the ends all gloopy. I also have a chunky gold chain that just didn’t “fit” with anything. I will Heishi each one, string on headpin and make dangles for the chain, turning it into a unique necklace. If I have enough I will make earrings to match. A challenge Cindy, what to do with the burnt bits?

    I have been asked to make a series of fairy doors. Simple using Cindy’s lovely faux wood recipes but my client wants them to open and close! I got some dolls house hinges but they just do not look the part. So might cut strips of leather to make the hinges and stick a tiny magnet on door and frame to hold them shut but any suggestions as to making hinges would be appreciated. Have you made them from polymer clay? I need some kind fairy godmother to come up with a good suggestion………………………….cheers xx………………….

  41. Cindy Lietz, 25 March, 2013

    Great ideas Elaine! I will have to put some thought into them. Have burnt stuff before… but haven’t tried to make any hinges. I will put them on the list!

  42. Carol Price, 25 March, 2013

    Hi. Re hinges – just wondering whether 2 lengths of wire, gizmo-ed together loosely, would then give 4 wire ends for embedding – 2 in the doors and 2in the posts? Not sure if this might work? Good luck. :)

  43. Loretta H, 22 March, 2013

    I LOVE this idea. I definitely have a bunch of beginner beads that will be very happy to be shown off instead of being hidden in a dark corner of my craft room! Thanks!

  44. Marie R, 24 March, 2013

    Is this being done with beads that were cured already? If yes, would it be possible to do it with purchased beads? I’ve bought some bulk tubes and some of them are dog ugly.

    I just discovered your site today and love it. Thank you.

    I meant to ask the tutor not the comment above mine. sorry

  45. Cindy Lietz, 25 March, 2013

    Hi Marie, Jocelyn’s comment below is perfectly correct. This technique is done on baked polymer clay beads. So unless your purchased beads are polymer, you won’t likely be able to heat and slice them. Thanks for commenting!

  46. Niki M, 23 March, 2013

    Thanks I never knew the name of them. My mom gave me some after a trip out west.

  47. Karen C, 23 March, 2013

    Thanks Cindy!!! I’m a bit scared to look in my reject crates ;-) maybe one day… seems a waste to chuck them out so I’ve always kept them… now I need the time to cut them up & make them into something! :-)

  48. Lisa C, 23 March, 2013

    I’ve made these too, a while ago. Never thought of heating them up before slicing, good tip. Love the ones you made, cool colors.

  49. Pam S, 24 March, 2013

    Thanks Cindy, I often make beads and buttons from simple cane slices and they never come out round, they distort as I cut them. Baking and cutting them warm could prevent that :)

  50. Ernie H, 24 March, 2013

    I could make LOTS of heishi beads! Great tutorial.

  51. Linda K, 24 March, 2013

    Deliberately making one long bead to later cut into heishi’s would make the sanding and polishing a lot easier.

  52. Lesley Symons, 25 March, 2013

    Ha ha, I have a BOXFUL of ugly beads going back to my early days with polymer clay. Never could quite bring myself to throw them away. This sounds like fun!!

  53. Jocelyn C, 25 March, 2013

    Leslie, just remember to finish them first so easier to handle before slicing, lol.

    Welcome Marie R! You can use the technique, but, only if the bead is solid polymer clay. If someone used another base under the polymer level design, like a wooden or porcelain bead, then heating and slicing would not work.

  54. Lesley S, 25 March, 2013


  55. Michelle Adams, 26 March, 2013

    I love love love the look of these. Again, another one of those on my gosh why didn’t I think of that moments. I tried to make a Rocker Bead the other day that didn’t come out quite right. I may try this idea with that bead, and even make beads to specifically use this technique on. I love it. Thanks Cindy.

  56. Jan Womack, 31 March, 2013

    Of course you have come up with another wonderful tip. I love the way you teach please keep it up. You make my days.

  57. elaine faulks, 31 March, 2013

    Well have just unearthed my gloopy Arizona beads to upcycle using Cindy’s heishi method, Took 2 hours of looking through boxes before I came across them but while doing so discovered something else that I think could work for my fairy door hinges. Whoopee, isn’t it great that while looking for one thing you find another that you had forgotten all about. So now will be experimenting and if it works will pass this method on……cheers xx………

  58. Sandra F, 01 April, 2013

    yes, i have ugly beads and i’ll try to do that ;)
    thank you so much

  59. Maria R, 01 April, 2013

    Thank you Cindy for sharing with us all this wonderful tips and by the way let me tell you that I agree with all your comments in the discussion above, thank again:-) Send you big hugs from Venezuela.

  60. elaine faulks, 07 May, 2013

    Hi Maria R
    It is great to see someone on this site from Venezuela, welcome. I have a whole lot of extended family living there, but do not get to see them too often unless they come to the UK. I have never visited your country but my daughter went to visit her cousins a couple of years ago and thought what an amazing place it is. Do you get your supplies locally or do you have to send away (online for them?)…….cheers xx……

  61. Manon V, 03 April, 2013

    Fabulous idea :)

  62. Toni H., 05 May, 2013

    Cindy, can you sand and polish the bead before you warm them in the oven, or will that take off the polish, you think? It would definitely be much easier when it is in whole form!

  63. Cindy Lietz, 07 May, 2013

    Yes Toni, I recommend you do any sanding, buffing and glazing/waxing/etc. before you warm and cut the bead. You’re right it is WAY easier that way!

  64. jothi a, 27 November, 2013

    Hi Cindy Lietz,

    I am jothi…from india. I am very much interested and doing in polymer clay jewel designs.

    Could you explain in brief how to bake the Polymer Clay @ home.

    Please reply…

  65. Jocelyn C, 30 November, 2013

    Hi Jothi! It’s great to see folks interesting in learning polymer clay from all over the world, welcome.

    To get the basics, I would take Cindy’s series of beginner classes.

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