Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bead Dreams 2011

Porcelain Beads - Handbuilt, hand carved, hollow form

After several years of thinking about it I finally entered Bead & Button's Bead Dreams handmade beads competition. Hey, and guess what?! I won second place! Woo hoo! I thought it might be kind of fun to show you some of the process in making these beads. They were a real labor of love (with a heavy twist of crazy).

In a nutshell, this is the bead lowdown: they are handbuilt, hollow form, hand carved, big-ass beads. Each one measures approximately 2 inches in diameter and each took about two hours of work.

Porcelain beads in progress... hollow halves

I started by making a bunch of halves by forming the clay over a hump mold. The white powder you see inside each piece is cornstarch which kept the clay from sticking to the mold I was using.

Porcelain beads in progress... hollow halves

Usually I would construct the beads while the clay is still a little wet but I wanted to have a little more time to work so I let each piece completely air dry. Then I sanded the edges smooth so that the halves would fit together flawlessly.

Porcelain beads in progress - hollow halves

Here you can see all of the halves which have been sanded and bushed clean. I made a lot of pieces just in case I messed up (which I did...several times....).

Paperclay!

This is paper clay. Paper clay is one of those things that I can't live without (along with duct tape, Goo Gone, my tumbler and various food related items which may or may not contain a lot of bacon, garlic and/or salt). Paper clay is a mixture of clay slip and paper fiber (in this case I used a roll of toilet paper) which can be used to join completely dry pieces of clay. I could build a house with this stuff, it's that awesome!

Hollow form porcelain beads in progress...

Here are the beads in a pretty rough state after I joined the halves together with the paper clay. They look pretty messy and unfinished and this is where my trusty sponge comes in. I have often joked that I could take a solid block of dry clay and make a set of dishes using only my sponge. I kind of love it. A lot. It allows me to shape the clay just the way I want it with no harmful dust or special tools.

Porcelain Beads in progress... Torching off the paper clay.

After I got the beads cleaned up and shaped the way I wanted them I took my torch and burned off the paper clay seam. Yes, I am extremely anal sometimes. This step is really completely unnecessary since the paper will burn off in the bisque firing but I wanted to have a really clean piece to work with. That and I wanted to see what would happen if I torched them. (Incidentally, they will blow up if you get them too hot and there is no hole is the piece to allow air to escape. Just so ya know...)

Hollow handbuilt porcelain beads in progress

And here is a stack of perfect, hollow beads waiting to be carved. At this point I was kind of thrilled just to look at them. They look edible. Don't they? Or is that just me...

Porcelain Beads - Greenware. Hand carved, hollow form, handbuilt

I failed to take any photos of the actual carving process but here are the beads after I finished. I drew the design directly on each bead freehand with a pencil and carved the dry clay away with my micro carvers (this set, actually). This was a dusty job and I don't really recommend carving dry clay unless you have a mask on and really good ventilation. However... carving dry clay is pretty darn nice. As long as your tools are very sharp you will get a smooth, clean line and you have a lot of control. I will carve dry again. Outside. In an open field. With a fan blowing. While wearing a hazmat suit.

Porcelain Bead - Handbuilt, handcarved, hollow form

I agonized over how to glaze these beads for quite a while but finally settled on this look. The carved side of the beads were layered with several colors of underglaze. I would apply a layer, wipe it off with a fair amount of water to achieve a watercolor effect and then apply another layer and do the same. The back of the beads are a solid glossy purple but I left the front unglazed and matte with only the underglaze.

Porcelain Beads - Handbuilt, hand carved, hollow form

So that's the story of the beads. Hope you found it even just a little interesting. I'm already thinking ahead to next year's contest and what I will make...

33 comments:

Kristi Bowman said...

LOVE THEM!! I agree with you, I could easily chomp on one of them, they are very yummy!!

Amy Nicole said...

Congratulations! they are really cool, and I enjoyed learning how you built them. Great work!

Pretty Things said...

I saw them in person and they were great!

Miss Val's Creations said...

Congratulations!!! These are really cool. The process is so neat! ~Val

FryeStyle said...

These are totally mod!! Congrats, Nancy!

Helen (Secret Lentil) said...

Wow you are insane! That's a lot of work. Totally worth it though, they are gorgeous and congratulations on winning. Yay!

Gardanne said...

These are so amazing, congratulations on your win. Thanks for showing us how it is done, so many steps.

Jo said...

Oh my - they are beautiful! Congratulations - and I'm not surprised that you won a prize!

Andrew Thornton said...

These are absolutely delicious! Nicely done and a well-deserved prize!

Lorelei Eurto said...

so wait, they don't have a hole??

Round Rabbit said...

Yes, they have holes! I hand drilled them in the ends. Can't really see them in the photos. They just didn't have the holes yet when I torched them...

Anna Lear said...

These are just amazing, and even more so when we can see the work and creativity that went into them! Congrats on your very well-deserved award!!

Janet Bocciardi said...

Congrats! That stack looks like they could be filled with cream... They're delicious as is.

rockcreekcreations said...

LOL! I had the same questions Lorelei had. But now I know! They look really cool and so soft looking! Congrats!!

Denise / Iktomi said...

those are delicious! I'm impressed. Love the carving

peacockfairy said...

They are amazing!

sundownbeaddesigns said...

Congrats! The beads are absolutely amazing! I really enjoyed see the process.

Jen V. said...

They're fantastic! Well worth all the effort...you should definitely reward yourself with something garlic-focused. :)

Shirley said...

They are just stunning. Love hearing about the process. The watercolor effect is fantastic!

For My Sweet Daughter said...

Beautiful Nancy! Congratulations, well deserved :-)

Lisa Peters Russ said...

Amazing Beads! Love the blue... it was very inky..and really, really wonderful in person! What you did to create them was a complete labor of love..and really difficult to do-because I tried to imagine myself in your shoes as I read each step and I know I would not have been able to stay focused as you did. Your preparation and attention to detail is/was astounding.. I am totally blown away and so were the people looking at them at the show! Thanks for sharing the process.. I used slip with my hollow beads and paper clay seems to be the way to go..you have mastered this technique Nancy..Congratulations on your success!

Hannah said...

I love these!! You could also paint the raised part black and the carved part orange and it would look like a monarch butterfly's wing!!

quiltingjewel39 said...

They are stunning and I can tell, definitely a real work of love. Congratulations on the 2nd place.

Sarah said...

these are amazing! fantastic work :) and yes, they do look rather yummy! maybe it's just the bacon from your tumbler though... :P

sandi m said...

they were beautiful to see in person

SueBeads said...

They are gorgeous, and thanks for showing us your process - it's very interesting and shows how much work you put into each piece!

mirsini's creations said...

Wonderful beads as always!!!!!!!
Kisses ;o))

Initial Charms said...

I like your style and this is a very nice guide to the finish.Perfectly done and beautifully inspired by nature.

Marsha of Marsha Neal Studio said...

The form is simple and beautiful...
The carving so fluid…
The color is rich…

Simply awesome Nancy! Thanks for sharing your process - makes me want to go make more lentil beads (I do enjoy the process - especially with good music and coffee)...

WildMagnolia said...

Wow!! Innovative and Yummy!!! I love hearing about your process.

Linda Landig said...

These are completely amazing, Nancy. I'm glad you won 2nd place for these. Very deserving!

Melissa said...

Beautiful, unique beads! I really enjoyed seeing the process as well. Quite a bit of work goes into these special babies!
Smiles-
Melissa

Its All About Creating said...

Congratulations on winning! Quick question because I confuse easily (sad, but true); what was the paperclay used for? Are these ceramic or paperclay or do you use the paperclay to fuse them? Thanks.