Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My First Handmade Ceramic Beads!

So, these are my very first attempts at ceramic bead making! I think I've found a new passion. It all started when a student from a recent Wild Wire Women retreat brought some of her own handmade ceramic beads to share with us. She'd been making beads for just a few weeks, but her results were so impressive, I think we all wanted to try it ourselves. If you'd like to see Heidi's beads from that retreat weekend, click here.
It took me a while to find a relatively local ceramics workshop where I could learn how to make beads myself; Silica Studios in Palm Springs (very close to the airport) is an hour and a half drive from my home in Idyllwild, but it's worth every minute traveling down the twisty, windy road to the desert. I was taught about the different types of clay used to make ceramics, and then given some samples to work with. I'd brought some of my favorite texture stamps, including some that I hand-carved myself (I don't want to confess how many years ago I did that!), and I had too much fun stamping into the soft, squishy clay!
Before leaving my stamped beads and pendants to dry, I applied a dark "slip" (which is a sort of liquid clay) to the surface of some of the beads. I then left the beads behind me and waited to hear back from the studio. In about a week, they called to tell me that all of my pieces had been successfully bisque-fired.
Step one was finished, but I still had to apply glazes to my ceramics. And I had never done that... so, it was an exercise in trust when I returned to the studio to dip and paint various colors of glaze on my treasured beads. The liquid glaze often looks nothing at all like the finished, fired glaze. Some liquids look red but when fired turn yellow or other colors. So, it took a step of faith, but I wanted to just experiment and let nature take its course.
I returned to the studio last Monday when I found out that my beads had all been glaze-fired and they were ready to pick up. So excited, but a bit scared too! The beads in this post are all from that firing. I made pendants, beads with holes drilled through the sides, cabochons with no holes, and charms. Naturally, I see areas where I could have made some improvements, and I'm eager to try again with more porcelain clay. I'd like to make much larger pendants with more complex designs, and I have a lot to learn about glazes and how they work. But it's one of those challenges that I'm really looking forward to. I'll post my results in the future.
The charms pictured above are scrap "shards" of porcelain clay that were leftover from my larger beads and pendants. I could have actually made lots more, but during my first lesson we were short on time so I left behind lots of scrap clay that was reclaimed for other projects in the studio. Next time when I make more beads and pendants, I'm going to purposely make lots of charms from scrap clay because I think they're pretty cool! They were fun to make, anyway.
Tomorrow begins another Wild Wire Women retreat, with two students who are eager to fold-form and etch metal, twist wire to make a "Silver Sampler" bracelet, make some earrings, and saw out some pierced metal. It's going to be a fun weekend with an ambitious class lineup, and I hope that you'll follow our adventures over the next few days.
Happy wrapping,


Patti said...

Sharilyn, I love these!!! Your creativity never ceases to amaze me! Thanks for sharing!

Sharilyn Miller said...

Thank you, Patti! YOUR creativity has changed the (jewelry) world, you know!