September 14, 2012


I was featured on Polymer Clay Daily today, which is a thrill and has brought in a round of polymer clay questions.

1. How long have you been making beads?
 I have been making beads for 19 years.  They started out homely.  We are talking beyond humble.  I am self-taught and there was only one polymer clay book on the market way back in the day.

I make beads every day and hundreds of them a week.  We work full time making beads and this is our family business. 

2. What kind of clay do you use?
I use mostly Premo.  I hardly use a color straight out of the package and spend lots of time mixing my own custom colors.  I buy all my clay locally when it's on sale at the big craft stores. 

3. How do I get the matte finish? How do you paint your beads? What is your watercolor technique? 
To paraphrase my friend Erin, "Heather has a proprietary technique that she has developed over the years to get those amazing colors and beautiful finish."  (See below)

4. Do you sell tutorials for beadmaking?
Because we make our living selling beads, I don't offer beadmaking tutorials.  I offer lots of tips on making jewelry and running a business here and on the Art Bead Scene.   That is where I try to give back to the creative community.

I do have two online tutorials that you can check out and feel free to give them a try.  I don't offer any other technique tips, but I do have a few resources to share below.

5. Do you have tips on beadmaking?
I encourage you to find what works for you - play, make messes and mistakes, take chances, ask yourself - what if I do this or that to the clay?  There are so many great books and online tutorials, have fun experimenting and finding ways to use them to tell your own story. Go beyond a technique and use polymer clay as a tool to make something with meaning.

For me, in all my beadmaking I want to tell a story about the beauty and peacefulness of nature.  I want my work to be a break from the fast-paced world and remind people to take a step back and find something green to calm their soul.  And you thought I was just making leaves and birds, there is so much more there.  I often try to share the story or inspiration behind the beads and give you glimpse into why I picked a motif or symbol.

If you are thinking of selling beads, my best piece of advice is find one or two techniques that you love to use and create a collection of beads that are based on a theme or inspiration.  It might be reaching back to your roots, interpet a few favorite poems or something like pick images that make your heart skip a beat and think about how to use those elements in a bead.

And my final piece of beadmaking advice (p.s. - this is for those selling their work).  Don't copy.  Ever.  (Good points in the comments) You are so much more creative than that and have so much more to say.  Don't cheat yourself out of creating something really rewarding by trying to take a shortcut.  Carve out a spot for yourself in the bead world by creating something that only you can make.  No one has your experiences, vision or voice.  I love the quote, "Be yourself, everyone else is taken."


My Tutorials:
Seashell Tutorial
Wordy Bobby Pins

Whenever I had a burning polymer clay question, I would head over to Polymer Clay Central and for inspiration you can't beat Polymer Clay Daily.

Tutorials I Love:
Feather Cane
Leaf Pendants

Favorite Polymer Clay Book:
Perfectly Paired

I highly recommend Cynthia Thornton's book, Enchanted Adornments for more inspiration on creating personal stories and symbols in your jewelry/beads.


Krys Mann said...

Hi Heather, I enjoy the posts and appreciate what you do share re: making of your beads.

My daughter is looking to create an ornament to sell for a Christmas fair fundraiser and I am trying to find the best way to create something that we could press them out. I am assuming you use a mold of some sort to press some of your beads. Do you carve your own molds or do you create a piece and create a mold around it. I have found so many different techniques online, and am trying to find a good way to help her do this. If that is info you don't want to share, I completely understand...just trying to figure out what direction to go to as I have to order things to ship out of country. Thanks again for all of your blogs you contribute to.


A Polymer Penchant said...

Beautiful post, to go along with beautiful work. Not that I'm surprised, you are incredibly actions with all that you share. Wonderful inspiration at every turn! I for one sincerely appreciate all you pour into your blogs and sharing your deign thought, processes and business savvy. You are a wonderful inspiration!

Ps - Krys - a set of snowflake cookie cutters can make for great ornaments

A Polymer Penchant said...

Hmm, interesting auto-correct - I was trying to say, you are incredibly GRACIOUS, I really couldn't leave that out

Marie Cramp said...

I love what you do! Thanks for sharing what you can with us :)

Jael said...

While I totally enjoyed reading a bit about you, I disagree on the "copying" aspect. Sometimes you find your voice and your skill by copying something you love and pulling some of yourself into it. I don't advocate copying something and selling it as your own design, don't get me wrong. But "no copying, ever"? Surely you did some copying to begin with, or you wouldn't have canes in your designs. You wouldn't use paints. You wouldn't use molds or use leaves to make impressions.

While it's true that your style is very much your own, some of your beads from the past look like other artists' as well. Even some of your current beads look similar to beads of other artists that have been creating for as many years as you have.

It's important to start somewhere with your art journey, and artists throughout the ages have often begun by copying "the masters". If we waited to begin creating until we had our own voice, we would be silent.

Best of luck to you, and thank you for sharing your story.

Krys Mann said...

@A Polymer Penchant: thanks for the idea re: snowflakes...but we actually live in the Caribbean, never colder than 78...having to think of things with palm trees/geckos and flamingos LOL...we have a few ideas, just trying to see if its better to work with a composite that you carve the mold and then press it out or if you make the original and form a mold from it. I have different Pinterest pins from artists talking about molds etc and would love to know what to pick up when I am in the states next to work on it!

Heather Powers said...

Hi Jael,
You are right about copying as part of the learning process through tutorials and classes.

I was focused on advice for those who are selling their work. There are universal motifs, techniques that we all use. But finding your own voice is the next step in growing as an artist.

There is a big difference between someone buying a bead from an artist then copying and selling it, compared to someone who comes across a similar idea on their own.

It's all a matter of intent and I encourage everyone to find what is true and authentic in their creative process.

Heather Powers said...

Krys - you could make your own carved stamps and stamp the designs into the clay. I would experiment with several techniques to see which one works best with your idea. I use several mold making methods, depending on the look I'm going for. Check out the book Perfectly Paired for mold making ideas too.

Krys Mann said...

Thanks for responding Heather...ordering book now to pick up when I am in the US!

A Polymer Penchant said...

Oops :) I was a little presumptuous wasn't I, it's just turning to fall and I already jump straight to Christmas ornaments! My mum is Trini and I have that very tourist style painted donkey eye pendant. A beach scene silhouette style - may be fun to try in polymer

KHM said...

Question: I am a beginning beader and I do look to you and other artists for ideas and inspiration. Is buying beautiful beads and findings and stringing them considered a stepping stone?