Thursday, October 30, 2008

Technique Thursday: Paper Beads

Let's face it, when you've been playing with paper and stamps for 28 years, you're bound to see things come and go. Paper beads are a perfect example. I've been making these for years out of paper, fabric, tyvek, and even branched out to pasta for a class in my studio 5 years ago that I called Bodacious Beads. Oh the fun we had! It was one of the largest studio classes I'd taught at the time and there was fun and chaos and creativity and laughter for hours on end as the ladies scurried around from one station to the next.
Now they're making a comeback in magazines and even in books. If you've reached that age where a pair of reading glasses is hanging around your neck, why not wrap some of your handmade beads on the lanyard and dress it up a bit?
Today I'm sharing just the basics with you, but you'll find oodles of possibilities once you get started.

If you've been trying your hand at my background assignment, surely you've had a large piece of scrap paper on your work surface. The above photo shows a couple of the pieces I had from 2 different work tables. First look at the bottom piece that has lots of white still visible. Now look at the top sheet. It began much the same so I simply used my stylus tool tips and sponges already inked to fill in as much of the white as possible. Then I took one of stamps made with Penscore, inked it with Wild Plum and overstamped, giving it even more personality.

Can you see the difference in the two backgrounds? I even used a foam stamp of a swirl and some green ink to add a bit more pizazz. Once these are cut, it's the overall look you're going to see, no matter what the original looked like, so keep all those scraps! Here I'm cutting 2 strips that measure 3/4" x 3". These rectangles will create tube beads, meaning their diameter will be the same from end to end. Yours came be any size you like; it isn't necessary that they match mine. I used a heavyweight white paper, almost cardstock weight for my tabletop, but beads can even be made out of phone book pages. It's the final sealant that determines the sturdiness of your bead.

This photo shows 3 triangles I cut from the same scraps. Now I'm taking these hurriedly with my cell phone, so pay less attention to my lack of focus and more to the overall appearance of the paper itself. The triangle on the left really showcases the Penscore stamped image over the mottled background colors. But the triangle on the right just happened to be a section that had lots of color from all my play on backgrounds.

Above you'll see I'm rolling one of the rectangles onto a bamboo skewer. You don't need any glue as you begin your bead. Instead concentrate on keeping the paper tight as you roll.

Now I'm applying my adhesive (Weldbond dries clear in case any squishes out at the edges and holds beautifully). I only need the glue for the last inch of the paper strip to guarantee that it holds tight.

And here's the finished tube bead. When I started my paper, I chose the end with the pattern I liked least, knowing that only a fraction of the strip will show when it's done, and I wanted the prettiest end to be showcased. I'm using a bamboo skewer because it was handy but also because I like the size opening it creates for me. Now I'll be able to thread these beads onto ribbon or fibers or cording. You can also wrap your beads around the handle of a paintbrush, around a toothpick, or even a chopstick if you need a larger center. The larger the center hole, the longer your strip should be.

Remember the 3 triangles? These barrel beads are from those 3 pieces. They're called barrel beads because they're fatter in the center. Begin wrapping your triangle with the widest end first. The narrow tip of the paper will be the final overlap, creating the thick center and the more narrow edges.

Here's the skewer with the tube beads on either end and the barrel beads in the center. You'll always see more of your pattern on a tube bead, but barrel beads give you more variety on your color palette.

At this stage you'll want to seal your beads. For this you can use almost anything. Diamond Glaze, Crystal Lacquer, Glossy Accents, Matte Accents, Mod Podge, even clear nail polish will work. Just brush it on all the way around. I let the ends of my skewer rest on the edges of a bowl, while the beads are suspended in the center in case any sealant drips.
If you want the ends of your beads to appear more finished you have 2 options. First, ink the edges of your strips and triangles before you wrap them around the skewer. You can even use a Krylon leafing pen in gold or silver for a more defined edge. That's a great look, particularly on the barrel beads. If you've failed to do it before wrapping, simply press the ends of your beads onto your ink pad, or sponge on a bit of ink or paint after they're wrapped but before they're sealed.
Want a little more bling? Add metallic threads. Try embossing powder in a holographic finish and a clear embossing ink that still lets the original colors & patterns shine through when heated. Run a line of Stickles or glitter glue around the bead. Wrap them with wire and string on a few seed beads for accents.
Fabric beads are made the very same way. Create some backgrounds on a scrap piece of muslin just as you would on paper. Then cut, roll, decorate and seal.
Make yourself a necklace. Dangle matching beads from a book or card you've made with the original background papers. Dangle some from a bookmark made with your papers.
Go on...go make a bead...or 2...or 10. Be a kid again and play for the sheer joy of it!

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