Saturday, July 20, 2013

Beating Boredom by Making Beads

Making Fabric and Paper Beads to Keep in Touch With My Muse

So how does someone whose art supplies are in storage keep her creativity from atrophying? She turns to whatever materials are at hand. In my case, at hand were scissors, a bag of fabric scraps and lots of paper that was destined for recycling. Oh, and a bottle of white glue. Using a TV tray as my work table, I've been having a ball turning out a nice collection of fabric and paper beads from these humble supplies with which to make necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Considering I was completely new at this and had never tried my hand at making beads before, I think they've turned out nicely, don't you think?
The two large batik beads in the foreground are fabric, as are the two sunflower beads next to them. The rest are made from various papers: magazine photos, shopping bags, newspaper, junk mail, hand painted deli paper and origami paper. Plastic round beads separate the paper beads in the necklace.

What inspired me to try making beads was a book titled Creating Extraordinary Beads From Ordinary Materials: How to Turn Common Everyday Materials Into Uncommonly Beautiful Beads by Tina Casey (North Light Books, 1997). I came across it at the library and was immediately fascinated by the depictions of the many variations of beads that can be fashioned out of commonplace materials just laying around the house. 

The Basic Process

The basic process is really pretty simple: you cut your paper or fabric into long strips, then roll it tightly and evenly around a toothpick, straw or similar implement, gluing at intervals to secure it. It took me many tries to get this wrapping technique down because I'm all thumbs. My first few attempts were pretty laughable. But after a while, with more practice, I was able to keep the edges even and was able to turn out a bunch of decent-looking beads. The only problem was that it took me forever to make each one, primarily because it was very hard to wrap paper that was slipping and sliding around a skinny little cocktail stick.

A Better Way

I figured there had to be a faster way to roll paper beads, so I turned to the Internet for help. (The process for making fabric beads is a bit different and, to my mind, is less tedious.)  By cruising the Internet I learned about something called a bead roller. Basically, it's a tool that allows you to slide the end of the paper into a slotted holder that secures it and allows you to roll the bead much more quickly and without the paper shifting. A quick Internet search for bead rollers turned up sellers offering a wide variety of them at all price points.

I opted for an inexpensive set of five bead rollers (each a different diameter) with simple wooden handles for $11. They work great! Now I can roll several beads in the time it used to take me to roll just one. In the past two weeks I've managed to create almost 100 beads -- enough to make several necklace and earring sets. After working on the studio each day, I spend my evenings making beads while relaxing after supper. I love the idea of upcycling discarded paper into functional art, and best of all it's keeping me in a creative mode until I can move into the new studio and unpack my art supplies. As soon as I can get to my paints I'll be embellishing and decorating my beads further, but right now, even in their most basic state, I think they look attractive enough just as they are!

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