Once I had the process down after considerable practice, I started thinking of ways to streamline the mechanics of rolling paper beads so the paper strips would stay centered, resulting in a nice, uniform bead. My bead making endeavor took a big leap forward when I discovered bead rollers while cruising Etsy. A bead roller is a simple hand held tool that grips one end of the paper and holds it in place so you have much better control of the paper as you roll it. (My bead rollers work only with paper. I continue to roll fabric beads entirely by hand. I'll cover making fabric beads in a future post.)
Once you start making paper beads, you become a paper addict. Suddenly you see anything made of paper in a whole new light! Can labels, candy wrappers, old stationery, gift wrap, advertising brochures, junk mail...everything that's paper becomes potential bead making fodder. The prospects are unlimited. But to expand my choices even further, I'm also hand painting my own papers using multiple layers of pattern and color. For these papers I use the same professional quality acrylics and permanent inks that I use for making fine art. The reason? The acrylic paints are the most heavily pigmented, most lightfast paints available, and the inks are equally stable. I'm using them so that the beads will look just as good years from now as they do today.
I've also adopted the practice of double coating the outer surface of each bead, particularly those printed from "found" materials, first with a clear acrylic isolation coat, followed by a polymer varnish with UV protection. The two products work in tandem to protect paper beads from fading, and the varnish provides additional protection from dirt and scratches.
Along the way, I've also made several discoveries through trial and error. I share them with you here:
1.The best looking beads have visual impact. Papers with colorful, complex patterns or images and those with high contrast graphics produce dramatic looking beads. A more understated look can be achieved by using papers with soft, blended colors.
2.A paper cutter can eliminate the tedium of cutting papers with a scissors. I spent about $17 on a Fiskar SureCut paper trimmer and love it. With it I can cut papers faster than the speed of light, and with accuracy, too. You can find these gadgets on Amazon, which is where I bought mine, or in arts and crafts stores.
3.Rushing things can ruin an otherwise well constructed bead. Allow beads to dry thoroughly in between applications of glue, medium and varnish.
4.A storage bin lets you dry many beads at the same time. Mine is an upcycled potato salad container with a couple inches of sand in it. (See photo below.) In place of sand you can use raw rice, dried beans or tiny pebbles. The beads are held upright in the sand on cotton swabs. I snip off one end of the swab to remove one of the cotton tips, but leave the other cotton tip in place because it makes the swab easy to grasp. My favorite bead roller creates a hole in the bead that's the exact diameter of the hollow plastic swabs I buy at Walgreens. So after I've rolled the bead, I carefully remove it from the bead roller and gently slide the bead onto the stick part of a swab. The cotton tip acts as a "handle" for the bead as liquid medium or varnish is applied. Then I push the trimmed end of the swab into the sand to hold the bead upright while it dries.
|Cotton tip swabs hold beads upright as they dry in a container filled with sand|
For beads with holes that are too large for cotton swabs, I use straws of a corresponding diameter. I cut the straws into 3" pieces and slide a bead onto each one. "Stops" made of masking tape wrapped around the straws, or rubber bands twisted onto the straws keep the beads from sliding downward.
Copyright 2013 Lynn Edwards