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Since the techniques used to make beads are simply a miniaturized version of those used to make pottery, I've been wondering for some time why we don't see more wheel thrown beads. So I decided to make a batch of wheel thrown beads and find out if it was a viable bead making technique. To start with, several slender, hollow, cylindrical forms like those used for spouts or goblet stems were thrown off of a hump of clay. I made them as ornate as possible in their silhouettes intending to slice them apart into several beads each. Slicing them in this fashion produced a group of rather chunky beads that looked a lot like miniature pots to me. The smallest of them was an inch in diameter and 3/4(2cm) of an inch long.
I got bored with these rather quickly and began altering the forms of the beads by stroking, elongating and flaring them with my fingers. This is essentially a pinching technique. Turning the beads on their sides produced an even more interesting form. From there the bead's forms became more and more distorted, sculptural and seashell like through various pinching techniques. I found that the thrown porcelain provided an excellent matrix for pinching as there were no hesitation points and inconsistencies in the clay as there would have been if the form had been hand built to begin with. (The seams in hand-built forms tend to make knots and inconsistencies in the clay if one later tries to pinch or throw the hand built clay form.) Many of these pinching techniques are discussed in a book called Finding One's Way with Clay by Paulus Berensohn.
I couldn't resist dropping a pinched yellow flower on top of one of the pinched shell forms. I did this after the piece was glazed and loaded in the kiln. By keeping the two pieces separate during glazing I didn't have to glaze around the flower but could brush the entire shell bead quickly with the glaze. In the kiln the flower adhered to the bead as the hot, liquid glaze cooled and solidified. This only worked because the flower was held in place by gravity on a horizontal surface. Any sort of slant in the surface tends to encourage the decoration to run with the glaze off the side of the piece. In order to keep this from happening I leveled the bead on its side by gluing little porcelain ball feet to the side of the bead before firing it. The ball feet acted like little stilts as well, allowing me to glaze more of the bead, especially the inside and back side, than I would have been able to do otherwise. I used white school glue which, being organic, simply disappeared during firing. The feet popped off easily after firing.
To my way of thinking, hand built beads are faster and/or more interesting than purely thrown beads. But throwing has its uses. It was a great help in starting a pinched form. It is a use I never would have thought of if I hadn't started this whole exploration in the first place.
An album of the process of making these beads has already been uploaded to my facebook page and may be viewed here.... http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150431237615770.355645.207602810769&type=3
And the pictures of the unloading of the kiln load that these beads came out of has also been turned into an album and may be viewed here.. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150419750115770.353586.207602810769&type=1
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me through facebook, or etsy via PorcelainJazz as well as here.


  1. Great post. Love the ideas you are sharing with us. The beads are super. I especially like the last one in blues. A beauty!!


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