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Polymer Clay Mummy Beads -
Intermediate Polymer Clay Extruder
These beads are from my first published tutorial, printed in Jewelry Crafts
magazine back in 2001. Sadly, Jewelry Crafts ceased publication some
years ago. Many clayers will remember it fondly as a great
friend to the polymer clay arts!
This project weaves strips of clay together, inspired
the look of ancient Egyptian mummies. Because the beads are
created in long strips, you can use the "woven" clay in different ways. Cut
small sections to form straight tube beads as I have done, curve them into
elbow beads or maybe create larger curved sections as unusual bangle components.
Don't feel obliged to make these beads two-tone. I've
just done it that way to better show the process. They look equally fab made from single
colours, or even marbled strings of clay.
You won't need many tools or supplies to do this project, in fact you'll find
most of what you need in the EJR Beads online store.
Finally, please forgive the poor
photos and diagrams in this tutorial. The images are all very old now - were I shooting
the photos all afresh, they would be much better. But I hope you get the idea
none the less and enjoy adapting the project to your own tastes.
These beads are constructed in
long sections using a clay-covered bamboo skewer as a base.
Form a scrap clay ribbon about 1 mm
thick. I quickly roll a long log, 1/2 cm wide, and run
it through the pasta machine on the 1 mm setting.
Dust all but the top and bottom 4
cm of the skewer with cornstarch. We only want the ends of the clay tube to
stick to the wood, not the middle section.
Attach the clay ribbon near the top of the skewer
(just above the dusted area) and spiral it down around the skewer, making sure
the clay overlaps itself slightly all the way. Fix the end of the ribbon
near the bottom of the skewer, just as you did the top.
The clay base now needs to be
smoothed out a little by rolling along the work surface.
Don't worry about getting it perfectly smooth. Its more
important to use a slow, light touch so you don't stretch the clay. We don't
want it going saggy around the
Your skewer should now be covered in tube of clay, with some wood poking out either end
allowing you to hold it easily. Pinch the clay at each end to ensure it is
firmly attached to the wood. Ideally, the rest of the tube should be snug,
but still moveable around the skewer.
You could try using the
Makin's Open Core
adaptors to form the tube base - they weren't around when I
first wrote this project!
Now, we want to mark some guidelines
on the clay for wrapping the first bandages. The
more accurate you get these first wraps, the better the final beads will
Lay the clay tube against a
ruler. Using a marker pen, make a mark on the clay every 2 cm, marking at
0, 2, 4, 6 etc, all the way along the clay.
On the opposite side of the clay tube, measuring
from the same point, mark dots every 1, 3, 5, 7 cm etc. I've done
silly photoshop dots on the photo to show you the basic idea of where your
dots will be. But your dots will be properly measured out and - more
importantly - actually be on the clay
You can now make the
polymer clay bandages. Extrude long 2mm diameter strings of your chosen colours.
Carefully run them through the pasta machine to flatten to around 1 mm thick.
Spiral the first clay bandage around the tube,
pushing carefully to ensure it adheres to the clay base. Follow the marker
dots, making sure the bandage sits just ABOVE the marker each time. Don't
cover your markers, we'll need them visible for the next wrap.
Spiral a differently coloured bandage around in the
opposite direction. Make sure this bandage only crosses over the first exactly
where the marker dots are.
So, you probably know
where this is going now? Just wrap the bandages in alternate directions
until the clay tube is covered, right?
Well, sorta. You could wrap away with wild
abandon, but the beads won't look very even. They will "grow" at the
So before wrapping the third bandage,
we need to form a little ditch or gulley in the previous one at each
up-coming crossover point for it to
sit in. This gives a more flush appearance to the final bead as the layers
start to build up.
Hold one end of the skewer in
your non-dominant hand. Support the other end on a blob of clay to keep
everything off the table. We don't want to squish the underside of the project
as we are making these gullies.
Step 5 - Funky Diagram
I make the gullies by just pushing the
clay down a little with the edge of a
This is only done where the up-coming
bandage will cross over the previous one (the area marked by dots in my
In the previous photo, you can
probably see where I've already made the first gulley and am working on the
This process is quite fiddly. You need to be able to
support the project mid-air AND be able to push down in small areas with
precision. Take your time and don't push the clay too hard or too quickly.
Be sure to make a gully at each of
the cross-over points before commencing the next bandage wrap.
Pretty obvious what you have to do here. Just spiral
the next bandage down in the opposite direction to the last, making sure it
nestles into the gullies you made for it.
Try to keep this bandage neatly butted against the first bandage you wrapped.
look on the right hand side of this photo, you might be able to see where I've started
making the gullies in this third bandage in readiness for the fourth wrap.)
Step 6 - Funky Diagram
So here is where we are at now in
The third bandage (which, you have probably noticed
is the same colour and wrapped in the same direction as the first bandage)
has been spiralled around the clay tube.
You probably don't need this diagram,
or even the next one either. But I had the diagrams here all ready to use
and you know how grumpy technical drawings can get if you ignore them.
Make the gullies in bandage number 3 and then wrap the
fourth bandage (which will be the same colour and wrapped in the same
direction as bandage number 2 of course)
Keep wrapping and making gullies until all the base clay is
covered and you run out of space.
Once complete, support the tube on
blobs of clay and cool it in the fridge for half an hour.
Once cool, carefully cut the clay into tube beads on
the skewer and slide them off for baking. Cutting the clay unbaked allows you to add
further clay embellishments like bead caps etc. It also allows you to curve
the tube if you wish, for elbow bead or bangle components etc. Or even
brayer the bead to make it square - there are many possibilities for your
Alternatively you can slice the tube after baking whilst the clay is still warm from the oven. If baking on the skewer, be
sure the clay is very loose and moveable around it. You might also want to trim
away the fixed ends at this point so you can more easily remove the tube
after baking. Do not allow the warm beads to cool in place on the skewer as
you might find they stick!
You can click the above picture to
enlarge it and see all the steps to this project so far.
After baking, when the beads have
cooled, you can antique them to bring out the pattern if you wish. Paint over the
beads with some dark brown
or acrylic paint. Once the ink / paint is
wet sand the
clay surface to remove the
staining from all but the crevices of the bead. You can then buff,
varnish the beads if you wish.
(If using acrylic paints, they will be touch
dry quickly but do require around 24 hours to dry completely. If you try to
wet sand before the paint has fully cured, you will just rehydrate it and it
will wash away.)
Don't forget - if you make
any beads or jewellery using these techniques, I would
love to feature a photo of them in the Customer's Gallery!
Text & Images © Emma Ralph
2001 - 2011. May not be printed, distributed or reproduced electronically or
otherwise without the author's written permission.
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