Additional Craft Information:
Beaded creations entail a considerable amount of skill, patience and technique, as well as a good eye for fine beads. In addition to seed beads, delicas, precious and semi-precious stones, there are other novel beading materials that have sprung in the recent years.
DIY Craft Essential #1: Washi tape
DIY Craft Essential #2: Needle nose pliers
Many beads tagged in shops as “crystals” are actually pressed glass. True crystal beads have high lead content in the glass from which they have been made. This lead content increases the sparkle when they are cut, eventually increasing their price, too. The clear difference in quality, however, makes them worth using. The best crystals come from Austria and are available in many sizes and shapes. The most popular shape is the bicone, which is used in many jewelries, dresses and bead projects.
Pressed glass and fire-polished beads are created by pouring molten glass into moulds. While they have a different sparkle from crystal, they are easily available and much cheaper. They also come in lovely and delicate colors. They are often produced in nice oval shapes and come in different sizes.
Italian glass beads are often created by millefiore canes. Millefiore, meaning a thousand flowers, is what these intricately patterned beads will remind you of. They are made by cutting tiny chunks from a cane bearing a certain motif, as if it is a stick of rock. This process creates fascinating beads that seem to have tiny pictures of flowers trapped inside a glass. Other Venetian beads have sparkling gold centers and raised swirls. Venice was the center for innovative glass art since the Renaissance period. Many skilled craftsmen continue to create this art in the city through the traditional method of forming by hand each bead over a torch lamp.
DIY Craft Essential #3: X-acto knife
DIY Craft Essential #4: Spray paint
Lamp working is the process by which a cane of glass is melted over a flaming torch and rolled around a thin metal rod to create a bead. The bead can then be further worked with the addition of other pieces of glass from fine rods called stringers, millefiore pieces, gold and silver leaf. In fashion accessories, these are often used as the featured materials in a necklace. The price of glass beads depends upon how complicated the design is.
If you look closely at an interesting bead that you believe is a stone or lamp-worked glass, you may be surprised to know it is made of polymer clay. This substance can be used to imitate any technique of glass or real stones without any special equipment. The clay has the same consistency as plastic modeling paste and remains pliable until baked in an oven. You will find it fun to make your own beads with it. Many artists are now making exquisite beads from polymer clay that may become very collectible.
There is another fascinating material called silver clay. It enables you to make your own silver beads by simply molding the clay using your hands and a blow torch. The silver particles meld together by heating, while leaving the clay easy to brush off once the newly formed silver bead has cooled.
The next time you enter a craft shop or choose glass beads for your project, look closely at some items. Think about how they are made and from what materials they were created. Maybe you will find some new varieties to give you inspiration. Or maybe you will see your old favorites in a more interesting light.