I work with ceramic clay but this concept could also suit polymer and metal clay projects. In fact, somehow, somewhere, I came across paper beads used to make hollow polymer beads. I don’t make polymer beads, but round paper beads are sold on Etsy for this purpose. The idea is that you wrap your polymer clay around the paper bead, bake it, drill holes, and soak the bead to soften the paper pulp. Then remove the paper pulp with fine tip tweezers. You are left with a hollow polymer bead. Even though I don't make polymer beads that idea sparked a different idea for me.
This seemed like something I could try with ceramic clay because extreme temperatures in the kiln would completely burn away paper, leaving only a hollow ceramic bead. I wanted to play around with this idea because I have a background in papermaking (as we artsy folks tend to dabble in more than one medium;). I figured this way, I could make various shapes to be used for hollow beads, and not be limited to just round beads. Who wants limits right!!??
I always have tons of ideas, and many that don’t work – but not this time! It worked! Here is a completely hollow bisque bead that I made using a paper bead. The paper is completely gone, and all that is left is a hollow ceramic bead!
And the best part is that it is really simple!!
Making paper shapes to use to make hollow clay beads.
Cotton paper pulp and warm water
Blender and dehydrator
See that is not a long list of materials! If you don't have a dehydrator you could improvise with an oven, on the lowest setting, left open - or a heater even! Cotton paper pulp is purchased through paper-making supply places. I have had mine for a very long time. I bet you a good quality cotton toilet paper or paper towel would work too! If you try it - let me know how it turns out!
Add warm water to your blender and add some ripped cotton paper pulp. Exactly how much is difficult to tell you, but, it's better to start with less and increase as needed. I say this because I once killed a brand new blender by adding too much pulp. Now I have a Ninja, and it would take a lot more than paper to kill this beast!! I love this machine!! The left photo is paper pulp sheet.
When done, slowly lift out an amount in your hand that would suit your size and shape for your design. Try to get the correct amount the first time, because adding to it is not ideal. You will learn this as you go and get better at it. Gently squeeze water out while forming your desired shape. Don't try and get all the water out to the point you distort your shape. You will get a feel of what I mean. Working gently is key to maintaining shape. A little practice will help but I promise it is really easy!!
Once you have your wet paper shapes. Put them in your dehydrator to dry. Does anyone see my winking emoji;) in the photo below? I got my husband’s smaller dehydrator when he upgraded to a commercial one. I snuck these into my husband’s, while he was making jerky. I kind of expected him to ask – but he is so past asking questions about my seemingly strange art projects about the house – even when they end up next to his jerky!
Once dry - they will be ready to use for your clay creations!!
The clay you use to put over the paper will naturally want to take on the shape of your paper shape. If your paper shape is really rough and bumpy texture (as thick handmade paper tends to be) you will have to compensate by how you shape the outside. Either go with the rough texture and work it into your design or spend the time smoothing it out. I did come up with a way to make your round beads smooth so that you can easily make nice smooth, round, hollow beads.
The technique is to gently roll your rough round beads between two perfectly flat surfaces. As you can see I am using really advanced equipment for this;) A plastic plate and a flat table top. The important thing is that both have a smooth, flat, textureless, surface!
Here is a pic of the difference it makes.
Now wrap clay around your paper shape and let the creative juices flow!
Important to remember is that there needs to be a hole that reaches into the hollow part of the clay for ceramic and metal clays (can't say for sure about polymer but my guess would be the same) - otherwise air can't get out and that is when things explode in the kiln.
You will see with my elephant head- that my design idea did not allow for air to escape, so I actually put a hole at the back.
Here is another hollow designs I made using this technique.
And this hollow hummingbird bead is for one you readers who are still reading, and leave a comment. Winner will be chosen using random number generator. The winner will be picked next Thursday.
I look forward to exploring with this technique much more and I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial!
Terri Del Signore – artisticaos.com