Guest Blogger Marti Conrad on creating art with yard sale finds

September 28, 2012 , In: General

We have a special treat for you today! Marti Conrad, who makes delightful and whimsical ceramic beads and findings invited all of us to watch her play in her studio while she creates a stoneware bead from an old earring she bought at a yard sale:

Oh, the wonderful world of blogging, you all make it look so easy and effortless! I, on the other hand, struggle to come up with an idea that I think others would find interesting, or at least interesting enough to read.
So, when Jennifer suggested showing you my process or do a tutorial, I thought of these beads that I’ve been wanting to try.  This is an unknown process for me, so hang on tight, here we go!
The first thing I do when I make beads is get my clay ready.  Clay has a memory and you have to get it ready and mess it up enough to keep it from trying to go back to its original shape and to keep it from warping much if you want a flat piece.  But with beads I just squish it a few times, roll it around between my hands into several shapes and then roll it on my slab roller into a flat piece.  
 This little earring has a great shape and texture, so I bought them to try to make beads with.  This bead is for sure a two or more step process, we shall see…   

    After I shaped it around the paintbrush handle, I let it dry. 
After drying, they have to be sanded.  
I wet sand and go over all the edges and harsh places, sponging them down and making them easier to glaze and not have any sharp places after firing.  
At this point, most people do a bisque fire.  But, I usually just glaze and fire.

Glazing is always interesting and much like beaders or collectors of any kind, I always want a new glaze or new glazes…it’s all about the glaze!  And, this is the hardest part for me, do I go with the usual and wonderful standbys, the ones you trust to turn out great every time, or do I dare experiment, possibly come up with something no one would buy because it’s now the ugliest bead that you’ve ever seen?  It’s always a wonder, what to glaze with!
And once that choice is made, the glaze on the pieces and edges carefully cleaned, the kiln is finally loaded.  Each piece has to be far enough away from the next one because you don’t want them to stick together.  Then the ten or so hours it takes for the glaze fire and then the longer wait for the kiln to cool down so it can be opened and things checked on…

Well, thanks for going on this little journey with me, I hope you enjoyed it!
Thanks for letting hang out with you while you work in the studio, Marti! 
Please stop by Marti’s links: 

Jennifer Cameron

Combining fire and glass since 2005, Jen Cameron discovered jewelry making after realizing a small child could disappear in the growing collection of beads sitting around the house. Jen is the adoring mother of two, jackpot winner in the husband category, and zookeeper of several pets. Jen is also the instigator for bringing together this team of innovative, talented, passionate and dynamic women to write for Art Jewelry Elements.
  1. Reply

    I love the way the beads turned out. They're so much more than that little earring!

  2. Reply

    Great post! I love clay beads and it's always fun to see others' process. Well done Marti!

  3. Reply

    Ombeadness!! I wanna play soo badly! Bea-u-ti-ful beads..yummy especially fresh out the oven, uh I mean kiln. Yum, yum, yum, YUM!! Thanks for sharing your recipe with us Marti.

    • Reply

      Thank you, Shelley! Reactions like yours makes the process even more fun!

  4. Reply

    How Clever ! I love the way your beads turned out and the autumn shades of the glazes that you used are perfection. šŸ™‚

  5. Reply

    Excellent tips! I just learned something new about clay beads….I always thought they needed to be bisque fired before the glaze fire.

    • Reply

      It's nice to know I helped in some way! Thank you!

  6. Reply

    I love your beads and enjoyed seeing your process. Thanks for sharing, Marti!

    • Reply

      Thank you Linda, it's my pleasure!

  7. Reply

    Amazing little beads, Marti. It is wonderful how a simple cast-off was combined with your imagination to produce a new treasure. Thanks for the artistic and technical inspiration!

  8. Reply

    Thank you so much for showing this process! I love seeing how it comes out. I've played at a lot of pottery places, and I totally love seeing the glazes and different results.

  9. Reply

    WOW WOW WOW I loved seeing the process and that you find such cool inspiration!!!

  10. Reply

    Thank you, Marti, for sharing the process with us. Your beads do have some of the most unusual textures on them – and now I know why. It is amazing that you can look at something like that and visualize beautiful beads. Way to go!

    • Reply

      Thanks Jean, almost anything with texture can work, some better than others.

  11. Reply

    I am curious…would these small beads be able to be fired in one of those mini kilns? I was thinking of getting one of the little table top kilns, but I don't know anyone to ask about it.

    • Reply

      Do you know what cone temperature it goes to? I imagine you could do earthenware beads but I'm not sure you could go as high as stoneware or porcelain…but, not sure!

  12. Reply

    Thanks everyone for the kind comments and thank you Jennifer for the opportunity to share!

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