I’ve seen a lot of really beautiful marbled objects lately—from the gorgeous marbled leather clutches from Scout & Catalogue, to Leah Ball’s marbled porcelain vessels, to this colorful garland from A Subtle Revelry. Marbling looks just as great in monochrome or in a riot of colors, and, with a little ingenuity, can be done on an astonishing array of surfaces and with a wide variety of media. Its subtle swirls and spots had me itching to make marbled pieces of my own!
So, when I saw this beautiful necklace from Fog and Cedar, I set out to learn how to make my own marbled polymer clay beads. Surprisingly, however, I couldn’t find a good, simple tutorial anywhere—no diy blog posts, no youtube videos. Nada. However, I remembered making similar beads as a kid—I loved working with polymer clay as a youngster—and I thought I could probably figure out the technique again through good old trial and error.
First, here’s what you’ll need:
- At least 2 colors of polymer clay—2 oz blocks will do, and, if you’re only making a few beads, like me, then you’ll have plenty of clay left over for other projects.
- wax paper
- bead mandrel, or round toothpick (for my smaller beads I used a darning needle)
- thread or cord
- closure (optional)
- knife or razor for cutting clay (optional)
Begin by laying down a piece of wax paper to protect your work surface, and to provide a texture-less surface on which to roll your beads. Break off a chunk of clay slightly smaller than you want your final bead to be in your primary color—I used black. Condition the clay, kneading it and rolling it between your palms until it becomes pliable. Break off a smaller chunk of your secondary color—in my case, white—and condition it as well.
Divide our secondary clay into small pieces—you can roll it out into ropes, pinch pieces off, whatever. Then, stick these pieces to the outside of your primary clay. Roll between your palms, then use your work surface to roll the clay into a log.
Twist the log, so that a swirled pattern begins to appear. Then, pinch and pull the clay to vary the direction of the swirls. This is key—this is how the clay takes on a marbled look rather than a simply striped look. The hallmark of marbling is that the swirls often turn back on themselves and create irregular shapes. Repeat these steps until you are satisfied with the pattern of your bead.
Roll the bead into its desired shape, then, using your mandrel or a round toothpick (or a thin piece or wire or a needle for smaller beads), poke a hole through the center of the bead. Bake according to the directions on the clay package.
Finally, simply thread your beads and voila! A lovely marbled necklace. I closed my necklace using a double fisherman’s knot—there’s a handy tutorial here.
Project design & photography by Sarah Joy Nikkel, all rights reserved.