Monday, August 24, 2009

Raising lentils

I have raised pinto beans, lima beans, and green beans in my garden, but never, ever a lentil. But, Kelly, an amazing lamp work bead maker, suggested last week that I post a step by step on making lentil beads. I had no idea that anyone might be interested. And maybe nobody but Kelly is interested. So here is a step by step on how I raise lentil beads in my studio.

First things first, tools. Must have the proper tools. Needle tool, cookie cutter, water, sponge….a little spit. Yes, it’s true. I do sometimes lick my fingers instead of reaching for the water. Cornstarch from the kitchen. Actually, I think that Peter put a second box of cornstarch in the cupboard, hoping that I will leave that one alone.

I start by rolling out very thin sheets of porcelain (about 1/8”, 3 mm). These get textured on plates that I make from found objects, stamps I carve, really, just about anything that catches my eye. By the time the sheets of porcelain have been rolled across the texture plate it becomes even thinner, even translucent. Circles are cut and then the clay is gently tapped onto the back of a plastic painter’s tray. Previously I used a round bottom measuring spoon. But making one half lentil bead at a time was too tedious even for me. The set of measuring spoons has now been returned to the kitchen, properly scourged of all clay stuff.


I let those little disks of clay set up to an almost dry stage. The clay at this point won’t bend at all. Then the edge gets scraped back flat, scored, and a magick potion is applied. In the world of ceramics there is this innovation of paper clay. I use it on all of the larger handbuilt work I make but only just started using it on these beads. Sometimes the light bulb in my head is on a dimmer switch and it takes a while to figure out this stuff.

What, you might well ask is paper clay. Well it’s very technical with a very complicated formula. OK, just kidding. Like my tool set this is not particularly sophisticated. For my use, it’s just a 50/50 mix of paper pulp and wet sloppy clay all stirred together. I use soaked and blended toilet paper in my magick potion. Toilet paper is designed to break down in water so it’s just about perfect. Mixed with sloppy clay this stuff is the super glue of my studio.


Once the edges of the bead halves have softened up a bit, they get placed together, patterns aligned, and the edges are gently squished (technical term) to stick them together. I use a needle tool to poke a hole through them. I don’t always check for hole alignment in the beads but it’s kind a cool photo, don’t you think?

Once the beads are assembled they get wrapped up in plastic for the night so all of the moisture in the beads equalizes while they sleep. In the morning they get unwrapped a little bit, slowly dried, and then cleaned up.

Voila! There is a little pile of beads waiting for the first firing on their journey to becoming full grown beads.


22 comments:

The Joy of Nesting said...

OH Gosh LeAnn THANK YOU!!!!

I don't for see in the near future making porcelain lentil beads but the round bottom painters tray is the perfect answer to my little hollow circle problem I have. Oh and the recipe for paper clay priceless!!! There is no way for me to find any here. Any time I can find an alternative from the kitchen, hardware store, or bathroom it's priceless in my book!!!

Sooooo THANK YOU dear friend!!!
Pattie ;)

Katie said...

I love the lentil beads! And it's super that you are willing to share your trade secrets with the world :o) They are all SO beautiful!

kelleysbeads said...

I love that your trade secrets include toilet paper! It looks like it would be very methodical and relaxing

This was really fun to read and see how your pieces are formed in so many different steps. Thank you so much for taking the time to photograph and document the steps you take in making these beads!

Marbella Designs said...

thanks for sharing your technique. it's always fun to see how other artists work. your beads are beautiful!

SummersStudio said...

Pattie, necesity is the mother of invention! You know, finding things out here in W TX probably isn't all that much different from Mazatlan. Besides I like the kitchen sink approach.

Thanks, Katie. I'm not entirely sure there are any trade secrets here. Just a bit of whistle and spit.

Kelly, I do find repetition quite relaxing in an in the moment, let it all flow away kind of way. And toilet paper is one of the most wonderful inventions of modern times.

Marbella, thanks so much. I love seeing how others work too. Doesn't matter much what the medium is.

Tammy and Rob said...

Thanks LeAnn, what a great post about the lentils coming to be! What patience you have, I often get frustrated with my polymer bead too, but I keep plugging away with it!

stregata said...

LeAnn, you are the best! This was wonderful! I love to see how you make your treasures. That last photo of the drying beads looks so yummy, like shortbread cookies. I love your work.
Have a wonderful day!

Narrative jewelry said...

Oh Leann, you just make my day with this step by step on making lentil beads.

I was still intrigued by the way you created them.

Love the pattern and the colors too, great work.

xoxo

Cindy said...

Wow, LeAnn, thanks for sharing! I am amazed at all of the work and detail that goes on behind the scenes to create these beautiful beads. I agree with Renate...they do look like yummy cookies there in that one photo! :-)
Cindy
www.sweetbeadstudio.com

thecolorofdreams said...

Very interesting and what a lovely outcome. I love the textures in your beads.

Silver Parrot said...

Thanks for sharing your process - it's fascinating. I'm heading over to Etsy to pay for my lentil beads now :-)

Gardanne said...

Love the paint tray idea for my PMC lentils. At the PMC workshop I attended that is exactly how he taught us to make the silver clay lentils. I wonder if it would work for copper and bronze clay? I have heard that it is fussy, the same piece can shrink at different rates.

sharon said...

LeAnn, you are a master craftsman, and dedicated to what you do.. that is how you produce such beautiful work. The last photo takes my breath away...an awesome bead!! They are all wonderful, but that one seems special to me!

SummersStudio said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. My goodness, I never really expected such a lovely response to such an ordinary process.

mairedodd said...

leann, somehow i missed this post... it is wonderful and i really look forward to seeing them... it is nice to share your thoughts, your trouble-shooting and your results... sometimes i feel like blogger has allowed me to live in a virtual artists' commune - words cannot express what that means to me...

Mellisa - Chinook Jewelry said...

Ah...you make it look so easy LeAnn! My past experiments tell me that it isn't quite as simple as your beautiful photos suggest :) I will definitely be trying again though!

Lisa ( nickname "L" ) said...

Absolutely stunning! The entire process is so interesting and such a gorgeous outcome!

Marsha Neal Studio (Marsha's Garden Blog, Marsha Minutella) said...

And even a year later - a great post - very inspirational!!! I haven't made too many lentils, but the ones I did - I really had fun doing it. I also did some with smaller circles cut out which made for some interesting windows… You've inspired me to get into the studio and make lentils! Hope to see more of yours soon - that picture up top is BEAUTIFUL!!!

Melinda Orr said...

Funny...I'm making one sided versions of this right now with tennis balls! I like the lentil idea better! Thanks for sharing the process and tips!

Work Of Our Hands said...

THANKS for sharing ! very nice. I wondered how people got texture so nice on both sides. I use earthenware, but it might work?

Lisa Peters Russ said...

this morning I am going to give your technique a try using a different shape tray.. thank you for the tutorial it inspired me to make some!!! I am going to slip instead of paper clay but I think all should work out ok.. (fingers crossed)

Your lentils are beautiful! Thank u

lisa pl

rockcreekcreations said...

Not sure how I came across this post but thank you!! I even have one of the little painter's pallet things. Off to roll some clay!!