Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mirror Image Bead Tutorial

I love what are known as Natasha beads. I have heard that it is called this because of a technique used by a bead artist named Natasha. I cannot find a website for her, so since I'm not sure, I will call them mirror image beads. I recently made this mirror bead and was so pleased with it that I made a macramé necklace and added some beads and am wearing it now.

Making Mirror Image beads is a great way to use up scrap clay. I tried to find a book that gave clear instructions, but until you actually do this technique, it seems confusing. In trying to photograph each step in the process, I left out the photo of one of the cuts. I went in and photoshopped an arrow where the 2nd and 3rd cuts should be. Hope it is clear. Anyway, here goes.

The first step is to gather up a small amount of scrap clay. The size of the bead will depend on the amount of scrap clay you use. I used a pretty good amount to show the technique. In fact all of mine turn out fairly large. This ball of scrap clay, if round, would fit nicely in the cupped part of your palm.

The next step is to gently twist the clay together. I just take one end of the clay in each hand, and twist my hands and wrists slowly in opposite directions. I usually do about 4-5 twists, repositioning my hands each time, but you will develop your own technique, as you make more of these.

The next step is to shape the clay into a loaf (you know, like meat loaf)

It's time for the first cut. I turn the loaf around vertically, so I can see the pattern emerge. Then I take the tissue blade, or clay cutter and cut straight down (not pulling the blade, but pressing it down though the clay) as close to the middle as possible.

At this point, it's a good idea to put something flat on top of these two pieces and press lightly, this technique works best if the segments are the same "depth" as well as cut evenly in half.
I usually take the back of a rubber stamp and press down with it.

The next step is to take these two pieces and open them like a book. It might sound confusing, but when you are doing it, it makes more sense.

I just took my thumbs and sort of opened the loaf, gently flipping the pieces on their sides.

This next cut (the most crucial of all) is the one I forgot to photograph. I took the above pieces, that are already "opened" and cut each piece in half . See the black lines, that I drew? Those represent the second and third cuts.

The next step is where it can get confusing, but if done correctly, you will have a mirror image on all four sides of the bead. You take the outside pieces and sort of turn them around to the back of the bead. You will see the image on all sides. It looks so good, you will go crazy.

I took this picture of the bead sitting on end to give you a better grasp of what I did. You may find it easier to do flat, or even on a piece of acetate for a better visual, but remember to at all times to handle this baby gently.

This shows the second cuts (or second and third, which ever you prefer) as they are being moved or turned around to the back of the bead.

At this point you can reposition the slices some, but I find that the images tend to get a little wonky if messed with too much. I sometimes smooth down the seams of the bead, sometimes I don't. For teaching purposes, this one is smoothed out some. The one at the top of the page is not.

You have several options for making this into a bead. You can very, very carefully put a toothpick up in the center of the bead to make a vertical hole for stringing. You can put a horizontal hole in the bead, as I did here. You could also use a finding and glue it to the bead with E6000. Lots of options. Personal preference comes in here.

I made little end caps out of black clay, because the ends are always funky. The bead was baked in my polymer clay dedicated toaster oven for 20 minutes on 260 degrees. You can seal them with future floor wax, or sculpey glaze or just leave them as is.

All that being said, here is the finished bead.

The mirror image is on all sides of the bead, but you can also just use the front and place it on another piece of clay, or you can slice the images off with a tissue blade. Very versatile way to use scrap clay.

Hope these instructions were clear enough to set you on fire for Natasha/Mirror beads. Have fun and enjoy.


Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

The end caps is a great idea... the ends are always a little funky on these types of beads!

Kims Art said...

That is a great way to use scrap clay. I love them! Your instructions are great!

suze said...

Very cool technique. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Excellent tutorial ! I have made Natasha beads many times before, but your photos and instructions are among the best I've seen on this technique. End caps are a good idea, they give the beads a more finished appearance.

Jane said...

Everyone makes such cool stuff with this clay, I've tried over the years but just can't get on with it al all.
I may give this s try!

Artgalcrafts said...

Hi Susan
Well Im a bit late in finding this arent I , but better late then never.
I just love this tut you have put up.
I had not seen anything like this and will be trying it.
I certainly have plenty of scrap clay with all the"mistakes" so can do.
Your instrucs are as clear as any I have seen anywhere.