Introduction: Polymer Clay Eyeball Beads
These eyeball beads are great for Halloween jewelry or eyery day fun. A suitable project for people new to polymer clay, using simple cane work and minimal specialty tools.
Polymer clay in black, white, varying shades of whatever color you want to use for the iris of the eye(I used browns and gold), and whatever scraps of other colors you have around (optional). Measurements are totally dependent on your preference of size and quantity.
Clay-dedicated pasta machine or an acrylic roller. In a pinch, a glass jar works, too.
Toothpick or needle tool.
Part 1- Creating the cane for the iris of the eye.
1. Condition your black clay and roll it into a stump shape. Using a flat, slick surface instead of your hands will produce a nice smooth stump. I use a piece of glass from an 8x10 picture frame. This stump will become the pupil of the eye.
2. Roll out thin sheets (a #6 or 7 on the pasta machine)of your iris colors. I suggest having a couple sheets of your dominant color and at least 2 other shades. Make one larger, thicker sheet (#1 on the pasta machine) of your darkest shade. Set that last sheet aside.
3. Stack up your thin sheets and cut the edges clean with your tissue blade. Cut the stack in half and layer it on top of itself until it’s the same height (on it’s side) as the stump of black.
4. Slice the stack into sections about ¾ as wide as the stump (pupil).
5. Use the sections you just cut to wrap around the black stump, as shown. I curved the pieces to my finger before pressing them to the black so that I wouldn’t mess up the shape of the pupil. Don’t worry if you have to do some pinching to make it all fit together. Warping the lines of the pupil is OK- real eyes don’t usually have perfectly straight streaks of color in them anyway.
6. Wrap the whole cane in the thicker sheet of clay that you set aside in step 2. Cut away the excess.
7. Reduce the cane to your desired size. Mine is about ½ inch in diameter. If you’ve never made a cane before, I suggest watching this video by Iris Mishly before doing this step. It can be a little tricky avoiding distortion.
Step 1: Part 2- Creating the Base Beads/ the Whites of the Eyes.
When working with white clay, you must be sure your hands are free of any residue from other colors of clay. Soap and water is not enough. Rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer will dissolve clay residue. Nail polish remover works as well, but is a little rough on your skin.
The easiest way to create the base beads is to just roll balls of white clay. However, I had a lot of scrap clay around from previous projects, so I chose to roll balls of scrap clay and wrap them with white. If you have scraps around too, here’s how you make use of them:
1. Mix together all your scrap clay into one batch of ugly color and roll it out into a sheet.
2. Cut the sheet into uniform pieces, keeping in mind that the scrap clay balls will need to be slightly smaller than the desired size of the eyeballs.
3. Make sure your hands and your pasta machine or roller are clean. Roll out the white clay as thin as you can get it (#9 on the pasta machine).
4. Cut strips of the white sheet, slightly wider than the balls of scrap clay. Wrap the white around the bead, tucking and pinching at the edges. Avoid too much excess of the white.
5. Roll your base beads smooth.
Step 2: Part 3- Attaching the Iris.
1. Cut thin slices off your cane to use as the iris of the eye. It helps if the cane is cool before cutting, so it will hold it’s shape. 10 minutes in the fridge speeds the process along. Also, rotating the cane between slices diminishes the distortion from the pressure of your blade.
2. I like to pinch the cane slices a bit before pressing them onto the bead, just to make sure they’re as thin as possible. Inspect your bead before attaching the cane slice. It’s an opportune time to cover up any imperfections in the bead.
3. Give the bead one last roll to fully adhere the iris. As long as your cane slices were thin, and you roll in small circles, the iris should not lose it’s shape during this step.
4. Tada! It’s an eyeball! Use a toothpick or needle tool to create the holes for the beads and bake according to directions on the clay packaging. To avoid flat spots during baking, you can use a bead baking rack, lay the beads in a bed of fiberfill, or rest them in the creases of a zig-zag folded sheet of cardstock.
-For creepy Halloween eyeballs, use unnatural colors such as reds or yellows for the iris and paint on bloodshot veins with a tiny brush and acrylic paint after baking them.
-The beads can be used in jewelry or strung as decorative garlands for Halloween.
-Skip the hole and you have pre-made eyes for dolls or sculptures.