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Swirled Lentils with Inclusions and “Bead Caps” Copyright © Barbara Fajardo, 2005 Swirl Lentils have been my signature shape since opening my first little 2 oz. package of polymer clay in 2000. I’ve continued playing with the shape by adding a variety of sparkly and shiny inclusions. And who doesn’t like sparkly and shiny! Use your own canework along with any variety of inclusions. Play with shapes of lentils by rolling sideways for a lozenge shape. Then shape into a tube to by flattening the ends. Try pinching into diamond or square shapes. As with all polymer clay projects, the possibilities are only limited to what your own imagination can come up with! Supplies and Tools Various canes made from translucent and opaque clays Scrap clay Inclusions (metallic leaf, micro beads, glitter…get creative!) Translucent Liquid Sculpey (optional) 600x wet/dry sandpaper (optional, put recommended) Finish (acrylic floor polish) Lucite square or other small flat piece (plexiglas, glass with taped edges, CD case) Tissue Blade Smoothing Tool Toothpick Unlined index cards Aluminum Foil Drilling Tool and/or Needle Tool Oven and Thermometer Ice water

Roll a log of conditioned scrap clay and cover with a layer (medium thickness, about 1/16”) of a selected base color. Before continuing, be sure to press out any air bubbles, this is crucial. Next, press your selected inclusions down the length of the log. I used green micro beads, metallic leaf and a tiny bit of iridescent glitter.


Apply very thin slices from your canes randomly along the length of the log, making sure to cover your included areas with translucent cane work. After applying as many of the slices as you like, roll them in and smooth along the length of the log with your fingers. Remember, any smoothing you do now, will save you sanding time later. Now, cut your log into pieces and pinch the ends together so that no scrap clay is showing. Before beginning the swirling step, further smooth in the cane slices as you roll each piece into a ball in your hand.

After you've swirled yourself silly, you have a decision to make regarding the bead holes. My current preference is to completely drill the hole before curing. I use a simple thick sewing needle. Make sure that the raw bead is cool and firm (refrigerate), so as not to distort the lentil shape as much. If you completely pierce a raw lentil, you may need to gently re-shape with your Lucite square or even gently roll again on its side. As with any technique, practice makes perfect. If you prefer not to drill completely through, just lightly press pilot holes into either end of your lentils and finish drilling after curing with a drill bit imbedded and glued into a scrap clay handle. Set your lentils on unlined index cards and cure for at least 40 minutes or longer at 275 degrees (use an oven thermometer to insure proper curing). You may want to tent your beads with aluminum foil to prevent any browning of the translucent and lighter colored clays.


After the curing is complete, dunk your beads into an ice water bath for approximately 30 minutes. This step seems to help make the translucent clay more clear. At this point, sanding with at least 3M 600x wet/dry sandpaper and buffing is advisable. After all of my beads have clean bead holes, I brush on at least one coat of finish. I let the beads dry completely and then set the finish in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes.

The next step is the bead caps. Use a very small leaf or petal cane for these (about ½”). You want the shape of your cane round at this point, so that you can roll it in some metallic leafing. After you’ve done that you will want to roll the leafing in a bit, so that you end up with about a ¼” cane. Cut into two pieces. Pinch each piece into a leaf shape and line up the two pieces together by pinching a little more. They won’t stick together very well because of the leafing, but just work with it. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Take some thin slices from your bead cap cane and apply gently at the ends where you’ve drilled your bead hole. It is recommended that you use some dots of liquid clay where your bead caps will be applied. After you have each side of the bead set with your bead caps, gently smooth with a smoothing tool. I don’t sand the caps at all, so make sure you have them nice and smooth.


Then pierce the bead hole again with a toothpick or your needle tool. Press/smooth down the top of the raw clay if it rises up from piercing. String your beads on some wire and place on the edges of a baking sheet. Cure the bead caps at 275 degrees for 20 minutes. I have never had any problems with the acrylic finish going into a 275 degree oven, but you may want to tent your pieces. After your beads have cured and cooled, with a very small bristle brush, put one last coat of finish on the bead caps only (paying special attention to any leafing that you used). Let this coat dry thoroughly and set the finish one last time (200 degrees for 10 minutes). Now enjoy the lovely “capped” lentil beads you’ve made! Experiment with exciting color combinations that are out of your comfort zone, inclusions, leafing and foils, bead shapes and caps. With a little of this and a bit of that, you will have your own wonderful combinations of color and style.

For more help on swirling your pieces into lentils visit: http://www.polymerclaycentral.com/swirls.html

All text and photographs are the property of the artist. Barbara Fajardo Desert Design Inc. © 2005 This tutorial is protected by copyright, please do not distribute or use as a teaching tool.

Swirled Lentils with Inclusions by Barb Fajardo  

2005 Polymer Clay tutorial for Swirled Lentil beads by an originator of the popular technique

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