I’ve only made a few beads from a single piece of clay. For most, I had to make the bead in several pieces so that I could get the shapes that I wanted, and then attach the pieces together. And, in some cases, things didn’t work out as planned and I had to repair a piece before I could fire it (sometimes multiple times).
When I started making beads, the recommended way to attach two pieces together seemed to be to use a paint brush to coat each piece in a thin layer of water. The water softens the clay a bit and the two pieces bond as they dry again. Makes sense. But, what I discovered was that I wasn’t often working with flat pieces. And, when the pieces aren’t flat, the surface area where the two touch is small. So the pieces will bond using water, but won’t bond well. And it only take a little pressure for them to fall apart again, even when completely dry and supposedly bonded.
An even better way to “glue” two pieces together is to use metal paste. I knew about metal paste before I started, but I had only seen it in a syringe and it seemed to be more for making very fine lines or designs on a piece (basically drawing with paste). It was only after I started experimenting that I realized that it was a better way to paste two pieces together. It fills the space between the two pieces more completely so that you have a solid bond and a strong piece after it’s fired. And, because I wear my beads on my wrist and so they bump into things as I go about my day, I really want them to be strong!
You can buy metal paste, but since it’s essentially just runny clay, it’s easy (and more cost-effective) to make your own using metal clay dust (from when you sand your piece) or tiny bits of leftover clay. A cheap craft jar works perfectly to hold it all. I sand my pieces over a large piece of paper so that I can loosely fold the paper in half and tip the dust into my paste jar without losing any. And, you can’t really go wrong making the paste. If your paste is too dry, add a drop or two of water. If it’s too runny, leave the jar open for a bit to let moisture evaporate.
P.S. The green chunk in the jar on the left isn’t mould (although my paste did grow mould once). The jar on the left holds my “small, but still useful as chunks, not paste” chunks of clay. The green chunk is a small part of a sponge that I keep damp to help keep the clay moist. The jar on the right holds my paste. But, if I’m running out of paste, the first place that I look for a refill is the smallest chunks of clay in the jar on the left! They’re both pretty empty right now though. I clearly need to get back to beadmaking!
Have you found your own solution to a problem? Have you ever made your own tool or taken things into your own hands?