I love big beads. Big hollow beads. Doesn’t matter whether they’re made of glass, metal or polymer. Maybe because it’s a challenge to figure out how to make them and probably because people are always surprised at how light they are. And I have made a boatload of hollow beads over the years.
Which brings me to last week when I brought a strand of big polymer beads into the pottery studio and someone was interested in buying it which was a problem because it was only temporarily strung and I had not figured out an appropriate clasp. But it got me thinking.
I have always admired the perfectly integrated polymer covered barrel bead clasps on Ford and Forlano’s big bead necklaces. I wanted to make an integrated clasp myself but I did not want to use barrel bead – I wanted to use a hidden magnetic clasp. Which brought up two problems. First, it would have to be a very strong magnet. Big hollow bead necklaces still have some heft after all. And you cannot bake a magnet without diminishing its magnetic properties. People used to bake their magnet clasps all time time. But we have learned that baking weakens the magnets.
So I had to find a strong magnet and a way to integrate it into polymer bead halves without baking. I was surprised to learn that there was a paucity of information on using magnets and polymer clasps. I mean there are some old tutorials that instruct you to bake the magnet into the clay but as we have discovered, that’s a no-no.
Then I discovered Mag-Lok magnets and found this video from Cynthia Tinapple. I put my own twist on Cynthia’s technique and made a necklace with the Tesla beads and a magnetic clasp. How very appropriate.
I will share how I make hollow polymer beads and magnet clasps at the next meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild. Thank you Nikola Tesla and Cynthia Tinapple!