This hollow bead was made using very simple methods and tools, but of course the technique described below can get as complex as you like.

This hollow bead was made using very simple methods and tools, but of course the technique described below can get as complex as you like.

If anyone was looking for proof that ceramics really does cross over into all sorts of creative endeavors, this week’s video is that proof of that assertion. Barbara Hanselman demonstrates how to make hollow clay beads using a few dowels, a small amount of clay, simple tools and a bit of imagination.

Even if you don’t want to make beads, this is a great technique. I first saw Mitch Lyons use it (watch for his video coming soon) to make full-size vessels. So give this technique a try and let us know what you come up with!— Sherman Hall, Ceramic Arts Daily

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Start by rolling out a coil of clay with flat ends and push a thin dowel (or skewer) through the middle of it. Applying even pressure to both ends of the dowel, roll it and the coil together to widen the hole, making the coil into a hollow cylinder. Go slow, and don’t push too hard. You only need to make the hole big enough for a slightly larger dowel.
Insert the larger dowel and keep rolling in the same manner. This gets easier the closer the dowel diameter is to the size of the hole.
With the last dowel, make sure you have a nice even wall thickness (about 1/8 of an inch is good for beads this size). You’ll want to make sure to hold the dowel ends level as well, so the wall is the same thickness from end to end. Small shims of cardboard or paper can help even this out if necessary.
For this bead, six progressively larger dowels were used, which allows for gradual (but still pretty quick) thinning of the wall and widening of the bead. This gradual progression ensures that the ends of the hollow cylinder will remain relatively straight. Even if they wobble a bit, it’s easy enough to trim up the ends with a sharp knife.


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A nice variation on a round bead is to put it over a square dowel and roll each side to compress the cylinder into a square tube shape. If you do this, try to find a relatively tight fitting dowel. The clay should move a little bit on the dowel, but you don’t want to have to force it to go much smaller in diameter.
Once you rotate and roll the clay on the dowel several times to get it nice and even, slide it off and trim the ends if necessary.
Roll out two small slabs of clay that are large enough to cap the ends of your bead, making sure to keep the thickness of these caps about the same as the walls.
Slip and score the slabs as well as the ends of your tube and attach them. Tilting the tube and pressing on each edge of the end at a slight angle will help to create a nice tight seal. Trim off the excess clay, leaving a little extra at the edges.
Allow the bead to set up just a bit, then you can gently paddle it into the shape you want or add finishing details. The air inside the bead will help to support the shape while you do this, but don’t forget to use your skewer to make holes in the center of each end when you are done!


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