Tag Archives: ceramic pendants

DIY Kiln Bead Rack

DIY Bead Rack

Bead rack made of insulated kiln brick

Thanks to some good advice, I made a sturdy bead rack for glaze firing. Sadly, the Amaco Bead Tree I bought was problematic at best, so I desperately needed another solution. An alternative was suggested by Dan Severance, pottery guru and ceramics tech at the Port Moody Arts Centre. I’ve taken his advice a step further, customizing it to my needs precisely.

How to make a Kiln Bead Rack

Materials: an N95 face mask, safety glasses, work gloves, one insulated kiln brick (the lightweight kind), a rip saw or hack saw, a ruler, a pencil, narrow chisel or flat blade screw driver, hammer, and short lengths of 11 gauge nichrome wire.

Your basically going to cut a valley in the brick lengthwise. Dan suggested I make a ‘V’ shaped cut, which I will do with another brick, but for my purposes today, I made a ‘U’ shaped cut.


  1. Set up a work station outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Use a sturdy table or flat surface. Place brick on its side lengthwise.
  2. Determine the width of your ‘U’ shape. Allow for adequate clearance on either side for the bead or pendant you are making. I decided on 7/8″.
  3. Draw two lines the length of your brick, keeping the area you’re going to cut out centred. The two walls of my ‘U’ turned out about 6/8″ wide.
  4. Determine the depth of your cut. My ‘U’ is about 3 1/2″ deep, leaving about a 1″ base.
  5. Put on your safety gear: mask, glasses, gloves.
  6. Using a rip or hacksaw, start making an even cut down through one of the cut lines you made. A rip saw cuts one way: pull it through the brick as you saw, move it back and start again. A hack saw works both ways: use even pressure and saw back and forth.
  7. Saw evenly through the length of both cut lines.
  8. Set aside your saw, then turn the brick over and shake the dust out of the cuts.
  9. Using either a chisel or flat blade screwdriver, carefully chisel out the middle part of the ‘U’, starting from the ends and working inward.
  10. After chiseling and removing debris from the ‘U’, stand it on end and do some ‘clean up’ of the bottom of the ‘U’ with the screw driver or chisel, making a flat surface on the bottom.
  11. Put your tools away and turn the brick over and shake out the dust.
  12. Measure out the lines indicating where the wire will sit on the top of your rack. I measured even lines about 3/4″ apart the length of the brick.
  13. Take your saw and cut crosswise over your ‘U’ to make indentations on either side of the ‘U’. I made mine about 1/8″ deep.
  14. Put your saw away.
  15. Gently widen the grooves with a nail by carefully raking it through the groove.
  16. Take nichrome wire and cut lengths to fit in the grooves. I cut my wire in lengths of about 2″. If you want, bend the wire into a very slight ‘V’. This will ensure your bead or pendant remains in place while firing.
  17. Test the wires out…place across the ‘U’ to see if they fit snugly. Adjust groove to fit your needs.
  18. Voila! Be careful with the insulated brick; it’s slightly fragile but makes a great bead rack that doesn’t take up too much kiln space.
DIY Bead Rack, end shot

DIY Bead Rack, end shot

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles and Interviews, How-to-do-it

Open Studio Update

Birdhouse: I couldn’t be happier to show you my finished birdhouse! It  was made by draping white clay over two conical molds made of poster board stuffed with newspaper. Its pagoda-like feel called out for Japanese glazes: Green Oribe over Shino. My husband will thread narrow chains through the holes, then glue a metal flange over the hole to make it the exact size. First, however, I’ll have to review my notes because I cannot remember which feathered friend I made it for, believe it or not! I love the way it turned out and cannot wait to hang it in our shady big leaf maple tree, with the door hole facing East. 

Underglazes:  I asked Nan if she would mind if I experimented with a technique she has been mastering, layering underglazes, then wiping part of it off to achieve a specific effect. She gave me her blessings. I am tinkering with reliefs made by impressing my mother’s German cookie molds into clay. They are molds she bought in the early 1960s; they are hand carved and quite beautiful. I aim to experiment with them using underglazes and with tilemaking. From these first trials, I can tell I need to paint more layers of each individual color, otherwise, it is too easy to wipe through the layers and reach the base clay. You can see what I mean in this next photo by looking at the impressions on the left and top. I rather like the technique and will continue working with different color combinations till I find ones I really like.

Pendants: This coming February 25, I’ll be facilitating a workshop for my Creativity Group. We meet once a month and have been for over 3 years now. The group is made up of friends and neighbors who get together for art projects or to go to events. Of all of the projects we’ve done so far, none of them have centred on jewelry, so I have planned one that we will be able to do over two hours. I fashioned pendants of white clay, basing them on a necklace from Korea my friend Jennifer wears. It is simplicity itself and so attractive because of it. It measures about 1″ x 1 1/3″ and has been stamped. I have relied on stamps  created by others that are meant for anyone to use at the art centre. I do have a design in mind, but I have yet to make the stamp. The stamps I chose are of a dragonfly, a rose, and a geometric design. I intend to glaze the top, leaving the sides and base for workshop participants to finish with metallic solutions, copper and silver. They will also string them and use jewelry findings to finish them. As far as the rest of the pendants go, considering I made 206 of them, I will be experimenting with glaze treatments, underglazes, and stains. I adore Mary Harding’s work and would like to use stains in a similar fashion.

Tiles: I continued with my tilemaking adventures by using reverses of the individual cookie molds for relief. I am very drawn to the style and methods  Michael Cohen uses for his and I am emulating his style. He seems like such a genial man and his tiles are delightful. He is very practical, has a no bones philosophy, and is a founding member of the Asparagus Valley Ceramics movement. His method of tilemaking appeals to me, in part, because I had been looking for a way that took less time. I am constantly researching the ways people make tiles and his have made a great impression on me (no pun intended!). The photo at the right shows one of the sets of molds I am working with. They are hand carved, have fine detail, and are reminiscent of the skill with which German nativities and cuckoo clocks are made. To make reverses of these, I sprinkled them with cornstarch to prevent the clay from sticking, then cut them out and dried them between weighted down plasterboard. Since they’ve been bisqued, I’ve used some of them to create relief tiles in the vein of Cohen’s. Actually, I’d have to make reverses of the bisqued ones to truly emulate his method and I will do so. The ones I did make are going to be white white, out of B Mix and I’m using Dan’s faux celadon on them. Today, I talked with our studio tech, Dan, about glass because I intend to use broken up bits of glass on the relief area. He gave me some pointers and showed me the glass the studio has in stock, the rods Deb used to use. He also said he’d bring me some of the thicker rods used for beadmaking and I am so grateful! The photos below show closeups of the relief. The clay took to it well. Cohen’s low-tech method using string to mark out the tiles sounds like a good idea, too. I used a tile cutter that makes 4″ x 4″ tiles.  As you know, my favorite style is traditional Arts & Crafts, which started in England and moved to North America. The revival in A & E has grown steadily since the 1980s and I love seeing the furniture, lamps, and ceramics made in this style. Ceramics, pottery, both integral to the style because of its earthy and pristine qualities, depending upon what your making out of it. Eventually, I would like to pair up with my husband, with him making fumed oak frames and me tiles. It would be grand! In the meantime, I took a little side trip with these cookie molds. Maybe not so far astray, though, as the A & E motifs do focus on nature. Using the Cohen method, the next tiles will be ones I create from scratch. They will include timeless Arts & Crafts designs I’ve had on the back burner. Gingko leaf. Pine cone. Pine bough. Birds. Dragonflies. For these particular tiles, I’ll use porcelain with celadon, adding glass bits before firing. They will be larger than my 4x4s…somewhere in the neighborhood of 6×6. I can’t wait!

The Future: Over the last while, I have revisited the reasons I am involved with clay and what I am doing with it. There is an old saying about doing your duty and letting the sparrows twitter, meaning keep to your course and don’t let others’ comments get in the way of what you’re doing. It can be difficult to do at times but I believe in myself, my art and the course I’m charting. I will keep up my effort, be disciplined, associate with people who are positive influences, eschew negative ones. I must continue to culture my intuition. Case in point: I wondered aloud about Gloria in the studio today, about how she was, how her health was. Five minutes later, she walked through the door. I had not seen her since before Christmas. That is the type of intuition I’m culturing…that I will apply with clay. This year will bring great things. I can feel it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles and Interviews, Current Events, Featured Artists, Fun, Home and Garden, My Work