I get asked all the time about my bead making process I follow to handcraft my faience ceramic beads. While my process and the raw ingredients I use are based on a 5000 year old Ancient Egyptian technique of bead making, I have of course adapted the process to the current century!
Essentially all my beads are made up of 6 different types of raw minerals and oxides. Of course I cannot tell you what these are or what their proportions are (these are secret recipes after all!) but they do contain a clay component and a fair bit of silica which is glass forming.
These base ingredients need to be sifted and blended together to ensure a really even distribution of raw ingredients and I usually sift these ingredients together up to 5 times to be totally sure.
Once these base ingredients are blended together they form a white base mix that I then weigh out into smaller ‘batches’. These batches then become the individual bead colours after I sift coloured oxides into them. The coloured oxides are derived from natural sources such as cobalt – for blues, copper carbonate – for turquoises and rutile for browns and olive colours. I have to be extremely precise in the weighing of these colouring oxides as they can be very strong and in order to keep consistent colour palettes across different firings I need to be pretty careful in that measuring.
Once the oxides are weighed they are sieved through a super fine mesh sieve so as to ensure all tiny lumps of oxides are broken down and any foreign matter is removed.
I am pretty fussy about my colour range and the tones and shades in particular of my blue, turquoise and green beads. I have spent years tweaking the amounts of oxide I include, for sometimes as little as .1 of a gram can make the difference in the shade I am after. I also regularly mix different oxides together to develop new colours.
Once the oxides are sifted with the base mix they are stored in air tight containers with the recipe on the font of the container ands a sample bead so I know at a glance just what the colour is!