What are heishi clay beads?

Heishi clay beads are small, cylindrical beads made from baked clay that are used to create jewelry and accessories. The word "heishi" comes from the Navajo word meaning "shell" or "coral", referring to the tube-like shape of these beads. Heishi beads have been used for centuries by Native American tribes like the Navajo and Zuni to create necklaces, bracelets, and other decorative items. Today, these versatile clay beads are popular for DIY jewelry making and beading projects.

What are heishi clay beads used for

Heishi clay beads can be used to make all kinds of jewelry and accessories. Here are some of the most common uses for these small cylindrical beads:
Necklaces - Heishi beads are perfect for making choker necklaces as well as longer strand designs. They lay flat and stack well against each other.
Bracelets - Multi-strand heishi bead bracelets are very on trend right now. The beads can be used to create cuff bracelets as well.
Earrings - Small dangle earrings work great with heishi beads. The colored beads pair nicely with metal hooks and wires.
Hair accessories - Heishi beads make boho-chic hair accessories like headbands, barrettes, and hair ties.
Home decor - Stitch heishi beads onto throw pillows or make beaded curtain ties and tassels.
Pet collars - Customize pet collars and leashes using fun heishi beads.
The cylindrical shape and even size of heishi beads make them so versatile for all kinds of handicraft projects. Their bright colors and polish add artisan flair to any design.

What are heishi clay beads made of

Heishi beads are made from modeling clay that is shaped into small tubes and then baked or fired to harden and set the clay. The primary clay material used is polymer clay. Polymer clay contains polymers, resins and coloring that can be molded and then cured at relatively low temperatures in a home oven or toaster oven. When properly cured, polymer clay has a hard, durable finish that has the look and feel of materials like stone, wood or glass.

In addition to polymer clay, some artisans also use natural clays like raku clay to create heishi beads. Raku clay requires higher firing temperatures but produces beads with beautiful crackled glazes. Pinching clay can also be used to form the small tubular shapes. However, polymer clay is the most common material for ease of use and the range of available colors.

After forming the raw clay tubes, the beads are baked according to the clay instructions to harden them before being sanded smooth and polished. Finally, clear acrylic sealants are applied to give the heishi beads a glossy, protective finish. This process creates durable, lightweight beads perfect for all sorts of jewelry designs.

What are heishi clay beads for jewelry making

Heishi clay beads are an excellent choice for DIY jewelry making for several reasons:
They are very affordable and come in every color imaginable so you can create all kinds of designs on a budget.
The small tube shape makes them easy to string in mixed or solid color patterns.
Heishi beads have a very uniform shape and size for a consistent look.
The smooth finish gives them a professional look compared to uneven clay beads.
They are strong but still lightweight for comfortable jewelry you can wear all day.
Simple gluing or wire-wrapping secures them to connect strands, add dangles or join components.
Both the matte and glossy finishes work well alone or combined in one design.
They complement other beads like gemstones, shells, wood or metal beads.
Whether you're a beginner seeking affordable materials to learn or an experienced artist looking for a new medium, heishi clay beads have everything you need for creative DIY jewelry projects.

What are heishi clay beads

What are heishi clay beads called

While commonly referred to as "heishi beads", this style of clay bead actually goes by many different names including:
Heishi beads - Based on the Navajo word for shells or tube-shaped beads
Pebble beads - Referring to their small, rounded shape resembling pebbles
Navajo beads - Named after the Navajo artisans who often incorporated them into jewelry
Coral beads - For their visual similarity to coral branches or tubes
Ceramic beads - Describing the clay material and baking process used to make them
Modeling clay beads - After the polymer clay frequently used to shape them
Clay cylinder beads - For their small cylindrical form
Clay tube beads - Also describing the tubular shape
So in other words, heishi beads are small, round clay beads with a tube-like hole formed through the center. While "heishi" is the term most widely used by beading and jewelry-making communities, they are known by many descriptive names alluding to their unique shape and material.

Heishi beads

Heishi beads refer to small cylindrical clay beads traditionally used by Native American artisans to create jewelry and accessories. The uniform size and shape of heishi beads make them perfect for stringing into necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more. These versatile beads come in a rainbow of colors and finishes for mixing and matching.

Originally handmade by tribes like the Navajo and Zuni using natural clays, today's heishi beads are primarily manufactured from colorful polymer clays. The flexible modeling clay is shaped into short tubes, baked to harden, sanded and sealed with clear glaze. This gives heishi beads their characteristic smooth, glossy finish and durable quality.

With a name meaning "shell" or "tube", heishi beads are sometimes also called coral or ceramic beads. Their ancient roots and artisanal look have made them trendy for modern DIY jewelry projects. Heishi beads pair equally well with semi-precious stones, wooden beads, shells and metals in boho, tribal and eclectic jewelry designs. Whether going for a minimalist or bold statement piece, heishi beads bring creativity, color and handmade appeal to jewelry.

clay heishi beads ideas

Heishi beads made from polymer clay offer lots of possibilities for unique DIY jewelry and crafts. Here are some fun ideas to try:
Stack different sized heishi beads in rainbow shades on bracelets for an eye-catching effect.
Use extra large heishi beads as pendant centers and medium beads for the necklace.
Alternate glossy and matte finished heishi beads for visual texture.
Shape some clay beads into hearts, stars or flowers for accents.
Imprint or stamp patterns into the clay like polka dots or swirls before baking.
Mix the clay colors together to create marbled or ombre heishi beads.
Incorporate seed beads, spacers or carved beads along with heishi beads.
Make clay tassels using heishi beads in one color or multiple colors.
Glue rows of heishi beads onto plain hair clips and headbands for quick embellishment.
String different sized beads together and curl into rings while the clay is soft.
Use them when making earrings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets and even pet collars!
With heishi beads, the creative beadwork possibilities are endless! Let your imagination run wild combining colors, textures and shapes.
clay heishi beads jewelry making kit
For beginners looking to try their hand at heishi bead jewelry making, a clay bead set or kit takes the guesswork out of getting started. Typically, these kits include:
Assorted colors of polymer clay ready for shaping
An instructional booklet or project cards with design ideas
Clay sculpting and shaping tools
Findings like bead tips, eyepins, jump rings and clasps
Beading thread, wire and needle/awl
Baking tray or pan for curing finished beads
Many also provide extra accents like seed beads, chain sections and piece of leather cording to incorporate in the final pieces. With all the essential supplies and directions included, jewelry makers can dive right in making their own stylish heishi bead designs.
The step-by-step instructions walk beginners through important techniques like rolling uniform beads, achieving the right clay consistency, properly baking, adding finishings and finally assembling everything together. Kits eliminate the guesswork so makers can build skill and confidence creating unique heishi bead jewelry. From funky bead bracelets to boho dangling earrings, clay bead kits unlock lots of handmade DIY potential for jewelry makers.

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