Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bead and Clay Crosses

This is a project I do at Easter time with the students.  These are done by Grade 1. I also did this with Grade 4 this year using smaller beads and more complicated patterns.

Click on picture to see larger.

You need to do up a recipe of salt dough clay. ( 1 recipe is enough for 24 crosses using a 3 1/2 inch cutter)

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 cups to 2 and 1/2 cups warm water (varies depending on flour and humidity, enough for a soft dough)

Knead into a soft dough
Store in a ziploc bag.  If not using right away you can store in the refrigerator for like forever. Just pull it out ahead of time to come to room tempertaure before using.

I like to color the dough.  Using liquid tempera or acrylic paint squirt some on the dough.

Fold over the dough.

and then knead like crazy....don't worry if it looks marbled like this it just means you have to keep kneading.

It will eventually look like this.  Even color throughout.

Roll it out and then using a cookie cutter cut out the shape.

Place a paper clip 1/2 way in at the top for hanging.

I get the kids to put a bit of water on the surface of the cross using their finger and then they can start forming their design with beads.  We use pony beads in different sizes as well as wood beads and large decorative beads.

I asked them to try and make a pattern using color or shape.

They need to push the beads in fairly firmly.

I then place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I write the name of the student on the paper in sharpie and then place their creation either on top or next to their name.  This allows me to keep them straight until they are baked when I can then write their names on the back in sharpie.

Bake in a 250 - 300 degree oven for about 2 - 3 hours until hard.  You don't want to overbake and have them get a brownish tinge.

When cool add a coat or 2 of Mod podge.  This will help "glue" into place any loose beads as well as add a nice shiny finish.

Keep in mind that salt dough responds to the humidity in the air.  It can sometimes feel soft even after baking and sealing.  Just let it be and it will dry out again. 

That's it.  I add a ribbon thru the paper clip at the top and the kids have a great creation to take home for Easter.

See you next time.


  1. these really are cute and vibrant and lovely - beads and clay are such a great combo. i'm just curious - are schools able to do faith-based art where you are? if there are students who are not christian there, what did they make instead of the cross?

  2. Thanks for another great project.
    Can you really bake the plastic beads no problem?

  3. I can't wait to try this with our daughter!


  4. The colors, simplicity....really beautiful.

  5. Thanks everyone.
    Jen: The school I work at is a Catholic school. In Calgary we have 2 major school systems..the Public School Board and the Catholic School Board.
    thicklygrownwithweeds: You can bake the beads as long as you don't exceed 300 degrees in the oven...sometimes the really small ones get a little soft but otherwise no issues.

  6. Gail, this is so cool! I'm going to do this with my two kids. I'll give you credit on my blog and let you know when we do. : )

  7. Wow, they are so beautiful!!!

    lg Pippi

  8. Gail -- I just wanted to let you know that I posted a link to this post, as well as your blog, on my new blog about creativity:

    I love your blog and find so much inspiration from it. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas!

  9. ah, cool... just curious about how that works out. these really are beautiful.

  10. so wonderful...beautiful project that is so accessible for kids!

  11. Gail! This is awesome. I'm going to do them with after school art next week! Thanks for all the continued inspiration! Hope you are still enjoying your bag! Let me know if you ever want to decorate on bags for an Earth Day kind of project. I could send you a batch. I have done it many times, you can see here:

    All you need are fabric markers and cardboard for the inside to not bleed through.

  12. Though, of course, you would probably come up with some kind of cool glue tie dye thing for the bags! Ha!

  13. what is 2-2 of water?? what does the two dash two mean? is it 4 ½ cups????

  14. Hey anonymous,
    it means 2 cups to 2 and 1/2 cups of water, it varies depending on the brand of flour, humidity etc.

  15. Hi Gail,
    Thank you for such a prompt response!!!! xo

  16. Gail-- Great craft! Can u color the dough and then refrigerate? Also, to what thickness do you roll the dough to before cutting out the shape?

  17. Hey anonymous, yes you can color the dough and then refrigerate. I roll a 1/2" thickness, any thicker and it takes too long to bake.

  18. Can I use food coloring for coloring the dough?

  19. Hi Gail! Love this idea...can you use sequins too? Wil they be ok in the oven?

  20. Hey anonymous,

    You can use food colouring, paint gives you more colour options. Sequins will melt in the oven but you could try those sparkly gems.

  21. hi gail, thank you for the idea. its so great to have an activity for kids for easter that isn't a bunny!

  22. Hello Gail,

    I made up a batch of your clay and the Sunday school kiddos made crosses. This project was successfully completed by all ages from preschool - 5th grade.

    I never knew you could use acrylic paint to colour dough. I loved it and it was so easy to get off my hands.

    We will make these again next year. We will make some of them into magnets. And I will test to see if these would hold up as a rear view mirror decoration.

    Here's a link that shows some of our crosses:

    Thanks, again, Gail, for coming up with great ideas and sharing!

  23. Hi Gail,

    I'm planning on doing this project with my son's Kinder class. So wonderful! We are making a large,circular (flat) bead to be worn around the neck. Do you think it's better to use the paper clip, or to make a hole in the bead for a string to wrap around. Which would be more durable. I'm going to give them a good coat front (and back?) with the mod podge. Any other tips/suggestions? Thanks for the inspiration, Gina

  24. Hey Gina,

    I think the paper clip might be more durable. Another thing you could try is to insert a metal grommet where you want the hole to be. That way it's not sticking up from the top of the bead.
    Good luck

  25. oh my goodness, how beautiful, thank you!

  26. Beautiful crosses! Where can you get the cross cookie cutter?

    1. I purchased my cross cookie cutter at Michaels

  27. Did you bake the crosses on a cookie sheet or without?

    1. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.