Transforming clay to rescue animals

Joyce White spent a humid July afternoon in the shade of her front porch, rolling clay into little beads between her hands.

To her right sat a plastic bowl, filled with rust-colored beads she had spent all morning crafting, and her clay-colored hands were testament to her hard work. To her left, sat a large storage bin that held a strand of wire adorned with hand-painted beads of bright green, orange, red and blue.

It was after White, 48, witnessed images of helpless sea turtles in the aftermath of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that she decided to create art that would benefit wildlife.

Since she decided to help, the Concord resident who lives on Swink Street has spent countless hours constructing a necklace for her Clay-Bead-a-Thon project.

The necklace is scheduled to be completed Oct. 30, and then auctioned to benefit the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife, dedicated to saving and protecting wildlife.

"After seeing the animals, I just started thinking about what I can do," said White. "Why sit here and just watch when I can do something about it?"

With a week's worth of bead-making, the necklace was about 16 feet long. White's goal is make it as long as she can, with hopes of exceeding lengths of a mile.

She chose to make one long necklace rather than multiple small necklaces because she said it symbolizes everyone joining together in one chain to help a specific cause. She hopes members of the community will aid her project by donating beads.

"I just wanted to get everybody involved in (the cause) and bring the world together," said White.

White came up with the idea to make a clay necklace because she wanted to connect her project to the Earth, and she uses clay to symbolize nature.

White uses self-drying clay to hand roll the beads and then allows them to dry for 15 to 20 minutes.

For larger, hand-sculpted nature beads, White uses polymer clay she bakes in the oven. For these, she spends extra time crafting beads resembling things such as a clownfish she appropriately named "Nemo," and a shark's tooth. (The two are not side-by-side on the chain.)

After the beads dry and harden, White strings them on wire and hand-paints each. When she runs out of room to store the lengthy craft, she would like to display it in a school gymnasium, she said.

So far, the necklace has cost White $50. If materials become too expensive, she plans on making her own clay by combining flour, salt and water.