Sue Lee's Bead Rollers:
Making Her Way with Polymer Clay
by Lisa Pavelka

Most businesses related to polymer clay usually begin after someone has been involved with the medium for some time. In Sue Lee's case, the opposite is true.

While vacationing in Colorado in June of 2000, Sue picked up a book on hemp jewelry for her daughter Christy. Christy was very impressed with the polymer clay beads that were included with the book.

After searching stores for more beads, Christy found that not only were the variety of ready-made polymer clay beads extremely limited, they were expensive as well. Then Christy discovered ready-made kaleidoscope canes in craft stores, but again, she was disappointed by the lack of selection.

Not happy with the variety of colors and styles available, Christy began to experiment with raw polymer clay. Her desire to learn more about caning led her to the Internet. It was there that she saw a bead roller developed by Carl Hornberger, which made uniform "football" shaped beads.

Christy told Sue about the device. Sue and her husband, Gale, were avid woodworkers. Between the two of them, Christy felt, they could make a similar device based on Christy's description.

Christy by this point was well immersed in the madness that is polymer clay. Like most polyholics, she felt compelled to spread her addiction. She fixed her mother up with a "p.c. care package," consisting of junk clay, cane scraps and a tissue blade. Voila, a polyholic was born!

While in the process of getting hooked on polymer clay, Sue made Christy a bead roller. Her first efforts produced a product that was, in Sue's words, "totally cool!" It was only natural that Sue felt she needed to make a set for herself.

Poly-Tools Bead
          RollersThe more she played, the more intrigued Sue became. She made more rollers using a variety of PVC pipe sizes. As their collection of "football" bead rollers multiplied, Christy suggested that it would be terrific if Sue could develop a round bead roller. Sue of course was eager to fill her daughter's request.

Through Christy, Sue discovered the on-line polymer clay community. While surfing the cyber realm of polymer clay, Sue discovered that people who had ordered the "football" bead roller didn't want to step on anyone's toes by selling a similar device.

So, Sue contacted the site where the rollers were being offered at the time. Sue expressed her interest in making the device and offering them for sale to others. She hoped to receive advice or direction from the site's manager.

Sue never received a reply. Since no one offered anything like her "round" bead rollers, she felt it was safe to try her luck on e-bay. She received over a dozen bids and ended up selling rollers to everyone who responded.

Sometime after Mr. Hornberger, the maker of the original "football" bead roller, had a stroke, Sue and Dianne, after much soul searching and debate, decided to offer Sue's oval bead rollers. They made this decision based on several factors. One factor was the bead rollers they offered made different size oval beads than the other bead rolling devices available at that time.

Poly-Tools Bead
          RollersSue's rollers are sold under the name "Poly Tools & Treasures," and come in sets that retail from $14.00 to $27.00. The newest addition to the bead roller family is a set of bicone bead rollers that produce perfect bicone beads time after time. Also available is a 5" Plexiglas bicone roller with a handle for making variable size bicone beads (suggested retail $5.00). Sue had even taken the guess work out of making beads by providing a chart with each set that tells you exactly how much clay is needed to make each size bead!

Sue's latest endeavor is a partnership with her daughter Christy. They have leased a kiosk in a local mall where they demonstrate and sell polymer clay as well as polymer clay related accessories including the bead rollers. Can anyone say "franchise opportunity?"

Like so many creative people, Sue longed for a business she could run from her home. She has realized that with the partnership of her husband, Gale. Sue feels immense gratitude towards author Julia Cameron who wrote The Artist's Way. She credits her friend and mentor Mary Ryan with encouraging her to read the book and follow her heart.

How fortunate we are when following one's heart leads a fellow artist to provide a products that encourages people to engage their creativity.

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