Buttons, Shells, and Other Found Objects: How to Make Molds for Jewelry Making in 4 Easy Steps

See how easy it is to create your own jewelry-making molds for use with polymer clay, metal clay, epoxy clay (also known as Crystal Clay), resin casting, and more–in four easy steps!

I was on vacation in Charleston and Folly Beach last week, and as with any trip I make to the beach, I came home with little bags full of shells, rocks, sea glass, and bits of coral washed up on the shore. I’m enamored with the textures and intricacies of the treasures I find on the beach, and as I walk and pick up new ones, my mind races with ways to use them (or their likenesses) in jewelry.

shells, coral, and other found objects perfect for jewelry mold making

Making molds is the perfect way to capture these details for jewelry making and repeat them over and over in affordable, renewable materials like polymer clay, epoxy clay, or resin–even in metal clay if I’m feeling fancy. Here’s a simple four-step tutorial on how to make molds for jewelry making.

how to make molds of shells, coral, and other found objects

From left to right: Mold of a clay model skull for making reproductions; mold of a piece of coral; a rubber stamp; and silicone rubber baking supports created out of mold putty and used to support flowers.

Making Molds

by Ilysa Ginsburg and Kira Slye
(excerpted from Polymer Clay Art Jewelry)

Silicone molding putty is our favorite method for creating molds, because it is quick and easy, and you can mold almost anything. If you are crazy about molding, you can carry some along with you and never miss an opportunity to capture a texture!

Amazing Mold Putty, our preferred brand, is a two-part putty with a very short open time. This means you have a short period of time to work with it before it starts to set up and becomes unworkable. So you must make your decisions about what you are going to mold and how you intend to mold it beforehand. You must also set out all your supplies before you begin.

As long as the two parts of your product do not touch each other, they will have about a year of shelf life. After that, their ability to take a mold and set up properly begins to wear out. Note that we will be using yellow putty, but you can find putty in other colors as well.

The objects you can mold with putty are unlimited. You can make your own object out of clay (such as the skull below) and make a mold of it. You can mold a rubber stamp, natural objects and buttons of all sorts. You can put mold putty on a wall and capture the texture of tiles. Because it does not run like a liquid would, you can drape it over almost anything and it will stick there until it hardens. Have fun with molds!

You can even bake polymer clay directly in a mold. Silicone putty can take the 275° F (135° C) heat required to cure polymer clay. So if you have a mold with delicate parts and you are nervous that the piece you make with clay will get damaged if you remove it from the mold, just put the mold and clay right in the oven and unmold it when it is done baking. You can put pigment powders in the mold before adding clay, and the clay will pick them up. You can even make objects out of liquid clay by baking it in the mold.

Another great use for silicone molding putty is baking supports. If you create something that needs support in the oven, such as a flower with curved petals, or something that you need to suspend so it doesn’t get squished during baking, you can make your own specialized support to bake it on. The Stone Posey Brooch [project tutorial in the book] uses this technique.

How to Make a Silicone Putty Mold

how to make molds of shells, coral, and other found objects

 

  1. Place your object to be molded on a clean surface. Prepare one part of part A and one part of part B; each part should be about three-quarters the size of the piece to be molded. Once you mix the parts together, you will have 1-1/2 times the size of object to be molded, enough to cover the object.

how to make molds of shells, coral, and other found objects

 

  1. Mix the parts together quickly. Aim for 1 minute of blending time. Use any method that works for you; you can squish with your fingers, use a rod to roll the two parts together thinly, or roll snakes and mush them together over and over again. You are finished mixing when the two colors disappear and you have a smooth ball of putty that is one color. Do not over mix; once you have that single color, you are ready to mold.

how to make molds of shells, coral, and other found objects

 

  1. Lay the molding putty over your object on a flat surface or push the object into the ball of putty. The choice is up to you and is sometimes determined by the shape of your object. Since this piece of coral is irregular, we chose to push it into the putty. If you mold something that is flat, it usually makes sense to lay the putty over the object. Make sure the putty overflows the area to be molded. Gently pat it into place in every direction. Try not to trap air inside the mold. Air will produce a bubble that you will see.

how to make molds of shells, coral, and other found objects

 

  1. Allow the putty to set for about 15 minutes, or until it feels stiff to the touch and you cannot make an impression in the putty with your fingernail. Unmold and use! –IG & KS

 

Once you’ve created your molds, you can use them repeatedly to make multiples of special shells, keys, buttons, twigs, and other found objects. I used a mold of a twig in a metal clay workshop last year that produced the prettiest little bronze twig! Since then, I found my own special perfectly formed twig to make a mold for future use, and soon it’s going to produce lots of brown polymer clay twigs for pretty little polymer clay bluebirds or chipmunks to sit on. My prized button stash is also often hard at work making molds so that I can keep my beloved buttons but recreate their gorgeous patterns in metal clay. The first metal clay project I ever did was an impression of a button, and I’ve been hooked ever since!

 

Learn more ways to make polymer clay jewelry and to use your handmade molds in Polymer Clay Art Jewelry, a beautiful book from Ilysa Ginsburg and Kira Slye. It’s full of helpful information as well as tutorials, much of which can be used for polymer clay as well as adapted and used for other clays, like epoxy clay and metal clay. It’s one great choice from dozens of options, if you can’t decide which books to grab in our Annual Book Sale!

 

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