Polymer Clay Art Jewelry Making: Tips and Ideas from the Pros
Polymer clay is like an old friend that keeps popping up throughout the years of my crafty how-to career. I’m happy to have it back now in the form of gallery-quality art jewelry, and I’ve called on some of my favorite polymer clay jewelry artists and experts for their tips on making unique jewelry with polymer clay.
|I was shocked to learn it was not nature but Kristine Taylor’s polymer clay magic that made this stunning “stone”!|
Polymer Clay Gemstones?
Kristine Taylor is a local (to me) polymer clay jewelry artist that I discovered during a recent visit to a downtown art gallery and market. Her work caught my eye because it was beautiful, first. But being a gem geek, I was drawn to the brightly colored “stones” in her jewelry designs, trying to guess what they were and thinking they were some very fine specimens with excellent color . . . until I realized they weren’t polished gems at all but polymer clay! Then I was even more impressed. I was curious if that was her intention–to mimic gemstones–or if it was a happy accident.
“I never set out to mimic any type of stone, but occasionally my color combinations come out looking like semiprecious stones,” Kristine said. “It’s fun to see all the different color combinations and patterns this technique will produce.” Kristine uses a marbling technique to blend up to twenty different colors of polymer clay with mica powders and–can you guess?–acrylic paints to create the look of unique stones. “Polymer clay is a wonderful medium for mimicking other materials like stones, but I like to use polymer clay to create stones that nature does not produce,” she added.
|Maria gave me a polymer clay fish pin/pendant like this one nearly a decade ago; he has held a place of prominence in my craft room since then, reminding me that whimsy and beauty go together like peanut butter and jelly.|
Adding Sparkle and Texture to Polymer Clay Designs
Maria Del Pinto is another accomplished polymer clay artist and jewelry maker (and friend) who has written, taught, and demonstrated on television for many years. It’s the slight sparkle and texture of Maria’s polymer clay designs that stand out to me. Maria applies mica powders (or metallic Perfect Pearls, by Ranger) to patterned or textured clay before baking. “The powders can really make the images pop, or they can be used to add coloring and special effects,” she said.
To make patterns in clay, Maria uses texture sheets designed for use with polymer clay. She prepares the texture sheets according to manufacturer’s directions (such as giving them a spritz of Armor All or Son-of-a-Gun automotive sprays) before using them with clay to prevent sticking. Some texture sheets are made to roll through the pasta machine along with the clay; or you can just press the conditioned clay sheet onto the texture sheet. Then just gently peel the textured clay sheet off the texture plates and voila! (Clay sheets are formed by rolling through a clay-dedicated pasta machine to condition and flatten.)
|Lisa Pavelka’s “platinum and pearls” polymer clay bridal necklace is eye-catching and stylish enough to stand up to any wedding gown.|
Texture to the Rescue
When you hear the words polymer clay, there’s a good chance the name Lisa Pavelka is coming up, too. Lisa has spent years creating polymer clay jewelry and art for books, television, magazines, and classes all over the world–not to mention the polymer clay products she has created and developed. I’ve known Lisa for many of those years and her polymer clay work never ceases to amaze me; but like every artist, she knows there will be likely be a blunder in her work once in awhile. The important thing is knowing how to fix it.
Lisa recommends texture to camouflage the look of surface defects such as fingerprints or accidental divots. You can use a variety of texturing tools to stipple clay and hide any imperfections; Lisa likes to use very coarse sandpaper. She also suggests ball-tip styluses for creating a “spoon-carved look” or items such as the end of a ballpoint pen (with the inky pen part retracted) or coffee stirrers for making circle patterns. “Rummage through the junk drawer for interesting items, including buttons, screw heads, screw threads, and many more surprising finds for making interesting texture treatments; even when you’re not hiding surface imperfections,” Lisa said. And you know what to do after you’ve made texture, right? “Try highlighting textured surfaces with mica pigments or dabbing on acrylic paint with a cosmetic sponge to get unique surface effects,” she added.
(As a successful clay artist, author, product designer, and teacher, Lisa had so many great tips to share that I decided to spread them out and share the polymer-clay-jewelry-tips love. Here are more polymer clay jewelry-making tips from Lisa!)
Mica Powders, Acrylic Paints, and Texture, Oh My!
Adding layers of color and texture and using mica powders to highlight special features are great ways to take your polymer-clay jewelry designs to art jewelry status. Get Ronna Sarvas Weltman’s book Ancient Modern: Polymer Clay + Wire Jewelry for more information about making gallery-quality polymer clay art jewelry. In it you’ll find more innovative polymer clay tips and ideas, such as using shoe polish on clay to create a beautiful patina and subtle sheen or mixing translucent clay to add depth to the marbled blends and then giving them an ice-water bath to increase the translucent clay’s transparency. You’ll also learn innovative techniques to help you design your own polymer clay beads and custom components (such as bead caps formed on light bulbs!).
Do you use polymer clay in your jewelry designs? Post photos of your work in our Gallery and share your favorite polymer clay jewelry-making tips below!