Polymer Clay Jewelry, Beyond the Basics: 8 New Tips, Techniques, and Embellishments

I’ve said it before–polymer clay is the most versatile jewelry-making material, partly because it can mimic all the others, including stone, metal, wood, plastic, even enamel and glass.

faux metal polymer clay vintage key necklace

Can you tell which of these pieces are polymer clay and which are real metal?

But there’s more to polymer clay than making canes, gem-mimicking swirls, Skinner blends, and wood grain. Polymer clay plays so nicely with other materials, be it jewelry-making materials or other craft materials in general. Here are eight unique and possibly new-to-you ways to make the most of polymer clay for jewelry making, courtesy of the new book Polymer Clay Art Jewelry by Ilysa Ginsburg and Kira Slye.

1. Epoxy Clay Meets Polymer Clay:  I love epoxy clay’s adhesive super powers; it’s kind of like a combination of polymer clay and glue. It works well with polymer clay, too, as a perfect adhesive for attaching cured pieces of polymer clay together or to attach polymer clay pieces to other things, such as findings, crystals, etc.–but it won’t matter if it shows, because it’s clay, too, and looks just like the polymer clay piece(s). Ilysa and Kira suggest using epoxy clay to secure findings, such as pin backs, and “to make . . .  bezels that you can fill with polymer clay gems.”

2 and 3. Polymer Clay Baking Tips: Mixed Clays, Shiny Surfaces: These two tips from Ilysa and Kira will help perfect your polymer clay curing process: First, if you’ve mixed brands or types of polymer clay in one piece, refer to the packages for the baking times and temperatures for both clays. Then back your mixed-clay piece “for the longest time and the lowest temperature recommended for both brands.” Also, note that while it’s a standard practice to cure (bake) polymer clay pieces on a ceramic tile, doing so will create a shiny surface on the side of the clay that touches the glazed tile. If you want to avoid that, bake on an unglazed tile or on card stock.

polymer clay with powedered pigment accents

4. Polymer Clay Plus Powdered Pigments: “Powdered pigments are one of the easiest ways to add a bit of variety to your polymer clay surface and bring out any texture that you apply,” say Ilysa and Kira. “Polymer clay has a tacky surface before you cure it, so you can use your fingers or a soft brush to apply powdered pigments to the surface before baking. When using your fingertips, you can apply the powder to the high parts of a textured or stamped design. When you use a soft brush, you’ll get a soft look that’s harder to control, so you may end up with powder down in the cracks of your texture. Try both and see which effect you like.”

5. Make a Polymer Clay Cuff Bracelet “Mandrel”:  An aluminum can makes a perfect form around which to shape a polymer clay cuff bracelet. Ilysa and Kira recommend simply placing the polymer clay cuff strip around the empty can, being sure not to let the ends touch or it’ll be too hard to remove it later. Note that any texturing is best done before shaping the cuff. Then, use a heat gun for about 30 seconds to partly cure the polymer clay strip, which will firm up the clay and help it keep its shape as you work. Be careful not to burn yourself on the can!

metallic finish polymer clay jewelry

6.     Create a Faux Metal Look with Pigment Ink:  Use your finger to add silver pigment ink to the raised areas of (generally black, gray, or brown) textured and molded pieces. It’s a bit of a reverse effect; the ink starts to look like the metal and the darker areas of clay look like the patinated recesses of textured metal designs. You can mimic any kind of metal this way, including gold, brass, copper, and silver.

7.     Image Transfers on Polymer Clay:  Magic Transfer Paper is possibly my favorite of all these ideas and, according to Ilysa and Kira, “by far the easiest image transfer method . . . the most foolproof, and gives you the brightest colors.” Here’s how they do it: After printing, simply cut your image out of Magic Transfer Paper as close around the image as possible. Place the image face down on a sheet of conditioned clay and burnish with your fingers for good contact and to avoid air pockets. Trim the clay around the image and smooth the edges. Then simply hold the piece under a faucet with a small stream of water. Do not rub the paper off! Just allow the pulp of the paper to “melt” off in the water until all the paper is gone. Set aside to dry completely to avoid smearing the image.

“You need to use a laser or toner printer when printing on Magic Transfer Paper,” Ilysa and Kira note, and recommend only putting on sheet of transfer paper into the printer at a time to avoid jams. “You can print in color or black and white, and you can use white or colored clay. White clay produces the most true colors. Ecru or beige clay produces a muted or vintage look. Experiment with other colors to see what you like.”

8.       Create a Crackle Finish for Faux Gems:  Crackle finishes are interesting faux texture, but for jewelry making, I think they make perfect faux gemstones and really do a great job mimicking fissured opaque stones like turquoise and magnesite, even ivory and bone. To achieve the look, form beads etc. with polymer clay and then paint on a thick layer of crackle paint, allowing the pieces to dry on parchment or wax paper. After the crackle effect occurs, use a soft paintbrush or cotton swab to cover the area with black powdered pigment (or thin ink, like walnut ink) and wipe away the excess. Then cure as usual.

Ilysa and Kira have loads of other unique applications for polymer clay in Polymer Clay Art Jewelry, including using foil sheets, creating textures, and more. It’s a great book to help you take your polymer clay jewelry making to new heights by adding unique materials and effects to this already versatile medium.

If you’re an old pro at working with polymer clay, you’ll be enlightened and inspired by the elevated ways these artists use polymer clay in jewelry making. And if you’re new to polymer clay but ready to tackle a fun and affordable new technique, this book is a thorough, comprehensive place to start!

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