Polymer Clay Jewelry Artists Share Top Tips, Plus Hot News!

One of the things I love about polymer clay is its versatility. Polymer clay can be used to mimic–or be combined with–just about any other jewelry-making material: wire, metal, found objects, gemstones, mixed-media favorites like paper and fibers . . . anything! Check out these great expert tips for making polymer clay jewelry (brought out of the JMD archives for a special occasion!) and then read on for amazing deals on all the ways you can use it! –Tammy


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  I was shocked to learn it was not nature but polymer clay magic by Kristine Taylor that made this stunning "stone"!

Polymer Clay Gemstones?
Kristine Taylor is a polymer clay jewelry artist that I discovered during a visit to a downtown art gallery and market back in Tennessee. Her work caught my eye because it was beautiful, at first. But being a gem geek, I was drawn to the brightly colored "stones" in her jewelry designs, trying to guess what they were (pietersite, maybe? agate?) 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.


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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.  

Add Sparkle and Texture to 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 the 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.)


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  Lisa's "platinum and pearls" polymer clay bridal necklace by Lisa Pavelka is 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.


From unique "gemstones" to stunning bridal jewelry, polymer clay can do it all–and I know just where to look for inspiration on how to use it in your jewelry. Get Ronna Sarvas Weltman's Ancient Modern: Polymer Clay + Wire Jewelry digital book and see just how artistic polymer clay jewelry can be!


P.S. Lisa had so many great polymer clay tips to share! Read on for more!


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