Polymer Clay Jewelry Making: Top Tips from Lisa Pavelka

Tammy Jones editor Jewelry Making Daily  

Tammy Jones is the
editor of Jewelry Making Daily.

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.

Spinner Ring by Lisa Pavelka

I've known Lisa for much of those years and was surprised to learn that we both enjoy reworking old jewelry findings into fresh, updated mixed-media jewelry designs. After removing an existing stone or cab, she makes a new polymer clay piece to replace it. You can even press the old stones into clay to make a mold for the new piece. Such a fun and creative form of recycling! Lisa always says that a great tip is worth the price of admission to a class; I totally agree! How generous she was to share so many!

Clean and Preserve Polymer Clay Blades
Lisa suggests using 800-grit automotive-grade wet/dry sandpaper to keep clay blades sharp and extend their usefulness. She recommends holding the folded piece of sandpaper inside part of a dishwashing sponge to protect your fingers; then slide the paper back and forth over the edge of your clay blade to clean and sharpen it. Turn the blade over and repeat for that side as well.

If you do have to discard an old clay blade, she suggests doing so safely by covering them in scrap clay and baking to harden it before disposing.

Blue Flower Necklace by Lisa Pavelka

Use a Thermometer!
"Always, always, always bake your clay with an oven thermometer!" Lisa says. "Why go to all of that work to create a thing of beauty only to find out your oven is running too hot? It's the best few dollars you'll ever spend. It also is great for making sure a class or friend's oven is correctly calibrated before use. I personally use two, especially when traveling. If one is off, you have a damaged thermometer." She also recommends making sure to preheat your oven well to avoid any issues with temperature spikes.   

Polymer Clay Work Surfaces: Ceramic Tile, Wax Paper
A smooth ceramic tile is wonderful for a polymer clay work surface for several reasons. You can transfer your polymer clay jewelry-making projects straight into the oven on the tile without trying to lift them off; they're nearly impossible to scratch with your clay blade or other tools; and they're inexpensive and readily available. Lisa recommends having several on hand in a variety of sizes.

Bird Ring by Lisa Pavelka

Deli sheets of wax paper are also good nonstick work surfaces for polymer clay. Lisa added that they make great stamping and powder masks on your clay jewelry projects, and they can help you turn your polymer clay jewelry designs as you work on them, like a Lazy Susan.

Condition Polymer Clay Light to Dark
This is a simple tip that wouldn't always come to mind without a reminder: Begin conditioning and working with lighter colored clays first; then move on to darker colors. One of the best tips I learned from Lisa about working with polymer clay is to clean your hands in between colors with baby wipes. Great idea!

There you go, polymer clay jewelry-making tips from the queen of clay herself! Thanks Lisa!

Do you have polymer clay tips of your own? We'd love to hear in the comments below!

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