So I never have time for fun anymore with the shop being so busy, so I decided to treat myself and Karen (my best friend and right hand in the shop) to a pottery class. Knowing I would never make a pot outside of the class, I still wanted to know as much as possible about that type of clay, firing, kilns, glazes…it’s staggering. What I’d learn I’d apply to making jewelry components.
I dabble in playing with polymer clay so I set about making in polymer what was in my head for the ceramics of the future I will create. So here’s my process.
Today, I’m creating a pendant that’s about 1 1/4″ round with a copper bail I inserted.
I started with white polymer clay (or you could mix up all your colors to make a brown and add it to white until you get a nice light beige. I conditioned it by running it through my dedicated pasta machine (never again for food!) and began to play.
I have selected a textured background that I will lay the clay on before I impress it with a mold I have of a thistle flower. I like the backs of my pieces to have texture, even if I don’t color or finish them (I usually do).
I made a tiny sack filled with cord starch out of a fabric I had. You could used multiple layers of cheese cloth. Tie it up tight like a little present and use it to rub across each of your texture plates to act as a release. A spray bottle of water is also an option. Spray it on each plate.
Since my mold was a little deeper, I schmushed the clay into the flower mold (yeah, press it in there) and roughly cut around it, and took the extra clay to the pasta machine, rolled it out and then added an extra layer of clay to the back before sandwiching the clay between the mold and the background texture plate.
Carefully remove the clay and place it design side up on a nonstick surface (freezer paper would work) and cut off excess. I found a circle cutter in my stash that was roughly the size of my piece, so I used it to cut an even circle around the design. Since there was a tiny excess around the design, I used my fingernail and a needle tool (we call them ‘pokey thing’ around here) to texturize the edges to make them look part of the mold design and not look so ‘cut out’.
I poked 2 holes in the top with the pokey thing, so that I could insert a wire after it baked. I tried unsuccessfully to press the horseshoe shaped wire into the top while the clay was unbaked. I had trouble centering it, and it kept poking though the back of the clay. Had the design not been so close to the edge, I could have very easily used a skewer or other hole maker to make a hole for a jump ring. Luckily you just roll your clay and start over. That’s how you learn.
The way I have added this wire, I now see I need a lark’s head attachment (see the first photo with finished piece and leather) or I would have to add an extra add a jump ring to this bail to have the pendant facing the right direction on a finished necklace. It’s still an experiment for me.
Next I baked in a my polymer clay oven to the clay manufacturer’s specification, and I was ready to play. At this stage I added the wire bail using Lisa Pavelka’s polybonder since I already knew it wouldn’t react adversely to clay, some do. I thought it best to do that before any paint had a chance to fill up the holes I created for the wire.
I first squeezed a tiny amount of burnt umber paint in a small container and had a water container that I dipped my grunge brush you’re going to use to schmush (guess I love that word) the paint in to all the crevices of the baked design to create a weathered look, give it some color and bring out the design on the mold of the flower. Don’t forget to wash your paint brush well and right away. It may be grunge but it won’t last and be good for anything, even schmushing, if you don’t. First rule: take care of your tools!!!!
Let it dry for a minute or two (not too long! or the paint will dry) and wipe off excess with a paper towel in a flat motion to insure you don’t pull the paint out of the lower areas. Don’t worry if you do, you can always add more. I use my fingers to go around front, back and all the edges. And if you do wait too long, you can always dampen the paper towel to remove more paint from the tops of the design; or sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper after the paint dries.
I then add a little color using my PanPastels before the paint totally dried. You’ll add more later.
I bake again at this stage for about 5 minutes just to set the paint.
If you are satisfied with the look you can seal it now. From a post I read on Ginger Davis Allman’s great polymer clay blog, I chose to use DecoArt Matte Varnish. According to Ginger, it would give a ‘dead matte finish’ which I was going for to insure my pieces maintained their ‘earthy’ look and she was right. I love the look!
I didn’t think the piece had enough color on the flowers and leaf at this stage so I used a small DRY paint brush: lightly dipped it in the PanPastel color and dipped the brush into a small dab of the Matte Varnish and used that to ‘paint’ the flowers. Use a new brush for every color to avoid ruining your pastels.
The varnish tries pretty fast and instructions say to let dry to touch between coats, so I did that.
Then I used another clean, flat brush and applied 3 coats of the varnish, letting it dry completely between coats.
I love the look and will play some more with this until time allows. This week’s ceramics class I’ll be making jewelry components and let the experts throw the pots! Happy creating! Claire