Tips and Tricks for Elevating Your Clay Work

Makers are always seeking growth. This is at the heart of the allure of making! How can we make our work stand out amongst the crowd? How can we make something better the next time we make it?

Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite tips and tricks that will help elevate your clay work! As a jeweler, I will be speaking through the lens of one who predominantly makes earrings. However, these tips can be used in a variety of other clay projects as well.

multi-colored pink dangle earrings made of polymer clay

One of my favorite tips is using cling film! A common kitchen item, it also works wonders for your edges. Once you have conditioned your Sculpey Premo or Sculpey Souffle clay (these are the two clays I prefer for jewelry making) and have your slab prepared to your liking, simply smooth out a sheet of cling film to the surface of your slab. I like to work on a tile so that my clay will stick nicely to the surface and not move while I am doing this.

If you find any bubbles, lift the cling film and smooth out gently with the pads of your fingers. Then use whatever cutters you like to cut out your pieces. The result of cutting clay pieces with cling film on top is a smoother edge. This technique cuts down on sanding time and also gives a nice, rounded profile to your pieces.

This leads to my next tip- sanding. Sanding your clay after it is baked will give you soft edges that are not only more comfortable to wear, but also look cleaner. Please note the difference in the photo below between an unsanded versus a sanded edge.

How much you sand is up to you, and you do not need a heavy grit sandpaper. I like to use a 220 or 320 grit sandpaper. If you do not like sanding by hand, you can use a felt bit in a dremel tool.

You do not need to sand with a heavy hand as the clay is soft, and will easily sand down without too much pressure. Bonus tip- roll a sheet of sandpaper over your raw clay slabs for a nice texture!

Lastly, I would like to discuss one of my favorite texture techniques as adding texture can do wonders for elevating your work. I could write a whole book on texture alone and its ability to transform clay to look like a different material entirely. For example, using a dotting tool can give the clay the effect of looking like hammered metal. Sculpey Tools Essential Tool Kit has one that I often use, as well as the Sculpey Tools Dual End Detail Tools pack.

On a slab of conditioned Sculpey clay- I would recommend using Sculpey Premo in either Antique Bronze of 24K Gold so that it is the color of metal- and press the end of the Dual End Detail Tool repeatedly and close together over the entire surface of the clay. You can then use your slab to create earrings with a surface texture that emulates hammered metal.

These are just a few examples of techniques that I incorporate into my studio practices. Polymer clay is a truly versatile material with infinite possibilities for growth, so have fun and experiment! Happy making!

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