Ivana is a passionate crafter who has just recently started making jewellery from clay. She shares her experience, mistakes and victories.
How to Get Started Making Clay Jewellery at Home
Before I began making jewellery from clay, I expressed my creativity by making fondant cakes for my kids and family. Making those cakes felt great, but seeing how quickly my work was destroyed felt, well—not so great. (Even though cakes are made to be eaten, of course!)
My father, who was making crafts from homemade cold porcelain, suggested I try channeling my creativity into something I could actually keep, and so the idea of clay jewellery was born. Obviously, I did not know anything about clay or cold porcelain, so I started out like any other self-taught crafter would: on the internet.
There were so many questions and a lot of mistakes and do-overs, but finally, I found the perfect method. I have to say that what I am about to share with you in this article may not be the best method, and some of you will disagree with it, but this is just my experience, so please take it as such.
What Do You Need to Do to Make Clay Jewellery?
- Decide on the material you'll use and buy it.
- Get the tools you need.
- Make a workspace.
Which Clay Should You Use for Making Jewellery?
There are many types of materials you can use to make jewellery, but I'll share some of my experience with the three types I used.
1. Homemade Cold Porcelain
My first trial was with homemade cold porcelain. This is a type of mass cooked at home from wood glue (PVA glue), corn flower and glycerol. When you cook this mass it is white, very soft and gummy. It also air-dries quickly, so you can't leave it out for too long.
What I Don't Like
For me, this cold porcelain mass did not work very well, so I won't go into details about how to cook the mass and use it. The main reason it wasn't good for me was that it cracked while I was trying to thin it out. After it dried, it was rather sensitive to breaking, and I decided it was not the best option for jewellery-making, especially if you try to make tiny flowers or decorations—those were practically impossible.
What I Do Like
I found some YouTube videos of beautiful jewellery made from cold porcelain, but I suppose those are made from some other ingredients as well. In the end, I soon found a new material that worked great, so I didn't investigate the subject of cold porcelain much further.
If you have some tips or a good experience with this material, please share with me in the comments section!
2. Microwaveable FIMO Clay
I tried microwaveable FIMO clay for some of my work, but in the end, it was not the best choice.
What I Don't Like
The material itself is a little bit drier and less elastic than standard FIMO clay. If you wish to make very thin pieces with it, it could crack, which means it is also not the best solution for small, tiny decorations or some swirly things. However, for pieces that are a bit more solid, it's a good material. I only use this clay when making larger pieces.
What I Do Like
On a positive note, this material can be microwave-dried—this is a huge timesaver! After you make your piece, place it on a microwaveable plate or in a microwaveable bowl with a glass of water. This water will evaporate while the piece is drying. You can also place your piece in a bowl full of water. This way, your clay will be cooked and not baked, but the final result is the same.
I made earrings from microwaveable FIMO clay very successfully with a decoupage technique. Probably the best thing about this clay is its weight—I was very surprised how light it was after drying. You can hardly feel earrings made from this clay!
3. FIMO Oven-Baked Clay
For me, this FIMO professional clay is the ultimate material to work with. You can purchase it in small blocks—the size of a block is approximately 5.5 cm x 5.5 cm. The blocks are quite hard when you take them out of the foil, but you can put them in the microwave for a couple of seconds and then they will be softer to work with.
Why I Prefer This Material
This material hardly ever glues onto the table or whatever surface you're working on. It is very elastic and easy to form, and you can make all sorts of decorations with it. I have even tried to thin out the material in a pasta machine and cut it into small noodle-type shapes. It all works! There are also many colours you can choose from, and you can make beautiful marbled designs by mixing two colours together.
When you are finished with your piece, you need to place it on a small tile and put it into your kitchen oven at 110°C/230°F for a maximum of 30 minutes. After it is baked, you just take it out of the oven and leave it for couple of minutes to cool off. You can then continue to sand off the edges and finalize your product!
4. FIMO Leather Effect Clay
Just recently I discovered FIMO clay with leather effect and it made me so happy.
What I Like
This clay is like FIMO soft, but when you roll it and bake it, it has a leather-like finish. The best part is that it is so flexible, so you can actually cut it after you bake it and even sew it by hand or with a sewing machine.
I used the turquoise color to make the earrings below and was quite happy with the result.
How to Air Dry Clay
What Tools Do You Need to Make Clay Jewellery?
You can actually find a lot of these tools in your kitchen, so it's not necessary to break the bank before you even start working. Here are some essential tools you will need.
You can use a roller or something similar to help you thin the clay. A roller with a delimiter on the edges is particularly helpful, because it ensures that the clay will be evenly thin when you roll it out. I use something initially intended for pumping cream on a cake and it works fine, but I also found some rollers for fondant that do the trick.
Also, a pasta machine is perfect for color mixing because you can take two colors of clay and just run them through a pasta machine rollers couple of times and colours blend perfectly.
2. Moulds for Cutting Shapes
Unless you would like to make all irregular shapes for your jewellery, you will need some moulds for cutting shapes. I use some standard small, round moulds for cakes and I also make some moulds myself from thin aluminium. You can also find some handy tools in your kitchen that could do the job.
3. Tiles for Baking
If you use oven-baked clay, you need to place the piece on a ceramic tile before you put it in the oven. Everyone has at least one tile lying around in the garage or in a shed, right?
4. Thin Plate or Smoother
A thin plate or something similar can help you take the clay off the table or surface you're working on. I use a small aluminium smoother I found in our garage. It's not pretty, but it does a good job. It's important that whatever you use is thin enough and bends easily.
You can also try using baking paper and roll your clay on it. Don't take it off the paper—bake while it's stuck to it, so after baking you will have less sanding to do.
5. Scalpel or Thin Blade
A scalpel or some similar blade will enable you to make small incisions and to cut off pieces you do not need.
6. Nail File or Sanding Paper
This is used to grind down the edges after your clay is all baked. The best thing about oven-baked clay is that you can cut the shape directly on your tile and not worry too much about the excess material or uneven shape. You can make it all better after smoothing the edges with the same standard nail file we all have in our bathroom.
If you would like your piece to be as smooth and shiny as possible, use sanding paper in different grits. I start with a 400 grit and sand off a basic shape. Then I move to 600, 800, 1000 and finish with a 2000 grit. This will leave your piece nice and smooth. If you will not varnish your piece, you can try to buff it up a little with a polishing buffer.
Make a Workspace You Can Call Your Own
It is very important to have a workplace when you are doing any crafting or artwork. It does not have to be anything special or expensive, but it is important to have a table where you can place all your tools and materials without needing to put it all away each time you're finished with work.
Personally, I took a desk that was not in use and placed it in our bedroom. Each time I sit at this desk, my creative energy bursts in. It's like my brain knows that when I'm there, it's time to do its magic!
Finally, I have to mention—don’t be too hard on yourself! I made many less-successful pieces when I was first starting out. This is a creative hobby, but it can be challenging on your nerves!
Ideas for Organizing Your Workspace
Questions & Answers
Question: Can we use polymer clay for jewelry making? Can polymer clay be dried using an oven?
Answer: Yes, personally I use polymer clay - Fimo, most of the time. It is baked in an oven for half an hour at 110 C.
If you found my article useful, please share it or comment. I would love to hear some tips and tricks of your own!
MARIA COSTTASILVA on August 04, 2020:
Glad to be here.
Sharvari, I think you should try to know the texture of your piece (for instance: - Jewelry) and regulate oven time accordingly. Yes, I use a small oven.
I have been working with FIMO and Polymer clay for less than a year, and my pieces are not breaking anymore.
Ivana Balić (author) from Croatia on June 21, 2020:
Hi, no that is perfectly normal. Polymer clay is elastic and not 100% hard after bake. If you put too much pressure yes it will brake. If you apply a rasin coat over it it will be a little harder but still possible to brake, specially if very thin.
Sharvari on June 21, 2020:
Hey, so I have trying to make Jewellry using polymer clay and bake it as shown in the instructions. But it’s brittle as not as hard stone. If I bend the piece with some pressure it breaks. Is it how it’s supposed to be? Or I’m doing something wrong?