Making Handcrafted Jewelry From Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is a great choice for making unique handcrafted jewelry. You can create beads for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings in any style you with.

Polymer clay is a wonderful material for making unique handcrafted jewelry. The clay is cured (hardened) in your home oven and is very durable. Beads of any size, shape, and color can be crafted from polymer clay. The clay comes in many different colors, or you can mix different ones together to create your own unique shades. There are also several metallic colored clays available that look like metal when cured which is perfect for creating jewelry. You can make any type of jewelry you desire including earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.

Below is the list of supplies you will need to make beads for your handcrafted jewelry from polymer clay. The supplies can be purchased at any arts and crafts store. Please note that polymer clay is not FDA approved for food products. Even though it is safe to handle, any object such as a rolling pin or pasta machine cannot be used with food after it has been used with polymer clay.

1. Polymer clay in colors of your choice

2. Brayer, metal rolling pin, or metal dowel

3. Jewelry wire (for necklaces or bracelets) or earring wire

4. Jewelry clasps for bracelets and necklaces

5. Small needle nosed pliers

6. Long thin sewing needle or toothpick

7. Wet/dry sandpaper, 800 and 1,000 grit

8. Soft cloth for polishing

9. Future floor polish or polymer clay lacquer

10. Small piece of flat Styrofoam

11. Acrylic paint, optional

12. Pasta machine, optional

Any type of bead imaginable can be created with polymer clay. Following are suggestions for different styles of beads to create your handcrafted jewelry. You can also use your imagination and come up with your own designs. The metallic colored polymer clays work well for solid color beads. You can create a piece of jewelry using several different colors of the solid beads. Another option is to make solid color beads then cut them in half or thirds. Putting the beads back together by mixing the colors produces striped beads. You can mix three or more colors of clay together to produce a swirl pattern in the clay for beads. If you prefer you may paint designs on your beads after they are baked with any acrylic paint.

Step One. Prepare your work surface.

You will need a hard non stick surface to roll out the clay. Do not use wood, the clay will stick and leave stains. You can use any hard surface by taping wax paper down first. The clay will not stick to the wax paper and your surface is protected.

Step Two. Warm and condition the polymer clay.

The clay must be warmed and conditioned to make it flexible enough to roll out. You can warm the clay by putting it in your pocket, placing it in the sun, or just holding it in your hands. Warming should take about five minutes or so. Do not warm the clay in a microwave or regular oven. Polymer clay is not meant for microwaves, and a regular oven will harden the clay. When the clay is warm knead it in your hands like dough. Squish it out onto your work surface and roll the brayer (acrylic rolling pin for clay), or which ever rolling tool you choose, over the clay. Turn the clay over and roll again. Fold the clay in half and roll again on both sides. Continue this process numerous times until the clay feels flexible. You may also use a pasta machine to condition the clay. It is not necessary but saves time and labor. Run the clay through the machine starting at the lowest setting. Continue running the clay through the machine, each time at a higher setting until it is flexible.

Step Three. Create your beads.

If you are creating swirl beads mix together the colors you wish to use by slightly twisting them together. Do not over mix or the colors will completely blend together. Break off a small piece of clay to use for your bead. You can make the beads any size you wish or different sizes for the same necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc. If you are making numerous beads and want them the same size you can purchase a small ruler where clay supplies are sold that has differently sized round holes to measure the clay. Another way to consistently make same size beads is to roll the clay into a long snake. Use a regular ruler to make even cuts along the snake. Roll these pieces of clay in your hands to make a round ball. You can make your beads round, oblong, large or small. Roll the ball of clay on your work surface with your hand to smooth the clay and get the exact shape you want. If you are making striped beads put the formed beads into the refrigerator for fifteen minutes after rolling so they will be easier to cut. With a sharp craft knife cut the beads in half or in thirds. Put the beads back together with the different colors making stripes. Gently smooth over the seams with your fingers so they will blend and disappear.



Step Four. Create holes in the beads for stringing.

After the beads are made place them in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes. This keeps the bead from losing its shape when creating the hole. Push the long needle or toothpick using a twisting motion halfway through the bead. Pull it out then push it with a twisting motion through the other side of the bead. This method assures a straight line through the bead so the two sides will meet evenly.

Step Five. Bake the beads.

Follow the instructions on the clay package for baking to cure and harden the clay. Usually polymer clay is baked at 375 F in your oven for thirty minutes for every one-quarter inch of clay thickness. You can use a cookie sheet or pie pan for baking the beads. Put a piece of plain white paper down on the sheet or pan then place the beads on the paper. The paper will not burn at 375 F. This will protect your baking pan from coming in contact with the clay and will prevent any flat shiny spots from forming on the bead. Cover the beads with aluminum foil before baking to prevent burning of the clay.

Step Six. Sand the beads.

The beads need to be sanded to give them a smooth texture. Sanding will also remove any fingerprints that may be left from creating the bead. Wet the sandpaper and gently sand the bead. Since the beads are small they can be difficult to sand. Placing the beads back on a toothpick can make sanding easier. Hold the toothpick in one hand while sanding with the other hand.

Step Seven. Polish the beads.

Polishing the beads with a soft cloth or piece of denim will help them shine. Again place the beads on a toothpick and rub the cloth over the bead vigorously until they appear polished.

Step Eight. Apply a finish to the beads.

If you wish to use acrylic paint on the beads it should be applied before the finish. Make sure the paint is completely dry before applying the finish. You can purchase lacquer made especially for polymer clay. Or you can use Future floor polish, which is a less expensive and an excellent finish for the clay. Pour the finish into a small container. Place the bead back on a toothpick. Dip the bead into the container and remove. Hold the bead over the container until all dripping has stopped. Stick the toothpick into the piece of Styrofoam so the bead can dry without touching anything. The beads can be dipped a second time to produce a glass like finish.

Step Nine. Create your jewelry.

When the beads are completely dry string them on the wire to create your jewelry. You can create a necklace, bracelet, or earrings using only the polymer clay beads. Or store bought beads can be added for accents. Tiny seed beads sold in craft stores make good spacers between the clay beads and come in every color imaginable. To construct your jewelry measure the length of wire you desire for your bracelet or necklace. String the beads on the wire in your desired pattern. To get a uniform pattern for a necklace or bracelet place your center bead on first. Then add beads to each side of the wire in the same order. Leave about an inch of wire at the ends to attach the clasp. Use the needle nose pliers to hook the wire on each end onto the clasp then twist the wire around itself to secure. To make earrings measure and cut the desired length of wire. Make a small knot with the pliers in one end of the wire by curling it upwards so the beads do not slip off. String the beads on the wire then attached the wire with the pliers to the earring base in the same manner as described for the clasp above. Now your unique handcrafted jewelry is ready to be worn and admired.

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