Polymer Clay Jewelry Making Tips from Clay Expert Lisa Pavelka

14 Dec 2011

After over a decade of working in the crafting industry, I can't think of polymer clay without thinking of Lisa Pavelka. She's a polymer clay designer, teacher, author, television personality, and product creator--in short, she knows her stuff! Lisa generously shared some of her top polymer clay tips with Jewelry Making Daily readers several months ago, which I rediscovered recently after digging out my own polymer clay to make some snowflake ornaments. Lisa always says that a great tip is worth the price of admission to a class (which she teaches all over the world). I agree! And these are so good, they bear repeating--whether you're new to polymer clay work or just need a refresher, like I did. Have fun!

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Spinner Ring by Lisa Pavelka  
   

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.

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  Bird Ring 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."

Lisa 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.

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Flower Necklace 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! 

Want to learn more about working with polymer clay and using this fun medium (along with many others, such as resin, wire, gemstones, fibers, and more) to make jewelry? Check out the downloadable individual episodes of Beads, Baubles and Jewels, the popular jewelry-making television show--perfectly packaged so you can pick the episodes with techniques you want to learn!


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Comments

on 14 Dec 2011 8:52 AM

Thanks Tammy!  This is timely since I just dabbled in polymer clay yesterday after about a year's hiatus.  I had to laugh at the Light to Dark tip - I did indeed start with conditioning the brown one!  I have to say though, this was because it was the first one I happened to pull out of my bra.  (Another hilarious tip I just learned from Marilyn Davenport on how to warm your clay before conditioning it in the pasta machine!)  Great post!

TammyJones wrote
on 14 Dec 2011 9:57 AM

LOL Thanks Gail! I had to read that twice before I realized it's really what you meant. That's a great one!