I love the versatility of polymer clay. If you blend the right colors in the right ways, clay can “be” wood, leather, gemstones, paper, pebbles, glass, fabric, and more. Clay can mimic supplies that aren’t always readily available or suitable for art and jewelry, like flowers, leaves, and wings. Polymer clay provides a lightweight substitute for supplies like metal, rocks, or wood. Plus, it’s more affordable than almost everything it can be made to resemble.
Polymer clay artists like Christi Friesen have perfected ways to make this versatile material look great as an art supply on its own, as well as looking like something it’s not. By using canes, blends, embeddables, surface enhancements (shimmer powders and inks), textures, and other methods, clay becomes a base onto which your limitless creativity can grow.
But first, you need the basics of working with polymer clay.
Polymer Clay Basics: Tools, Supplies, Techniques
Christi’s mini workshop, Polymer Clay Jewelry: Design Basics, will familiarize you with polymer clay techniques, tools, and supplies. Like most materials, clay has its own tools with particular uses. Christi covers the tools and extra supplies (like the shimmery powders I love!) you can use with clay. But you can also use tools you probably already have around the house.
Another fun versatility feature about clay is that you can dig around your studio or through your kitchen drawers to find “tools” to use with it. Some clay workers use pasta machines to roll out perfect sheets of clay from which to cut shapes, maybe using cookie cutters? I’ve used a meat tenderizer, whisk, tea ball, linen hand towel, salt and herbs to create textures on clay. And that’s just from the kitchen! But I digress…
Tools and materials covered, Christi eases students into working with polymer clay by learning how to condition it, blend it, bake it, and store it. These basic clay building blocks apply to all other polymer clay work, too, so you’re off to a great start! Then you’ll put together all you’ve learned with a simple but versatile (again!) beginner project: leaves.
Making Polymer Clay Leaves: Earrings and Beyond
The eight-part, 22-minute video in Christi’s course shows how to make polymer clay leaves for earrings—but don’t let that limit you! You can use your leaves as earrings (Christi shows how to add findings to complete the project). Or use them in other jewelry, on ornaments, to decorate a handmade book or bookmark, to enliven a tree sculpture, as added dimension to a collage, as a resting spot for any creature you can create. There are truly no limits.
Beyond Basics: Polymer Clay Beads and Charms
Once the basics are in your creative toolbox, you can create “charming charms or beautiful beads” in her next online workshop, Polymer Clay Jewelry: Learn 10 Beads and Charms. But again—don’t let the idea of beads and charms limit your imagination. There’s no end to the ways you’ll be able to use what you make.
Beads can become tassels, hearts can become bookmark embellishments. And just like above, there’s a long list of ways to use these creations in your mixed-media projects. I’ve seen artists create long polymer clay “beads” and then cut them in half, using each half on a hair barrette or as handles on just about anything. String large clay beads into purse handles or straps. Cut clay hearts in half to embellish books or Valentine cards. See where I’m going here? Way beyond beads and charms!
Polymer Clay Online Workshops
Christi’s workshops also feature discussion boards so you can talk to fellow students, a gallery of her inspiring work, and quizzes just for fun to help ensure you get the most out of each lesson. Each tutorial shown in video has a downloadable project sheet with images and written steps to help you learn. There’s also a downloadable materials list, tip sheet, and findings fact sheet to help you turn clay creations into jewelry. These workshops are packed with information to help you succeed and have fun!
Christi Friesen is a real pro! She knows her stuff, but she also knows how to teach it in a way that every student can learn. Her polymer clay techniques look effortless but she ensures they’re very clear to the student.
Christi is an award-winning artist who specializes in polymer clay. But not just polymer clay: Christi’s creations are embellished with beads, fibers, gems, metal, sparkly powders and more. Christi has written 11 books on working with polymer clay and has her own line of clay tools and supplies. Her popular online Creative Neighborhood is just one of the ways she connects with students and fans all over the world.
Can’t travel to one of Christi’s exotic class locations? We’ve brought her expertise to you! Learn along with Christi in the next best thing: her online workshops, Polymer Clay Jewelry: Design Basics and Polymer Clay Jewelry: Learn 10 Beads and Charms. Learn more about Christi at ChristiFriesen.com.
–Tammy Jones, Web Producer and Social Media Manager, Interweave Jewelry