Want to combine your love of doodling and jewelry making? Kari McKnight Holbrook has a fun way to do that! Follow her tutorial for creating doodled polymer clay jewelry; this project also appears in our summer 2015 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop.
Doodled Clay Jewelry by Kari McKnight Holbrook
I’m an artist who really enjoys getting my hands dirty. Polymer clay is such a soothing, safe medium to work in, and I love how easily the other necessary supplies are found. When I can use things I already have on hand to create on the spur of the moment, I am ecstatic. It took a bit of experimentation to find the clay/ink/pen combo I liked best, but once I did, this project came together quickly. I could doodle for hours.
- Freezer paper
- Polymer clay (I used Sculpey® Soufflé in Igloo, Concrete, and Poppy Seed.)
- Acrylic clay roller or a section of PVC pipe
- Premo! Metal Cutters (I used circle cutters.)
- Plastic stir sticks, small and hollow
- Cookie sheet
- Aluminum foil
- Parchment paper
- Oven or toaster oven dedicated for polymer clay
- DecoArt® Media Ultra-Matte Varnish
- Water jar, for rinsing paintbrush
- Dip pen(s)
- Acrylic inks (I used Derivan Matisse Pam Carriker Artist Acrylic Inks in Whitewash and Barely Black.)
- Scrap paper
- Jump rings, large
- Jewelry pliers, 2
- Length of chain with larger links (I used a found necklace.)
- E6000® adhesive
- Metal ring blank
- DecoArt® Media Gloss Varnish
Make the clay circles
1. Lay a few fairly large pieces of freezer paper, shiny-side up, on your work surface. Place the clay on the freezer paper, and condition it by kneading it with your hands first, then rolling it out with the clay roller as if you’re rolling out pie dough. (Figure 1)
NOTE: It’s important to never use raw clay on a bare table, as it can damage the finish.
2. Fold the clay over and, starting from the fold, roll it out again. Rolling from the fold prevents air bubbles from getting trapped in the clay. Repeat, conditioning the clay until small cracks on the edges stop appearing while rolling it.
NOTE: Conditioning the clay is a very important step and shouldn’t be skipped, even if the clay seems soft and pliable right out of the package. I had very fresh clay, and I still had to knead it for at least 10 minutes. In addition to softening it, kneading actually strengthens the clay.
3. Roll out the clay to a smooth, 1/8” thickness and use the cutters to cut as many circles out of the clay as you can. (Figure 2) Once I cut the circles, I re-rolled the scraps and cut again, repeating until most of the clay is used.
4. Optional: Press a tiny ball of scrap clay into the bezel of the metal ring form to provide a flat, solid surface on the top. (Figure 3)
5. Select the largest clay circles, and randomly cut smaller circles out of them. Stay away from the edges of the circles in order to maintain the strength of the pieces. Punch a tiny hole close to the edge of the large circles with the sitrrer for attaching the jump rings. (Figure 4)
6. Optional: Cut out smaller circles or form dome shapes from another color of clay to adhere to the larger circles for embellishments. (See opening image.)
7. Line a cookie sheet with foil, and then lay a piece of baking parchment on top of the foil, smoothing out as many wrinkles as possible for a flat, smooth surface.
8. Gently lay the clay circles on the parchment paper, making sure they are flat and not touching or overlapping. If you filled the ring bezel with clay, place the ring form upside down on the parchment paper, so the clay area lies flat on the cookie sheet.
9. Cover the cookie sheet with another sheet of foil, and pinch it together with the bottom layer of foil, making a completely sealed packet. Set the cookie sheet in the oven and bake according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I baked the circles for 30 minutes at 275˚. Allow the clay to cool.
NOTE: By completely sealing the foil packet, I can safely bake in my kitchen oven with very little odor. Always bake at the temperature listed on the clay packaging, so as to not scorch the clay. You can always bake longer, but never at higher temperatures.
Add some doodling
1. Paint the circles with a coat of varnish and let dry. The varnish dries clear and seals the surface of the clay so it takes the ink beautifully. Wash your brush out thoroughly as soon as you are finished with the varnish.
2. Using the dip pen and acrylic ink, doodle all over the surface of the circles. (Figure 5) I have no pre-planned pattern when I doodle, but I enjoy curlicues and lines, so those feature heavily in my pieces. If I feel there are too many straight lines, I try to soften the piece with some organic free-flowing marks for balance.
NOTE: Dip pens, also known as quill or artists’ pens, are a great tool to have in your art arsenal. They may take a little practice, but the different nib sizes give you endless possibilities for stroke weight and line shapes. I don’t dip the metal nib all the way into the ink, only three-quarters of the way up to where the nib fits into the handle. When I dip, I gently scrape any extra drips off on the inside edge of the bottle. I also keep scrap paper nearby and always test the pen on it first after each plunge into the ink.
TIP: In order to avoid smearing the wet ink, I worked one section of the clay circle at a time, moving on to another circle or two, and then going back to complete a section until the whole surface of the circle was filled.
3. Let the circles dry overnight, and then brush them with another coat of varnish. Coat one side, let it dry, and then flip it over and coat the other side. Allow to dry.
NOTE: I prefer a matte finish, but if you like shiny, you can use DecoArt Media Gloss Varnish.
Assemble the necklace
1. Hold a jump ring with the jewelry pliers, one tool in each hand, and twist the pliers in opposite directions to open the jump ring. Thread the open jump ring through the tiny hole in each of your doodled circles. (Figure 6) Repeat for as many jump rings as you have circles.
NOTE: It is important to always twist the jump rings when opening them; never pull them straight apart. If you pull, the jump ring becomes misshapen and will never close properly.
2. Lay the chain on your work surface and position the clay circles where you want them along the chain. When you’re happy with the placement, thread the open jump rings through the links in the chain one at a time and twist the jump rings closed, attaching the circles to the necklace. It takes a bit of time to see how a circle will twist or lay once the jump ring is closed. Make sure you like the way each circle is positioned before going on to the next one.
TIP: If you want a circle to hang a bit lower, add another jump ring or two to lengthen the connection point.
3. Working in a well-ventilated area, use the E6000 adhesive to glue the smaller, solid circles and domes to the larger circles and to the top of the ring, covering the scrap clay.
Kari McKnight Holbrook has a stamp line, writes, teaches, and is an educator for top craft suppliers. Her workshops focus on students’ success, creative techniques, and artistic self-discovery. Kari has five Cloth Paper Scissors Workshops™ DVDs, and is on CraftDaily.com. Kari lives with her husband Mike, who occasionally digs her out of her art stash. Visit her website at backporchartessa.blogspot.com.
Discover another fun way to create doodled jewelry in this blog post with Kristal Wick!