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Homemade Jewelry: Your Personal Touch

Apr 9, 2008
Interesting jewelery can be made from ceramics, and the instructions below will get you started on a lapel pin.

A special clay, a fine-textured white clay with a high flint content which intensifies the glaze colors is best for the purpose of jewelery making. Either gray or terra cotta pottery clay may be used. For jewelry, the gray clay will be more attractive if covered with colored clay slips and a transparent glaze, or if covered with opaque glazes. The terra cotta clay may be partially covered with colored clay slips, fired once and left unglazed, or painted with transparent glaze.

Jewelry should be fired to Cone 06,1800 F., in the first firing; the glaze firing need not be as high. Lower temperature (such as Cone 015,1430 F.) glazes, with an alkaline or boracic base over the special clay for jewelery, will give brilliant clear colors (including red) particularly desirable and suitable for small objects. It will be necessary for you to experiment at first, as your results will depend on the clay in use, the slip colors available, the results desired, and whether you have a test kiln or must send the pieces to be fired elsewhere.

When the jewelry is completed, fired, and maybe glazed, metal or plastic pin-backs or clips, must be attached to the backs of the pieces with duco or other cement. They can be obtained from jewelry and ceramic supply houses.


Materials - 2 lbs. jewelry clay; glazes; findings
Tools - plaster bat 4" x 4"; wood tools; wire tools; pointed tool

Make several designs for a pin about 2" in the largest dimension. Try a geometric design, using overlapping rectangles, a triangle and square, a circle and triangle, or any other combination of shapes. Wedge the clay thoroughly in your fingers.

Each time clay is used - before beginning any project, or when resuming work if a piece is put away before completion - the clay must be wedged. The purpose of wedging is to remove all air pockets and holes which would cause a piece to explode in the firing; to eliminate foreign matter such as nails, cloth, and leaves; and to secure an even consistency. Never use unwedged clay.

The clay is patted or rolled into a flat rectangular mass, cut in two with a wire or knife, and the two pieces slammed together on the table with the cut edges facing in opposite directions. It is then rolled and kneaded like dough, patted into a rectangular mass, cut in two, and slammed together with the cut ends facing in opposite directions. This operation is repeated about twenty times. If you have a wedging table, the clay is cut in two by pushing it against the wire.

Now pat a piece of clay on a plaster bat to about 2" square and 1/8" thick. Draw your design on it. Model your design, making one unit higher by adding extra clay, and the other slightly lower by adding less clay or cutting into the background. Use your tools to smooth and shape surfaces and edges. Round off the edges.

You can put a texture on the background by stippling it with the pointed end of a tool. When leather hard, paint the two units of the design in different colored clay slips. When dry, fire in a test kiln to 1800 F., or have it fired. Paint the pin with a transparent glaze and fire a second time. All clay shrinks in drying; in jewelry allow about 10% for shrinkage.

Make a second lapel pin using an animal form. A horse head, a fish or a bird form, will make an interesting pin. Model in very low relief, using only shallow planes or incised lines about 1/4" deep. Do not attempt to be realistic, but keep a feeling for decorative treatment. Eliminate details and work for a flat linear or plane design. When dry, fire in a test kiln to 1800 F., or have it fired. Apply one or more opaque glaze colors, any combination that suits you, and fire again.
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