First, Why I Made This Tutorial
Hi, I’m the artist, Karen A. Scofield, and I live in Kenosha, WI. I made this tutorial after finding thousands of Pinterest pins that showed my goddess pendants, the ones shown above against a blue background. These pins linked to a page (not mine) that used my photo and inferred these can be made from homemade cornstarch and baking soda clay. That’s misleading on several counts. Also, my photos are copyrighted, they didn’t have permission to use them, and they did not respond to my request for them to take my photo off their page. Urgh!
My Youtube Video After the Pinterest Discovery: http://youtu.be/Md9Y_o0jM2g
My above beads with the blue background shown above are on my sari0009 flickr (December 11, 2008) account and appear in the blurb book Polymer Artists Showcase, by Tejae Floyde. (Tejae Floyde has a wonderful site and blog and has her work published in numerous magazines and books.) My goddess pendants are 2″ tall and for finished jewelry, I use artist grade polymer (more on that in a moment). Their surfaces were colored with mica powders, then sealed.
Karen A. Scofield’s Polymer Clay Goddess Tutorial
Note: This tutorial assumes that you have some basic knowledge of polymer clay but for those that don’t, includes necessary information and links to assist, inform, or inspire. More experienced polymer clayers may follow along by reading only the bolded font description in each step.
Level: Intermediate to Advanced, Not Suitable for Children. However, beginners can usually manage if focused and determined.
This is an intermediate to advanced project and is not suitable for children. It involves raw plasticizers, an X-Acto Knife, sharp or pointy clay tools, mica powders you don’t want to breathe in, wearing a mask, a higher level of attentiveness, baking, sealing, and clean-up. The constant mindfulness present while successfully creating something like this while avoiding rips and distortions is probably a good example of why artists and other creatives tend to have more gray matter. I’d say this is a tutorial for adults and perhaps some more mature but still supervised teens that have very good hand-eye coordination.
Note: Read the directions first. Work on a clay mat or other protective surface. After your project or before any breaks, clean off everything you touched with baby wipes that have some rubbing alcohol in them. Raw plasticizers in uncured polymer clay can melt or mar furniture finish, the markings on some oven dials, etc. I once “melted” off all the temperature markings on a toaster oven dial because I didn’t wipe things down.
Time: 1. Hands-on time for unsealed pendants is probably one to several hours if you include baking time. 2. Actual time from start to finish will be an hour or two or even a week for sealed pendants, depending on how you seal your beads. To clarify, polymer clay does not need to be sealed but mica powders like Pearl Ex do if they are going to experience any wear, otherwise they rub off. Resource “Do You Have to Seal Polymer Clay?” covers your basic options.
1. Make a paper template the size you wish your finished pendant(s) to be. Mine were around 2”. You may have your own preferences. You may draw your own goddess or print a copyfree version found online. You can use Irfanview or other photo manipulation to shrink goddess shapes to size. https://download.cnet.com/IrfanView/
If drawing freehand, fold paper in half, draw one half of the goddess, cut it out, and lay the template flat for a symmetrical goddess template, if that’s your preference. Or you can use asymmetry to suggest motion. 1 to 3 inches long is a common size range. I use small, curved craft scissors or cuticle scissors to cut the paper.
Put templates safely aside for a moment.
- Even with care, the connected “arms” in a design like this will lengthen slightly as you cut and then smooth the clay arms, creating just a little more space around the head. This is why you don’t want a design that starts with much longer arms, unless that’s the look you really want.
- Instead of an inside cutout shape to define arms, another option is to indent the clay between head and arms. A ball stylus can work nicely for that.
- Another option is to use a toothpick, back of an X-Acto blade, or other tool to draw rays around the head, between head and arms.
- You think of your own design options and/or get ideas from looking at clay goddess pendant pinterest boards like https://pin.it/3cgzc2gg3f6b2d Enjoy! There are some tutorials there too.
2. Choose your clay. Premo is my favorite but suitable polymer clays include Premo, Pardo Jewellry Clay, and Fimo Professional Clay. In the US, you can probably find Premo or Fimo Clasic in craft stores like Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store. You’d probably have to order Pardo Jewellry Clay or Fimo Professional from an online source. If you have darker scrap clay, really dark, made from artist grade polymer clays like these, you might be able to use that if dressing it up with mica powder.
A Few Notes on Temperature and Polymer Clay — Polymer clays can partially cure if they get over 90 degrees. Store polymer clay in a cool, dark, dry place or buy them just before use. Never leave raw polymer clay in a hot vehicle or sunny windowsill. On a sunny day that’s 80 to 100°F, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can reach 100 to 172°F. Try to avoid ordering your polymer clays during the summer heat since heat can partially cure your clay or make it much harder to condition.
3. Create a dedicated, clean work area. Why work over clay friendly mat, ceramic/marble tile, a clean sheet of glass, or waxed paper? You don’t want to get the raw clay residue on your furniture or rug, etc. The raw residue within uncured polymer clay has plasticizers in it, so it can chemically alter the finish on some furniture and other surfaces.
4. Set up. You will need:
- Baby wipes (add just a bit of the rubbing alcohol to them if they don’t contain alcohol)
- 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- Face mask
- Claying tools and/or appropriately sized metal knitting needles
- Note: You could do the smoothing and assist design with a toothpick, a knitting needle, or an embossing stylus tool (ball stylus) but a few other tools can come in handy.
- X-acto knife or other thin-bladed sharp knife. Or the tip of a sharp paring knife may suffice.
- Acrylic or marble rolling pin to roll clay out with a smooth, even surface. The side of a food container or bottle might suffice if flat sided enough.
- Rubber stamps and/or homemade stamps that you can make with scrap clay or pencil erasers – Optional
- Mica powder (Pearl Ex is a popular brand for use on polymer clay) or shimmery powder eyeshadow — Optional
- Small dedicated cosmetic brush for applying the mica powder – Optional because you can also apply it with a finger and because you may choose not use any powders for surface treatment. If do choose to use a brush, you should keep it for polymer clay work only. That’s what dedicated means in this context.
- Small dedicated cutting surface (the one I use is only used for polymer clay work). You could also work on a glossy ceramic tile or a flat side of a milk jug or something,as long as it’s thick enough. There are also cutting mats you can often find at dollar stores.
- An oven-safe container with lid. Terra cotta saucers, oven pans, or disposable aluminum baking pans (a favorite to many) of the same size that can safely clamshell, one covering the other. Or any suitable enclosed oven pan. Or even a plain metal tin with lid. Save this baking container for polymer clay baking only. Hint: 2 binder clips of suitable size can help hold clam-shelled pans together.
- Water based Varathane — Water Based Varathane Diamond Polyurethane Interior is what older cans said. Newer cans are labeled Varathane Polyurethane Heavy Use Formula Interior Water Based Crystal Clear (Gloss Formula). The gloss formula manufacturer’s number is 20041H and UPC code is is 026748200045. I found mine at Menards. Home Depot and Blain’s Farm & Fleet also sell it. Or you can use Pearl Ex Varnish but you’ll have to order that online. Optional: You only have to seal polymer clay if you use certain surface treatments like mica powders or powdered eyeshadow.
- If you don’t already have a magnifying lamp, you might consider getting one but it’s not mandatory. – Optional.
5. Wash your hands and mind what you wear. Wash your hands thoroughly, dry them, and make sure you’re not wearing clothes that shed fibers (a fluffy bathrobe or sweater, for example). Avoid working near the dryer (lint will end up in your clay) or other things that create dust or shed fibers/hair. Polymer clay is tacky by nature is like a lint, dust, and fiber magnet.
Tip: Rub your hands and work surface with dedicated scrap clay to pick up any last fibers or hair you’d swear weren’t there. This should always be your final step before working the clay. You can use this dedicated scrap clay over and over again for this purpose.
6. Condition your polymer clay. Take out enough polymer clay to roll out and cut a few beads. A 2 oz. block or two might be more than enough, depending on how much you want to make. You’ll probably roll it out to about 5 mm or 1/4 inch thick or so. You condition it by smushing it and rolling it in your hands until it’s pliable.
- Conditioning How-to Page: http://www.polypediaonline.com/133688/Polymer-Clay-Conditioning
- Conditioning Resource: http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/Conditioning.htm
- Conditioning Video: http://youtu.be/8a_q2M4KKt0
7. Roll out your polymer clay. You can roll it out to about 5 mm to about 1/4″ thick. If you make it too thick, it may be more difficult to cut without distortion. I sometimes use a heavy marble rolling pin for my polymer clay because it makes the job easier but I also use acrylic ones. As you roll, turn and flip the clay to create a smooth, uniform thickness.
8. Lay out the template(s) and cut. You will not cut through at once. That creates too much distortion. Go around at first with a straight up and down, tentative cutting line, while making sure not cut, shift, or push the template into the clay. Go around several more times, again cutting straight up and down, as opposed to cutting sideways at a slant. Cut the outer outline first, starting from the top of the figure to the bottom. Once the outer cutting is done, use the same cutting technique to make any inside cuts, like around the head and inside of the arms. You may have to help the inside cuts along with curved cuticle scissors or fine, curved craft scissors. Just keep in mind not to rip, slice through, or distort the bead. This is not a job for the heavy-handed.
Tip: Instead of lifting the goddess shape from the rest of the clay after cutting, lift the rest of the clay away from the goddess. Your pendant will distort less that way, providing you cut through all the way.
9. Smooth the cut edges while keeping the goddess stuck to the cutting board. Personally, I find it useful to work under a magnifying lamp at this point, much of the time. You will use your fingers and tools to round your cut edges. Maintain a light-handed touch and hold the clay in such a way that you avoid too much distortion.
You may bend your figure a touch as you work on it, so periodically take out the template and line your clay up with it.
Smooth your inner edges too, if applicable to your design. As you work, repeatedly check your template against your work and adjust your clay figure as needed. It may help to look at your clay goddess in a mirror check to check for asymmetry or errors.
10. Stamp. You can create your own polymer clay stamps or use commercial ones. A popular stamp for Goddess bead designs is the simple spiral. You can use molds that indent designs or that create raised ones. Expect to smooth out any unwanted ridges the edge of the stamp might create and touch things up.
If using commercial stamps, check to see if you can make derivative works if you plan to sell the resulting beads.
Stamp and Texture Sheet Resources:
- Resource on Stamps and Texture Sheets: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/techniques/stampstexturesheets.aspx
- Video on Making a Polymer Clay Stamp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOo0nBpLPdw
- Search for “Polymer Clay Stamps” on Pinterest or check out Pinterest boards like this one: https://www.pinterest.com/donnadecicco/make-molds-clay-tools-texture-sheets/.
Optional: Bead Holes. Chill your beads in the freezer for 15 minutes and gently use a sewing needle, pin, or bead hole wires made for polymer clay to create your bead holes. Run your bead hole tool into the hole from both directions while avoiding bead distortions. Or create a larger bead hole with a skinny enough juice box/bag straw.
11. Add breasts if you want. Create two equal sized balls and lightly press onto the body of the bead without distorting them but press hard enough that the breasts stay attached and smooth clay toward the top of each breast. Breasts are sometimes best added after stamping but can often be added before you stamp on a design. Just be careful not to smush them when stamping on the design if you add a bosom first.
12. Mica powder (optional). Wear a face mask to avoid breathing in the mica powders. Personally, I find it best to work under a standing magnifying lamp at this point. You can apply mica powders to small, itty bitty stamped designs with the head and side of a simple flat head sewing pin. Dip the pin lightly in the mica powder, perhaps lightly tap off the excess, and apply (rub it onto the clay) while avoiding dropping clumps of mica powder onto the clay. For coating the rest of the bead’s surface with Pearl Ex mica powder, use a small, dedicated cosmetic brush, one small enough and soft enough for the task. I often will get the mica powder off the inside of the mic powder lid and then apply it to the bead, perhaps occasionally adding a tiny bit to the lid in order to reload the brush. Lightly but thoroughly brush it on your bead. You will not want the brush so loaded with mica powder that it’s coming off all over the place as you apply it to the bead. You want to load it with just enough in order to gently apply it to the surface. Easy does it. A little goes a long way.
13. Now that your bead is coated with the mica powders, place it on it’s final baking surface, wipe your hands with a wet wipe containing a bit of rubbing alcohol, and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Check your bead alignment and arm placement against the template last time before baking.
Many people bake on a glossy ceramic tile placed inside clamshelled disposable aluminum cooking pans held shut with metal bull dog clips. (Personally, I used two terra cotta saucers of the same size and invert one over the other to create an enclosed baking container.)
14. Follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for baking the clay. You’ll have to know how thick the thickest part of the bead is and what temperature the package says to bake the clay at — these will tell you have long and how hot to bake your bead . You will use an independent oven thermometer or two; Sculpey sells them for clayers. Oven temps, either regular ovens or toaster ovens, spike from time to time during the baking cycle. Baking in enlcosed baking containers helps avoid burning that can occur during the temperature spikes.
15. Let the bead cool down in your baking pan before handling the bead. This so you don’t burn yourself or mar the clay with a fingernail. Clays are often softer when hot out of the oven than they are after they’ve cooled. It’s normal for polymer clay to be a little bendy when warm out of the oven, by the way.
16. Seal — Brush on thin layers, or dip (sealing bare clay is optional if you didn’t use mica powders). Why seal? If you don’t seal a bead coated with mica powders, it will dull and the mica powders may wear of on your skin and clothes. Varathane is low odor, cleans up with soap and water, is sold at some hardware stores or online, and is pretty durable. To prepare, you will stir the Varathane slowly, let it settle for an hour or so with the lid on, then put some in a smaller container that has a good lid. Leave enough space because you’re going to thin it a bit with water. Stir slowly and carefully to avoid air bubbles. Apply the Varathane, let it dry a couple of days, apply again, let dry, apply again, let dry. It’s better to do several thin coats than one or two thick ones. Read the label for drying times. Avoid build up of the Varathane at the bottom of the bead but don’t scrape the bead while getting excess off. Some people scrape off the varathane without actually touching the bead and some spin the bead (without dropping it) to get the excess off. Refer to the dipping tutorial and other Varathane pages, below, if you have any questions. You may find it easier to brush it on rather an dip, just be careful to work on a mixed media sheet that wipes clean easily or a glossy, light colored or white, ceramic tile (you can wipe and/or scrape it clean with a razor blade).
Varathane is sometimes chosen because it bonds best with the polymer clay and works very well with the mica powders. It’ll be water-resistant but not waterproof. If your bead design doesn’t have bead holes, you can hang the bead by a thread and dip. The thread can be carefully cut away once the bead is completely dry — cut the thread flush with the bead’s surface without knicking the finish. You can hang your bead(s) to dry with the same thread. If you have bead hole, you can put a beading wire, thread or perhaps even a toothpick through and dip. I used a tie rack to hang my beads to dry because that’s what I had.
Varathane (Sealant) Resources:
- Varathane and Polymer Clay: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/materials/finishes/varathane.aspx
- Varathane — The Best Polymer Clay Sealer: http://thebluebottletree.com/varathane-best-polymer-clay-sealer/
- Do You Have to Seal Polymer Clay? — http://thebluebottletree.com/seal-polymer-clay/ — this site talks about the range of sealers, what to avoid, what’s possibly suitable.
- Tutorial on Dipping in Varathane: http://melobeau.blogspot.com/2014/03/tute-varnishing-polymer-clay-with.html
Resource FYI: About Spray Sealants on Polymer Clay
Finished! — It’s not the best picture as it was taken at night. I usually photograph my beads in natiral daylight on sunny days when it’s not too early or too late (yet almost never between mid morning and early afternoon). I was going to keep the bead all blue, but I decided to color the raised stamped areas with Viva Decor Precious Metal Color after the bead was baked . That’s another alternative.
Optional — Making Your Own Molds: If you have the materials and know-how, or can youtube how-tos, making your original pendant molds saves you a lot of work if you wish to make multiples. I usually use two-part silicone Amazing Mold Putty. Amazing Mold putty makes it easy to get even more dimensional pendants out of your molds. In the US, Amazing Mold Putty is found in many craft stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and I always use a coupon.
If you intend to use your molds for both polymer clays and resin pendants, check this link on Amazing Mold vs. Easy Mold. I let my mold sit for a day before using resin in it, wash it with warm soap and water, and let it air dry before use. Tip: The smoother your pendant that you mold, the glossier the resin is if you cast one in resin using your mold, and it’ll release from the mold more easily. My favorite casting resin is ICE Resin, if it’s not old. Older Ice Resin yellows in the bottle. Art Resin is an option for thinner beads like this and yellows the least. I think ICE resin is harder though?
(With commercial molds, check if you can use them to make derivative works if you’re selling the pendants.)
Jewelry Design Considerations
Today, I created a bead that I will attach to a necklace using a jewelry bail. That’s why this one didn’t need bead holes. If your bead and jewelry design called for bead holes, then you have to decide which direction the bead hole(s) will run. Bead holes can be added before or after baking. You can use a small juice box straw or a needle to create a bead hole, just make sure the hole is wide enough for any cords or findings used.
Jan. 15, 2015 Update…Possibilities
This time I used molds I made based on prototypes I made using the above method. They were coated with Aztec Gold Pearl Ex mica powder, except for one blue bead. I will yet add colored resin with glitter/mica inclusion and other touches, including finally sealing them in water based Varathane Interior, gloss. In the stars, such as in the bead on the right, below, I could use different chakra colors — or whatever else strikes my fancy.