Using Iced Enamels with Polymer Clay

Polymer clay and Iced Enamels

Supplies for my experiment: Premo polymer clay and Iced Enamels liquid medium and powders.

What happens when you mix Iced Enamels Relique Powders with polymer clay? I was curious so I did a little experiment.

Last month I needed to make some “resin and enamel” jewelry for a design challenge. I don’t own a torch, so I sort of cheated on the enamel part and used Iced Enamels. Iced Enamels are powders that you combine with a proprietary medium and cure with a heat gun. Then you seal them under a layer of resin (Ice Resin, by the same manufacturer, of course).

They were designed to use on metals, but I decided to try them on some baked polymer clay. Curing the powders on some already baked beads worked about the same as on metal. But then I went off script and didn’t use resin to seal them. I used Liquid PolyClay Clear Medium.  Because resin takes forever to cure. And I am impatient. And I also had a submission deadline.

I also didn’t want to turn on the oven and heat up the entire studio (aka my kitchen/dining room) for just two beads. So, I cured the Liquid PolyClay with my heat gun. The beads looked awesome. But as I was wiring them to the earrings, some of the Iced Enamel-Liquid Polyclay coating scratched off. I suspected curing them in the oven would have made them more durable.

Earrings with Iced Enamels components

These are the earrings I made for the challenge. The round purple beads on top are polymer clay coated with Iced Enamels and sealed with Liquid PolyClay. The rectangular dangles are brass on which I used the Iced Enamels and Iced Resin.

I also wondered what would happen to the Iced Enamels in the oven. Would they get even more bubbly than they did when I got too close with the heat gun? (In hindsight, probably not. Because the heat gun can get the clay much hotter than the oven cure temperature I use for the polymer clay.)

I put the wonder aside, planning to conduct some tests in the fall when it wasn’t too hot to have the oven on. And then, as luck would have it, we had a string of unseasonably lovely days the following week. The high temperatures were in the 60s (Fahrenheit) and there was a light breezy rain. This is indeed lovely weather for June in the mid-Atlantic, where daily highs are routinely upper 80s to 90s.

Anyway, weather commentary aside, I decided to take advantage of the cooler indoor temperatures brought on by the brief cold front to conduct a little experiment. I mixed some of the Iced Enamels powders into some polymer clay and baked it. I also popped those cheater beads in with the testers.

How much powder did I add to the clay? Where’s the picture of the mixing happening? About a pinch per quarter block. And, I figured you know what it looks like when you mix stuff into clay. Besides, this isn’t a tutorial so I didn’t think step-by-step photos were in order. Plus, I was doing this in the evening, after a full day of work at my desk job. In between having fed the cats and cooking my own dinner.

Beads before baking

I did manage to take a photo of the raw tester beads before they went into the oven. You can see how the Amethyst Relique Powder gave the translucent clay a nice lavender tint. In white clay, it’s just purple speckles.

After mixing the powder (I used Ivory and Amethyst Reliques) into the clay (I used translucent and white Premo) I shaped some test beads and chips (chips = pieces of clay rolled on thickest setting) and baked them at 275 F in a covered aluminum pan.

I checked on them at 15 minutes, hoping to find some powder bubbling on the surface. No such luck. This was when I started thinking I wasn’t likely to get bubbles because the oven wasn’t as hot as the heat gun. But I let them bake for another 45 minutes anyway. (I routinely cure everything, regardless of thickness, for an hour.)

When the testers came out of the oven, they looked like any other polymer clay into which I had mixed a powdery substance, including dried spices, fine glitter, mica, chalk, and embossing powder. In other words, they affected the color of the clay, but nothing else happened.

Baked beads and powders

The beads after baking, next to their respective Iced Enamels Relique Powders. There was no bubbling and they don’t look at all glassy. The white clay looks speckled and the translucent clay is tinted with speckles. The larger bits in the powders seem to have retained their shape and size during baking.

I will note that embossing powders can result in surface texture effects on polymer clay depending on how you use them. They are plastic resins designed to swell and fuse together with heat.

Beehive brooch

I used embossing powder to stamp the bees onto this honeycomb brooch. The bees have a slightly raised surface because the powder expanded with heat.

Since there was no bubbling, or even expanding, of the powders during baking, I wondered if maybe whatever is in that “proprietary” Iced Enamels medium is essential, along with heat, to getting the bubbly molten glass-like enamel-ish reaction. I’m thinking it is.

Ivory powder and baked beads

Mixing the Ivory Relique Powder with translucent clay didn’t change the color much, but it does have an interesting grainy look. The white clay has flecks of color that are almost like the recently discontinued White Granite from Premo. Almost, but not quite.

And here is where I remembered learning that vitreous enamels – the kind most people think of when they envision enameled jewelry – are glass that melts onto metals (at temperatures much hotter than my oven is capable). And that so-called “cold” enamels are actually epoxy resins that require no external heat source. (Random bits of craft trivia floating around my cortex.)

If I had taken a year of physical chemistry in college, I could probably hazard an educated guess as to what kind of reaction was going on, and hence the basic ingredients in Iced Enamels. I took sociobiology and genetics instead. No regrets. Just occasional flashbacks about counting mutant Drosophila (aka fruit flies to those who did not major in biology).

Amethyst powder and beads

These are the baked testers and the Amethyst Relique Powder. In translucent clay I got a nice overall shade of purple with darker flecks. In the white clay, I got purple specks. Fun effects, but not what I initially expected.

Whether it’s a kind of plastic resin reaction (like embossing powders) or some other kind of p-chem magic, the result of my experiment is that mixing Iced Enamel powders into polymer clay before baking adds color to the clay. The end. Oh, but wait. What about those cheater beads? Did baking them make the finish durable?

Amethyst powder coated beads

These are beads from the earrings above, after baking for 15 minutes. The bubbled crumbly look was from me getting the heat gun too close when making them. Nothing changed after baking.

Um, not exactly. I was still able to scratch the finish off. Perhaps because I didn’t take the time to reseal them with another coating of Liquid PolyClay. The initial quickie coating I did for my challenge submission wasn’t very thick and was likely uneven. I’m fairly certain putting on a thicker layer, or several thin layers, and then curing fully, would make the surface of the beads as durable as any other polymer clay with surface effects sealed under liquid polymer clay.  Which is to say, as durable as polymer clay in general. An experiment for another day perhaps.

While I was in the studio, I also made a batch of rustic beads. As long as the oven was going to be on for an hour, might as well make it a full load, right? I love making these beads. The technique, which is super fun and addicting, is in this great tutorial  from The Blue Bottle Tree. You can get endless variations using this technique. Rarely do I step into my polymer clay studio for a project without adding on a batch of rustic beads.

Rustic beads in blues and browns

This batch of rustic beads was made from about two blocks of clay. The beads are quarter-sized or larger. I was in a “blue” mood when I distressed them.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll come back again. I’ll be here, doing more mixed-media experiments and jewelry design challenges. You can sign up to get my new posts via email or rss feed. The links are in the right column of my blog.

15 thoughts on “Using Iced Enamels with Polymer Clay

  1. Janet Calardo

    Great post. Love the info you provided. I love the rustic tutorial also….I think I even have the same stamp. I have often wondered about using the Ice Enamels on clay and wanted to thank you for doing the expirament and posting your results.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Janet. I think there’s still more to explore with combining these two. There must be others who have wondered the same as we have. 😉

      1. nj

        Thank you, Tammy for your experimentations! I *have* actually wondered the same things myself. 😀

  2. Barbara Swinton

    Although I’ve never played with polymer clay, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiments and seeing the results. I just might have to add this technique to my bucket list!!! Super post:)

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Barbara. Polymer clay is definitely something to try. It’s relatively inexpensive, as craft media go, so even if things don’t turn out according to plan, it wasn’t an expensive mistake. And sometimes, the mistakes themselves turn out to be nifty.

  3. Erin Prais-Hintz

    A great review! I have the entire set of Iced Enamels and really haven’t used them. But I think they are really just repackaged embossing powders. I do like the mottled colors that she offers. I should really pull these out. I am also interested in those rustic beads. I think I looked into buying that tutorial some time ago but never followed through. Good review and a great pile o’ beads you made! Enjoy the day! Erin

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Erin. I’m thinking the liquid medium marketed with the powders is the “secret ingredient” to getting what does look a lot like embossing powder to turn into something that looks like vitreous enamel. And now I wonder what would happen if I used the Iced Enamels with my embossing powder medium. Hmmm.

      I highly recommend the rustic beads tutorial. It’s exceptionally well written and illustrated. And the way the technique is presented, it just begs you to be creative and take it some place unique to you.

  4. Marcia Tuzzolino

    Great experiment and wonderful blog post, Tammy. Thanks for sharing.

    I did a tutorial for using Iced Enamels with mica chips for creating an awesome texture on brass. It’s on my Design Team page on What I learned when I first started using the Iced Enamels powder and medium is, that the “bubbling” is caused from a too thick layer of the medium. It is the medium that is bubbling, not the powder. The medium needs to be applied in a very thin coat. If it looks white after it is applied, you have applied too much medium. It should look translucent. Then apply the powder. It will not bubble or cause pitting from the bubbling.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Marcia. I think I saw that tutorial not too long ago. And good to know about the medium re: bubbles. I like the bubbly look, so now I know how to recreate it on purpose. 😉

  5. JuLee Wolfe

    Good information. I also tried ice enameled on polymer beads last year and ran into the same problem with chipping after the fact. I also had real problems getting the beads off their rods. If I tried to remove them too soon after applying the heat gun, I would get a gummy mess. If I waited too long, I couldn’t get them off as the enamel had sealed the bead onto the skewer. Maybe it is time to try again?

  6. Tammy Adams Post author

    I had my beads on wooden skewers when I was heating the Iced Enamels. I didn’t have any trouble getting the cooled beads off the skewers. Maybe it doesn’t stick to wood the way it fuses with metals. If you were using metal rods, maybe try wood next time?

  7. Cindy Peterson

    Very good information. I was tempting to try this myself just hadn’t made them yet. I have done the enamel on top of polymer and it is still looking good with no sealer.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Cindy. Maybe I need to do a controlled experiment where I add the Iced Enamels to beads and then leave some as is, seal some with polymer clay, and coat a few with Ice Resin to see what happens.

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