Jewelry Design Challenge: Polymer Clay

purple pink blue butterfly bib necklaceThe media for the Self-Representing Artists in Jewelry Design July challenge were metal clay and polymer clay. I went with polymer clay.  And kept going and going.

I got started creating with polymer clay as a substitute for metal clay. As in, I didn’t have the appropriate space for the tools used in metal clay, so I settled for polymer clay.

Over time, I’ve learned to love polymer clay for its ability to mimic the appearance of practically any substance, and it doesn’t feel like I’ve settled for a lesser medium. At all.

Of course, I still want to play with metal clay. And soldering. Etching. Sawing. Lampwork. The list goes on. So many jewelry techniques and media, so little time and space. Plus, I haven’t even scratched the surface of the many and varied ways in which polymer clay can be used. The possibilities keep me awake at night. Truly.

For this challenge, I wanted to create a tour de force piece that showcased the versatility of polymer clay for mimicking other things. Some faux lampwork, faux pressed glass, faux stone, faux ceramic, faux wood, faux coral, faux bone …

Setting aside the issue of how to cram that many different types of beads into a single design, there was the matter of having enough time to work through all those recipes. I only work in my polymer clay studio (which is also my kitchen counter) on weekends. Because I have a desk job that occupies my time on weekdays.

So, I signed and deposited my reality check, and decided to take a different approach. I’ve been feeling “bugged” this summer. It started with a firefly theme design challenge on Art Jewelry Elements last month. Which led to a small line of beetle brooches.

Collage of beetle brooches

This is my line of whimsical beetle brooches so far. I’m not done with this idea yet. And I bought some brooch to pendant converters so they can be worn as a pin or a necklace. Double the fun.

Then I saw that the theme for July in the B’sue Boutiques Creative Group on Facebook was “Beautiful Butterflies, Birds, and Bugs.”  I don’t have any butterfly jewelry in my shops. I have beetles, some dragonfly pieces. A couple birds. But no butterflies. Time to remedy this oversight.

Purple pink blue butterfly necklace

The pink, purple, periwinkle blue color theme in this design was inspired by some Czech glass flower beads I saw online. I was going to order the beads to go with the neck piece, but wasn’t sure shipping from the UK would arrive in time for the submission deadline. So I made my own faux pressed glass beads instead.

Earlier this year I participated in the B’sue Boutiques Build a Line design challenge where I learned some basic concepts for building a cohesive look to a jewelry collection. Before that challenge, I would have made this one purple, pink, and periwinkle butterfly necklace and promptly moved on to some other design idea. But I’ve taken to heart the lessons I learned and decided to keep going, trying it in a variety of colors and metals.

Blue green butterfly collage necklace

This necklace combines marine blue, turquoise, and lime green. I made a batch of coordinating faux pressed glass beads for accent. And used the same matte black and gunmetal chain and findings as in the original.

Red orange yellow butterfly necklace

Having worked in two “cool” color palettes for this design, I decided to warm things up with red, yellow, and orange. I also switched up the background color, using an antiqued brass instead of oxidized silver finish. I made faux glass accent beads to go with this piece, but ended up using Czech glass instead. Unlike blues and yellows, which when tinted give lighter blues and yellows, when you dilute red pigment with translucent polymer clay, you don’t get light red. You get pink. And pink just didn’t work for this one.

Faux ceramic butterfly necklace

After three dark distressed pieces, I went lighter and brighter with this faux ceramic finish. The faux pressed glass beads, also polymer clay, remind me of citrus fruits. They are actually the beads I made to go with the red-orange-yellow necklace. Whereas they were too bright and cheery for that distressed finish and antiqued brass metals piece, they were perfect for this one.

Copper patina butterfly necklace

I developed my recipe for this faux copper patina effect earlier this year when experimenting with a rustic beads tutorial. This is my favorite of the butterfly necklaces so far. I am especially partial to copper.

Oxidized silver butterfly necklace

After doing a faux copper patina version, I thought an oxidized silver would be nice. I was pleasantly surprised at how dramatic the finished piece looked when paired with matte black book chain, which needed no accent beads. A very different feel from the other pieces, but still clearly part of the same line.

And I didn’t stop there. Another lesson learned was about tiers. Taking the design concept in a statement piece and making it more accessible in smaller pieces. Or making pieces that can be worn as sets, for those who like their necklace, earrings, and bracelet to match.

Blue green butterfly pendant, bracelet, and earrings

In addition to a smaller pendant version of the larger bib necklace, I tried my hand at a bracelet bar and earring charms. The earring charms worked out nicely, and made a lovely lightweight pair of dangle earrings. I’m not sure about the bracelet bar. I might change the shape into something smaller and oval, with two stringing holes rather than four.

I’m still working out some kinks in the bracelet and earring designs, so I don’t yet have as many sets of those. But the design for the smaller necklace, with a trio of butterflies on a rectangular pendant, is working well.  And I’m getting more efficient in my production process for making the coordinating accent beads.

By the way, the faux pressed glass and rustic beads in these necklaces are based on two wonderful tutorials from The Blue Bottle Tree: Faux Glass Effects in Polymer Clay and Rustic Beads and Components.  I’ve mentioned these both more than once. You’ll likely hear about them again. They’re so versatile I use them in many designs. In summary: well written, beautiful illustration, endless creative possibilities.

Four butterfly pendant necklaces

I have pendant versions of the larger bib-style necklaces in all the color palettes so far, except the original. I have to make a pendant from the purple-pink-periwinkle palette. Now that I have a design template down, the making goes a bit quicker. It’s still labor-intensive, mixing custom colors, molding and placing each butterfly, etc., but less trial and error.

I have a growing list of color combinations and faux finishes to try with these designs. It’s getting a bit challenging to stay focused because I have ideas for soooo many other things. But I am determined to work through this particular design concept until I have built a complete line of butterfly jewelry.  I think I am off to a good start.

Thanks for stopping by and having a look at my latest jewelry designs. If you’d like one for your very own, please visit my Etsy shop.

9 thoughts on “Jewelry Design Challenge: Polymer Clay

      1. Cynthia

        I like the smaller pendants especially the pink and yellow. Butterflies are my favorite as it is my Mom’s way of saying hello.

  1. Ginger Davis Allman

    I have really enjoyed watching your buggy summer evolve, and this series of butterfly necklaces has really been fun. You have such a great way with color. I think the blue and green one is my favorite (you know how I am), but that orange one gets my vote for “best summer necklace”. It would be perfect with a long summer dress and a big floppy hat. And flip flops, of course. Thank you for your kind mention of my tutorials. I love seeing what you have done with them and how far you’ve taken the basics to make your own magic. So cool.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Ginger. I credit your tutorials for re-sparking my interest in polymer clay. They are so much fun and so easy to follow.

  2. Susan Bowerman

    Wow, Tammy! You knocked this challenge out of the park. I love every one of your designs as well as the colors you used! I’m enjoying following your journey. Well done! Very well done, indeed! I’m looking forward to your evolving adventures. Take care and keep up the wonderful work!

  3. Divya

    your fauxsilver finish is excellent. Yes, colorways are great ways to build up a collection,as it offers the customer a wider choice.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Divya. I always appreciate your comments and helpful ideas about building my line.

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