Air Dry Clay Jewelry: Answers and Confidence Needed

by Char.
(USA)

Air Dry Clay Jewelry: Answers and Confidence Needed

I have been haunting this website for over a year now and was hopeful someone could help me out.

I make jewelry (mainly earrings) from cold porcelain clay which is a type of air dry clay. I have been doing this for over a year now. I have had many ups and downs while learning to sculpt in air dry clay. I sculpt my pieces, let them dry, paint them with acrylic paints, then varnish them. While my skills have progressed my confidence has not.

How do you decide when your pieces are durable/strong enough to sell confidently? I am constantly second guessing my pieces (sorry I could not include a photo due to technical difficulties). I have made many pieces and only had three break, one due to an accident with a tree branch, the other piece was too thin, and the other had a bubble in its paint job. Some would probably tell me that is great, but I still worry over every piece. I have only sold a few and have not had any of those come back broken. How “durable” is durable??

I have had some recent issues I hoped for help with as well:

1. Does anyone on here do air dry clay jewelry and how do you deal with cracks? This hadn’t been an issue for me until recently, so maybe it is the weather, bad clay batch, I don’t know.

2. Does anyone on here varnish their jewelry? If so, could they recommend a matte varnish suitable for air dry clay? I had to throw out about fifteen pairs of earrings simply due to discovering that the matte varnish I was using was bad.

3. Is there a varnish for making paper suitable for being part of a jewelry piece?

4. I have not started “officially” selling my jewelry due to my confidence issues and trying to build up my inventory. Can anyone give me a round about guess how many pairs of earrings would be “enough” for a craft show or fair booth? I simply have no clue because I don’t have anyone else that can give me experienced advice on this.

Thank you, guys, I love the website and you all are so helpful.

Char

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  • Hello Char. I regularly make air dried clay jewellery. You may want to have a look at my shop on Folksy.com: lancsrosedesigns. As regards durability, a friend of mine has bought several items from me and has no problems with breakages or cracking after purchase.
    With regard to varnish, I use Staedtler Fimo which is available in both gloss and matte and have had no problems. I am currently trying out Plaid Mod Podge which, again, is available in matte or gloss. Hope this helps, Margaret

  • Lynn says:

    Hi Margaret,
    I tried looking you up on Folksy as I am very interested in jewelry made with air dry clay but kept getting “no search results.” How does one find your shop on Folksy?
    Lynn

  • https://folksy.com/shops/margarethobbs I was curious!!! I used to work with precious metal clay waaaaay back, and I’m thinking of getting back into it.

    As for how many pieces to have available to sell for a show, one guideline I’ve read is 10 times the cost of the show table.

    Obviously, you need to vary that number allowing for the price of your items. Also have a range of prices. You also don’t need to put everything out on display at once.

    I suggest going to a few shows first as a visitor that you’re interested in participating in and critically examine how other people set up their tables, what are the price ranges at each show, how many people come to the show, and absolutely critical: how many other jewellery vendors are there? If there are too many of any craft, it dilutes the potential earnings for everyone.

    Then you look at what you have and be brutally honest about how you are differentiating yourself from everyone else. Do some trial table setups at home and take photos. Watch out that your table skirt just skims the floor in front. I’ve done one particular show three times a year for 7 or 8 years, and I used to always go for a walk to check sight-lines from different aisles approaching my table.

    Shows are terrifying at the beginning, and don’t be disappointed if you sell nothing; you’ve acquired a ton of good information to use for the next show. I had to take Gravol the first show I ever did, because I was literally throwing up from fear. Now it’s just another day, I’ll see all my pals (customers and vendors) from previous shows, plus we have ad hoc vendor dinners to look forward to.

    Good luck!!!
    Barbara MacDougall
    facebook.com/artefaccio
    artefaccio.blogspot.com
    instagram.com/bemacdougall

  • Lee Sebastiani says:

    I am so glad you asked this question!! I am still in the air-dry clay learning zone myself. I have had good luck with brush-on Liquitex varnish.

  • Gloria Olmstead says:

    Hi Char, I use pledge floor wax on my beaded jewelry, only it isn’t matte but it is great. Wonder about nail polish. It comes in matte now. As for coloring I only use water colors on the porcelain clay. I learned that years ago from the Carol Duval show. And now that I think about it I think I used the finish for polymer clay on my porcelain clay. But check out hobby lobby they have a decent amount of clay and maybe they have something. Or contact Cristi Freisan she knows all about clay as does Lisa Pavelka. I know what you mean about what if it breaks. Just make sure that they know if it does you stand behind your creations and will make it right. Good luck.

  • Debra Lowe says:

    Hi Char, have you ever tried epoxy clay? I use it in my designs when I use a clay to sculpt a certain object. It’s a little sticky, so when blending it I use a teeny bit of baby oil (teeny) to help keep it from sticking to my fingers. It is a two part clay, when blended you have time to work it, then I dry overnight. It is really hard, can be painted, sealed etc. I will sometimes use pigment powders to color it prior to drying, then add detail with paint, inks, etc. I have dropped a cured piece on a tile floor and it does not break or chip. Very versatile clay. It also comes in colors, but I always use white so I can color where and what I want.

  • Judith says:

    About your confidence issue – first, I’d recommend that you wear your jewelry a lot to see how it handles the stress of daily life. Not every piece, just a few typical ones. If it performs well, then go ahead and sell it, with care instructions that remind the buyer that clay products are breakable and should be handled with care.

  • Char says:

    Thank you for the tips, Barbara

  • Char says:

    Thanks, and, no, I haven’t. My clay is durable (I have dropped and thrown [!] some of pieces), but my issue was that a few cracked while they dried. I’ve read this is a common problem with all air dry clays, though.

  • Char says:

    Thank you, Judith. I always keep the first “model” of each type I make as my own jewelry. I have not had problems with any except for one accident involving a tree branch and when I think I got some essential oil on a pair and it ate the varnish.

  • Char says:

    Thank you, and I just wanted to give you a tip on the Mod Podge because I have tried it as a varnish.
    Don’t use it as a varnish!
    I used it as a varnish on some of my first pieces and it seemed good at first, but a few months later they all became tacky. I researched and found that that is not uncommon.
    I’m not trying to bash it because I still keep some around as a glue, not a varnish. I just hoped to save you that trouble.

  • Lyone says:

    If your pieces have passed the triple test of dropping, throwing and being worn then you should have confidence that they are durable enough to sell.

  • Char says:

    Thanks, someone else said the same:)

  • Judith says:

    That’s great, Char. You have good reason to feel confident and sell your work.

    About the importance of care instructions: a friend made me a pendant from PMC, which I have never used. She had told me that metal clay turned into pure silver when fired, and she didn’t give me care instructions. The first day I wore it, not being particularly careful with it, the pendant chanced to hit something hard (something pendants often do unless they’re very short) and broke in half. Lesson learned, but I would rather have learned it the easy way!

  • Iveth says:

    Can you please tell me how do you apply the pledge?

  • Cathey says:

    The only thing I can give advice for is your paper issue. I do alot with paper and I use 3 coats of ModPodge (I prefer matte) to seal it and beautify it, I use ModPodge Dimensional Magic. I’ve tried all sort of finishes on paper and this is my go to. I would like to know what you are doing with paper and how you’re incorporating it with your jewelry. I’d love to see what you’re doing, but I can’t get pics online because of my lack of technology understanding. 🙂

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