Aug 11, 2011

Word Pendant Tutorial

This post is dedicated to my dearest, life-long friend, Judy, and my mother-in-law, Shirley.  These incredible women found out within a few weeks of each other that they have breast cancer - their courage amazes me every day and I love them both dearly!

Clay Word Pendant Tutorial

*** If you are thinking about making these as a craft for Girl's Camp, I've addressed several questions and tips in a new post.  Please go here for more details:  Girl's Camp craft: word pendants 

Wow!  Thanks for the response to my last post.  Your comments and emails were greatly appreciated.  I asked if you'd like a tutorial and the majority wanted to know how to make the word pendant.  And, really, it's a good place to start.  So, in honor of the two women I mentioned above, I've made a "courage" pendant and here's the step-by-step:

What You'll Need: The Basics

In general, the following items are good basics to have on hand when you are making clay jewelry or really, any clay project.

Clay:  Before you can make clay jewelry you will need clay.  I'm a big fan of Sculpey.  If you go to a craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels you'll find Sculpey plus a few other brands like Premo and Kato.  Sculpey is the least expensive of the brands you'll find.  The other brands claim to be superior but I've tried them and I always end up going back to my Sculpey - I like it better but you can get whatever fits your fancy - it will all work about the same.  Just some minor differences and no, I'm not sponsored or paid by Sculpey! Although I wouldn't mind being - Sculpey people, if you're reading this... oh, anyway, back to the tutorial.

Stamps:  I like to use stamps to make the designs in my pendants.  Any stamps will work.  I have a ton of wood mounted stamps from my scrapbooking days that work great.  I've also used my acrylic stamps too - be creative here, if you find things with interesting patterns use it.  The very first clay jewelry piece I ever made was done using the bottom of my daughters shoe - it was awesome, great design impression.  Just don't limit yourself, think outside of the box.

Cutters:  Shape cutters will help you get a perfect shape.  You don't need them - you can sculpt you shape free-hand and get great results.  I like to do that often but for this tutorial I'm using a circle cutter.  You can buy them in the clay aisle at your craft store but don't limit yourself there, also look at cookie cutters and other things.  The cutter I'm using today is actually an apple corer.

*** - just an FYI - Sculpey is non-toxic, however, if you use a kitchen item on it, don't put it back in you kitchen to use on food.  The clay leaves a slight residue on things and so if you use a cookie cutter on your clay, dedicate it to a clay-only cutter from then on.

Stylus or sharp pokey-thing (that's what my girls call it):  You will want something like this to help you with your design and also to add the word to your pendant.  If you don't have one, don't worry, just use a tooth pick.  

What You'll Need:  Project Specifics 

The photo above shows the majority of the items I'll be using for the Courage pendant.  If you make your own, you will need the above mentioned items (clay, stamp, stylus, cutter) as well as the following:  wax paper, small paint brush, paint, Mod Podge, and string/hemp for necklace.

Step 1:  Lay out a piece of wax paper.  This will be your working surface.  As mentioned above, clay is non-toxic but you want to keep it away from any areas that touch food.  It leaves a little residue and the wax paper will just keep things clean on your working surface.

Step 2:  Pick your clay color and break off a piece.  Clay needs to be "conditioned" so you need to knead it for a few minutes to get it soft and workable.  Once it is soft, roll it into a ball and then press it out flat.  Keep it all a consistent thickness.  If you have a pasta machine that you use for crafting, you can run your clay through that a few times to get a really smooth surface.  Sometimes I'll do that but I didn't on this pendant.  I like the hand-made look.

Step 3:  Next, grab your stamp and make an impression in the clay.  You don't want to press so hard that you see the edges of the stamp base but you do need a good, deep impression.  

Step 4:  Use a cutter and cut your clay into the shape you want and then carefully remove the excess clay.  
Tip:  I always stamp my design before I cut.  This way I can line the cutter up better with my design.  Plus, if you stamp after the shape is cut, you risk flattening your edge and your pendant will be lop-sided.

 Step 5:  Once the excess clay is removed, you're ready to add your word.  There are lots of ways to do this, but I'll show the way that works best for me.  Take your stylus and lightly poke several holes in the shape of each letter.  It's kind of like you are making a dot-to-dot game for each letter.  If you just start "writing" with the stylus, it will push the clay and doesn't produce the desired results.  Once you've got all holes and the letters shaped, go back and carefully connect the dots.  (Sorry, the photos are small - click on them to see this step bigger)

Step 6:  Once your word is done, add anything else you want to your design.  I added some dots in my flower to give it a little more detail.  Also, make sure you add the hole for the string at the top of your pendant.  When you have it how you like it, set it aside.

Step 7:  Next we are going to make the bead that sits at the top of the pendant.  Do this by shaping a small piece of clay into a small ball.  Then shape into the desired form for a bead.  Next, poke a hole through the center.  Make sure the hole is big enough that your twine or hemp can thread through it.

Step 8:  Add any details you want to the bead.  I used the side of my stylus and made random hash marks to give the bead some texture.

Step 9:  Not shown:  Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees and bake your clay, both the pendant and the bead, for 15 minutes.  (Different clay brands have different cooking instructions so read the label on your package)  Also, it is wise to use a disposable pan or dedicate one cookie sheet to just clay projects - remember, you don't want your clay to touch surfaces that also touch food.

Step 10:  Once they are done cooking, let them cool completely!

Now that it is cooked, you could just string it on a necklace and be done but I like to add a little more to mine.  Here's what I do...

Step 11:  Take a little paint, just craft paint works great, and very carefully add paint into the stamped impression.  Then with a damp paper towel or rag, quickly wipe most of the paint away.  **You want to do this step quickly or else the paint will start to stain your clay.  Do this for the stamped impression, the word, and also the small bead.  If you wipe off too much paint the first time, just repeat the process until it looks like you want it to.  I like mine to have just enough paint to show the depth of the design.  

Here they are after the painting step is complete. 

Step 12:  Next I add a protective coat.  I've tried various products and I usually just end up using plain old Mod Podge.  I like the semi-gloss look and I've found that a lot of other products, even those meant to be used with clay, peel off after awhile.  Once you add the Mod Podge, let it dry.

Step 13:  We're almost done.  Now you just need to put the necklace together.  Take a long piece of hemp and fold it in half.  Thread the folded end (the middle of the string) through the hole in the pendant.  Then tuck the remaining hemp through the loop that the fold makes after it's threaded through the pendant.  Then simply pull tight.

Step 14:  Next you just thread on your bead and tie the two ends of hemp together - then you wear it!  

If hemp/twine isn't your style, use a jump ring and a chain.  Either way it will look great.

So, there you have it, that is how you make a word pendant out of clay - hopefully it all made sense.