Inlay Technique for Polymer Clay Jewelry, Faux Bone Pendant [Q&A]

Polymer Clay Inlay Pendant “I never had any interest in this type of inlay design before, but now… I need to know how!” ~Linda-K

Today’s photo shows a piece of polymer clay jewelry with a bit of an aboriginal flair to it. This large rectangular pendant was created using the faux bone technique as a base, with various accents embedded into it using polymer clay inlaying techniques that will be demonstrated in the next week’s Vol-021-3 tutorial video at the members library.

What a beautiful technique, Cindy. I never had any interest in this type of inlay design before, but now that I see what you’ve done, I need to know how! ~Linda-K

For the remainder of this article I’m going to start getting caught up on some support topics that have been piling up. My plan is to work the following Q&A format into upcoming articles on a regular basis, so that everyone gets their questions answered in a timely manner.

For each of the Q&A topics posted today, and in future articles, please feel free to use the comments section to add your thoughts and ideas in addition to the information I provide. Every question has so many answers and angles to consider.

Let’s all work together to make this polymer clay community the best it can be in terms of a place to come to get friendly and supportive answers.



Q&A-1: Sculpting Using Mixed Brands of Polymer Clay:

Hi Ms. Lietz!

My name is Jenn and I’m new to working with polymer clay. In high school I sculpted with clay that we had to heat in a kiln. I didn’t know what clay to start with when I was out of school so I bought sculpey, premo and fimo. And to test each one I made my first trial sculpture out of all three.

I was wondering; since my sculpture is mostly sculpey clay with a bit of the others mixed in, will it look different when baked? I haven’t had the heart to bake it because I’m too scared!

Polymer Clay SculptingIt’s about as tall as your wrist to your elbow and about as long. I’ve included a picture of my sculpture.

It is all clay with no other elements inside. I think it has dust and cat hair on it too that might burn. Do you think it will shrink? I know you mostly work with jewelry and I know there are no  guarantees so I hope I’m not wasting your time. I’m sorry if I am!

Anyways, I appreciate all your tips on your site. It’s very very helpful! I was also wondering. have you ever used wire that people use for flower arrangements inside your clay? What wire works best inside clay? I like your tip about using the aluminum foil as filler instead of clay! Thanks so much for taking time to read my email and if you can’t help I totally understand!

Thanks for your time,

~Jenn-V

Hi Jenny! Your questions are excellent and you are not wasting my time by asking them, so there is no need to apologize :-)  Your piece is amazing btw!

As far as mixing clays, you will likely be fine as long as you bake at the lowest recommended temperature listed on the packaging for the clays you purchased.

If you used mostly Sculpey, especially if it is regular White Sculpey in the bigger box, the color will probably darken,  even if the piece is tented properly with foil or parchment, and the correct temperature is used. If you don’t like the mottled ancient look it turns into, you can always paint it with acrylics after baking.

If it is mainly Premo or Fimo, then there shouldn’t be any problems. Just make sure to use an oven thermometer and bake it for at least an hour maybe two, especially something that big, which will need the time in order to cure properly.

Don’t worry about the dust or cat hair burning. Paper won’t even burn at that temp. If there is a lot of cat hair and dust, you can try to remove it with rubbing alcohol on a paper towel before baking, Or use wet/dry sandpaper after baking.

You can definitely use wire inside your pieces. The floral wire will work or you can use armature wire that is designed to use with sculptures.

Polymer clay does not shrink when baked.

You have so much sculpting potential Jenn. Good luck with your project and let us know how it goes.



Q&A-2: Baking Fumes and Toaster Ovens:

Hi, I’m a newbie here and was wondering… I used FIMO and when making it had no odor. Last night I used Premo which I like a lot more, but when I baked it had a sort of orangish smell. Is that normal or did I bake it wrong?

Also, I have my toaster oven on my kitchen table. Is it ok to bake there or should I bake way in the garage? It is the whole toxic fume thing I keep reading about that worries me.

Besides that I love polymer clay and am glad I joined your site. Thank you for any advice that you can give.

~Jeri-L

Hi Jeri! Great questions! It is normal for different brands of polymer clay to have odor variations when baking. Some brands smell more than others. But as long as the smell isn’t too strong and the clay is not burning, you will be fine.

As far as you baking on your table, that is fine too. I have my toaster oven in my studio and have had no problems with it there. The new information that is available now is that the clay is not actually ‘toxic’ when burned, but more of an ‘irritant’ to those that are sensitive to it. Most polymer clays sold in North America are labeled with a non-toxic symbol, deeming them safe for consumers to use.

If you have any concerns with the safety of any of the polymer clay products make sure to contact the companies directly, since I am just teacher of polymer clay techniques and not an expert in the chemical make-up of the product.

Hope that helps.


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For anyone who wants to follow along from beginning, the following link will take you to a summary of all the articles in this fun and educational Polymer Clay Bead Giveaway series.

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Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Joyce M, 11 February, 2010

    Good Morning, Cindy,
    The inlay technique was very high on my list of learning so it is great that it is coming soon. Your piece is lovely, as usual, and will surely inspire us.

    Jenn, your sculpture is very handsome. You are a very talented lady and I wish you the best. I know that feeling of wanting the finished product but leary of putting it into the oven. The very best to you and it would be so nice to know how things go for you.

    Jeri, I am still closer to the “newbie” stage than the experienced and one of my biggest challenges was getting to know my oven. I burned my first piece I think because I was too impatient with the temperature and set the thermostat a little too high. I wasn’t watching when it spiked and so the burn. I found the correct setting and it stays there but I probably do more checking than is necessary. I love this clay world and Cindy is the greatest. Welcome to our world. Let success be at the end of each of your adventures.

    Joyce

  2. Jenn V, 29 March, 2010

    @Joyce M: Thank you!

  3. Dawn Frey, 11 February, 2010

    Can polymer clay be inlay-ed onto pearl shell?

  4. Carole Anne holt, 11 February, 2010

    Dawn i have had grate sucsess with covering shell pendants with polymer clay so that they have the shell backing i just painted on liquid poly clay to make sure it stuck hope this helps

  5. Jackie, 11 February, 2010

    Inlay is something I’ve always wanted to try. That pendant is fabulous and the way it’s strung is really unique. Very inspirational!

  6. Nancy Reddick, 11 February, 2010

    Jenny your piece is amazing, you should continue with sculpture in college… you have a great talent. If you do your next sculpture, you can usually find a store that sells the same type of ceramic clay and will sometimes lease out kiln space. I look forward to seeing your pieces as you continue on your journey….

  7. Laurel, 12 February, 2010

    Oh Carole:

    Great idea! Sometimes when I make pendants the backs turn out so ugly. I think I pay too much attention to the front. :) I was wondering how to deal with this. Your suggestion is wonderful. Does anyone else have ideas for backings on pendants?

  8. Phaedrakat, 12 February, 2010

    @Laurel: These are just some general ideas about spicing up the back of pendants: You can add cane slices, or extruded snakes, squiggles, borders, etc. You could paint, ink, or stamp a simple design. OR, you could make a sheet to back the pendant using a technique like mokume gane, mica shift, lace/ink, fabric made from cane slices, or just use simple texture from a sheet or stamp.

    After you create your backing sheet, lay it upside down, then lay your pendant on top of it. You can cut it out with the same cutter used for your pendant, or just use a sharp craft knife/blade. You can carefully hide the join, or put a “trim” around the sides (extruded border, cane slices.) You could also make the backing sheet larger than the pendant and bring the edges up the sides of the pendant and then trim, creating a bezel. These are just a few basic ways to add a little interest to the back of your pendants. The method you choose depends on your design, and many other things. I hope this gives you some ideas…mix’n’match them!

  9. DJ, 13 February, 2010

    Your sculpture is amazing Jenn, I had to re-read the high school part…it’s so accomplished! As others have mentioned, I’d love to see what direction your talent will take in the future. Thanks for sharing and inspiring the rest of us.

    The inlaid pendant is just lovely…a gorgeous little “eye candy”
    mosaic :0)
    This could easily be used with a lot of the past techniques you’ve taught, Cindy.

    @Phaedrakat , Thanks so much for all the great backing suggestions and instructions, I’ll definitely be filing those away for later!

  10. Katie, 15 February, 2010

    So, I broke this plate (it kinda fell off my bed and smashed on the floor) that I’m using the larger pieces of for wire-wrapped broken glass (after sanding edges so no more hazard) pendants. The downside is I still have all these too-small chunks. They have to much potential to throw away so I’m trying to determine if I can use them in a pendant. Will they fall out if there’s no clay behind them? I like the idea of them remaining see-through but maybe if they’re backed in a contrasting color that might be pretty cool too.

  11. Phaedrakat, 15 February, 2010

    Hi Katie, I’ve seen these “broken plate” pendants before, they’re very beautiful. I’ve got a broken china plate set aside for this technique myself, but I haven’t got to it yet. Thanks for reminding me!

    I’ve never tried this, but here’s an idea that might work for your purposes: Try mixing liquid clay w/a little bit of regular to make a grout. Put a layer of Kato liquid medium on a large piece of glass (or use a super-smooth glossy tile,) then place your pieces into the liquid clay in the shape you want (leave little gaps between them.) Bake it, then use your “grout” between the plate pieces. Wipe off the excess grout, then bake again. Cool, then carefully remove the whole thing from the glass (or tile) and check the strength. You could add additional coats of Kato liquid to the piece if needed. You could also add a layer of tinted translucent (w/alcohol inks, oil paint, or tiny bits of colored clay) on the back. Make sure you cure the piece completely for the strongest possible piece. You could also put some kind of clay border around it, for additional strength. Or, if you’re going to wire-wrap the piece, that might just give it the extra protection it needs.

    Another thing that might help is Sculpey Bake & Bond. I haven’t tried it yet, but it might help to coat the edges of your plate pieces with it first. (Before laying them into the Kato gel and “grouting.”) Cindy has done some tests with Sculpey Bake & Bond here at the blog.

    I hope I’ve given you an idea about how to try this pendant. You can search for more articles on tons of topics by using the search box at the top of the page (just type in a word or two.)

    Help! Has anyone tried this sort of thing? Katie could use some first-hand experience tips! Best of luck with your project, Katie!

  12. Cindy Lietz, 16 February, 2010

    Thanks so much everyone for the awesome comments! It is fantastic to see you all supporting each other like this!

    Great ideas being shared by everyone! I’ve done a lot of traditional mosaic work using broken china (used to teach classes on it) but haven’t yet combined it with polymer clay. Weird I know, but there are so many things you can do with polymer clay, sometimes it’s hard to get to them all!

    Have used shell pendants as a base to stick clay to though and I agree with Carole Anne holt, it is a great technique to try!

    Keep doing what you’re doing… I love what’s happening here!

  13. Donna Johnson, 29 May, 2010

    I am brand new to the art of using polymer clay and thank you for all the advice you give on your website. I hope that you can give me a few words of wisdom!

    I am making a 30-inch tall modernistic spirit doll where the head will be made of Fimo. The head will be triangular and will measure about 5″ x 3″ x 1 inch thick. I picture using a wire armature, covered with aluminum foil pounded into a very solid shape and covered with smooth black Fimo and baked. I want to create a very sophisticated finish of varying concentrations of gold, copper, and brass metallic patinas on the black Fimo where the metallic colors blend into each other, while at the same time, some of the black fimo can still be seen. Then I think I will coat it in Varathane Polyurethane semi-gloss varnish to protect the metallic finish and provide a slight sheen.

    This head will eventually be mounted on a fabric covered pvc pipe that will be held erect by a heavy concrete base. Afterward it will be dressed and decorated.

    Am I on the right track with my Fimo ideas? Do you have any suggestions? What is the maximum thickness that I can make the Fimo that covers the aluminum foil, considering that prior to baking I must make holes in it so that later I can insert some wires with glue to hold earrings, glue in some feathers and some pieces of abalone shell on the top of the head as a head-dress?

    Should I use several colors of Rub ‘n Buff for the metallic finish or would you suggest using foils or something else that I am not aware of? (Keep in mind that I really want a professional/sophisticated result.) Any suggestions of how to apply them, other than what I have read on your tutorial site?

    Is there an easy technique to use to glue the earing wires, feathers, and shells into the Fimo so that no excess glue can be seen on the finished product?

    Any suggestions you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

    Have a great day and thanks in advance.

    Donna

  14. Phaedrakat, 31 May, 2010

    @Donna Johnson: Wow, that’s a lot of questions! First off, you can make a very thick layer of polymer clay over the alum foil, or thin. If you make a thick layer, just remember to bake it for a very long time. You could even make a solid 1″ thick head, but it would need to bake for a long time — at least 2 hours. Using a foil armature will reduce the baking time. You’ll probably want to go with a fairly thick piece of clay so that you can make sure it’s very smooth, and covers the foil underneath completely.

    (BTW, I put several links to articles in this comment. You may prefer to read it at the blog vs. in your email, so the links will be fixed and it’s easier to read.)

    The holes you make for adding wires for earrings, etc. can be made prior to baking, or you can drill them afterwards. It’s pretty easy to drill into baked clay using a regular drill, or even a drill bit in a pinvise. You can even make your own drill bit holders, like in this Personalized Tools for Drilling Beads article.

    You can make small pilot holes, and then make them larger to fit your wires, feathers, stringing material, etc. after baking. As for glues, you can add just a tiny bit using a paintbrush, toothpick, etc. so that you only use a small amount that doesn’t show. This article shows craft glues that work well with polymer clay.

    Regarding the metallic finish on the face, there are many ways to achieve that look. Rub-n-Buff, as you mentioned. There are foils & metallic leaf, mica powders (like Pearl-Ex or Perfect Pearls,) metallic paint, or metallic clays, to name a few others. Mica Powders would probably be the easiest ways to do what you’re suggesting. This article, Polymer Clay Bling Supplies, lists several of these metallic products, and links to articles with even more information about them. The following are examples/pictures of the metallic techniques I mentioned: Metallic Leaf, Metal Foils, and Pearl-Ex.

    Sorry, I probably didn’t find you the best examples for your purposes. I was just trying to find some quick pictures of the products used on polymer clay. You can search for more information by using the search box at the top left of each page. Type in things like “Metal Leaf” or “metallic finishes” or “foil and see what articles come up. Don’t forget to read the comments below the articles, as there’s often even more information there than in the original article (they’re answers to questions!)

    I’m not sure I answered all of the questions, but it’s bed-time for me! Read some of the articles I pointed to, search on the ones that you’re interested in, and then leave another comment if you need more specific help. There’s lots of baking information, which is a really important step when working with polymer clay. Good luck with your project, and let us know how it’s going. Let us know if you need more help, and/or send us a picture when it’s done! ~Kat

  15. Donna Johnson, 31 May, 2010

    Thanks so very much. I will begin reading right now!

    Donna

  16. Hooky46, 31 May, 2010

    I make jewelry for craft fairs, etc. I am half Native American and I want to make animal totem pendants to use for necklaces. I have seen the “goddess” pendants and I have bought a couple of molds. My question is….I want these pendants to looks like they were carved from white jade or shell. Can I mix ‘pearl’ and translucent to get this effect?
    Hooky

  17. Cindy Lietz, 09 June, 2010

    Hi Donna, welcome to the site! I am so pleased that Phaedrakat was able to help you in such a detailed manner. Hope you read all of her suggestions, because they will be very helpful for you!

    @Hooky46: You can definitely mix pearl and translucent to get some wonderful faux jades and shells. You can even add tiny bits of colored clays or alcohol inks, to get exactly the look you want. I have a video tutorial on how to make other colored faux jades that may be very helpful for you. Click the link by my name for more info.

  18. Judy M, 22 July, 2010

    Hi all.
    I’m hoping this is the right place to post a query about faux bone.
    I’ve used Cindy’s tute (video 019-3) to make faux bone and have made a couple of faux bone bracelets, using a mix of fimo white and ecru and premo translucent. I used a pasta machine and rolled to the thickest setting, then part-cured each side for 20 mins before setting them back-to-back, using bake’n’bond – so double thickness. The first came out very solid after a further 1 hour sandwiched between 2 tiles. Lovely, especially when antiqued and sanded very smooth and silky. The second, marginally thinner, because I have a narrow pasta machine and I wanted it slightly bigger than the width, so I rolled it sideways a tiny bit, is still rubbery after 2 separate hours of baking. I daren’t go any higher on the temperature- did the second hour at about 150C and it was just beginning to tinge slightly. It is wearable, but still rubbery and not really bone-like.
    Is this because of the fimo/premo mix? Would a coating of bake’n’bond solidify it? I don’t really want to use my very precious and very expensive magic glos on it (I haven’t found anywhere to get the cheaper ultra dome here in the UK) and anyway, I want it to be matte and natural.
    Your thoughts please, ladies and gents…
    Judy

  19. Phaedrakat, 25 July, 2010

    @Judy: Hi Judy, this is a strange problem! Did you bake these at the same time, or separately? I’m wondering if maybe your oven thermometer was wrong the second time around, and the temp was not as high as you thought. Seems strange that the clay wouldn’t cure after 2 hours in the oven! How thick are these pieces? The 2nd one, the one that you’re saying is “rubbery”—is it single layer? If so, how thin? If it’s just a single layer of really thin clay, it would remain flexible after curing.

    I don’t think the mixture of the two clays would cause it not to cure. If the clays weren’t conditioned properly, and then not mixed properly, you’d get breakage or weakness, but it wouldn’t be “rubbery.” I’m assuming you mixed them good, anyway, right?

    I’m sorry I do not have a better answer for you! If it turns out that you have a very thin piece that is flexible merely because it is thin, you can make it less flexible/harder by adding another layer (adhered with Bake and Bond.) Or you could try the Bake and Bond alone; it will probably do the trick. I haven’t used mine yet, but I know it gets really hard (after reading about how it sands—from the Faux Opal tute.)

    Other than that, I can’t think of a reason why clay wouldn’t cure except that the oven did not reach the right temperature for the right length of time. It could be that your oven is spiking high then really low, and your thermometer is too slow to register the change. You might need to try a new thermometer to test your oven. Please provide more info about this, and maybe Cindy or someone else can investigate further. Best of luck with your Faux Bone jewelry! :D
    ~Kat, Riverside CA   —Where are you from?

    PS: I’m really sorry to ask, but which Judy is this? Are you Judy F., Judy E., ?? This site’s getting big, so it’s hard to tell some names apart! If you want, you can add an initial to your name, or even better, a Gravatar image by your name. If you want to know how to do that, follow the directions and the link to Gravatar here.

    Or you can just go to en.gravatar.com and click on “Get your Gravatar today.”

  20. Judy M, 26 July, 2010

    @Phaedrakat:
    Hi Kat- Thanks for your thoughts and reply.
    I’m in the UK – south coast …Lovely… but I have been known to make it to Sacramento. My OH comes over about once a year to attend a conference right in the city centre, and I managed to come. If work permits, I might do it again. I’m none of the above ‘Judys’ — what it is to have a common name! Not that it is really here in the UK. I’ll post as wellingtonsmum next time – ( one of my 2 black labs, the other is Flora) I used to have a little avatar I used on facebook. I’m not good with real photos, so I’ll go look!
    Wellington’s Mum
    I’m thinking that the problem is with oven temperature – I’ll get a thermometer next time I’m out. The bracelets are double thickness on the thickest setting on my pasta machine with bake’n’bond in between. I think the only thing to do now is bake’n’ bond coating. When I’ve finished sanding and sealing a stack of ‘torn paper’ beads…. whew… it has seemed to take for ever.

  21. Phaedrakat, 27 July, 2010

    @Judy M: Hi Judy, sorry about the mixup! There really are a lot of Judy’s! It’s funny, I don’t know that many in my personal life, but there seem to be quite a few in the polymer clay world!

    It does seem like it must be the oven temp, which would mean that your bracelets aren’t completely cured. Two layers with Bake and Bond between them would be pretty strong–not flexible after baking–if they were cured completely. Get an oven thermometer soon so that you don’t underbake your other beads and pieces, as well (like the lovely “torn paper” beads!) When your beads are baked completely they are nice and hard, which makes them easier to sand, as well… (and that’s a must, right? Sanding is by no means the “fun” part of claying…)

    Best of luck to you! Let us know how your Faux bone bangles come out… ;D   ~Kat

  22. Judy, 28 July, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: Well, Kat.
    Got me an oven thermometer – cost almost as much as the oven did in the first place!
    You were right. The toaster oven’s thermostat is completely wrong. All I have to do now is work out just what setting it needs to actaullly be right!
    Watch this space…
    WellingtonsMum

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