Ask Ginger: How to make polymer clay heavier

A LOT of jewelry buyers, myself included, will pass up a flimsy, lightweight piece of jewelry, no matter how beautiful it may be, thinking that lightweight equals “cheap” and poor quality. Having worked with this medium, I now know that it was neither “cheap” or of poor quality, but how do you overcome that pre-conceived notion that many buyers have? Is there a metal, or sand, or ANYTHING that can be added and baked in that will give the polymer piece some heft? Heather from Virginia, US

Hi Heather,

You bring up an interesting point. But I’ll counter and say that one of the best qualities of polymer is that it’s lightweight. No heavy pendants are clunking you in the chin when you bend over. No sore earlobes. You can make work that’s so much larger than is practical with ceramic or metal.

That being said, if something feels flimsy, there’s more going on than just the weight. Is the design itself substantial in visual weight? Does the entire necklace (including the hanging architecture) work together to create a cohesive feel? Does a pendant have a pleasing feeling that makes you want to fondle it in your hand?

Because polymer is different, you can’t make jewelry the same way you would with ceramic or wood. If you just roll out a sheet, cut a shape, add a bail, and string on a cord – the necklace will feel insubstantial and flimsy. Go ahead and make a substantial pendant. Make the bail substantial. Create a cohesive design. Because polymer is so light, you have so many more design and construction options.

You also have more design options that take advantage of the super lightweight character of polymer. You can make ethereal airy and thin “sculptures” with translucent that take advantage of the play of light.

Adding things like sand to polymer clay can make it feel more substantial, but it will also cause the clay to be weak and more likely to break. For things that do need weight (such as bowls), you can embed a metal washer inside the clay itself. That sometimes works well, depending on the design.

Good luck!

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