Polymer clay earrings are wildly popular and very trendy right now. They’re easy and fast to make, which means you can make them in every color to match your wardrobe. You can also make them quickly to sell for a little extra cash. With so many sellers producing these fun little fashion accessories, you want yours to stand out as unique. The design is important, of course! But before you even get that far, ensure that you’re making a product that is professionally made, without any common blemishes and signs of sloppy workmanship. Handmade doesn’t need to look “homemade!” Here are my top polymer clay earring mistakes to avoid.
Posts Fall Off
It’s incredibly disheartening to put on your favorite pair of earrings and have someone mention later in the day that you are only wearing the post. Yes, the earring detached from the post and was lost. This happens because polymer clay is flexible and also inhibits the curing process of many types of glue. This means that no glue will hold 100% over time and some of your earrings WILL detach from the post eventually. Prevent this problem by embedding the earring post into the back of the earring. This way, the earring cannot fall off. It also provides a more professional appearance for the wearer. If you struggle with doing this neatly, you’ll find it explained in detail in my Earrings Tutorial. If you must use glue, use a gel superglue such as Loctite Gel Control or Gorilla Glue Gel.
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When you use a cutter to cut earring shapes from a slab, there is usually a fine edge of clay that remains around the shape. Make sure to remove this excess bit of clay as part of your finishing process. Some people like to sand it off after baking, but you might find it easier to remove this edge before baking. Another strategy is to use shape templates instead of cutters. Because each earring is cut with a knife, the edge is clean, making the process of neatening the edges much quicker.
One of the most annoying things about working with polymer clay is air bubbles. Those little suckers come out of nowhere. No matter how smooth you make something before baking, they pop out while the earring is in the oven. This is because air trapped within the clay mass expands during baking, making a bubble rise. Minimize this by conditioning carefully to avoid trapping air. Larger bubbles can be seen before baking when you can gently pop them with a very fine needle such as these insect pins or an acupuncture needle.
Divots on the Back
When you bake your pieces on a piece of glass or a glossy ceramic tile, you’ll get shiny spots where the clay rests against the smooth surface. You’ll also get divots where the air was trapped between the raw clay and the tile. To avoid both problems, bake your items on a piece of paper. Yes, paper. It won’t burn at the low temps we use for baking polymer clay. Just lay your items on paper, then set the paper on the tile or a baking sheet. Voila. No more shiny spots and divots! You can use any unprinted, plain paper for this. It’s a great way to use up scrap paper.
Polymer clay is a soft putty, so when you poke a hole into it with a toothpick or cocktail stick, you’ll get an irregular and distorted hole. It’s much more precise and clean to drill your holes after baking with a small drill. You can use a motorized Dremel or you can use a hand micro drill. Either way, drilling after baking leaves a perfectly smooth and even hole. Still prefer to poke that hole before baking? Don’t poke it all the way through. Just make a tiny dot. That will allow you to easily get your drill started when you drill the holes after baking.
Super soft, mushy polymer clay is quite difficult to use without getting fingerprints, fingernail marks, little distortions, and other marks. Make sure that you’re not using cheap brands of no-name clay from online marketplaces (such as Wish, AliExpress, eBay, etc). You’ll also find that children’s brands of craft clay (such as Sculpey III) are hard to use neatly. But most importantly, check each earring before baking and smooth any uneven areas. Everything you fix before baking is something you don’t have to fix later. And it’s much easier before baking! (Want to know about the various brands of clay? Check here.) And if your clay is too soft, here’s how you fix it.
Polymer clay is like a magnet for bits of lint, stray clay colors, pet fur, and dirt from your fingers. Make sure to clean your workspace extremely well, clean your hands and fingernails before starting, and keep your tools clean. Baby wipes are great for this, but you can also use a lint-free microfiber cloth and some kitchen cleaning spray. I know this does sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is for these blemishes to get onto your clay. Put on your good glasses and take a close look. And remember that photos show blemishes far better than your eyes can see them!
What happens when you flex your earrings? Do they bend without breaking? Or do they snap in two and crumble? Lots of people assume that polymer clay is brittle and fragile, but nothing could be further from the truth. Polymer clay is vinyl and your earrings should be strong enough that you could bend and flex them as much as you want without damage. Make sure you’re not using a brittle brand of clay (such as Sculpey III) and make sure to bake long enough and hot enough. I can’t stress this enough. Breakage is almost always a baking problem! If you struggle with baking (breakage, burning, color changes, etc.) then do yourself a time-saving favor and get this baking tutorial. This is the #1 most frustrating issue in polymer clay and you’ll get great answers in this tutorial.
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What do the backs of your earrings look like? While they can’t be seen clearly while they’re worn, the wearer will definitely see the backs when she puts them on. Especially if you’re selling polymer clay earrings, you’ll want to make sure that there are no errant specks of color, fingerprints, or dirty bits on the backs of your earrings.
Many people use a Dremel to sand the edges of their earrings after baking. This removes the excess clay from using cutters (see above) and makes a smooth edge. Other people use a bit of sandpaper. Either way, you should not be spending much time on this. Just a quick swipe. If you’re losing your fingerprints or spending hours sanding, then something’s wrong. Always do your shaping BEFORE baking.
Also, carefully consider the wisdom of sanding the face of your earrings. Again, address neatness issues before baking (as I mentioned above). But be aware that it’s almost impossible to sand a tiny section of the face of the earring without making it look bad. If you sand any part of the face, you’ll need to sand the whole thing. And then it will look scratched. Then you’ll have to remove the scratches. And then remove the scratches that you put into it when you did that! It goes on and on. Just don’t touch the front of the earring if you can avoid it!
On the other hand, if you want a super glossy finish on the front, that’s totally possible with sanding and buffing. But that’s a more drawn-out process. I strongly recommend this Sanding and Buffing eBook for learning how to create a flawless, shiny finish on polymer clay.
Sealers! Just Say No!
Polymer clay is durable vinyl. It does not need to be sealed. You only need to seal fragile surface treatments such as glitter, chalks, or other materials that might rub off. You can also use clearcoats to change the gloss level of your earrings. But be aware that any coating you use with polymer clay has a learning curve and can often bring frustrations such as stickiness, bubbles, peeling, or bowing (in the case of resin). You can learn more about choosing a clearcoat for your project here.
Make Polymer Clay Earrings Look Professional
When you’re making polymer clay earrings, it’s easy to make the simple mistakes that you see spelled out above. But the good news is that the solutions are simple. The biggest obstacle for beginners is even seeing the mistakes in the first place. It’s quite common for makers to only realize how fragile and misshapen their earrings are after they have sold them to buyers. Now you have a checklist of mistakes to avoid and soon you’ll be making professional polymer clay earrings with the best of them!