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Clay: Hobbyist vs Professional

With clay jewelry popularity on the rise, so are those creating it. Hobbyists are finding a new craft in it and professionals are monetizing it. Hobbyists may be able to make good clay pieces, but clay professionals know how to create a truly long lasting piece.

When purchasing clay jewelry, there are things you'll want to look for:

  • Lint-free pieces. This has got be the biggest one. A professional clay maker knows how to keep pieces lint free and will only offer products this way.
  • Bubbles. Bubble free is a sign of well-conditioned clay. Well-conditioned clay does not just mean softened to a workable state. There are methods to conditioning clay and some ways remove bubbles while others increase bubbles. That being said, even well-conditioned clay may have a bubble in the batch somewhere.
  • Clean backs. Clay backs should be smooth. There may be some some differences in sheen on the back of the piece but smooth is good. Smooth backs mean there has been good adhesion to the working surface during the baking.
  • Hole. Holes to attach fittings can be hand drilled or done with a power tool, but typically holes are drilled after the piece has been baked. Poking holes while clay is still workable simply moves the clay and can distort the shape. Drilling holes after the clay is baked removes the clay in that hole. 
  • Bendability. Clay that has been properly baked will allow some bend and then return to its baked shape. Clay that is overbaked will break. Baking varies on lots of factors: gas or electric, hot spots, baking surface, etc.
  • Material. Most importantly, material! Sculpey brand is one of the most common and easily found brands of clay. However, within the brand, there are different types of clay. Sculpey Premo and Accents are excellent materials for jewelry. Sculpey III should not be used for jewelry. When my children want to play with clay, I get them Sculpey III. When you walk into a craft store, you'll see these three kinds mentioned, with Sculpey III being the most available and in the most colors, its very tempting to purchase, I know.
  • Coloring. Consistently being able to reproduce a color is excellent. Professionals can use their knowledge of the extensive color wheel to create any color with just the primary colors and black and white clay. Many clay professionals have learned to create formulas for specific colors they enjoy using in their creative palette.
  • Fittings. Fittings vary greatly and there are an incredible amount of options. A clay professional has done their best to find the best fittings that they would like to offer. Some people have metal allergies, it is important to know what the metal fittings are made from.

These are some of the top differences between a hobbyist and a professional clay maker that I have learned (and in no particular order!). If you have more, please feel free to share! If you are a new hobbyist, this may be a great list to start from if you intend to share your pieces. This is how all professionals started as well, trial and error, research and learning from others! It is important to sustain the credibility of clay as a long lasting piece of jewelry because there are so many professional clay makers in the world who use this as an income. Are you a hobbyist turned professional?

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