Terracotta jewelry making has been a fancy for long. The elegance and beauty of these jewels will surely take gold to a back seat. I tried to learn terracotta jewelry making for a few years but it never worked out. The internet gives you procedure for making the jewels, but no proper procedure for baking them. Then finally I managed to attend a class when I traveled to India last year. It was very basic and I really feel its not worth the money. Learning the tricks from my teacher did help me. But I strongly feel that the quality of jewels and perfection depends on you and the teachers generally try to do a run through of the procedure in the workshops.
So here it goes – I am sharing the complete procedure to make Terracotta jewels 🙂 You do not need training for this, if you have some knowledge about crafts and paints. Simply choose some designs from the net and fuse them with your imagination.
Filtering the clay
Mix the clay with lot of water and allow the mixture to settle down. Clay will settle down at the bottom. The dust particles will float on top. This can be repeated once or twice by changing the water. Get the fine clay paste and allow it to dry till it becomes like play-doh clay. If it become drier, you can always mix a few drops of water to make it malleable.
The perfect level is when u make a ball and it stays stiff without cracks. At the same time, the ball must retain its shape and clay must not stick to your hands.
Making the designs
Use the wires which you get the make stocking flowers. They are easily bendable. Cut one inch length of wires and twist them in different shapes. Then start rolling the clay flat on a tile, which has been greased with a few drops of oil. Oil your hands to prevent the clay from sticking. Cut into desired shapes and design as needed. Make small balls and use them to enhance your pieces. These small balls can be attached to the main piece as fixed balls or hanging balls. Wires must be inserted on one end of the ball. The other end of the wire must be inserted into the base piece.
To make the main piece, shape a base design first. Then carving is done on the base. For round designs, the back of a ball-pen refill works best. Shaping tools can also be used to carve designs. Cookie cutters and sharp blades can be used to make pieces in various shapes. In the below baked pieces, the peacock and the hexagon were hand designed by me. For the Lakshmi, I have used the mold. Then I cleaned up the piece after taking it out of the mold and attached hanging balls below.
For jumkas, use the jumka molds. Pierce a hole in the center of the jumka after removing from the mold.. Later an i-pin can be inserted here. The procedure varies based on the individual designs. Feel free to experiment.
Once your pieces are made, place them on a plate to dry. The pieces must dry at least for 3 days – else it cracks while baking.
Use saw dust or grain husk to bake the pieces. Place a layer of saw dust, a few piece of jewelry, another layer of saw dust, jewels and so on. Finally top with saw dust. Add other inflammable items like small wooden logs or camphor if available. You can also add a little kerosene to help the saw dust catch fire easily. Once the set up catches fire, allow it to be in the open for around 5 hours. Make sure to check if the flame is alive by checking at frequent intervals.
The pieces will turn black and lighter in weight. If the pieces have been dried properly, the pieces will not crack. If any minor cracks are present or if a bead has fallen off, try to repair it using m-seal.
The pieces can be placed in the oven and baked. The temperature and duration depends on the make of your oven. This way the pieces turn muddy brown.
Using air-dry clay
The bottom line of baking is, the pieces should become light weight. If you are not confident about baking, try using air-dry clay. It gives similar results, but dries quickly. You need to take care not expose the entire packet to the atmosphere. Seal the clay in a zip-lock cover and take out only enough quantities. Paper-mache clay doesn’t give very good results, I have heard.
Wash the pieces in running water for a few minutes to remove dirt and mud on them. It is good to give a coat with dilute black fabric paint before starting the actual painting. I always use acrylic-metallic colors to get a rustic effect. Works better than gold powder or gold paint. Give a coat of varnish or a diluted fabric glue to the painted pieces.
I have used acrylic metallic colors. They give a better finish to the piece. The metal wires used will look rusted after baking is complete. Metallic color must be applied on the wire also to give a good finish.
Assemble the jewel as per the pattern. Be creative with the beads that you want to use. It is great to notice the patterns on the dress and design the jewels accordingly. Insert a gear-wire through the pieces and seal the ends with gear locks. Attach the rope or chain with rings to the back. Attach hooks to the ear rings.
The beads and pieces are made into a string by using a gear wire. Then it is attached to the back string (which is available in many colors in shops). And voila.. A beautiful terracotta jewelry set is ready for use. Hooks or rubber bushes must be attached to the ear rings.
Place the sets in safe boxes. Completely in love with terracotta jewelry 🙂