Terracotta Jewellery Making– Everything You Need to Know
Even from the most ancient times terracotta has been used as the single type of ceramic produced on Earth. Coming from the Latin words “terra” and “cocta”, terracotta basically means baked earth. A closer definition to today’s reality could imply that terracotta means a type of ceramics made from glazed or unglazed clay which is later burned in ovens to ensure a thick and uniform shape.
Ever since the earliest ages, people have been using terracotta for everything – from creating vases and sculptures to building bricks, roofs, flower pots, water pipes, and décor objects.
But although it seems that modern technologies have buried the old forms forever, clay remains surprisingly popular, especially in rural communities, where resources are scarce and incomes are limited. And since improvisation was always the key to innovation, it was not long before people discovered the art of molding clay into something extraordinary – jewellery.
If you are looking for innovative and unique pieces of jewellery, terracotta ones are the perfect choice for you.
What is terracotta jewellery?
Imagine a world where precious metals cannot be bended or modified or turn into liquid forms in order to further shape pieces of decorations and jewellery pieces. Would the world of embellishments still exist? The simple answer is yes – as long as there is clay on this earth.
Terracotta jewellery is a piece of craftsmanship which was brought into prominence in the past few decades as more and more people were looking for new and unconventional materials to create art from.
And what better way to create art and unique pieces of jewellery if not from terracotta?
Terracotta jewelleries are unique and beautifully painted in a variety of bright colors, embellished with additional beams or pearls and can truly become pieces of art. Created from the crafty hands of clay molders, terracotta pieces of jewellery are unique, interesting, vividly colored and outstanding.
What is terracotta clay and molds?
As previously mentioned, you cannot make terracotta jewelleries without the raw materials which, in this case, are clays and molds. Terracotta is nothing but natural clay so there are numerous parts throughout the world where you can get this for free. However, if you do not live in an area where clay is available at your disposal, you can always order your own molding sets online for a dime and enjoy the experience of making your own terracotta pieces of jewelleries in the comfort of your own home, without spending money on expensive classes.
In fact, creating your own terracotta unique embellishments in the comfort of your own home is so simple, all you are going to need are some basic ingredients and a dime of talent. Now, for the main ingredient, the clay, you can get it in two different forms – the air dry clay and the baking clay.
Both of these parts you can purchase online or from your local shops and will not cost you a fortune, especially since we are not talking about building bricks and roofs but simple earrings, bracelets, necklaces or rings.
Air dry clay comes in three different colors – terracotta (which has a reddish brown color), white and grey.
What kind of paint should you use?
Now, considering you want to make your jewellery pieces interesting and eye catchy, after creating the forms and burning the clay (we will get back to the process later on), you will need some interesting choices of paint to cover your original product and really turn it into a work of art. Metallic paints are the ones which are most appealing because they give the impression of precious metals such as silver, gold, rose gold or copper. Paint is extremely important when making your own terracotta pieces of jewellery so make sure to put a lot of care into finding the perfect ones to match your style.
However, you can use about any type of paint you want, no matter the color. The oil-based types of paint are more preferred than the ones based on water because they will last longer but it is really up to you how you decide to paint your molded creations.
Obviously, metal paintings are more appealing and can create a lot of different effects but you can choose the color of your paintings, as well as its consistence depending on your personal tastes and mood. Colorful paintings are also a great idea because they really bring into prominence the pieces of jewellery and make them more appealing to the public and to the human eye. But, no matter the type of painting you use it is important to also apply a top coat not only to give a little polish and shine to your clay jewellery but also to protect it from water, wind and dust.
What are the materials & kits necessary in terracotta jewellery making at home?
As previously mentioned, making your own set of jewellery pieces from terracotta in the comfort of your own home doesn’t necessary imply spending hundreds of dollars on tools, prescriptions and special courses. With just a bunch of ordinary products you can buy from your local craft shop and a little bit of imagination you can turn an ordinary piece of terracotta into something truly amazing, unique and beautiful.
To start with, you will obviously need some terracotta clay of your choice – natural or air dry, depending on what you find more convenient. Secondly, you will need specific jewellery rope, a back rope or some black cotton rope.
However, you can use the rope of your wish as long as it is resistant and will keep your jewellery pieces together. If you want to make things even more unique and feminine you can replace the regular jewellery rope with some satin rope or slim metallic chains. Just make sure the ropes or the chains are long enough and resistant enough to maintain the weight of the clay. If you don’t know, dry clay can be quite heavy, especially when we are talking about hanging the pieces on a rope and wear them around your neck, ears or hands.
Furthermore, you will also require some wire cutter and solder wire, both of which you can also find at your local hardware shop. The impression maker is what will give shape to your creation so choose carefully. It can really be anything you want, from an old bottle cap to a needle or anything else that will make your imagination pop and help you create something utterly unique and beautiful. Tooth picks and rollers are also in need, just like water, some oil, fresh paint of your choice (we do suggest metallic), a paint brush, an old plate to put your clay on and some different sized bottle caps or a cookie cutter, depending on what you have around the house.
Bear in mind that these materials are the ones required for your first stage of terracotta jewellery making, meaning the molding part. For the baking part in which you put the clay and let it burn and rest until it becomes solid and ready to wear you will require another set of ingredients, amongst which charcoal, a coconut shell, some wood dust, tawa (basically a disc-shaped frying pan made from metal) and a lot of perseverance. The process may seem a bit complicated at the beginning but you will master it in time and you will be able to create astonishing pieces of terracotta jewelleries.
All the ingredients listed above are quite easy to find. Some of them you will naturally have around the house, while for the others you can appeal to hardware shops or any online shop that sells them.
Luckily for you, terracotta pieces of jewellery have become pretty interesting in the past few years, thus more and more people decided to document their own creation processes and share their knowledge in the field with the uninitiated ones. There are plenty of YouTube videos as well as online tutorials teaching you how to make these beautiful terracotta pieces of jewellery step by step in the comfort of your own home.
For those of you who are more responsive to texts and images rather to video tutorials, here are the six steps of turning ordinary clay into masterpiece jewelleries sets at home:
- The preparation of the clay
- The design and pattern making – exactly how you envision your jewelry pieces will look like
- The drying process
- The baking process
- The painting process – the most fun part of the entire process
- The final step. Kidding, we call it the final preparation of the product so that it is ready to wear
The preparation of the clay is extremely important because if you don’t get it right, your design won’t look good in the end. So you have to change the clay into an airtight container so it won’t dry in your hands. Apply a little oil on your hands to handle the clay easier and avoid it from sticking to your hands. You can use some water if you think the clay has cracks or other flaws.
The designing part is really your contribution towards the final product – roll the clay using a roller and use different cookie cutters to make the shapes of your preference. If you want your jewelleries to have beads and embellishments, create small beads from clay. Use the toothpick to make small holes in the clay and then insert the solder wire.
After your designs are ready, keep the clay away and let it dry for one or two days. Giving long life to your jewelleries is only possible by baking the clay after words. Place all your jewellery pieces on the tawa (tava) and heat it well. After heating the beads, you can proceed to painting them using your favorite paints and colors.
How long does the clay take to dry?
Depending on the quantity of clay you used, as well as the type, it would be best to let your clay dry for 24 – 48 hours before proceeding to the other steps and make your own pieces of jewellery. Remember that clay must be completely dry otherwise it will mold and break in the end. Don’t add too much water when making the clay because it will become too liquid and it will take a lot longer to dry well.
How to bake the terracotta jewellery?
After preheating the clay, you have to bake it well for at least five hours. Use charcoal pieces to burn also by placing them over saw dust and then burning them. Terracotta demands high temperatures to bake so some bakers will bake it for as long as seven – eight hours. If you have doubts after five hours, you can always stick a tooth pick inside it to see if it is fully baked. If you are not sure of this method, simply put the clay back in the oven and bake it for an extra one – two hours. Even when the clay turns dark there is no certitude that it is fully baked, so I suggest simply keep it in the oven for a little longer. Leave the saw dust burn well and, when in doubt, repeat the process.
Another important aspect to take into consideration before preheating and baking your clay is to let it fully dry after molding it. I did mention you can leave it for 24 – 48 hours but, again, it really depends on the mixture and your abilities during the process. If you have doubts here too, I suggest you let it dry well for three full days before putting it into the oven and baking it. The type of flame really depends on you and it is not important in this process – low or high flame it doesn’t matter as long as the saw dust is on fire.
Again, the process is quite easy and can be tried at home without prior classes or special preparation. However, don’t despair if you didn’t get it right in the first try – it takes a little bit of practice before perfectly molding the clay and turn it into a wonderful set of jewelleries. The key is to keep trying until you the process turns out well.
You have no idea how satisfactory it is to have done something completely by hand and using your own ingredients. The final result, even though it is not perfect at first, will certainly bring you joy, especially after you paint the terracotta with metallic paints of your choice. Acrylic paints are the best ones to use so keep that in mind. There are also plenty of online tutorials teaching you step by step how to acquire the perfect paint for your terracotta embellishments so you can’t get it wrong in this part.
Do you need to use an in pressure cooker?
The answer to this question is only if you have one. There is no point on paying the extra dollars if you are only doing this as a hobby or for the first time. In pressure cookers will burn faster and can dry your clay faster with a couple of hours but they cost a lot. Again, if you are not looking to make the terracotta embellishments a full time job and you are only looking to make it as a hobby, you can pretty much survive without buying a pressure cooker. There are some high-models on the market right now of pressure cookers which come with detachable timers as well as with lock systems easy to use. However, all pressure cookers work based on the same principle even though they vary massively in terms of price. They also come in a wide range of sizes so make sure to pick the perfect one for your clay shapes.
Where to buy terracotta jewellery?
If you consider the whole clay molding process to be a little bit extreme, difficult and time consuming for yourself, you can always choose to buy these beautiful terracotta pieces of jewellery online or in dedicated crafted shops. You will find a wide supply on Amazon of necklaces, bracelets and earrings that will certainly brighten up your day and give you a unique finish. Also, by choosing to buy from local crafters, you will also be able to supply local businesses and fight against large companies which are producing jewelleries on a large scale.
A piece of terracotta jewellery will always be unique as there are no two of a kind in terms of shape or size. And, if you found an artist you really like, you can always ask him or her to create special sets for you using your strict specifications. This is great when you want to have a unique jewel painted in colorful or metallic paints or displaying a certain pattern or model. Since the possibilities are infinite, you can always let your imagination run wild and purchase or create unique pieces of terracotta jewellery to best suit your style.