Primal mixed-media necklace

Capture the essence of the outdoors in this innovative mixed-media necklace.
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Nearly identical to the real thing, this polymer-clay jawbone features an acrylic patina to create the impression of weathered age.

One advantage of being a jewelry maker living in or visiting a rural area is the opportunity to be inspired by the diverse objects that decorate Nature’s floor. Some of these items seize attention with colorful beauty, others through unusual shape, and still others—like the rabbit jawbone in this necklace—with their mysterious aura of life and death. Some cultures, most notably Native American tribes, revere animals and often incorporate their images—or even their earthly remains—in jewelry. It is believed that wearing this jewelry honors the animal and equips the bearer with some of its characteristics, such as speed, keen eyesight, or superior auditory skills.

While it’s possible to use real bone in your design, this project demonstrates how to make a mold of a rabbit jawbone and use the mold to create a polymer-clay duplicate. If a jawbone isn’t your taste, create a mold and cast duplicates of an object that’s more your style.

In addition to making a mold and a polymer-clay replica, you’ll form a colorful cabochon and beads with polymer-clay canes, preserve organic flora in metal-clay slip, make a metal-clay back plate and beads, and set a stone. With so many versatile techniques, you can choose to re-create the necklace shown or select just a few of the elements to take in your own creative direction.

SUPPLIES

part 1

  • Polymer clay: 2 ounces (56g) each of scrap, white, and translucent; 1/2–1 ounce (14–28g) brown 
  • Rabbit jawbone or other purchased object
  • Acrylic paint: black and raw sienna
  • Pasta machine* (optional)
  • Talcum powder/cornstarch
  • Smooth work surface
  • Square of hard material (optional)
  • Convection or toaster oven*
  • Craft knife
  • Palette knife or tissue blade
  • Clay shaper
  • Paintbrushes, small and medium

* Dedicated to nonfood use

part 2

  • Polymer clay: 2 ounces (56g) each of translucent and tan 
  • Various canes, 1/4 inch (6.4mm) and smaller in diameter
  • Pasta machine* (optional)
  • Smooth work surface
  • Knitting needle
  • Tissue blade (optional)
  • Needle tool
  • Convection or toaster oven*

* Dedicated to nonfood use

For the remainder of the materials needed for parts 3, 4 and 5, view the free, downloadable PDF!

INSTRUCTIONS

**The below instructions are only for parts 1 and 2 of this project: making the jawbone and the polymer-clay cabochon and beads.**

 

Make the jawbone_1
PHOTO 1
PART 1: MAKE THE JAWBONE


POLYMER CLAY MOLD

Condition and shape the polymer clay. Condition 2 ounces (56g) of scrap polymer clay until it is soft and pliable, and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball to approximately 1/2 inch (1.27cm) thick and roughly the size of the object to be impressed [PHOTO 1]. Set the clay aside for a few minutes; better impressions are made when the clay is pliable but not tacky.

Make the jawbone_2
PHOTO 2

Impress the real jawbone in the polymer clay. Dust the jawbone with talcum powder or cornstarch [PHOTO 2] and blow off the residual dust to leave only a thin film of powder. Press the jawbone into the clay until the back surface of the jawbone is level with the surface of the clay [PHOTO 3]. (Read Pick Your Polymer Clay Work Surface for more tips.) Flex the mold slightly around the entire perimeter of the jawbone to help remove it [PHOTO 4]. Don’t force the jawbone out because it may distort your impression.

Bake the jawbone mold. Lay the mold on your baking surface, smooth side down, and bake in a convection or toaster oven (dedicated to nonfood use) following the clay manufacturer’s instructions. Let it cool.

Make the jawbone_3
PHOTO 3
Make the jawbone_4
PHOTO 4



POLYMER CLAY JAWBONE

Condition and shape the polymer clay. Separately condition the following colors and amounts of polymer clay: 2 ounces (56g) white, 2 ounces (56g) translucent, and 1/2–1 ounce (14–28g) brown [PHOTO 5]. To simulate the color of bone, roll each color into a snake and twist the snakes together [PHOTO 6].

Make the jawbone_5
PHOTO 5
Make the jawbone_6
PHOTO 6
Roll the piece, fold it in half, and continue working the colors together for a swirled appearance. Roll the clay into a ball and flatten the ball to 1 inch (2.54cm) thick. The piece of clay should be large enough to both fill the jawbone impression and cover the flat surface of the mold [PHOTO 7].

Press the clay into the mold. Dust the mold with talcum powder or cornstarch and blow away all excess powder. Dust your fingers, place the clay on top of the mold, and—starting in the middle—press the clay in. Work your way out toward the edges of the mold, pressing and smoothing the clay until all the spaces are filled and you’ve created a flat back and a slight lip of clay around the outside.

Remove the clay from the mold by running your finger underneath the lip on all sides until the lip is lifted. Gently start lifting the rest of the clay from the mold, again working your way around the edges. This helps prevent the clay from deforming. Once you’ve removed the clay from the mold, lay it flat on your work surface and gently press it down so it will stick.
Make the jawbone_7
PHOTO 7
Make the jawbone_8
PHOTO 8
Trim and bake the cast jawbone. Using a craft knife, trim around the edges of the casting to remove the excess clay [PHOTO 9]. Gently slide a palette knife or tissue blade under the piece to remove it from the work surface. Use a clay shaper to smooth any rough edges [PHOTO 10]. Bake the cast jawbone according to the clay manufacturer’s instructions. Let it cool.
 
Make the jawbone_9
PHOTO 9
Make the jawbone_10
PHOTO 10
Antique the jawbone. After the piece has cooled completely, antique it to bring out the details. Mix 1 part black and 2 parts raw sienna acrylic paint. Brush the surface of the jawbone with the paint [PHOTO 11] and, while it’s still wet, gently wipe off most of it with a paper towel, leaving dark coloration in the crevices. Refer to “Tips on Antiquing with Acrylic,” below, for more helpful hints. Set the jawbone aside.
Make the jawbone_11
PHOTO 11
Tip!

On Antiquing with Acrylics 

Go beyond the “wet-wash” technique described in step 11 and give your piece the “dry-brush” treatment. Simply dip a dry brush into a very little dark paint, wipe off the excess on a paper towel, and then lightly stroke portions of the piece with the brush. Used together, these two techniques work wonders!

Polymer clay cabochon_1
PHOTO 1
Polymer clay cabochon_2
PHOTO 2
PART 2: MAKE A POLYMER CLAY CABOCHON AND BEADS


POLYMER CLAY CABOCHON 

Marble two colors of polymer clay and form a ball. Mix 2 ounces (56g) of translucent clay and 2 ounces (56g) of tan clay to achieve a marbled effect. This can be done by rolling each of them out into a short rope and twisting, rolling, and folding them together repeatedly. Roll the mixed clay into a ball [PHOTO 1].

Roll cane slices into the ball. Cut various canes (see “Defining a Cane," below) into slices and apply them randomly to three-fourths of the marbled ball [PHOTO 2]. The back side of the cabochon (cab) will not be seen, so no need to put cane slices there. If you’re using old canes, be sure to warm the slices prior to appliquéing them to the ball so they are less apt to crack. Gently roll the ball on a smooth work surface with your palm until the slices are rolled in flush.

Shape the cabochon. Using the palm of your hand, gently press the ball onto your work surface and shape the clay so it has a slight dome on the top and a flat back [PHOTO 3]. You can also work on waxed paper; when your cab is finished, simply peel the paper away from the clay.

Adhere raised cane slices to the cabochon. Cut various additional cane slices and apply them to the surface of your cab, using a knitting needle to press and sculpt them into place [PHOTO 4]. If you aren’t working on waxed paper, use a tissue blade to help remove the cab from the surface cleanly.

Polymer clay cabochon_3
PHOTO 3
Polymer clay cabochon_4
PHOTO 4


POLYMER CLAY BEADS

Make the beads. Repeat the steps for making a polymer cab, but rather than shaping a cab, divide the ball into sections and roll individual beads. Appliqué cane slices to the beads, if desired [PHOTO 5]. Use a needle tool to make a hole through the center of each bead—pierce the bead from each side, as most needles taper.

Polymer clay cabochon_5
PHOTO 5


BAKE THE CABOCHON AND BEADS

Bake the pieces according to the polymer-clay manufacturer’s instructions. Once baked, set the pieces aside and let them cool.


Defining a cane

DEFINING A CANE 

A cane is a loaf of polymer clay that can be round, square, or another shape, with a colored pattern running lengthwise through its center. When the loaf is sliced horizontally, the colorful cross-sections are revealed, often displaying geometric or abstract shapes, or images of objects (flowers, leaves, etc.).

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PART 3: CREATE VARIOUS EMBELLISHMENTS
Embellish your piece with a variety of texturing, metal-clay bead and organic techniques, and charm-ing ideas! Then, venture onto parts 4 and 5 for the finishing touches. For the remainder of the instructions, make sure you take a look at our free, downloadable PDF with accompanying photos!

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