Sculpting with Polymer Clay
Hi, I’m Kate the designer and maker of Clouds and Ladders Jewelry. I’m the March featured artist for Jenny Lemons, and I want to show you a quick and fun way to make colorful candle holders using polymer clay.
Gather Your Materials
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- Two packages of contrasting color soft polymer clay, I recommend Sculpey Premo for beginners.
- 1½” flower-shaped cookie cutter
- One tissue blade
- A ½” wood dowel, or another cylinder to use as a rolling pin
- Two, ⅛” square dowels
- Wax paper
- Candle cups
- Plastic wrap or plastic bag
- Taper candles
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Step 1: Knead Your Clay
One disclaimer: I do not recommend using polymer clay with anything you eat off, like dishes or eating utensils. There isn’t any evidence that it’s harmful but better to be safe than sorry!
OK, now for the fun part! First, wash your hands! Polymer clay tends to pick up any oils and dust very quickly. I wear gloves to keep my clay (and hands) clean. While you’re prepping, I recommend popping your clay in a pocket or sit on it - it’ll be easier to work with when it’s warmed up. To prepare your work surface, tape down a piece of wax paper at least 12” wide, so it doesn’t move around. Next, you’ll cut each of your clay colors in half. Mix one half of each color of clay with your hands for about 2-3 minutes - this is the hardest part of working with polymer clay and one of the most important steps! Conditioning the clay makes it flexible to work with and creates a stronger finished product. It should be easy to pinch with your fingers when it’s ready.
Step 2: Roll Out Your Clay
Line up the 2 square dowels on your wax paper, and flatten out the polymer clay in the color you want to be your candle holder’s body, like a pancake. You’ll want it to be at least 2” wide. Then use the dowel, or whatever you’re using for the rolling pin, to roll your pancake out flat.
As a side note, I saw a great tip in another Jenny Lemons clay tutorial where they used pieces of cardboard taped together as a stand-in for the square dowels, and that’s a great idea!
Step 3: Cut the Flower Base
Next, place a piece of a plastic bag or plastic wrap over your clay and smooth it down. Then you’ll put the cookie cutter on top of that and push straight down. Carefully lift up the cutter and the plastic.
Carefully pull back the extra clay. If the flower and clay are stuck together, use your blade/knife to cut it apart neatly. You should easily lift the flower from the wax paper, but if it sticks, slide the tissue blade under it to separate it from the paper.
Step 4: Create Your Candle Cup
Using the edge of one of the wooden dowels as a straight edge and the blade, trim one short edge and one long edge of the rectangle, so they’re perpendicular and straight.
Lay the top of the candle cup along the straight edge of the clay
Roll the candle holder inside the clay until the straight edge touches and the candle holder is completely covered.
Use the tissue blade to cut the excess clay off at the edge where the straight edge touches.
It will look like this from the side.
Use your fingers or tools to blend the seam where the clay comes together.
GENTLY roll the candle holder to smooth out the clay. Don’t push too hard!
Use the blade to cut off the extra clay on the bottom of the candle cup, and trim the top edge if it’s uneven.
With your knife, make criss-cross marks on the bottom of the cup and where it will attach to the flower base. GENTLY push the cup onto the base.
Center the cup on the flower.
If the candle cup has a hole in the bottom, you can use your dowel to push the clay that comes through the hole to be flat. This will help hold the pieces together.
Step 5: Add Some Flair!
If you haven’t yet, condition the contrasting color clay by kneading it in your hands for 2-3 minutes. Roll a piece out into a snake shape, and cut small, equal sections. The size of the sections depends on how large you want your decorations to be.
Step 6: Finishing
You can roll the pieces into tiny balls, leave them flat like buttons, or roll them out and make thin snake lines. Press your accent pieces onto the clay candle holder gently. You may want to take a pencil and mark a pattern where you want the pieces to go. It can be hard to get little balls to stick without squishing them- if they come off, you can glue them back on with superglue after baking.
There should be enough clay to follow these directions and make a second candle holder in opposite colors!
Bake for 45 minutes at 265 degrees. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Don’t handle it until it’s cool; it’ll be very fragile!
I hope you enjoy this project! I also made a Jenny Lemons IGTV video with more tips and tricks for working with polymer clay, plus a tutorial showing how to make a quick and easy pair of flower earrings or magnets.
On March 26, I’ll teach a Zoom Class how to make a polymer clay flower bud vase. Tag me on Instagram @cloudsandladders if you make any of the projects I’ve shared this month!
is a jewelry designer living and working in California's Sonoma County. Her jewelry brand, Clouds and Ladders, is carried in boutiques nationwide, as well as the SFMOMA Museum Store.