Updated: Aug 23
When I started my polymer clay earring business I went hog wild buying everything I could find that had the word clay attached to it. If I saw a new technique I had to have all the items that when along with making it and I'm pretty sure I bought every cutter I could get my hands on.
I've always been a bit of a shopaholic, but I justified this spending spree by telling myself that these items were needed to make my business work. You gotta spend money to make money right? Well sure, there are things you need to buy to be able to start a business, but maybe not to the extreme I did. So I wanted to write a little blog about my favorite clay tools, some more necessary than others, in hopes to help the next clay artist save a little money.
First up is the obvious - CLAY:
It's a little hard to make anything without it. But where do you start? People are throwing out names like Fimo, sculpey, crafters, cernit, kato. There's so many brands to choose from and then there are different lines within each brand; premo, souffle, III, soft, leather effect. I mean seriously how is a newbie suppose to know which brand is best? Here's my two cents on it, and I know we all have our favorites, mine might not be yours. I prefer sculpey in both premo and soufflé versions. I love the texture and feel of the soufflé but if you don't like soft clay you probably won't like it for doing detail work as it gets softer the warmer it gets. Premo on the other hand is harder and great for detail work. I primarily use premo for my floral designs. The best part is you can buy 10 packs of premo at Michael's in the US for $19.70 a pack, that's only $1.97 per unit compared to the usual $3-4 a pop.
Next up - CLAY CUTTERS:
What's a clay cutter you might be thinking? Well its basically a glorified cookie cutter. Are they necessary, no not 100% but they do help make your shapes more exact. Don't just start ordering a million different shapes and sizes because you think they're cute. First you'll want to figure out your style. Which is why I recommend ordering a starter set of basic cutters like the Tainsky 25 clay cutters for $19.99 on Amazon. I still use these basic shapes today far more than I use my more unique cutters.
I've learned over the past several months that the more detailed cutters might not be for me. I actually prefer to make the tiny details myself like adding a floral design or creating mountains.
Now - let's talk TOOLS:
The tools I use most often, and when I say most often these are the tools that I literally use on every single pair of earrings, include a tissue blade, an acrylic roller, a precision knife, and dotting tools in both large and small sizes. There's an assortment of tool kits available on Amazon for around $15. You might be wondering, what's the point of all these tools and why do I need them? Until you have enough money for a pasta machine, the acrylic rollers help to condition and smooth your clay and you can use some popsicle sticks as measuring guides for your earring thickness. The tissue blade and knife are a bit more obvious, they're for cutting pieces and removing your clay from a stuck surface. But my favorite tool of all are the dotting tools. Not only can they be used to make divots in the clay, but you can use them for all kinds of design effects and shape your clay with them. The only limitation is your own imagination. Don't forget you'll also need some findings and jewelry pliers to put everything together.
We're in the big time now - PASTA MACHINE:
You don't need the biggest, most expensive pasta machine when you're starting out. In fact you don't have to get one at all, the acrylic rollers work just fine. but if you're ready to make your life a little easier I suggest starting with a cheaper pasta machine until you're ready for an upgrade. My first machine was the Isiler adjustable pasta machine from Amazon for under $40. My hands thanked me for getting this. And when you're ready for an even bigger upgrade you'll want to look at the Atlas 150 or 180. You can even pay to have them modified by Mona Kissel or Ed's Colors for easier cleaning. I've been making earrings for almost a year and just bought my first Atlas 150, I haven't modified mine yet, but it is on my wish list.
Last but not least - PASTA MACHINE MOTOR:
Ok, this one might not be a must have if you're just starting out but if you're planning to stick with this craft for the long haul, you'll want to get yourself a motorized pasta machine. If you can my suggestion is to buy the pasta machine and motor at the same time to save yourself a couple bucks. The second machine I bought was the Shule machine with an electric motor. It's loud, and it can be kind of clunky but you can't beat the price of $85 for the combo. The motor makes conditioning and blending your clay so much easier.
All in all, for a couple hundred bucks or less, you could easily have your business up and running without breaking your bank account. I hope this helps narrow down the necessities for those of you who are just starting out. Good luck on your new adventure, you're going to love it....and FYI, it becomes addicting.