If you're just starting out with metal clay or jewelry making in general, getting started can seem overwhelming. The following tips will help you get started with confidence.
1. Know what you want to make. Always have a good idea of what you'll want to make before you ever get out the clay. Make a 3-D Vision Board or online Pinterest Board to keep track of designs or styles you like, artists you admire, and process tutorials. I keep separate Pinterest boards not only for things like 'Earrings, 'Necklaces' and 'Bracelets' - but also for techniques and details such as 'Clasps', 'Enamel', 'Stone Setting', 'Tutorials', and 'Studio Inspiration'.
2. Be Prepared! Bring everything you need for the project to the work space before you open the package of clay. This might include spacers, work surface, cutters, textures, props like straws, plastic wrap, notes, and anything else you need to work the fresh clay.
3. Collect the necessary tools. You know you'll need a roller, a work surface, cutters and textures, and sandpaper. See a complete list on the 'Tools' page. Some things you can make yourself or find in your home - others you may want to buy. If you're taking a class and using the instructors tools and materials, make a list of the things you use most often, and buy them for your personal kit. It's important to have good tools if you want to be successful.
4. Create a 'Studio' space. Whether it's an entire room, an armoire, the dining room table, a rolling caddy, or a hardware store toolbox, it'll be more convenient if your tools and materials have an easily accessible home. If you have to look in cabinets and drawers all over the house - you'll be less likely to want to get to work.
5. Practice with a similar material. Metal clay can be expensive and intimidating. Test textures with Silly Putty, so the clay doesn't dry out as you experiment. Make paper or polymer models to visualize what the piece might look like. Draw a simple sketch notating how you might achieve the look, materials you want to use to complete the piece of jewelry, and dimensions.
6. Know how you will turn the metal clay element into a piece of wearable jewelry. Decide in advance how it will hang, For instance will you want to drill holes for a jump ring to string the chain on, or will you make a bail to match the pendant? How will the necklace close? With a handmade toggle or a commercial finding? Will you create smaller metal clay elements to compliment the focal piece or use ready made beads?
7. Take a class! The more skills you bring to your designs, the more interesting they will be. Adding color with enamels, colored pencil, or resin may make your designs pop! Knowing how to solder a jump ring so the chain doesn't break will give your cutsomers confidence in the longevity of their purchase. Learning to rivet will enable you to add mixed media to your metal clay designs.
8. Scour the internets. YouTube and Google will be your very best friends for free tutorials and tips. There are many jewelry blogs and podcasts that are super helpful. Any question you have about almost anything will be answered at least 5 times in 5 different ways. No one way is the 'right' way, just take the time to view or read more than one source so you can figure out what way is the best way for you.
9. Show yourself off! If no-one can see you online, they won't know about your jewelry and won't be able to buy it. Social media is more important than ever if you want to start a small business, or just have a 'calling card' to show relatives and friends.The following are all free things you can do to begin: Start a Blogger blog (it doesn't have to be chatty or updated often), Open a Square-Up shop (Note: Square Up and Square Space are two different platforms), Create a professional Facebook page, and Load images onto an Instagram feed. As you go along you may want to move on to more professional formats, but it's always nice to find your way without spending money.
10. Take a Risk! Apply for a craft show, make something big if you're used to working small (or vice versa), submit a photo to a magazine for publication in the gallery, enter a contest or challenge. Every time you take a risk you grow as an artist - whether you accomplish your goal or not.
11. Ok. I know I said 'Top Ten Tips', but this is the most important. Always have fun. If you're stressed you won't want to continue. If you're having a hard day making, stop and come back tomorrow. If you can't think of a thing to do, read a book, go to the museum, color in a coloring book, or go for a walk. Then get back to your studio and make your hands do something - make earring wires, clean up your space, do your taxes or flat out copy a project from a book or other tutorial (don't sell it if you do). Inspiration is over rated. Sometimes you have to Just Do It. Once your hands are busy, it's very likely that you'll come up with another project. Don't think "I have to go to the studio today" Turn your attitude around and think "I get to go to the studio today". Just that one switch-up may change your whole week!