Polymer clay kintsugi process

Miniature broken heart pendant in brown swirled polymer clay with two gold kintsugi style repairs

The items in the polymer clay kintsugi collection were the first items I made in my kintsugi artwork. Over time, however, I have gradually turned all of my attention to my work in stone kintsugi, and the polymer clay work has been phased out and is no longer available.

When it was active, the collection of polymer clay kintsugi artwork included a variety of jewelry items and accessories.

I designed these using polymer clay in this modern kintsugi style to create pieces that are lighter weight and less expensive that the traditional materials of ceramic and lacquer mixed with gold would be. All categories in this collection included items repaired in both gold and silver colors.

While the details for making the various polymer clay kintsugi style pieces in my collection vary somewhat, the overall process is quite similar. An outline of this process is given below. The creation of any of these items takes several days.

Making the initial piece

First, the polymer clay colors are chosen and blended to create the swirled hues to be used in a given batch.

Once the polymer clay is soft and the colors are adequately blended. There are two methods I use to create the initial piece.

One method is to roll the clay into thin sheets (approximately 3 mm thick) and use cutters to form the desired shapes.

The second method is to use molds to shape the clay.

Any method chosen must produce relatively thin pieces in order for it to be possible to break them in the next step.

Once all of the shapes have been formed for a given batch, they are cured in the oven to harden them.

Breaking

Cured polymer clay is not readily breakable even in thin shapes, however, so the pieces much be frozen for several hours (usually overnight) to make them brittle enough to break. Even so, they must be broken immediately upon removal from the freezer to obtain clean breaks.

The thinner pieces can be broken by holding one edge of the piece in flat jawed pliers (no teeth!) and pressing it firmly at an angle on a hard surface. This is normally enough to make it snap.

The thicker pieces made with molds must often be broken by hitting the frozen piece hard on the corner of a counter top until it breaks.

I have little control over the breaking process, including the actual location of the break and whether I will wind up with a single break or multiple ones. In fact, not all pieces even survive this step; some shatter in such a way that repair is not feasible and must be discarded at this point.

Repair

After breaking, the pieces must be allowed to return to room temperature before proceeding.

Very thin strips of gold- or silver-colored polymer clay can then be used to create a repair between the two rough edges. The repair process is a tricky one to perform in a way that gives a thin, sturdy, and smooth repair line on both the front and back of the piece.

The repaired pieces must then be cured a second time in the oven.

Finishing

Once cooled, each piece is wet sanded with progressively finer sand paper (seventeen grades total) to smooth the edges, particularly along the repair, and polish the surfaces. For those pieces that will be placed into settings, this step also involves gently reshaping the repaired piece to its original shape and size since the repair process does distort it with the addition of the extra polymer clay.

All of this baking and sanding takes a toll on the gold- and silver-colored polymer clay used in the repair causing it to become dull and lifeless, so a thin coat of acrylic paint in the appropriate color is added to highlight the repair line on front and back (if required) before the piece is finished with a light acrylic sealer for protection.

At this point the finished pieces can be affixed into settings or attached to bails and completed with cords, chains, key rings, rosaries, earring backs or whatever else is necessary to complete the piece for use.

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