Debbie Carlton talks polymer clay

Debbie Carlton is an amazing evangelist for both polymer and metal clay which she uses in her own jewellery, teaches and writes about. We find out how why she loves these materials so much.

You work with precious metal clay and polymer clay – what attracted you to these materials?

I ‘discovered’ both polymer and metal clay whilst I was doing a two year diploma in figurative sculpture at Heatherleys College in London.

What attracted me to the materials, particularly polymer clay, was the fantastic array of colours , the fact that I could work at home on my kitchen table without out the need for large and expensive tools and of course the price. The metal clay is more expensive but also really easy to model with and use a wide variety of texture plates which can be bought or made with…. polymer clay.

debbie carlton polymer clay

One of the interesting aspects of polymer clay is that there is a great deal of variety in the end results you can achieve – for example the bright colours that most people start with, through monochromes, to finishes reflecting other materials. Can you give us some examples of the effects you like or teach.

Where to start.

You can see an overwhelming variety of styles and techniques on, or

I’ve tried lots but at the moment I’m into faux effects. Many books have been written on this topic showing how to create faux opals, pearls, turquoise, agate, lapis etc. My favs are faux ivory, bone and slate (see pics) it’s easy to make the base materials but creating jewellery or other pieces keeps me occupied for days and days.

debbie carlton faux ivory

Mokume gane is another one of my favourite techniques. This is based on a 17th century Japanese technique using layered metals to create decorative sword fittings – who would have guessed. We use layers of different colours of polymer with gold or silver leaf (see pics) and again the variations on the theme are limitless.

polymer clay jewellery debbie carlton

Do you think there are limits to what can be achieved with metal and polymer clay or do they give jewellers the opportunity to keep pushing boundaries?

Absolutely not! Because both materials are relatively new, polymer from the 1940’s and metal clay from the 1990’s , artists have been inventing and creating work from scratch and building on shared ideas especially now social media means worldwide communication. Over the last 10 years or so, the boundaries have moved dramatically from relatively simple craft ideas; to work that has recently been shown in a prestigious museum in Wisconsin USA. Even ‘traditional’ jewellers and silversmiths are beginning to realise the potential of these materials.

polymer clay faux effect jewellery debbie carlton

Who inspires you at the moment?
So many amazing artists working with both polymer and metal clay; Celie Fago, Liz Hall, Patrick Kusak and Kelly Russell use the two materials together to create beautiful work. Barbara Becker Simon, Wendy Malinow and Robert Dancik- all very different but all inspiring artists. I wrote a recent article called Polymer and Metal Clay Heaven in Craft and Design magazine which shows some lovely pictures of their work.

If you had unlimited budget/resources what would you make?
I would make large dramatic pieces of jewellery, maybe bangles and cuffs, using silver and perhaps gold metal clay also using polymer to inlay colour. I’d also make large table decorations ie candle holders, bowls or perhaps chandeliers!! The world is my lobster (or do I mean oyster).

And finally the important LJS question – what is your favourite biscuit or other jewellery making snack?

That’s a difficult one cos you have such yummy biscuits in the school.

debbie carlton jewellery

Debbie teaches polymer clay classes at London Jewellery School including her signature polymer clay cuff workshop.

All images from Debbie Carlton.

One Comment

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