How to Make Kiln-Fired Clay Pendants & Buttons

Denim Blue Collection Pendant

Sample pendant above uses Amaco Potter’s Choice Glaze – Blue Rutile PC-20 on Laguna Speckled Buff Clay.

Introduction

These are the basic steps and materials I use to make my pendants.  After you have a little experience, you will adapt the method and materials to suit your work (and fashion) style.  The possibilities are endless!  You may see many more pictures of my pendants, buttons and earrings at my pottery web site: Cotton Ridge Pottery.

Please feel free to email with questions: Create@CottonRidgeDesigns.com.

Materials

Method

Sprinkle a wooden work area with cornstarch.  Using about 1/2 pound, roll out clay using the thickness strips as a guide.  As you work, sprinkle clay with a little cornstarch and turn clay over and roll on the other side occasionally, until you reach the desired thickness.  Try to roll it as evenly as possible.  The clay should not stick to the surface.

Using firm, steady pressure, press your textured objects into the clay.  You can use the rolling pin to roll flat objects.  Using the small cutters, cut out shapes and carefully move them to a wooden ware board. Try not to bend them or the pendant may permanently lose its flat shape.

Repeat as often as you like!


Jewelry Designs from Nature: Woodlands, Gardens, Sea: Art Bead Jewelry Designs Inspired by Nature

Custom Cool Jewelry

Jewelry-Making Tools & Supplies


Making Clay Pendants, Earrings & Buttons

Making Clay Pendants, Earrings & Buttons

 

When the pendants have dried enough that you can pick them up without squishing them, gently press down on the edges on both sides to round them slightly.  Set them aside to dry to almost leather-hard.

Pendants: When the pendants are almost leather-hard, use the drill bit to gently drill a hold near the top of the pendant.  Start from the front of the pendant and drill slowly towards the back.  As you get the hang of this it will go quicker.  Clean off the clay from the drill bit before drilling the next pendant.  Buttons: Drill 2 holes near the center of the clay shape.

 

Patina Glaze Button

 

No-Hole Option 1: You may use the Kemper High Temp Wire 24 gauge instead of drilling a hole.  Bend 1/2″ length of wire over the thin end of a paintbrush.  Use flat-head pliers to gently insert into the top of a pendant.  Leave enough loop to hang on a bead tree wire.

Use of Kemper Wire instead of drilling a hole

 

Photo by Kemper Tools

No-Hole Option 2: Use a glue-on bail after firing.  For this option, do not glaze the back of the pendant – lay it on the kiln shelf for firing instead of using the bead tree.  Use E-6000 Adhesive or similar product to glue on the bail, and let cure for 48 hours (or follow package directions).

Use of a glue-on bail

 

Sign the back of the pendants using a Stylus:

When the pendants are leather-hard, use the small curved scraper on the Double Ended Pin and Carving Tool to gently scrape off the excess clay from the drill hole and signature.  Set aside until bone dry.

Double-Ended Pin Carving Tool. Photo by Kemper Tools.

Drying Stoneware Clay Pendants & Crosses


Pottery Tools & Supplies

Stoneware Clay

Jump Rings and Jump Ring Tools


Bisque Fire

Stack the pendants three – four high on the kiln shelves and fire to Bisque Cone 04 according to your kiln manufacturer’s instructions.

Bisque-Firing Clay Pendants and Crosses


 

Glaze

I prefer high-fire glazes, but have successfully used both Mayco and Amaco Low-Fire(Cone 06 – 05) Glazes and Laguna and Coyote High-Fire (Cones 5 – 6) on high-fire stoneware clay.  As you know, different glazes react differently on different clays.  Some glazes drip too much for small object.  Do some glaze testing with your favorite glazes to see how they work on the pendants.

Brush the glaze on evenly.  Low-fire glazes usually need at least 3 coats.  High-fire glazes vary.  After the glaze has dried, use the pin end of the Double Ended Pin/Carving Tool to scrape out the glaze from the hole.  This is VERY IMPORTANT.  If there is too much glaze in the hole, it will stick to the bead tree wire.

Glaze Fire

Remove the second and fourth wires down on the Kiln Bead Tree or Bead Rack.  Hang the pendants on the top and third wires – usually 2 pendants will fit on either side of the wire.   Be sure that none of the pendants are touching each other or the bead tree.  (I usually separate them after I put them in the kiln, otherwise they fall off between my workroom and my kiln.)

Glaze Fire according to the glaze manufacturer’s and kiln manufacturer’s instructions.

Roselli Bead Tree. Photo from Clay-King.com.

Evaluate

Hopefully, you will be pleased with a few pendants and want to wear them or give them as gifts.  Attach 9mm or 10mm jump rings to these (see this video tutorial on jump rings).

Jump Ring Tool. Photo from Firemountaingems.com.

 

Don’t be discouraged if there are several that don’t meet your expectations.  Over the years I have thrown out or given away to my mosaic-making friends more pendants than I have kept to sell or wear!  I have a small box of 5 drawers, each labeled:

  • “Ready for Jump Rings”- I am pleased with these and can sell, wear, or give as gifts
  • “Grab Bags” – These are on the line – not bad enough to trash, but not good enough to sell individually.  I put 4 – 8 of these in little attractive “grab bags” and sell them for $10 per bag at craft shows.
  • “Glaze Again” – These are the pendants that may look perfect with a little more glaze.  Sometimes glazing again works, sometimes not.
  • “Rejects” – For my mosaic-making friends
  • “Glaze Tests” – Good enough to show how a particular glaze looks on a particular clay.  Be sure to label them.

Glazed Pendant Sorting Drawers

I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions!  Have fun and experiment with different clays, shapes, textures and glazes!


Copyright 2011 Kathryn Depew

Have you tried this project? Please comment below and leave your ideas and suggestions! Would you like to share your creation? Please contact me!

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18 Responses to How to Make Kiln-Fired Clay Pendants & Buttons

  1. Carol Price says:

    Your work is wonderful.. Had health issues that took me away from doing clay but you have inspired me with your great ideas. I do both pottery and polymer so this is fabulous! Thanks!

  2. christine skalski says:

    I love it. Thanks for the great images— it makes understanding the process so much better :)

  3. ArtistMum says:

    Love your clay pendants and buttons! They are beautiful? I’ll definitely visit often to see what you’re up to :-)

  4. Christina n says:

    Very nice! I have been wanting to make some clay pendants lately! Where do you find your pattern imprints?
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful site!

    CN

    • Kathie says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked this. For patterns I use rubber stamps, buttons, shells, plaster stamps, leaves, just about anything that will leave a pattern in clay when pushed. :) Thank you again!

  5. stojankab says:

    Beautiful pendants Kathie – nicely explained. Thanks for sharing.

    Got one question if you don’t mind – ‘what kind of high temperature wire do you use and where did yo get it from?’

    Cheers :)

    • Kathie says:

      Hello, thank you for your question! I use the Kemper High-Temp wire. I bought it from a wholesale distributor, but also have found it on Amazon, BigCeramicStore.com and Clay-King.com. Hope this helps! Thank you for your compliments, hope you enjoy making the pendants!

  6. Charlie says:

    Great tutorial. When you say you use a high fire clay, I am assuming you are referring to a Cone 5 or 6. Can you do this with low fire clay as well?

    I generally do slip work but would love to try my hand at this.

    Thanks!

    • Kathie says:

      Hi Charlie,
      I’ve worked with low fire clay before, but not to make the pendants. However, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work just as well as the Cone 5/6 high fire clay!

      Thank you for your comment and your visit!

      Kathie

  7. Terri says:

    Can you tell me what glazes you used on the oval blue in the example. i tried something similar with an oplescent glaze, but it was too flat and not enough depth, like a glimmer. thanks for the tutorial. this lesson has inspired me.

    • Kathie says:

      Hi Terri, Thank you for your comment! This is the Blue Rutile Glaze by Amaco on Speckled Buff clay by Laguna. You are welcome for the tutorial – so glad it helped you!

  8. Kathy Mc says:

    Hi Kathie,

    What a article, directions and photos. I’ve been making pottery for several years, but beads for only a few months. I think of them as little snippets of a bigger picture. My beads have included small hole and larger hole for cording and no hole with high temp wire.

    I have been less than satisfied with some of the glaze effects. All of the beads are high fired to cone 6 with our other pottery items. Could you tell me what method you are using to reglaze the pendants?

    Thanks, Kathy – Tipsy Mermaid Art

    • Kathie says:

      Hi Kathy,
      Thanks so much for your comment and your question! Reglazing sometimes helps, sometimes doesn’t. But often it is worth a try! Usually I just brush on a little more of the same glaze in the spot(s) where it is needed. I tried dipping my pendants but find better results when I brush on a coat at a time. Hope this helps! Thank you again!

  9. Terry says:

    Could you tell me how well the Kemper wire does in cone 6 firing? I see that the package says OK for cone 5.

    • Kathie says:

      Hi Terry,
      Thank you for your question! I mostly fire to Cone 5, but have fired with the Kemper wire up to cone 6 occasionally, and it did fine for me. You might want to do a test run first though. Hope this helps!

      Kathie

  10. artisan says:

    Love your input. I make all kind of stuff with modeling clay and when making beads or pendants I do it all in one shot. I make the item, let it dry. Glaze it and Fire it using Cone 04. They come out great!!! I sell my crafts in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and my clients love my pieces….So save time and money…all you out there!!! Blessings.

  11. Susan says:

    Thanks so much for this – I’m planning to make buttons in a class I’m taking and this is extremely helpful. I love your work!

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