Polymer clay jewellery is in vogue. Its visual appeal matchless possibilities in design economic factor are reasons for its popularity, say two jewellery designers

A flower shaped pendant - flaming orange and tantalising - its shaded petals curling inwards, its bright yellow core segueing to a brilliant red….it’s one of those eye-catching pieces on the neck that will leave you wishing to be the wearer. It’s not gold, silver or diamond jewellery that’s making this impact but one made of polymer clay. One of the maker- entrepreneurs bringing polymer jewellery to the city is Mary Koshy Karuvelil who learnt the art from a French woman, Veronique. Mary lives in Jersey, a small island off the coast of England, with her husband who owns a consultancy company there.

Love for art

She was introduced to this style of jewellery through a friend. Intrigued and impressed she bought many books on the subject and began self-learning. It was not until an artiste at an exhibition enquired about one of her creations that she began taking her interest seriously. “It boosted my confidence and I began taking my love for this art seriously,” says Mary while on vacation in Kochi which is one of her biggest markets for her products.

As a youngster growing in Thumpamon, Mary was interested in the arts – in drawing and in dance. After marriage she spent 20 years in Kuwait where she took a one year course in dance whilst taking a short course in crochet and stitching, things that find their way into her jewellery design.

Polymer clay is Polyvinyl chloride and is available in blocks of different colours. The material comes in many brands. Mary uses Fimo. She explains the first step to be ‘conditioning’ when a pasta machine can be used to roll the block out. This is followed by the addition of colour or blending, techniques like “skinner blend” or shading, which gives a painting like effect.

“There are many techniques used in this art. It is comparable to glass blowing, because we use similar methods for glass jewellery,” says Mary explaining a common technical term, canes. A cane is a log or cylinder of clay that has a design running through it, so each slice of the cane - the cross-section - contains the design. Moulding, which she does with her hands, is the next step with the final being baking, done in her kitchen oven! For finishing touches the artiste can experiment, with glaze or matt finish.

Mary mostly makes floral shapes, being a student of zoology. “The material is pliable, like play dough. If you have a creative hand you can make any shape or design, and of any colour. It is a wonderful medium,” she gushes with excitement at the thought of the umpteen possibilities.

New material

The biggest strength of polymer jewellery is its matching possibilities. “It can be matched to the exact shade of the attire and looks best when matched completely,” says Mary who has held three exhibitions of her products.

Mary’s designs are contemporary and trendy and not limited to suit western clothes only. In fact she pairs them smartly with Indian garments. It takes almost two days for her to complete a necklace.

Only a couple of years into this art Mary feels she has a long way to go in mastering the different possibilities this medium affords. Her next design intervention is to combine crochet with polymer and bring out a new range.

Mary retails through Facebook and can be reached at info.mariasjewellery@gmail.com

Valsa Joseph first saw polymer clay in 2008, on a television show in the United States of America, which featured projects you could do with your hands. From quilting to candle-moulding, they all appealed to Valsa, who was already proficient at oil painting and dry flower arrangements. But jewellery-making from polymer clay caught her fancy the most. “I liked it because of the varied natural colours one could create from it. Unlike, terracotta which has only its innate brown, and has to painted upon, this clay could be mixed and matched to create different shades. Moreover, polymer clay doesn’t break,” says Valsa.

Starting small

Valsa began with necklaces, moulding small beads into different sizes and stringing them into colourful patterns. She eventually graduated to jhimkis as they were hugely popular among her friends and relatives who were her first clientele. Slowly, word got around, sales grew and exhibitions came her way. Five years down the line, Valsa’s brand Tanmaya, is among the most sought-after alternative jewellery designers. With annual shows in Trissur, Kottayam, Trivandrum and Kochi, a strong online retail base, Tanmaya serves a wide variety of customers including several from the film fraternity. “Meera Jasmine wore one of my creations in her film Ladies and Gentlemen, as did Nadia Moidu in Aaru Sundarimarude Katha,” says Valsa.

Tanmaya is known for its intricate ethnic work rooted in traditional designs. The process begins with imported clay which is first softened, and then blended to achieve different colour combinations. “This takes time because to achieve the right shade you’ve to keep experimenting with different quantities of the primary colours,” says Valsa. Once that is done, the clay is flattened, cut into different sizes and then rolled into different shapes. “Sometimes I use bead rollers, otherwise handmade moulds,” she says. Each shape is then given a pattern using different objects. For instance, Valsa creates an indented texture by pin-pricking the clay with a needle at tiny intervals. She also uses thin threads for a criss-crossed effect on the clay. The product is finally baked in an oven.

Jhimki love

Valsa’s most coveted pieces are her jhimkis. They come in subtle shades of light pinks and blues to louder block colours such as magenta and fuschia and even metallic golds and silvers. It takes three days to create one series of jhimkis from scratch and Valsa says she works at Tanmaya from six to ten each day. After four years of working alone, Valsa hired help in her fifth year, hoping to expand her brand. Tanmaya now has a more pricey and exclusive range specially created for weddings and mehendi functions. In the year ahead, Valsa hopes to conduct a fashion show featuring her new line of work. Now in her 60s, Valsa says creating Tanmaya has brought her immense happiness and creative satisfaction. “I’m so thrilled when I get just the right combination of colours and they match a good outfit. It makes my day when customers chose to wear my creations to important functions, and say they’re complimented even more than when they sport diamonds.”

Valsa can be contacted at www.tanmaya-jewelry.com/

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