claire alba unique handmade jewelry brooklyn

The Process of Making Ceramic Jewelry

I've been making ceramic jewelry for 10 years now. I take the process for granted, but realize many people don't know what's involved. So, I'll tell you :)

There are several steps that span over a few days, which is actually pretty great for me - I get bored easily and this process keeps me engaged. Designing is the first step, super fun and so experimental. And since it takes a while to see how it turns out, there is a lot of anticipation, excitement (and definitely some disappointment).

In designing, I create templates out of cardboard for what I want, considering where ear wires or a necklace chain may connect.  I roll out the clay with what looks like a pasta maker and cut the shapes from this nice, thin slab of clay. Then the pieces have to dry - flat - which takes a little babysitting to make sure they don't warp. And when they are bone dry, I use a damp sponge to soften the edges. Then it all goes into the kiln for what is called a bisque firing. This cures the pieces from delicate, dry clay into a firm ceramic that can receive glaze without falling apart. It takes about 12 hours for the kiln to climb to the correct temperature (about 1900 degrees Fahrenheit) and cool back down.

Glazing is next. Glaze is essentially liquid glass and the application possibilities are endless - from combining glazes, the number of coats to use, types of glaze, and using wax-resist (a technique that prevents glaze from adhering in certain areas). The glaze has to be applied carefully so it doesn't touch the underside of the pieces. If there is any speck of glaze that meets any part of the kiln, it will fuse together. Forever. And we don't want that. I also use actual pieces of glass sometimes - which melts beautifully, crackling in the heat. There is a particular teal-colored glass I love to work with which comes from a delicious bottle of Riesling that I must "harvest". It's part of the job ;)

Once the glazing is done, the pieces go back in the kiln for another 12-hour firing and cool-down. Opening the kiln this time around is like opening a gigantic gift filled with a bunch of little gifts. This is when I see how my experiments turned out and if my tried-and-true techniques came out as expected. It's kind of a big deal - some pottery studios even host kiln-opening parties! It can be incredibly satisfying. It usually is. And every once in a blue moon, I open the kiln and head straight to the trash. Luckily not often, but it has happened. I'll be real.

With the finished pieces glimmering on my work table, it's time to put them all together. Adjustable rings need to be set, ear wires are made with hypoallergenic titanium wire, metal is hammered, chains made.

Making ceramic jewelry is an exciting process and one I am happy to share. I have taught jewelry making classes and am always open to collaborating. Get in touch with me if you have a design idea - I can help make it come to life!

Back to blog