Handmade clay jewelry has much more charm than mass produced pieces.

By Emma Moneuse.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has put a lot more time on people’s hands; many took to baking bread, others to TikTok dances, embroidering, making rugs and some to creating clay jewelry. Homemade trends boomed during the pandemic and so did the interest in buying small. “When you buy handmade jewelry from a small business or artist, you’re not only buying a piece of jewelry, you’re buying into a brand that has grown from a genuine love of the art,” explains Jess Moore, jeweler behind The Clay Drop explains.

For jewelry artists working during the pandemic, polymer clay has served as an inexpensive and accessible medium with an underrated charm. Ellie Scull, the creator of the clay jewelry brand Still Groovy, says that she was drawn to the freedom of polymer clay because “it gives you freedom to make whatever you want. It’s fully malleable and paintable. It’s also sort of nostalgic.” Not only that, but it can also be baked in any home oven, making it perfect for homemade creations.

The clay itself has a childlike quality similar to Play-Doh, but so do the pieces themselves. While each artist’s style is unique, the trend’s key characteristics are bright colors and whimsical shapes. Clay artist Sophie Zhou of Shop Sweet Thing designs her rings to look like a piece of chewing gum suspended in time, emphasizing that the adaptability of clay allows for an endless range of possibilities.

Lockdown gave a lot of creatives the time to establish businesses. Compared to mass-produced jewelry, homemade jewelers offer one-of-a-kind designs which allows consumers to keep up with trends while still being different. While mass brands may be more widely seen or known for certain trends, Scull emphasizes that big brands are usually inspired by the trends smaller designers start.

“We are often at the forefront of the styles people want to see, because we are working with our customers directly and personally to gain feedback and ideas for new products,” she says. “I think as long as customers aren’t willing to trade quality and uniqueness for cost and convenience, small creators have a chance of reigning supreme.”

Another draw toward small businesses is how they ethically and environmentally differ from mass producing brands. “People are gaining a better understanding of things such as the impact of fast fashion on the environment and its workers,” explains Moore. “Because of this I think many people are more inclined to buy from small creators because they appreciate the slow-made nature of the accessories.” When you buy from an independent artist you’re also supporting “a person that has worked hard to build a business on their own, instead of that money going straight into the pockets of a corporation,” says Scull.

Buying from a small business offers a more intimate experience. “You’re buying the experience of opening a package that has been lovingly put together by someone who appreciates your order so much more than companies that mass produce accessories,” explains Moore. “I think a huge part of the appeal of handmade jewelry is knowing that it’s been made with so much love at every stage.”

Image credit: Still Groovy