Making or Finding your own form (lg. or small vessels)
Small container vessels
.... Inro
....Other small vessels & containers
Lids & other parts
Closures & Cording
Larger vessels
Other cores... Making your own
Misc. tips, ideas... for both

"ROCK" vessels
(vessels made over rocks, or other forms)

small pendants, amulets & "inros"
(+also vessels made over large rocks)

This page deals mostly with small containers which are made over a removable form and often worn as pendants, amulets & "inros" (some of the categories for small vessels overlap!).
......larger rocks or other forms can also be used to make box-like or bowl-like vessels, and those are included here also.


Making or Finding your own form (lg. or small vessels)

You can create your own forms to use for shaping these small vessels or any vessels (instead of finding or buying them).
Here are some options & ideas:

You can make a form on the inside of your object (hollow or open objects) by filling (or partly filling) with raw clay & baking:
...look around the house, garage, or in stores, etc., for a 3-D shape you like ...e.g., a small plastic Easter egg, an Advantix container, deodorant cap, a small cutter, etc. ......
coat the object with a release if needed, bake, and remove form
...Michelle Ross' lesson for a ring holder tray (not container) used this method of creating a clay form first (to avoid lettering or indentions in bottom of bowl?),,HGTV_3236_3105718,00.html
......she coated the inside of a very small bowl with Repel Gel, pressed in a wad of scrap clay, baked, and removed her "form"
......then covered the upside down form with Repel Gel, and shaped a teapot-shaped sheet over it
...NOTE:you can always cut off part of the clay form you've made to change its
shape while the clay is still warm from the oven (straight cuts are easiest...use a stiff blade or a stand slicer)

You can make a form on the outside of your object if its shape is not completely hollow
..... afterwards, you'll need to fill the inside of that to get an interior core form.

Or sculpt the base shape yourself from clay
...roll a smooth ball, or begin from a shape you've molded from an object
...then change that shape by tapering, flattening, etc., on your worksurface or in your hands (all kinds of cool shapes can be made this way!)
(...remember that the form must be removable after baking, so it can't have any projections or dips --that is, unless you want to cut it off and then rejoin its edges after baking . . . the same will apply to the form when it's used).

After you've made your form, use a release if necessary on it to allow the form and clay covering to be baked together:
... liquid release like ArmorAll or Kato's Repel Gel (others?)
...thin layer of aluminum foil (careful, it can leave wrinkle marks)
... paper of some kind (ordinary, tracing, parchment) if your shape allows that (has an straight surface)... overlap ends and use a dab of white or stick glue at end (don't allow glue to touch clay)
...brush or pounce cornstarch or even metallic powder on the raw clay (the cornstarch may not give enough release though, and form and covering clay may get stuck together!... using for small areas may work best?)

....Then apply base layer of clay to the form you've chosen
...Bake together (or remove form and support raw clay in oven with fiberfill or something bakable)
...Remove form after baking
...Add decorative layer
(...see Emi's lesson below for details on making overlapping top)

(...Rebake as necessary if adding other pieces, or you want to be able to thoroughly sand and buff each piece separately)

See more on making forms (and for inro), below in "Inro"

I've been using compacted aluminum foil as my interior core, then covering with a base layer of scrap clay. . . . Then I bake and sand them to use over and over again.
(or cornstarch) is my release agent.
...The clay sheets are laid on, seams blended, then cut off and seams re-blended prior to baking. The clay must rest prior to cutting and re-blending seams. Sometime multiple cuts, because of undercuts, are necessary (these are re-blended before the entire piece is reassembled).
I use fiber fill as an interior support when baking.
Conversations with Kathleen Dustin led me to this technique; I'm fairly certain this is how she creates her Ethnic Evening Bags (see Madonna purse with handle
). . Katherine Dewey
(....see below for another description of Kathleen's technique using either aluminum foil or a large rock below in "Large Rocks"....)

It's also possible to use polystyrene foams (Styrofoam, packing foams, etc.) as armatures to create hollow (closed or partly open) vessels foam can removed from clay after baking if it's left partly exposed (without being covered w foil--which will cause it to shrink a lot)
( foam can be left in the clay by completely covering the ps with aluminum foil (or baby oil perhaps), then baking)
For more details (plus discussion of shrinking or melting rates and fumes) see Covering > Plastics > #6 Polystyrene
...could also make two halves from one whole by cutting open the clay shape after baking (like rock vessels)....the foams can be shaped before using as well

...also, for Christine Taylor's hollow sculpts made with a layer of Sculpt-A-Mold and Creative Paperclay rather than polymer clay) over a "carved" foam form which is removed after the clays dry... then a layer of polymer clay is added... see Armatures > Temporary > Misc. Materials
..(for more details, plus discussion of shrinking or melting rates and fumes, see Covering > Plastics, Polystyrene)

ping pong balls can be baked though, if you use the right brand (see Covering)
...Even though you can't bake golf balls, you could still cover the golf ball, then remove the shell, bake with fiberfill inside, and re-cover the ball; ..or use an aluminum foil core the same diameter as the golf ball, then cut off the warm cover (like a rock vessel) and put it on the golf ball. Diane B

Cheryl's small purse (or could be pendant) made from two unequal (half) pillow shapes (cut through waists) formed over a removable armature (see Beads > Hollow > Pillow for pillow beads), with the lid being larger than the bottom to allow it to slip over the bottom


(many of the tips given in the "Large Rocks" section below also apply to the smaller rocks)

What clayers first called "rock vessels" are those which were made over small rocks (usually smooth pebbles) ...but they are can now also be made over other non-regular forms.
...What we're calling "inros" are made over more regular forms such as film canisters, cylinders-tubes of various kinds, small bottles or tiny cups, wood forms, etc.)

.....(for either type, the form itself can also be created by the maker)

In fact, any small object can be made into a container which is strung this way
(figures, animals, even candies or trucks... any object at all)

The small vessels created can also be used as tiny freestanding boxes (rather than pendants), just as the larger vessels.
.....If those containers are rounded or uneven on the bottom, a base of some sort can be added to allow them to stand.
(for example.... feet, clay donut shape, walls, increasing-diameter stacked disks of clay, or non-clay items like metal beads, etc.)

Using a small smooth rock as the removable armature for a "rock vessel" or "rock amulet' (or even a freestanding box) will result in an irreguarly shaped vessel, compared to making the "inro" below.
...Both of those are generally worn as pendants, and have a continuous cord attached through both top and bottom so that the lid will slide up and off the box but stay attached to the necklace.
.....there may be holes in the top and/or bottom for the cording, or it may pass through attached tubes, or other imaginative ways.

Some people cover their rocks with tin foil and .... some only dust the rock itself. That's what I did, because I wanted a smooth interior.... I did have to slit mine in a couple spots to remove the clay but it worked like a charm! I'm going to patch the slits tonight and begin to play! Joanie

Also some people poke small holes in the base for air release... some don't. I made the holes for my cords and that did the job…Joanie
...Ginny poked a hole in the bottom of her bottom piece so that she could insert a needle tool and push out the rock (since she used no release, it wanted to stick)

for my smaller rocks, I had put my base coat (layer?) on ... baked... built my embellishment layer on & baked again
...then I cut it off the rock while it's hot, with no problem (but I have to cut the base layer for a larger rock). Joanie

Laurie's partial lesson on making an openable pendant with rock, talc, and scrap clay
pendants formed on polished rocks (no release)...polymerclayhaven's lesson (gone)

.....for most photos of rock vessels, see below in Websites .....

I've heard that crumpling the aluminum foil and re-smoothing it before apply over the form helps to "soften" it and make it more drapable?

One of the ways to hurry the cooling process is to put whatever you are working on into cool water,and keep adding it, to really hurry it along.... pop it out and dry it off .... this works ok as long as your armature isn't paper-based. faun
....When I make my rock purses I've found that if I carry them over to the sink on a hot pad.... I can start the cold water running and rinse my hands under it. Then, if I'm very quick, I can pick the rock purse up and zip it over to the water with no ill effects. The cold water seems to act as a barrier to heat. Once under the water you just have to lift your fingers a bit, now & then, to let cold water run under them and you won't have any problems... Joanie

I've cut through the clay when the stone was cold and when it was warm..... warm is better if you have a steady hand. The cut edge will be a lot smoother. But since it cuts more easily warm, I have to a lot more careful not to let the blade veer off in the wrong direction. That generally happens if I'm using too much force.I usually put an elastic band around the purse to decide where to cut, and run a pencil along the edge to mark it. An amulet is a great place to start and then work your way up to larger things! Jody B.

I did that with my first one...cut the top in a bad place ... too high then couldn't slide the lower part off. (it was too narrow at the upper part) I cut the bottom part of the purse in half (front and back seperated) and then used more clay to put it back together. :) I did better on the second one..with getting the cut in the right place so it would come off the rock after baking :) Joanie

(if I cut it apart before baking, sometimes the parts don't fit back together well)
...What I do now is to bake the bead on the core (foil, rock, eraser, etc.) and just score the seam while the clay is raw. When it's baked, I finish cutting through the score line and let it cool with the core still inside. (If it still warps, try making a flange on the inside.) Kim K.

My method is to wait until they cool but remember, I am using Sculpey as the base for the purse. It bakes up good and hard but is very easy to cut and if it is covered with foil and I powdered the foil, it comes off like a good dream. (If you have to slit the purse to get if off because of the strange shape, no problem, It will work just fine when it is covered. Or, like I did, fill in with some sculpey when you fill in your holes and rebake. Now when I rebaked, I did it on the rock so as to not lose the shape.) Marty (see her demo at her website)

For a release, you can powder the rock you cover with some talc or cornstarch …I actually like the metallic powders which also gives then inside a nice sheen….the tricky part is to make sure you don't get powder on the 2 edges of the clay you want to seal around the rock. faun
...or use Repel Gel now that we have that (see Glues > Repel Gel)

Roll the clay covered rock in you hands, feeling for bubbles... use a pin or somethng sharp to pop it & then press out the air so it won't make you rock go bubbly. faun

You know what I do with the rock purses? I have about two dozen rocks... and when I can't focus on something in particular... I just sit down and cover lots of rocks with a base clay coat & bake them. That way they're all ready for me to play with when inspiration hits.. JOANIE

INRO's, etc.

Inros are small Japanese containers which have been adapted by clayers for wearing around the neck like a pendant.
...the bottom and lid of these small "boxes" are connected with one continuous cord so that they always remain together; the cord is strung through the bottom or the sides (or both) of the bottom unit, and also through the top unit so the lid can slide up and down on the cording.....often a small bead (an ojime) is added to hold the two cords together after they exit the top (it's slid upwards on the cords to allow the inro to open).,GGLC:1969-53,GGLC:en&q=inro
...Japanese kimonos are tied with a sash or belt (obi) worn around the waist and don't have pockets; in order to carry things, a cord used to be hung over the sash and then a pouch or box (the inro) was attached to one end; at the other end, a small usually carved item (a netsuke, which had two holes for the cord) was attached to prevent the cord from slipping through the sash (acting as a counterbalance and stop) ..."Inro were originally used for carrying one's personal seal and ink, but later evolved to be popularly used as a portable medicine kit. During the Edo era (1600-1867), they ceased to be used functionally and were worn soley as an ornament." (info from "A Guide to the Kyoritsu Women's University System")
... some of these inro had several compartments built into one unit, each one opening above the other like storeys in a building
...(Webster)... A small closed receptacle or set of receptacles of hard material, as lacquered wood, iron, bronze, or ivory, used by the Japanese to hold medicines, perfumes, and the like, and carried in the girdle.... usually secured by a silk cord by which the wearer may grasp it, which passes through an ornamental button or knob called a netsuke.
.....And Just a side note. A true Inro is multi compartmented. if you are creating wearable vessles that are one compartment, they truly should be called a Sagemono or a Tonkotsu. Seth

For our claying purposes, inros can be made in any size and shape ... if worn as a pendant (rather than just a vessel), they shouldn't be too large for the wearer... having a flatish back can also allow a more rounded front without adding too much dimension.
... most of the inros I've made vary a bit in size and shape, but generally always a little taller than wide. example: 2 1/2" tall by 2" wide. Tonja

I spent a lot of time perusing gallery sites for pics of antique inros and noticed that they took great care to hide the joint - they made it part of the carving. On my next one I'll try even harder to make the join invisible. ;) PokoPat

Polymerclayexpress' lesson on making a small box or box pendant with lid with "stop," using petit four (small, tall ) metal cutters as the forms and covering with parchment or tracing paper for easy removal......(one of these cutters is shaped similarly to an Advantix film canister).
.......they also say you can bake the clay on the form then cut off and glue back together after baking .
...beadzzygrl's lesson on making a rectangular box shape from an index card (similar to matchbox amulet pendants but without drawer --see Covering > Paper/cardboard > Matchboxes) ...then making an inro (lid has stop inside)

The Gwen Gibson class was wonderful. We built the vessel from a mold we made of a plastic Advantix film canister (the kind which are oval, not round. . . and flatter front to back when hanging then the round canisters). (Then we silk screened on clay for the outside wrapper...the ends of the cording were finished with little beads we learned to make.) Kay
Gwen Gibson's video on making inro, Wearable Vessels
Karen O's inro (some with silkscreening)... Advantix shaped... like Gwen's video

You can also bake the Advantix film containers themselves with the clay for a bit to firm up the clay wrapped around it before removing it if you keep the temperature low. . . .Marie bakes the clay on them at 200 degrees to set it and then removes the plastic canister before she finishes ....they will melt and stick to the clay if baked at normal clay temps. Jody

making your own forms to create inro on (...see also above in Making Your Own Forms...):
lesson: Get a film canister (Advantix ones have a great shape!!) and a chunk of conditioned scrap clay that you have powdered (I use corn starch) (metallic powders work well too and will leave a nice interior finish...or use ArmorAll)...any work as a release agent so you can get it out of the canister before baking.
...stuff the clay into the canister so you can capture the shape ...the hardest part is getting the clay out without mooshing it
...bake the shape (form) far at least an hour, it's pretty you have a shape to wrap your clay around for the inro. Tonja
..... mine cracked... (should have used an alum. foil core, or followed some of the suggestions in Heads > Cracking? )

making a flatter back:
...After molding and baking the form in a film canister or any tube, it should be possible to cut it lengthwise (while still warm) in order to make it thinner from front to back (and lie flatter on the chest)... the cut could be made exactly halfway, or closer to the front or back. to use a stiff blade or a stand slicer shapes could be PVC tubes or caps, cardboard rolls of various kinds and sizes, metal tubes, etc.
...or you could make the half-round form directly by filling a half-tube (which has been cut lengthwise)... flatten well before baking, or cut after baking while warm (this would save scrap clay) can cut the resulting form into quarters, then stick two of the quarters together (I've done this with cup-shaped clay from Chinese or Turkish tea cups, a big tablespoon, whatever has an intriguing shape) Hava
...Forms can also be made from the outside of things which can't have clay inside them... for example, if you like the shape of a small lotion bottle but don't want to remove the lotion, you could press clay around the outside of it , remove it, and bake while supporting the shape.... then use THAT as your half form (or put two together, with or without a side spacer piece, and join.... see Two Part Molds in Molds)
....or (without making your own form), put the raw decorative clay sheet directly over a cardboard or other tube, a can, or any gently rounded item, (remove & support if necessary), and bake . . then cut or sand edges even (if needed) and press onto a sheet of raw clay ...trim around (rebake) to create a flat back that way
.....Donna Kato's half-round inro-type pendants (made over half-round wood molding, or something else?)

other items to use as forms
You can use so many items to make your own inros... items to make forms or to wrap directly with clay :
...cardboard tubes... glass shapes, marbles, etc..... blocks of wood covered with foil.... Elizabeth
...pipes, tubes, caps of all kinds (shampoo, lotion, deodorant, perfume, etc.)

(...remember that unless your original shape is glass or shiny metal, you'll probably need a release of some kind... either wrap with aluminum foil, or use a powder (cornstarch, mica,etc.) or ArmorAll)

Emi's lesson used a base layer and a decorative layer (a basketweave-cane pattern sheet) for her inro
.a small wood block (with rounded corners?) was used as a form ...1 x 1 1/4" ...x 1/2" thick,1789,HGTV_3238_1378944,00.html
......she dipped the wood block into cornstarch
......applied black clay sheet as a base sheet (thickest on pasta machine, cut in T-shape) over entire wood block , smoothing out seams
......poked 2 holes in both top and bottom ends for later stringing the cording
......cut through the clay all the way around (for lid) but left on form.... then baked all 30 min.
......after cooling, removed the two parts of box from wood block
......then covered box top and box bottom (separately) each with a decorative clay sheet
....... but created an overlapping, nested lid by leaving 1/4" of this clay sheet extending up past the edge of the lid.... and then leaving 1/4" of the bottom of the box uncovered (at its top end), so it will allow the overlap from the top to fit over the uncovered area
... ....smoothed all clay to remove seams holes in cane layer in the 4 places previously pierced
...put box back onto wood block ....baked 30 min.

Daphne Hill's online lesson (inro formed on various forms, found or homemade clay form ...& silkscreening?... Part 1 only?)

I used several shapes of balsa wood (to get one oval shape)...balsa is easy to saw
.. I cut 2 pieces from a rectangular strip, and 2 from a half-round strip that was curved on one side and flat on the other
...when put together (white glue?), the result was an oval vessel shape. Tricia

Or you can use the armature directly, wrapping your sheet of clay around it:

I made a full size inro a few years ago , I used the cap off a Sure deodorant stick to get the basic oval shape. I wrapped heavy card stock around it, secured that with masking tape, then I wrapped it all again in plain newsprint sketch paper. PClay pretty much refuses to stick to that stuff, so it's great for covering smooth, home-made molds. Just be sure you close it with glue stick or something so you have no exposed tape or glue to contact the clay. ...Oh yes, I did remove the plastic cap before baking, after stuffing the mold with something more likely to tolerate the oven. By then the shape was fairly stable, but I wanted the clay to have good support while baking. Halla

If you can find an old Zippo lighter, you're set. I've used the case several times- just take the "guts" of the lighter out, wrap the metal case in foil, and cover with clay. After baking (or before), score a line into the clay so you can remove it from the form. I usually leave the form in the clay until it's all baked, just to make sure nothing sags. Hava
...I used the Bic plastic mini cigarette lighters for a form (minus the lighter fluid, of course). They are the perfect size and shape for me. Ernie H. (like a smaller, flatter Advantix shape)
......It's a Bic lighter one with the innards taken out by her DH. Bic one melted in the end. But not badly. Sera
.....I've used my Bic over and over and still no signs of melting or anything. I wrap lined paper around mine so that I don't have to worry about the clay releasing (and lining things up is easier that way) and so far haven't had any problems. My toaster oven is set on 275 degrees. Ernestine
...(or just use to make form from)

I use toilet paper rolls (if they are somewhat small) or you might try smaller cardboard rolls from gift wrapping.Michele

I manipulate gift wrap cardboard rolls or t.p. rolls into an oval shape, and cover with a layer of heavy aluminum foil tucking the ends into the inside and securing with masking tape.. . . If you have craft sticks (popscicle type), cut a piece and wedge it into the top and bottom to retain your oval shape. Works like a charm. You can then add your top and bottom with a line of TLS and raw clay. Michele

Use teflon baking paper rather than tin foil to cover a simple form. You can reuse it and it doesn't stick like paper does and doesn't get ridges like foil does. The (paper-covered) cardboard tubes will then slide right out and you can remove the teflon. You can get large sheets in cooking supply stores. Lori Greenberg

support the shape while baking with a section of toilet paper tubing). . . . I went to Wolf Camera and they had a bin of discarded canisters that they let me pick through. Julie

cuts around the clay covering to create a removable lid don't have to be straight... they can be any simple shape
... on the Carol Duvall show, they had a segment on the Smithsonian Craft Show re making inro purses... It must have been the "2000 show." ...The lady who did them is named Patricia A. Klamser. That show first aired on January 17, 2001. Weren't those beautiful and interesting? Gerri (gone)

See many ways to make lids for inros (as well as regular boxes) in Vessels > Lids

Gail in Florida's many inro... most flattish rounded... some have transfers on them
stafgazer's inro
Kellie's inro
Tonja's inro and other small pendant vessels and
Karen O's inro (mostly silkscreened)
Seth's inro (all? silkscreened)... various shapes

Hava's inro... made with Zippo lighter cover and teacup (see info above)

websites & video

Joanie and Jan’s tips/info
Joanie's drawings of several ways to string a rock amulets

turkeymama's lesson on tiny pendants over polished rocks, cutting a V in the base layer to remove from rock after baking
Marty's lesson on making a matchbox amulet pendant

*Rock Purse Swap!! ...many amulets at Joanie's (click on all 4 pages)
Kim K's many rock purses in gallery ...including Jody B's bird shaped amulet (head tucked back---that one gone?)
PCC-challenge various container vessels... one is like a vinegar egg
Pax's rock vessel amulets

*Lorie's woman's head/hair as small rock/pinch pendant
Roberta A & others' wild women and various other fetishes... stamping & mixed media (lesson),,HGTV_3238_1386894,00.html ... ...
Marie S's amulet-type pendants (not vessels?)
Jody B's amulet type rock vessel
Shala's small box formed over large glass marble (makes flat on bottom)... see details below in "Closures"
students' various-shaped pendants (from a Gwen Gibson class) & Gwen's and
Cindy's rock vessel pendants (new website?)
Jan‘s rock purse swap photos
Ronda’s small rock amulet pendants (gone?)
*Jan’s xmas lightbulb-covered pendant containers
Melnik's numerous rock amulet pendants, heart, figures, xmas bulb (website gone)

tlc’s retractable scroll-bead pendants (website gone)

real Japanese inro examples (lots of examples & inspiration!!) (bone and wood) (enter the word inro in the search box --be sure and scroll down the bottom window when it comes up for more!
here is also a book on the subject .... "Japanese Inro" by Julia Hutt, ISBN #0-8348-0395-X ...It is a beauty! Dotty

see Vessels > Removable Armatures for more info on dealing with removable forms
see Covering > Plastics > Film Canisters for much more on using film canisters, or small cutters, to make inro and other small lidded containers worn as pendants.

(see also tiny Bottles of Hope for decorating inspiration)

Wearable Vessels, video on making inro, by Gwen Gibson

OTHER SMALL vessels & containers

Actually, any small object can be made into a box which is strung this way (figures, animals, even candies or trucks... just any object at all)

Ai-Ping's small flattish boxes (sometimes with "window") could be used as pendants or pins also

Many existing small boxes or vessels can be covered with clay as well, to use as vessel pendants... e.g., matchboxes, tiny bottles or bulbs, etc.
........Tonja's tiny (Altoid?) tins used as pendants (two holes drilled? in the short side, which becomes the upper part, for cording)
...Sam's covered wood needlcases (some like pendants for tiny items, with covered magnet in lid) (website gone)

(see Covering for most of those)

iPod case (cover), by beadizzygrl...a thin, open-topped "box" (...this one also hangs around neck like a large pendant)
lesson & photos::
...OR, photos: (change last number in url before .jpg to go to more photos of case this case, change this 7 to an 6, then back through # 1)
...lesson: (change last number oin url before .jpg to go through the photo steps... in this case, change the 2 to a 3, then all the way up through # 17)
TEMPLATES for clay and felt liner pieces:
........for the front and back of the case, trace shape of front and back of iPod using sheet of tracing paper (these will be the felt pieces) --on front template, also mark openings for click wheel and screen.....cut out and lay paper templates on cardstock/board and mark lines around the perimeters a little wider (1/8"?) than the paper templates (these will be the clay pieces)
.......for the sides of case, cut 2 strips of cardstock 1/4" wide and as long as the sides of the cardstock front or back template... also cut 1 strip that's the same width but shorter than the bottom side of the cardstock (this will fit between the two other side strips, but will stop short covering the earphone plug area (which will be left open) ... then cut felt templates from paper for those 3 pieces a bit smaller ... cut out areas for clickwheel & screen but save them for later (make sure all pieces --including felt liner-- when joined together as a "box" will be large enough for iPod to fit inside).
FORM to represent iPod: make an aluminum foil form to shape the clay around and use as interior support while baking by folding about 6' of aluminum foil in half lengthwise, then in half again...then fold the strip over and over itself the approximate height of the iPod --cut with scissors if too long (....or, find a bit of board or other bakable item appox. the same size as the iPod, and wrap it once with aluminum foil or paper as a release)....
lay "front" paper template on aluminum foil and mark the circle and square openings onto foil with a permanent marker (or dull pencil)...stick toothpick into foil (between layers) where earphone connector hole will be (or other wise mark it's position and size to leave open)...then make sure the size of the pieces you've cut will be large enough when joined to conatain the iPod
CLAY... run clay through pasta maching using next-to-thickest setting... dampen a texture sheet then put clay and texture sheet sandwich through it..... cut around all cardstock templates (on top of clay sheets--right side up) using tissue blade and craft knife..... dab textured clay with several mica powders here and there....turn front and back pieces over to wrong side and squeeze lines of liquid clay near edges and in center... lay felt pieces over and smooth down well... at one end of the 2 side strips, lay a "figure 8" metal finding halfway on the clay extending off the end (this will be a connector for the case to hang from cording); press a thin pad of clay over the half that's still on the clay... then add more liquid clay and lay felt pieces on all side pieces
JOINING.... apply liquid clay generously to 3 top edges of back clay piece (on clay, next to felt liner)... then stand the 3 side strips on the liquid clay to form a shallow box --the felt will help the pieces to hold (if not using felt, can also use a bit of instant glue in some spots not covered with liquid clay which will also hold the pieces well & immediately)
.... the place the alum. foil form in the shallow "box"... add more liquid clay around the edges of the front clay piece and place it on top of the form and box bottom... (wipe away any drippy liquid clay)... press all seams together well, and the parts as evenly as possible... check to make sure the clickwheel and screen openings are even with the marked lines on the foil form
BAKING, FINISHING...bake all for 20(-30) mins..... for glossiness, apply Future (or another acrylic gloss finish) to back, then bake 10 additional min's... apply to front and sides & bake 10 mins more... join cording to figure 8 findings with beads strung on first
(--may also want to leave an opening in the bottom clay for the on-off slider)

small bulbs like xmas light bulbs and nightlight bulbs.. these can be covered and the bulb left inside, or in a special technique the bulb is broken out after baking which also allows partial coverage like filigree to result
(also see Covering > Light Bulbs for these, and also for covering & not breaking out)

Dorothy Greynolds made her small vessels as mini-cakes for a swap

(for making a rainstick, any size, see Kids > Other Toys)

LIDS and other PARTS

Lids can be made in various ways (see more details in Vessels > Lids) ....

There are countless ways to make a lid and the choice is all yours!
It can be like a those of a traditional (cardboard) box where the lid comes over the edges of the box,
or the lid can be set inside, on a lip attached near the top of the box bottom
(or the lid can be larger than the top, with an inner layer which acts as a stop ...or several small stops)
or it can be hinged using either tiny brass hinges or make your own with wire or Tyvek or fabric. Patty B.
I was just going to suggest doing an interior base first, and then covering it with an embellishment layer, leaving a "lip"(of the interior) exposed (to hold the bottom. Joanie
......Gwen's inro with exposed lip (same idea?)... where the base layer and the decorative layer are cut at different heights (base layer cut higher than the decorative one ...base layer scored and baked before cutting, then decorative layer added and treated same way)

(If worn as a pendant, an inro lid is generally an oval shape --though could be a long rectangle or irregular, etc.-- because it needs to lie close to the chest)
...there are many oval cutters you can buy, but to find exactly the right size and shape you need, it may be necessary and cheaper to make your own oval (or other) shape ...(to make your own cutter, see Cutters > Making your own)
...Prairiecraft sells an oval and an ellipse cutter

OTHER ways to make shapes, if you don't have a cutter:
For any of these methods, when you're ready to cut the clay place it on a small, movable surface (so it can be turned while cutting), and cut with a pointed Xacto blade or a needle tool, etc.
....use a draftsmans stencil "template," or any kind of stencil you can find with various sizes cut out of it (cut with Xacto or first or poke around it with a pin, then remove the template and cut freehand)
...make your own template . . . a few ways I can think of:
.......draw the shape you want (one way is to fold a piece of paper in half or in quarters to keep the shape symmetrical, then sketch the shape you want on just that portion)... make a smooth cut on your drawn line, then open the paper the paper template on your raw clay and cut out
.......or, cut out two or more of your shapes from in cardstock or manilla folder using the paper template ... then either glue them together to form a sturdy template . . . or place a sheet of clay in between two cardstock templates and trim, then bake (this should result in a thicker template.... haven't tried it but it should work)
.......draw shape on warm sheet of clay with your paper template, then cut with scissors

You can create domed tops and bottoms by inserting domed shapes between the inside and outside layers that will become the lid and the bottom of the vessel. Eliz?
...or stretch a sheet of clay gently over a domed item,
...or push and stretch the clay sheet up through a stencil shape (which is cut in clay & baked as in Gwen's Vessels video)
..... or use other stencils like engineers' drafting templates that have lots of oval, circlular, etc, holes

A cutter will leave a rounded upper edge if a piece of plastic wrap is placed between it and the raw clay before cutting... or use a finger to soften the edge while the clay is still raw (or sand down)..

The edges of lids can also be cut at an angle along their length, rather than being blunt cut, to give a gradual line to the area.

...see Vessels > Lids & Feet for Jody B's flexible flap on a few purses

If the container is rounded or uneven on the bottom, you can add a base of some sort to allow it to stand .... feet, a donut shape, walls, increasing-diameter stacked disks of clay, or non-clay items like metal beads, etc.


for more info and ideas on cording, see:
... Inro and Small Rock vessels above
...Pendants & Cording > Cording
...Jewelry > Suppliers
...look at photos of rock vessels and inros for loads of ideas

Braided nylon is often used for the cording on pendants and/or inro . . . it's a silky/nylon type of cording that drapes nicely..Kay (one place you can find it is about 15 cents per foot

Venetian blind cording is suggested by Gwen Gibson (just one kind of braided nylon... or polyester?)...Sears doesn't carry it any more...hard to find
...Margaret D. found Venetian Blind Cord in several sizes and many colors at

There may be holes in the top and/or bottom for the cording, or it may pass through attached tubes, or other imaginative ways.... holes can be put anywhere that works for the shape you have which still allows the unit to be opened
...decorative flanges or openings can be added around the holes to resemble raised rivets, beads, create a finished appearance
......tiny balls or disks of clay can be put over the holes in the vessel (the hole is then made through the ball or disk as well... try a straw). . . or small molded items can be used, etc.
......these can be the same color as the base, a different color or texture, highlighted or completely covered with metallic powders to resemble metal findings or beads, etc.

I am not going to do a hinge. I am going to do a method somewhat like Antoinette, but mine will run on the outside of the purse..Hard to describe but two bead type ornaments on the top and the bottom of the purse parts and then run the cord through both of them so the lid can slide up and down. I need to make a rim for the lid to come down on now. That is the next step. The balance of my purse will be Fimo, Premo etc. That will give the purse strength. Want to put gold leaf on the inside of the purse. Marty

I saw Jody Bishel's rock purses this afternoon at our guild meeting. Both of hers are hinged. Using two dollhouse hinges next to each other as one long hinge. The inside of one of them is painted with copper Pearl-x mixed with TLS. The outside of one, Jody hand painted a few horses resembling the caves paintings and put a layer of TLS over that. And is polished to a nice shiney finish. For the closers, on one part she has a button shaped like a shell with a textured design on it. and a leather thingamajig coming thru a hole in the bag to tie to the button. I'm not to good at describing things. So this will give you an idea on what it might look like. Lucille

I ended up using an eye pin. . . Put one end the cord through the eye pin, fed it down through the hole in the bottom of the vessel, and put a loop (jump ring? loop of smaller cord?) on the end that came out the bottom (to hold the danglies). (...then fed both ends of the cord through a hole in the top of the lid) Tonja

After cutting the warm clay to create a lid and bottom for a small round box (made over a large glass marble), Shala puts two holes in each half, just above the cut line ... she then threads her cording through all holes which creates both a hinge and closure for them (she begins by going into the top hole in the front, and ends by coming back out through the hole in the bottom half --then ties ends in a bow)

Kathleen Dustin makes the tops of her larger) rock purses slide up and down on rubber cording (she uses Viton) similar to inro... the small rubbery O rings (glued to the lids) she uses around the spot where each cord enters the lid form a slight pressure-hold on the cording, helping to keep the lid closed
...Donna Kato makes faux o rings by placing a small ball of black clay over the hole, flattening it a bit, then poking a hole through it into the original hole,,HGTV_3268_1393295,00.html

(see all websites for the many possibilities for stringing)

(also see Laurie's lesson above --more photos to come)

LARGER rocks & Other Cores

Joanie's collected tips on covering larger and small rocks (+ lots of info, cutting, etc.)

Emi's lesson on Carol Duvall on covering a larger rock to make a box ... then texturing & embellishing,,HGTV_3240_1389471,00.html

*Joanie's extensive lesson on covering a larger rock...(then making it into a fish shaped box , using cornstarch and an interior rim)
.....(plus LOTS of tips on covering rocks!)
*Joanie’s & other's fabulous fish boxes and other boxes ...some from Sea Dreams swap

Lisa Pavelka's art purses
Jody P's larger-rock purses ... including tambour purses with flexible flap (for flap, see Lids & Other Parts above), and covered lunchbox

Kathleen Dustin was the originator of "rock vessel" purses and this covering technique
... her purses are stunning (click on Gallery, etc.)
... she used compacted aluminum foil for most of the (later?) armature forms
... (I believe she also introduced her "translucent canes" and other floating layers with these purses --see Canes-Instr. > Translucent Canes for more info on those) (a thinner purse) (semi-heart shaped purse)

I took Kathy's class in making a purse... She is the one who started people doing rock purses (and amulets.) She told us that she found a nice smooth rock a little smaller than the purse she wanted to make.. . . She covered it with a (two layers of?) base clay and then added cane work, sculpting, backfilling etc. It was baked, then cut open. Too many details to tell here.. . . and some of her faces are painted by hand from what she told us. Dotty in CA (with a few translucent canes over the top)

(lesson) (From: DWClark1)
Ok all you purse makers, I will try to translate my notes from Kathleen Dustin's Purse class. Think a non-round shape.
1. We used foil as the core. But a rock would work.
2. Cover with scrap clay.
3. Put two sheets of the scrap clay (#'s 1 & 4) over rock or foil (can be different colors).
4. Use a pin tool to put holes in clay before you bake it the first time. Get all the air bubbles out.
5. Bake.
6. To cover baked clay: Cool & use Powder or corn starch as a release. Cut pattern of purse from clay. Put clay on one side, then the other. You can put a different colored clay on the inside of your clay before you put it on your form. I think she used gold clay as the inside clay.You can use white Sculpey on the outside if you want to decorate with pencils, drawings, etc (3 layers altogether?)
7. Score where you are going to cut lid.
8. I guess you now have to take it off of the form????
9. You may have to reslit side and put it back together. You can use liquid sculpey to adhere the clay.. Smooth the seams.
10. Cut the top.
11. Smooth inside seams.
12 Find something to bake on - so the shape won't change.
13. Bake 45 min.
14, After baking - decorate (here is where the white Sculpey comes in for decorating). Transparent canes and transparent clays look great over other canes, drawings, transfers, etc (Kathleen's purse
15. Put a rim on inside of bottom: Trim down edge by beveling bottom part of purse. Do not cut just press to bevel. Heat with heat gun to softened then bevel to half the size. This is a little confusing here, but I think what you are doing is getting the lid to fit on the bottom
16. Lid: heat with heat gun and trim a little bit. Add a twisted piece of clay around bottom of the lid. Use liquid sculpey to adhere. You may have to use super glue if you don't have liquid sculpey. I think this lets the lid fit over the bottom.
17. Bake again with the trim.
18. Put tabs on the inside with liquid sculpey. Ok Marty, help me with this. I know they go on the inside, but do they go on before you bake again. I am confused about this. I cannot remember. I quess they are for the handle.. . . .

As part of her purses, Kathleen Dustin often uses a section of baked white (bulk?) Sculpey, then colors it with Prisma colored pencils and/or translucent cane slices, etc
.... then covers with a final layer of very thin translucent clay (see more on coloring with colored pencils in Paints > Colored Pencils, and more on using thin layers of translucent in Tranluscents > Thin Sheets)
......Kathleen Dustin's Polished Stone & Face Purse.... (the back?)side looks like a small boulder, mottled brown stone chipped away to reveal multicolored quartz and sparkling opals ....(the front?) side holds a woman's cherubic face (colored pencils), her full lips gently curving in a mysterious smile....

All we basically did was dust the rock with Pearl-ex (you could use cornstarch)
...then cover it completely with a layer of clay (we used the thickest setting on the Atlas pasta machine)
...bake it ....cut the clay off while it was still warm (wherever you want the seam of the purse to be)
...... if you do this while its warm though, remember to use a pot holder rock was very smooth and polished but I was still surprised at how easily the clay came off.
...then everybody decorated their purses however they wanted (some people made rock boxes instead)
...for purses, most hand-drilled the cord holes with a drill bit which had a polymer clay handle can add hinges or a lip, or just run the cord through the purse to keep it closed. Christy

I think working with the larger rocks will carry a whole different set of challenges because the small rocks I use now are pretty evenly shaped:
...undercuts, overhangs, pitting, or knobby shapes could trap the clay more easily on the rock'll probably have to cut that base coat off the rock before embellishing (rather than after embellishing).
..I'd be more inclined to use a layer of aluminum foil over a larger rock (for smaller rocks, I just use cornstarch) partly because the foil can help cover any small pits and crevasses in the rock.
.... also i
t couldn't hurt to poke a small hole or two to allow air escape if you do that too (adding the foil might introduce tiny air pockets)
..the wall of the vessel should be much thicker too'll be easier though to coat or embellish the inside of a larger piece. Joanie

I've made larger rock purses and for the most part, they work the same way as the small ones do, with one big exception:
....the bigger and heavier the rock, the more easily the clay will stretch as you are trying to enclose it in clay (the rock is pressing into your hand) I kept ending up with trapped air under the clay when I tried to cover the whole rock. it's a lot better to cover just half of big rocks at a time
.......or to leave some sort of opening where you can pull up the extra clay. Jody B.

make sure the rocks have no moisture in them... bake a few hrs. on low temp to thoroughly dry out first. Trina

you may have to cut slits in the clay covering after baking it to get it off, but if so your embellishment layer will cover that completely. Joanie

good support during rebaking is essential.... I use a steel bowl lined with fiberfil to support the purse
......if you must rebake with the purse lying down, stuff it with fiberfil so it doesn't slump in the oven. Jody B.
....One thing I found was that the only way to rebake a purse was with it nested in fiberfil in an upright position, preferably with the lid resting in place. ...Whenever I have baked the pieces separately, distortion has been a problem. Jody problem is that my top lids don't fit well....ever (I have been baking my form and then adding the inside lip to the bottom portion of the purse). I end up shaving the lip down and after many attempts still am not getting the fit I hope for. Denise (so it's important to support shape while baking to avoid distortion)

allow more baking time (esp. for a larger rock) since the rock is an effective heat sink (captures the heat). Jody B.

I learned a few things about the types of rocks that work best:
....cracking: any rock with inclusions such as crystals may crack (had one that popped and threw pieces of it's little self throughout the oven.)
.......if there is a line of different material running through it, that is a potential mess with sharp edges seemed to crack more than smoother ones must be very clean...we wash ours in a sink full of hot dish water
.......then it must also be very dry....we dried ours for several hours
...coat rocks with white glue ....allow to dry for several hours especially if you are in a moist climate (any moisture in the glue may expand when you bake and cause the clay to crack).
....make sure you don't stretch the clay out when you cover it....smooth it out, don't stretch. Kim K.

Premo brand seems to shrink a bit more than Fimo.
....when I'm encasing a good-sized object like these rocks, I've found that I get some cracking with Premo (so I use Fimo for these).
....I'm surmising that this is from shrinkage because the cold water bath doesn't pull these cracks back together for me ...the repair/disguising on those boxes can be a real headache. Joanie

(for links to the smaller, "rock vessels" & "amulets," etc., see above)

Other cores... and making your own

You can make your own custom forms with making an aluminum foil core, then covering it with Pliacre for more smoothness. Jody B
I found that I could use Pliacre,a two-part epoxy clay,to fill and smooth not quite perfect rocks. ....after it cures,it can be sanded smooth and the oven doesn't hurt it. (or could use plaster/spackle?) Jody B.
(see Sculpting > Other Clays for Pliacre and other putty clays)

for Christine Taylor's hollow sculpts made with a layer of Sculpt-A-Mold and Creative Paperclay over a "carved" foam form which is removed after the clays dry... then a layer of polymer clay is added... see Armatures > Temporary > Misc. Materials

Karen C's clam box... hinged... with "pearls" inside (round armature)

Sue Heaser showed how a vessel can be made using a raw potato as a removable armature on the inside (in her Housewares book?)!.... I like that idea because when you use a rock, you have to find just the right kind of rock with the right shape, but when you use a potato, you carve it to whatever size and shape you find pleasing, and go from there. Gabe
.... can also use many fruits or veggies
M. Briggs' 3 container items formed over lemons (though maybe not baked with it)

When I heard how Kathleen Dustin was making her forms ... I can build over anything that can take the heat of the oven! Jody
...Judy Dunn made fruit-shaped vessels (boxes...similar to Rock Vessels)
....My vessels are created on a form that I make ..then removed and cured.....much like the rock purses. So the end result is just polymer. Judy

polystyrene compressed foams can be shaped and used as forms ... but see Covering > Plastics > Polystyrene for details
...also for using papier mache, paper clay, glass, metal or wood forms, see Covering

see also Vessels > Removable Armatures > Various for using many materials to make small or larger containers
...that page overlaps with this category on removable armatures

see also Armatures-Temporary for more ideas and info

MISC ideas & info .... small & large vessels

Kato Repel Gel is now available in some places... it's a thick, paintable, water soluble polymer clay medium which prevents polymer clay from adhering to itself while curing (baked or raw)... this would allow raw polymer clay to be baked in cured polymer molds and still release?? (see more in Glues > Superglue Solvents)

Sometimes, I have a fish box lid just insists on falling open... in those cases, I rub a thin coating of Sobo white glue onto the "collar" and let it dry thoroughly to give just a tiny bit of extra thickness and a slightly tacky surface for holding itself closed.... Heather Roselli suggested using a thin coating of liquid clay instead.. Joanie

If you have a dremel type tool, you can use a rounded end stone and grind out the lumps to make it smoother. Lucille

(I wanted to mention some AWESOME paints I found here to color TLS with. It's Golden brand a tube like oil paints. The colors I found that I love so much are iridescent copper, gold and silver! The colors are SOOO rich!) I just finished the inside of a rock purse with the copper..and think I"m going to use it as a base on the outside as well. Jan

I did a rock vessel and used Sculpey III as the base layer (for stiffness) and then added Kato clay on top.. . . cured it, cut it off (the rock) and then added the lip to keep the lid on the bottom. It did not collapse in the subsequent baking. Kathy W.

Kaz Kono also just applied decorative polymer shapes to the tops of large (and smaller?) rocks (...IOW, did not use rock as a removable armature)

I think I'll make a toothpick holder from a tube or half-round shaped inro... I'll make the top removable, but add a small hole (with a flange around the it) in the top of the cap to shake out one toothpick at a time.

I made some rock vessels for air freshners and put cotton balls with fragrance in them. Within three day they fell apart. The fragrence ate through the clay..... I did find that if I lined the vessel with aluminium foil this didn't happen. Hope this helps. Cindy from Texas's okay to mix scented oils into clay, but fragrance won't last long unless rejuvenated occasionally (see Inclusions > Smell-y Inclusions for more on scents in clay)


(see also: Pendants & Cording, Jewelry, )