Living Inspired: Interview with Jessica Partain

Posted by Autumn

Jessica Partain is co-founder of Inedible Jewelry. Since she was a child, she's been fascinated with polymer clay and miniature food. She shared her passion for mini food-themed jewelry in her book, The Polymer Clay Cookbook (Potter Craft, 2009). She's also a big fan of OttLite's 508 Natural Daylight Illumination. We asked her about her tiny treats and what inspired her to start whipping up wearable food.

When did you start your craft? Who taught you?

I started sculpting miniature foods when I was about 11 or 12 years old (about 20 years ago, ahem.) I'm primarily self-taught.  Over the years, I've definitely picked up a few tricks from some other amazing polymer clay miniaturists such as Sue Heaser and Angie Scarr.

What inspired you to start this craft?

I first ran across polymer clay in a small craft shop, and immediately started making miniature foods.  My dolls had fantastic furniture and handmade clothes (thank you Mom!), but were seriously lacking in food, so I created all kinds of delectable treats for them.  After a few years, I switched to making the miniature foods as jewelry instead, since that was cooler in middle school.

Do you have a favorite place to craft (studio, living room, on the subway, etc.)?

I have a whole studio set up, and I love to craft in it.  I inherited a huge tile-topped table from a grad school friend, and it's the perfect work surface for polymer clay: easy to clean, cool to the touch, and just a joy to work on. My studio is cozy, but a bit of a cave, so I have lots of extra lighting so that I can get my colors perfect.  Food definitely looks less appetizing when it's the wrong color.  I have a big jar filled with all kinds of quirky little tools to create textures and tiny details, a big toaster oven to bake my goodies, and all sorts of jars and baggies filled with colors I've custom-mixed.  It's a fun space filled with a thousand eensy treats.

Can you tell us about the first project you completed?

The first pieces I finished were definitely dollhouse foods.  When I was about 13, I did my first craft show selling my food jewelry.  I ran across a box with the pieces that didn't sell that day, and it cracks me up that I'm still making the same basic designs all these years later: burgers, chocolate chip cookies, bananas.  My pieces now are somewhat smaller and definitely more precisely made, but apparently my design sense is very consistent!

We loved the Polymer Clay Cookbook. What inspired you to do an entire book of tiny food?

Thank you! My sister Susan and I come from a very food-oriented family, so food was a natural choice.  Food is such a crucial part of all celebrations, and often defines favorite people and special moments in life.  It's been so much fun to create pieces that mean a lot to people, whether it's re-creating their wedding cake, or making a special hot dog with custom toppings for someone's best friend.  Even better…tiny imperfections make food look even more realistic, so it's awesome to have a specialty where mistakes are a plus.

What is your favorite project of all time?

Oh man, that's tough!  There have been so many great pieces and stories, it's hard to choose one.  I'm a sucker for a good nerdy pun, so my favorite piece right now is the Pi pie, a whole cherry pie with the Pi symbol as the top crust.  Because March 14 (Pi Day) is possibly the best food/ nerd holiday ever invented.

Do you belong to any crafting circles/clubs?

A group of friends and I try to get together periodically for Crafternoons.  Crafternoons for us always involve potluck salads, far too many desserts, and often the cheesiest movies or TV shows we can find.  Thankfully I have friends who are incredibly crafty and also totally food-obsessed.

What does crafting bring to your life?

Making tiny food jewelry is my full time job, and I can't imagine a better one!  I get to spend my days creating fun pieces, and making people laugh.  It's hard to imagine a more rewarding career!

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in polymer clay?

Have fun, and don't get caught up in making pieces look perfect.  You're just starting!  There are lots of great books out there, but your best guide is your sense of fun and your imagination.

If you're into making miniatures, my one best piece of advice that I give all my students is to let pieces cool down between steps, especially if you have warm hands.  Cool clay holds fine details much more easily than warm clay.

Jessica in her studio, using one of her three OttLites!


If you have a special craft or hobby that fills your life with joy and you’d like to share, please leave a comment here. Maybe you’ll be our next crafter interview!

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