Shaping Inspiration in Clay: How One Jewelry Artist Honed Her Process with Loretta Lam Multi-Award Winning Artist and Author

Episode 89

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Why polymer clay is the perfect medium for anyone interested in color.
  • How polymer clay became popular in the 70s and 80s.
  • Why it’s important for art students and craftspeople to understand the principles of design.
  • How Loretta finds her inspiration and how she encourages others to do the same.
  • Loretta’s advice for people entering creative careers.

About Loretta Lam

As a child, Loretta Lam would play with her mother’s vintage button box, making extravagant necklaces for dress-up games. As she grew up, Lam ‘s love of jewelry design never left her, and it all came together years later when she found polymer clay. With its limitless possibilities for bead shape and color, it allowed Lam to realize her artistic dreams.

Lam works directly from a strong color inspiration which informs the millefiori patterns that become the surface design. She forms sculptural base shapes one at a time, then veneers them with thin sheets of the patterned clay. She takes great care in the design and craftsmanship of each element and finished piece of jewelry.

Lam is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz’s renowned BFA metalsmithing program, where she focused on enamels and painting. In 1999, Lam started experimenting with polymer clay and found the direct access to color she’d always dreamed of. It has turned into a love affair which is always fresh and new.

Episode Transcript

Additional Resources


More info about her book here!

Under Cover: is a brooch that is evocative of a nest. It draws you in by mixing a domed and convex form. It’s about safety and secrets and comfort.  2.75″ in diameter and .6″ deep. Polymers with a nickel silver pinback.

The Red Pod: I love working in asymmetry. Finding unusual ways to create movement and balance is my kind of artistic challenge. This necklace uses color, repetition, and isolation to create the dynamic tensions. 22″ of polymer beads with coconut shell, ceramic and wooden spacer beads and a covered barrel clasp.

Sculpted Leaf Choker:  This piece is hand sculpted in very light polymer and covered with patterned veneers. It’s part fantasy and part reality but shows all my love for the natural world. 4.5″ sculpted form strung on steel cable with a friction clasp.

Copper and Verdigris is a beautiful interpretation of Autumn in New York. The colors and textures of my native woodlands and that cozy feeling of the changing seasons. 8″ of unique hollow-formed beads on sterling, embellished with millefiori patterning.

Sharon Berman