Faux Leather Tags

This project guides you through the creation of realistic faux leather tags. It may seem unlikely, but polymer clay is an excellent mimic of leather. With a little texture and a bit of acrylic paint, youll have your friends convinced that youve taken up leatherworking!

Whether functional or purely decorative, a tag can be the perfect finishing touch for a scrapbook page, storage boxes, and special gifts. Frame them for instant art or let them dangle temptingly from drawer pulls and doorknobs. With tags as durable as these, you can show them off wherever you go by tying them to your favorite bag. Use one as a keychain. Teensy tags can even become jewelry or zipper bling. The possibilities are endless!

Use a brand of clay that is strong and flexible after curing. Premo, Kato, and Fimo Classic are good choices.

You can make faux leather in any color you like. The recipe pictured uses the following colors of Premo:

Any brand of dark brown and/or black paint will do.

Pasta machine and/or brayer or acrylic rod

Rubber stamps, texture sheets, and/or other texturing tools

Assorted sizes of drinking straws or small circle cutters

Baking parchment or plain (unmarked) office paper

Small ball-ended tool and 2 flat chisel color shaper/clay shaper (optional)

Palette (or something else to mix paint on)

Paper towels and water and/or rubbing alcohol

Oven and associated tools (baking sheet, thermometer, oven mitt, etc.)

Create a sheet of clay with either a brayer, an acrylic rod, or a pasta machine. The sheet can be as thick as you like- from the thickest setting on your pasta machine down to a medium-thin sheet. (I generally prefer a sheet that is about 1 – 2mm thick. This produces a thin, flexible cured sheet of clay.)

Place the sheet of clay onto a piece of baking parchment or plain (unmarked) office paper (or any surface where the clay is unlikely to stick).

Ball up a piece of aluminum foil, then smooth it flat again. If necessary, repeat this process until you get the desired degree of crinkling in the foil.

It may be useful to have two or three different pieces of aluminum foil with varying amounts of crinkling.

Place the aluminum foil over the sheet of clay. Press it lightly into the clay with your fingers or gently brayer over it. Lift the aluminum foil, observe the texture of the clay, and repeat the process as needed to produce the desired effect.

Turn the sheet of clay over and repeat the texturing process on the other side. Choose the side you like best and place it face up.

Press rubber stamps, texture sheets, buttons, beads, leaves, etc. into the clay to leave decorative impressions. (If you like, practice in a corner of the sheet to get a feel for how hard you need to press. You want to leave a clear impression without going all the way through the sheet of clay.)

You may wish to use a release agent (such as water or cornstarch) to prevent your texture tools from sticking to the clay. Dont forget to clean your stamps and texture sheets after using them with polymer clay.

Cut the tag shape from the sheet of clay using a clay blade and/or a craft knife. (You can also use a shape cutter, if you have one in your preferred size and shape.)

(You may be able to get more than one tag from each sheet. Otherwise, you can recondition the scraps and create a new textured sheet, later on.)

If youd like a faux leather grommet (eyelet), cut a small circle from one of the scraps. (You could also use a contrasting color of clay, for a different look.) Place the circle wherever youd like the stringing hole in the tag to be. Press the circle firmly into place, then texture it with a light touch from the crinkled aluminum foil. Use a second, smaller circle cutter to cut through both layers of clay, leaving a nice, neat stringing hole.

If desired, you can add the look of stitching to the faux leather. Lightly impress a straight, dashed line using the flat tip of a flat chisel clay shaper (or another similar tool).

You can leave it like this, or for a different look, use the small ball-ended tool to make tiny dots at the ends of the dashes.

Apply a piece of crinkled foil to the edges of the tag to give it a worn texture.

Keeping the tag(s) on the sheet of paper or parchment, cure at the manufacturers recommended temperature for at least 30 minutes. Allow time for the cured clay to cool.

Optional: To simulate the appearance of battered, aged leather, you may distress the cured tag. Using a craft knife, carefully trim tiny bits and pieces from the edges. In two or three places, create a slight pock or scratch on the front and back of the tag.

Mix the acrylic paints to produce a very dark brown color. The precise shade is unimportant, but it should be significantly darker than the faux leather. Apply the paint to one side of the tag. Using a stiff paintbrush makes it easier to get paint into every crevice.

Allow the paint to begin to dry. (I usually give the paintbrush a quick clean at this time, as acrylic paint dries very quickly and can be difficult to remove, later on.)

Using slightly dampened paper towels, wipe away most of the paint. Try to leave paint in only the tiny crevices and the stamped impressions on the tag. If you have trouble removing the paint, use a paper towel dampened with rubbing alcohol. If you remove too much paint, reapply it and remove it more gently next time.

Allow the paint to dry, then repeat the process on the other side of the tag. Dont forget to antique the edges of the tag, too.

When the paint has dried, pop it back into the oven for ten minutes or so. This speeds up the paints curing process and may make it more durable.

Heres a small group of faux leather tags:

–Experiment with different colors of faux leather. Real leather comes in any number of colorsfrom white to beige to black. You can even find leather dyed hot pink or turquoise! You can also antique the tags with a different color of paint.

–Try different textures. Use crumpled paper instead of foil. With the right stamp or texture sheetor even a piece of the real thingyou can create faux snakeskin or alligator.

–If you prefer, you can cut the tag shapes from the sheet of clay first, then texture and stamp as you like.

–Regular polymer clay cured in thin sheets can be quite flexible. For an even more pliable faux leather, try Sculpey SuperFlex (aka Bake & Bend), a special formula of clay that remains very bendable after curing. (This clay is now sold only in samplers.)

–Create a tag that looks like its covered in stitched shapes. Gently press the blunt side of small shape cutters into the clay. Create a repeated pattern with one simple shape, or combine and overlap shapes. Using a small ball-ended tool, create evenly spaced dots along these lines. At a glance, theyll look like stitching.

–Use a metal grommet/eyelet to line the stringing hole of your tag. There are a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors available in your local craft store.

–If youd like more protection for your antiquing wash of acrylic paint, you can seal these tags with your choice of polymer clay-friendly finish. A matte or satin finish will probably be more realistic than high gloss.

–For a thicker, sturdier tag with stamped patterns on both sides, create two tags in the same size and glue them together with liquid clay. (Remember, liquid clay must be oven-cured to dry and harden.)

–Experiment with different sizes and shapes of tags. Who says they all have to be exactly the same? Circles, flowers, hearts, diamonds, donuts, trianglesplay around and have fun creating something truly unique!

–Need a number of tags in the same size? Make a template from cardstock or a thin sheet of plastic. Lay it on the sheet of clay and cut around it to create as many identically shaped and sized tags as you like.

–Consider stamping tags with names or initials to use as attractive luggage tagsor for labels, stamp them with the appropriate word or phrase.

–For a different look, try antiquing the faux leather with a lighter wash of paint– white, for instance, or tan. If you arent pleased with the results, you can easily wash the paint away before its dry. (A toothbrush is a great help when removing paint from crevices.)

–When youre ready to use your tags, youll need some type of stringing material. This is a great time for a little creativity. Try yarn (regular or novelty), hemp, cord, ball chain, twine, ribbon, or whatever else comes to mind.

–Start with a larger sheet of clay and make a faux leather bookmark!