A few quick tips on using shape templates with polymer clay…
After making your decorative clay sheet, lift it off your work surface and place it onto a piece of plain paper. This will make it easy to lift the cut shapes out later without distorting them. It also makes it easy to rotate the clay to try different viewing orientations when positioning the shape template, so you can better envisage the final product.
To cut out a shape, hold a craft knife or scalpel vertically in your dominant hand, and insert it into the clay right up against the edge of the template. Then, instead of moving your craft knife or scalpel, hold it steady in place and use your other hand to move the clay, sliding and rotating the paper the clay is resting on so that it’s cut where you want. It’s easier to cut at a consistent angle right up against the edge of the template with this technique, and it also helps cut curves smoothly.
When using an asymmetric shape template and cutting out a pair of shapes for earrings, remember to flip the template over for the second one so that you get the reverse shape.
Make Your Own Shape Templates
It’s easy to make your own shape templates too. If you cut a freehand or ad hoc shape you’d like to be able to replicate, place it onto a sheet of translucent (or scrap) clay and cut carefully around it. If the “master” shape will be cured flat this is easiest to do after the master shape is cured; otherwise, brush some cornflour or mica powder over the clay sheet first to ensure the master shape doesn’t stick to it. Once you’ve cut around the master shape, remove it and its cut-out duplicate, trim the template clay sheet as desired and cure.
You might also be able to trim the master shape or its cut-out duplicate down to successively smaller sizes, placing each on the template sheet and cutting around it in turn, to get a template of graduated sizes. The template below at left with three asymmetric triangles is an example of this.
(And no, the photos in this post aren’t mirror imaged! I just happened to use the shape template face down and didn’t notice until it was too late to redo the photos)