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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Polymer clay hints, tricks and tips.

Hello and welcome to the second installment of 
Polymer clay hints, tricks and tips. 

When I first started out claying, I had to teach myself everything I know. Along the way I have tried a few things and failed at many. So, I thought I would share with y’all what I have learned. 

*Tricks and Tips* 

When one decides to take on the fun that is Polymer clay.. if you don't have a clue what you're doing .. you can damage not only your furniture but your tools as well.

Unbaked Polymer clay can damage surfaces like wood and even plastic. It will "eat" through Styrofoam paper plates. So, one is faced with the task of finding the surface in which to work. 

Of course you can go and purchase expensive equipment, but there are a few inexpensive items you can work on. 
At my local Habitat for Humanity store, I found a Ceramic tile for $. 50. The size I got is 12 x 12 and you can not only work on it, but you can slide it into your home oven to bake on. At the temperature most Polymer clay's cure at, it won't harm the tile. I'm sure you can also find them at major do it yourself stores, this is just where I found mine. 

*Be careful when removing it from your oven tho, it will be very hot and retain it's heat for a long time after* 

Another surface one can use is a sheet of wax or butcher paper. I found that butcher paper is better for me because it's so much thicker. 

Before you get started, you always want to condition your clay. 

WHAT is conditioning?

Conditioning is the process that makes the clay easier to work with. Most conditioning is done by warming the clay in your hands until it reaches the right consistency to work with. The physical act of stretching, mashing and warming, changes the texture of the clay, thus making it easier to work with.

*Adding softening agents to the clay*

There are a number of things you can add to your clay to soften it if it's too hard. 

  1. Eberhard-Faber (made by Fimo) makes something called "Mix-Quick" It's a soft block of extra plasticizers; you can use this in small quantities to recondition hard clay.
  2. Sculpey clay softener liquid that does the same thing. Add a few drops at a time and work into clay. Don't worry, this will make the clay extremely sticky, don't give up, keep working the clay softener into the clay and eventually you will have the consistency you desire.
  3. Transparent Polymer clay will also give you easier clay to work with. Add small amounts at a time and work in thoroughly until you have the consistency you desire.
  4. Sculpey Mold Maker is another product that comes in a block. By adding small amounts of this very soft product to your clay and mixing thoroughly, you will find the clay will soften nicely.
  5. Mineral oil, by adding a few drops of mineral oil to the clay, you will achieve the same results as using the Sculpey clay softener. I have not used this process, but I have spoken to a few clayers that have and they liked the results.
So, as with anything.. try some, try them all... until you find what works for you! Each artist has tried and true methods that have worked for them. The end result is.. use what works for your budget and taste. 

Another method of conditioning is by using a 
*Polymer clay dedicated Pasta Machine*  This one was found on the Joann Fabric and Craft Store website


Why does it need to be dedicated you ask? Well, even though the clay is Non-Toxic, you don't want to use the same machine for food. Clay just doesn't taste that great. 

You don't need to purchase an expensive pasta machine, there are always Polymer clay pasta machines on sale at any hobby store. I purchased one when I first started, back in 2004 and it is still going strong today. Some have had to replace theirs after a few years, but they are so inexpensive and such a wonderful asset to claying.. it's a good thing to get. 

*How to use a pasta machine*

Simply flatten the Polymer clay into a thin "pancake" and on the widest setting of the pasta machine, roll the clay through. Be careful you don't have the clay too thick when rolling it through, it can cause the gears within the machine to mis-align. Then you will have to purchase a new machine. 

Once you have passed the "pancake" through, fold it and at the crease, pass it through again. Keep repeating this process until you have the clay at the consistency you desire.

That's all for this week, tune in next week when we cover different types of blades to use with your clay. 

Thank you!

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