Thursday, July 5, 2012

Progressing In Polymer Clay

    Two years ago this month, I started experimenting with polymer clay. I was fascinated by the things I saw people making with it, and all I knew was that I wanted to do it too! As a jewelry artisan who does not bead-weave or wire wrap, I was really tired of the limited selection of mass-produced beads and pendants. I needed to design my own. The only thing I regret is not having discovered this wonderful medium a long time ago.

    Since 2010, I've slowly gathered different tools and materials, learned a few popular techniques, and had lots of trial and error. I'm still a beginner in the grand scheme of things, and I love it. All day I see things that inspire ideas in some shape or form, and I can't wait to get back to my clay station.

I've practiced at a wee bit of everything. Here is a list of some of my favorite techniques and materials so far:


    The first lesson is, let your canes rest and cool before reducing, and reduce slowly. I learned this the hard way. Phase out Sculpey III, it's too soft. Some tools and equipment that are imperative are: pasta machine and tissue blades. Some that are really helpful but not as imperative are: brayer, shape cutters, and extruder gun. The extra tools (and patience) are the ones that will help make your work look more clean and precise. I still need to get shape cutters and a brayer.

    Choose highly contrasting colors for caning. Slice thinly and consistently, keeping in mind the "spread factor" when the slices are flattened. Don't be afraid of waste, with polymer clay there is no waste. I should follow my own advice here, my problem is not wanting to run out of specific colors. Then I have to drive in rush hour traffic, screaming out the window, "I need RED damnit, RED!!" That's normal, right?

Alcohol Inks

     Alcohol inks like Tim Holtz Ranger Inks or Pinata are great for tinting polymer clay or creating cool effects. Personally, my favorite thing to do with them is dye my own pearl and mica clays-so I have a wider variety of metallic colors. I love combining different pearl colors for mokume gane and mica shift. Oh, and that's another reason that I prefer rubbing alcohol and coffee filters over baby wipes, since these inks need to be cleaned up with it anyway. The alcohol is a lot more thorough at cleaning my hands between colors (even without inks) and the filters are more cost effective.

 I like pearls for general sculpting too:

This last one is pretty simple, but still worth mention. "Backfilling" with acrylic paints to make a texture pop. I'm not sure if that's the correct term, but hey. You paint on your cured piece, filling in the cracks, and then quickly wipe the paint off the raised surface with a damp filter. You'll want to have tested the paint beforehand, for compatibility. Most acrylic paints will work, but you may find one that refuses to dry-like, ever. 

Pieces like these that have a surface pigment can't be sanded and buffed (for obvious reasons), and need some kind of sealant. I use a Varathane brand water based polyurethane gloss. (Avoid Sculpey glaze that comes in the little jar, it's garbage) Future floor polish is popular. I have yet to sand and buff my pieces, but from what I understand, no varnish known to man will produce the glassy shine that you get from sanding and buffing. Guess that's next on my list...

Well, that's all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed my little article-since my posts are so few and far between these days, I'd better try to make them worth the read.


No comments:

Post a Comment