Friday, May 15, 2009

So you want to be a Polymer Clayer? by Jennifer Mercer aka HaffinaCreations

We would like to thank for the following article.

So you’ve made the decision to make items out of Polymer Clay? Where do you go now? And what do you need?

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Obviously you need Polymer Clay. This presents you with a multitude of options. What type do you choose? Kato? Sculpey Premo? Sculpey III? Fimo? Fimo Soft? There are heaps of choices, and different reasons for choosing different ones. To start with you need to know what you are intending to make with the clay. Sculpture pieces generally require a firmer clay to allow for finer details. Some clays are softer and easier to condition, but may not be suitable for some uses. Some brands also have a greater colour range. It may be best to try a few different brands out to see what you feel suits you the best.

Once you have chosen your clay you need to consider tools. Any tools you use you need to label them as ‘clay only’. A lot of Polymer Clay tools could double as kitchen gadgets, you don’t want them to get mixed up. A great investment is a pasta machine. It need not cost a lot, unless you want one with a motor. It will make some things a lot easier and more successful, such as Skinner Blends, or Mica Shift Technique. You will also need something to cut the clay with. A tissue blade is an excellent and fairly inexpensive choice, particularly if you are making and slicing canes. You will also need a smooth surface to work on, something that clay will not stick to, and preferably something that will not dull your cutting tools. Some other things to consider are rollers, bead pins, texture plates, stamps, shape cutters, moulds, varnish, mica powders and liquid Polymer Clay. You may not need any of them, depending on what you are making, but they are useful and expand the possibilities available to you.

Next you need to consider how you are going to cure the clay. Some use their kitchen oven, but it is generally not recommended if you are intending to cook food in it too. Some people use toaster ovens, and they are a good, relatively inexpensive option. You should invest in an oven thermometer to check the temperature. Toaster ovens can be prone to ‘spiking’ (having peaks of temperature above what you set it at), which can result in the clay burning and ruining all your hard work. Ideally you would want a proper, dedicated oven, however this is expensive and impractical for most.

Now you have made your items, and cured them, what next? Finishing. How you finish them will again depend on what you are making and also on how you want them to look. If the piece is very textured or sculptured you may chose to varnish it, giving it a lovely shiny finish. The item may well need sanding before varnishing to give the best finish. If the item is smooth you may choose to sand it and buff it. You can get a fabulous high gloss finish doing this, as long as you sand it very well with several grades of wet/dry sandpaper, such as 400, 800, 1200 and 2000. Buffing can be done with old, soft denim, or there are various muslin type heads available for use with a Dremel or similar. Some Polymer Clayers use a bench mounted finisher with a big, fluffy had. You can also choose to leave the clay unfinished, which can look great, especially if extra care has been taken to ensure there are no fingerprints or fingernail marks present before curing.

There are many, many choices available, with a multitude of exciting possibilities. There is a lot of information available to help out the beginner Polymer Clayer. You could start at your local library, or explore the myriad of tutorials available online. There are also magazines dedicated to Polymer Clay, as well as many books by talented Artisans who share their knowledge openly. My best advice to those interested in learning about Polymer Clay is to go for it, get some clay, experiment, and most of all, have fun.

This article was written by Jennifer Mercer aka HaffinaCreations

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