We received lots of great questions to last week's "Ask a Smoosher" and are going to split up the answers into several posts here. So if you do not see yours, not to worry it is coming up.
Creative Cove Jewelry Designs asks:
Why do some use a shiney finish and some just leave it like a matte finish? preference or technique?
The choice to glaze or not to glaze for me depends on the pattern more than anything. The shiny glaze really brings out the colors in the clay, especially if the clay has mica or glitter in it. Glaze is also good for protecting the clay.
I prefer to have the shiny finish you get from sanding and buffing. And I'm just starting to get with the idea of varnishing some pieces. I dont really like the matte look..so I guess its preference.
I think it really depends on the piece. Some pieces need a gloss finish and some need a matte finish. Some of my pieces have no finish.
Well really it's both some techniques require sealing like when using mica powders. Some people prefer a super shiny finish; myself I love the look of a well sanded and buffed piece. You can get a great shine that way it just takes more work.
For finishing: it all depends on the item. Many of my pieces I like to leave matte for a more organic feeling.
I think its a matter of personal preference. I prefer a glossy or semi-gloss varnish finish for beads and pendants because A) shiny usually looks best for jewelry items and B) it adds protection to the pendant or bead, especially if I've used metallic powders or added a patina. For sculptural items I tend to leave the clay as is, or use a matte finish varnish for protection. I personally like a more natural finish for sculptural pieces.
For me it depends on what the piece is. Some things look better shiny and do not look finished until they are. Some pieces need the organic look of a more matte finish and look ruined with a shiny surface.
Ok, so as of last night, I have about half a table full of poly stuff ready to bake...
But I don't know for how LONG. I know the temp, but not how long.
One thingydeal is about 1/16th- 1/8th inch thick, some of my beads are 1/4 inch thick, the little coffee cup thing is more of a sculpture and is about 3/4 inch tall by about 1/2 across...Oh, and another pen. I can't remember how long I used to bake those, and refuse to confess to the number I burnt before I finally "got it right".
I bake most of my clay items for about 25- 30 min. I also use foil on my cookie sheet because it helps the clay not get so hot where it burns on the bottom. I have noticed with white and translucent I have to bake it for about 20 min. or it starts to discolor.
I bake most of mine for about 20 minutes, 25 if they are larger, at about 130. Sometimes I turn it down closer to 120 and bake for a bit longer.
Keep in mind Haffina uses Centigrade while UBK is in the U.S. and uses Fahrenheit
It really does not matter how long they bake in the oven, but if you have something that is 1/2" thick you probably should bake it extra long. It also depends on the clay you are using. I use premo sculpey which is 30 min for every 1/4". With that calculation you should bake the 1/2" thick pieces for 1 hour in the oven.
If your clay burns you probably have an oven that is too hot. You should get an oven thermometer just to make sure. You can get them pretty cheap and they make sure your oven temperature is correct.
As long as you are baking in a oven that maintains a constant temperature you really wont over cure it; this is a theory I have tested accidentally when I left some beads in the oven for over 4 hours. Fortunately for me my oven and thermometer run well with out spiking and I always bake in a covered pan. Under-baking is a problem because your items will be weak.
I always cure my items for no less them 30 minutes, beads usually go for about 45 minutes and sculpts I usually cure many times while making them and the final cure I usually go for about an hour.
In all these years I have never scorched or over cured an item and I believe it's because I have a good oven thermometer and took the time to calibrate my oven accordingly.
For baking: I bake everything, no matter the thickness, at least one hour. Under baking time wise will make a piece brittle, over baking doesn't hurt it at all. I would rather be safe then sorry.
How long you bake depends on A) the brand of clay you use B) your oven temp quirks and C) thickness of your piece. I've found its essential to use an oven thermometer and get to know your oven temps, "hot spots" etc. Each clay brand should give the temp and amount of time to bake for a certain thickness. Because of the variety of thicknesses in your different pieces, you won't be able to bake them all in one batch. I like to use parchment paper to line my baking sheet to prevent "shiny spots" on the back of my pieces and to prevent browning. If baking translucent, pearl or white clays, I recommend lining your baking sheet with fireproof polyester fiberfill batting and covering your pieces with a double layer of wet paper towels for baking, to prevent browning/darkening of light colored clays. Some clay artists also recommend baking at 10* LESS than recommended, for the usual amount of time.
I also tend to bake longer than the time recommended by the manufacturer. Pieces that are under baked tend to have issues even months after cured. My better half calibrated my oven and I use a thermometer to make sure it never spikes during the curing process.