We recieved lots of great questions to last week's "Ask a Smoosher" and have split up the answers into several posts.
UBK asks the following questions:
I have some pretty seed beads, not sure if they are glass or plastic, but they are teeny, and long story short, is it ok to push them into the clay before baking and bake like usual?
For the seed beads, I have used all kinds in my clay and baked them and they did just fine.
I've not tried seedbeads, but I have used flatback Swarovski crystals..they were fine.
I suppose it is a preference but if the beads are plastic I would avoid putting the plastic ones in the oven, simply because I had a bad experience of them melting on me if it is the really cheap ones from China. However, some of the members used it with no problems so I think it depends on the bead. If in doubt, just put some beads in some scrap clay and bake it to see if they melt. If they don't melt in the oven then they pass the test and you use it for your artwork.
If they are glass they'll be fine, test one of them before hand and you'll know if they'll take the heat.
My suggestion is take a few and push them into some scrap clay and bake. if they melt you know they can't be baked. However, that doesn't mean you can't use them. You can push them into the raw clay and then pop them out before baking, then put them back in the baked piece using super glue.
If you're not sure whether the beads are plastic or glass, I would do a test bake with a some of them before you add them to your pieces to make sure they won't melt. Also, sometimes beads that are just pushed into the clay will pop out later, so its a good idea to adhere them with liquid clay or wire them in, if possible. Or pop them out after baking and glue them in tight again.
I have had mixed experience with plastic beads. Some melted and some did not. Some plastic pearls had a really cool look after melting but it was not what I was going for. Always test on a piece of scrap clay.
I've seen things in tutorials that say you can paint the clay with acrylic paint...is this before, or after, or "pick one"?
Yes you can paint on the clay with acrylics and I do it after the clay is baked. You'll also want to glaze the clay after you paint it so the paint doesn't scratch off.
You can do it either before or after. Personally I prefer before because then the paint bakes into the clay and it won't smear after it is baked. You can paint it afterwards too but I find that the paint smears and you have to seal it to make it smearproof. Seal it after the paint dries.
You can use it on raw clay OR baked clay. it all depends on the look you are going after. I use it on textured items both raw and baked.
If you're wanting to add a patina to your piece you will want to paint with acrylic paints after you bake and be sure to varnish to protect the paint. If you're using acrylic paint as part of a faux technique (such as faux turquoise) or for a layer in mokume gane, you would paint the raw clay.
I have used acrylic washes on sculptures that have already been baked. On sculptures I am looking for a matte finish so after the acrylic wash dries I cover it with a thin coat of liquid clay and rebake.
Seriously, how do you get the translucent to BE translucent and not look like fish scales? (Never had much luck with it in the past, but want to try it again)
The translucent always turns out kind of milky looking and not actually clear. So I'm not sure if there's a trick to that or not.
I have heard that one way to get it 'clearer' is to drop it in ice water straight out of the oven. I havent tried it yet, so I dont know if it works. I've also heard that 'Sculpey Premo Frost' ends up the 'clearest', but that none end up looking like glass or anything.
1) You can tent your work with foil. That does not always work though.
2) Bury your work in corn starch before baking and then sand it afterwards (never tried it; heard it from Cindy Lietz)
3) Bleach your work by soaking it in bleach until it becomes more clear (never tried that either)
4) Use a different brand of poly clay (people have good things to say about Kato translucent or frost premo; never tried it either)
5) Glaze your work after you are done.
6) If you are embedding it in resin, you don't have to bake it. Just pour a layer of resin on the mold you are using. Wait for the resin to cure completely. Then put your unfinished clay work in the mold and pour another layer of resin until it covers it, and wait for it to cure. The clay is then "sandwiched" between the resin and it has a cool effect.
It is never truly translucent. The best way to make it appear so is to use very very thin slices, bake it in a covered pan at the right temp, put item directly in ice bath and sand the heck out of it
Translucent clay: the trick is practice. The translucent has to be super super thin to not leave the "fish scale" look. When slicing a cane it has to be almost tissue paper thin for you to almost eliminate the shadow. You can also trim away the translucent from the slice to help out. the rest is sanding sanding and some more sanding.
Translucent clay is tricky to work with. Some of the "scales" may be little pockets of air trapped, so be careful when conditioning clay so that no air gets trapped. Also, be sure that translucent clay gets conditioned enough. I find that if I don't condition the clay long enough, I tend to see little scaly looking spots. For translucent pieces to really look their best, sanding is the key. Sand with at least 4 different grits (400 to 1000) of wet/dry sandpaper to bring out the translucent layers in your pieces. The more sanding you do with more and finer grits, the better it will look.