Friday, September 14, 2012

Collection of earrings for Autumn from the Polymer Clay Smooshers

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to condition and handle polymer clay

No matter how soft polymer clay is when you unwrap it, it still needs to be conditioned.  Conditioning polymer clay redistributes the ingredients in the clay that may have settled during storage.  If you don't properly condition your clay your finished piece may be weaker and more prone to breakage.  You know your clay is properly conditioned when you can fold it without having it crack.
To condition your clay start by cutting the block of clay into thin slices using a straight blade.  Roll over each slice with a clay roller, fold it in half and repeat several times until it starts to become softer.  Continue conditioning with your hands, smooshing, rolling, and folding the clay until it becomes warm and pliable.  You can condition the clay completely by hand or finish conditioning it with a pasta machine.  Be sure to always insert the clay through the pasta machine fold first to prevent air bubbles from becoming trapped between the layers.
Here's a short video showing how to condition polymer clay.
Softer clays such as Sculpey III and Pardo can usually be conditioned by hand by simply kneading them for a few minutes.  Using a pasta machine makes quick work of conditioning clay and you can usually find pasta machines for a reasonable price in most craft stores and online sites that sell polymer clay.
Firmer clays can be crumbly and difficult to condition.  With these clays you need to start warming the clay and conditioning by hand before trying to run them through the pasta machine to complete the conditioning process.   One way to soften the clay is to mix in small amounts of translucent clay.  However, if you add too much you may change the color of the clay.  You can also add a few drops of liquid clay and knead it in thoroughly.  Only add a few drops at a time or you will end up with a goopy mess!  Yet another way to warm your clay in preparation for conditioning is to place wrapped blocks of clay on a Ziploc bag filled with 1/2 cup of rice that's been microwaved for 30-45 seconds.  The rice will stay warm for up to an hour.  You may want to put a cloth between the bag of rice and your clay to prevent overheating.  You don't want the clay to begin curing.  One method I use to warm stiff clay is to sit on the clay or put it in my pocket (wrapped in it's original package or in a bag).  Just never put polymer clay in the microwave for any reason.
The heat of your hands can make some clays softer and softer while you're working with them.  If your clay becomes too soft and difficult to work with you may need to set it aside for a while and let it cool off.  Some people even put it in the refrigerator for a short time.
You can make soft clay firmer by a process called leaching, which removes some of the plasticizers from the clay.  While leaching will make the clay firmer to work with, it can also lessen the strength of the finished piece.  To leach your clay sandwich thin pieces of polymer clay between several layers of printer paper.  Place your "clay sandwich" on your work tile and set a heavy book on top.  Check your clay every so often until the desired firmness is achieved.  This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  Replace the paper when it appears saturated.  It will look like a grease stain on the paper.  And remember not to leave unbaked clay on painted, varnished, or lacquered surfaces, as the clay will damage them.
When working with different colors of clay start with the lightest colors first whenever possible.  Light colored clays can be difficult to keep clean since they will pick up anything on your hands, tools, or work surface. This post has more tips on working with light colored clay: Tips For Sculpting With White and Light Colored Polymer Clay.  Baby wipes work well for cleaning your hands not only in between colors, but every so often while you're working with your light color.  I also wipe down my tools to be sure there are no bits of darker clay on them.  Just be sure your wipes are lint free and don't leave fine particles on your hands, as these will quickly transfer to the clay.
My preferred work surface is a ceramic tile.  Tiles come in a variety of sizes and are fairly inexpensive at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowes.  They're smooth and easy to clean and don't affect the clay.  The tiles are nearly impervious to scratching and can go right from your work table to the oven.  I have tiles in several sizes for different sized projects.
If you don't want your clay to stick to your tile parchment type deli paper works quite nicely.  Placing your project on this allows you to move it around without distorting it.  I find this very useful when cutting out leaves and flowers.  I can cut them out on the paper and easily remove them to place them on my sculpture.  you can find this deli paper, also known as patty paper, in bulk at grocery warehouses and restaurant supply stores.  Baking on this paper also helps prevent shiny spots from forming on the bottom of your piece.

I hope these tips have helped you learn some of the basics of working with polymer clay!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The colors of Autumn from the Polymer Clay Smooshers

As summer winds down and the days begin to cool off my thoughts begin to wander towards the crisp days of Autumn.  I do love Autumn- the smell of the air changes, there's a bit of nip to the breeze in the evenings, and of course the colors of the leaves begin to change.  This will be my first Autumn in Prescott Arizona and I'm looking forward to seeing how it will be different from the Autumns in Ohio, which I've known all my life.  In the spirit of the change of seasons I wanted to showcase some of the beautiful Autumn creations from the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild.
This three leaf pendant from Amazing Designs is appropriately called Shades of Autumn.
Shades of Autumn Three Leaf Pendant  
This Autumn Teardrop pendant necklace from Flower Childs Artsy Jewelry shows off some of  the lovely colors of Autumn.
Autumn Teardrop Pendant Necklace 
This Fall Mums candle holder from kkspolymerclyart showcases one of Autumn's most popular flowers.
Fall Mums Candle Holder Polymer Clay FREE SHIPPING 
This Autumn Colors pendant necklace from Sharp Art by Dawna was created using the Mokume Gane technique.
Autumn Colors Polymer Clay Pendant Necklace  I hope you enjoyed this sample of Autumn colors from the Smooshers!  Be sure to check out these shops and see all they have to offer!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Delightful items from the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild

Monday, September 3, 2012

We have a tie for the theme for the Smooshers next challenge!

This is a first, but we have a tie for the winning theme for our next Challenge! So you can choose between Halloween or Autumn Colors (or do an entry for each them, or mix the themes together).  The options are endless! 
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Smooshers Challenges let me tell you the rules.  In order to participate you need to have an active shop on ArtFire and be a member of the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild.  Participation is not mandatory, but it is a great way to bring in views and potential sales for your shop. 
You're allowed to enter 2 items, and they must incorporate polymer clay and be relevant to the theme.  You need to have them listed in your ArtFire shop by the deadline and then post the link to your entries in this thread:

There is no "winner" for these challenges, just the benefit of being promoted, the opportunity to show off your work, and the chance to try new things with polymer clay.  These Challenges are meant to be fun for everyone involved ;-)  I'll promote the Challenge and all the entries on the Smooshers blog, Facebook, the ArtFire forums, and YouYube.  It would be very beneficial if everyone else promoted the challenge as well, on whatever sites you use.  Even if you don't enter a piece or belong to the Smooshers guild, you can still support the guild by promoting the Challenge ;-)

The deadline for entries for the Halloween/ Autumn Colors Challenge is October 3rd, so that will give us a month to complete and list our entries.  If anyone has any questions,  just let me know. You can contact me through CreativeCritters by using the Contact Artisan link under my avatar.  Let's have fun with this! :-)