Friday, August 31, 2012

Halloween Treats from the Smooshers

Some may think it's a little early to be talking about Halloween, but it's really not that far off!  And since Halloween is the topic of the Blog Roll this week I thought this would be a great time to showcase some of the fun Halloween items the members of the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild have listed in their shops.  Personally, I love Halloween and all things related to the holiday: black cats, witches, magic, skeletons (preferably glow in the dark), bats, and all those other spooky things ;-) When I was a kid I loved dressing up and going out trick or treating with my brothers.  And I've had several black cats who all seemed to have a little extra magic, especially on Halloween.  As an artist I love sculpting all sorts of Halloween themed pieces.  This time of year seems to really fire up my creative energies (I think it's all the magic in the air)!  And looking through the shops of my fellow Smooshers, I can see I'm not the only one inspired by Halloween!
Here's a Winged Skull Cuff Bracelet from Mortimer Inc- wicked cool!
Winged Skull Bracelet Cuff 
And this Witchy Mouse with BOO Banner from Quernus Crafts is absolutely adorable!

Witchy Mouse with Boo Halloween Banner White 
And of course pumpkins are always a part of Halloween.  Which is where these Pumpkin Stack earrings from Wyvern Designs come in!
 
Pumpkin Stack Earrings Hand Made in USA 
And this mummy from Fantasy Clay is so much fun!
 
Halloween Mummy Costume- Polymer Clay Figure   
And finally we have this Vintage Halloween Cat pendant from Gems PC Creations .

Vintage Halloween Cat Pendant 
To see more Halloween creations from the Smooshers check out http://wyverndesigns.blogspot.com/2012/08/have-smooshers-halloween.html.  Thanks for taking the time to check out these Halloween treats from the Smooshers! :-)


 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Polymer Clay Safety Tips


The two most important rules concerning polymer clay are 1) Don't eat it, and 2) Don't burn it.  Beyond these basic rules there are several more specific safety and usage issues.

1) Don't leave unbaked polymer clay on painted, varnished, or lacquered surfaces as it can damage the finish.  (I learned this the hard way after I ruined a dresser).  Once the clay is baked it becomes inert and this is no longer an issue.

2)Although polymer clay is rated as nontoxic it's not recommended for use with food.  If you use kitchen tools for working with polymer clay those tools need to remain dedicated to use with polymer clay only.  Never use anything made of polymer clay for utensils or dishware that will come into contact with food.  You can, however, use polymer clay to embellish handles or other parts of dishes or utensils that won't come into  contact with food.
These polymer clay covered wine glasses from TTE Designs are an example of how to safely embellish glasses with polymer clay.  Please note that polymer clay covered items need to be hand washed and dried.
 

3)Be sure to wash your hands after working with polymer clay, especially if you'll be handling food.  Pumice based waterless hand cleaner or hand sanitizer works well to dissolve polymer clay residue.  Use soap and water to wash away the hand cleaner.
pumice based waterless hand cleaner


4)Never leave baking clay unattended as it can burn or scorch if you're not paying attention.  Ovens, especially toaster ovens, don't always hold their temperature reliably.  You should also always use an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is set at the proper temperature.  I know my own oven is about 50 degrees off, so I have to set the temperature accordingly. If your clay looks like it is burning or smoking, turn off the oven and take the clay outside to cool off.  Be sure to ventilate the room so the fumes can thoroughly dissipate.
burnt clay


5)When carving, dry sanding, drilling, or machine buffing polymer clay be sure to wear a dust mask and protective eye wear.  The clay can be very dusty and you don't want to breathe that dust or get it in your eyes.


Extra Tips
Heat Guns : Heat Guns reach temperatures much higher than those recommended for baking clay, making it possible to burn the clay.  To start, clean your work area of any uncured clay and any flammable materials before starting to work with your heat gun.  If you have long hair tie it back and make sure any loose clothing won't get in the way.  You do NOT want to set yourself on fire!  Hold the heat gun 3 to 5 inches away from the clay and keep moving it in circles until the clay is cured.  Be aware that the tip of the gun will be extremely hot after use.  Give the gun at least 10 to 15 minutes to cool off before storing it.  And be absolutely sure to keep pets away from the heat gun while you're using it and while it's cooling off.  The last thing you want is for your cat or dog to get burned!

Shiny Clay: Your cured clay can develop shiny spots when you use a smooth baking surface such as a ceramic tile.  In some cases this won't have any effect on your piece, but it's easy to remove the shine if you prefer.  Simply use a 1,000 grit or higher sandpaper and lightly sand the spot until the shine is gone.

Baking Thin Pieces of Clay: Since paper can curl when baking it can work better to bake very thin pieces of clay directly on your tile.  You can also use a book to weight down the clay and flatten it after baking.

I hope these tips were helpful and will make your polymer clay adventures a bit safer!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faux creations in polymer clay

One of the most wonderful things about polymer clay is it's ability to mimic a wide variety of other materials.  You can create faux gemstones, faux wood, faux ivory, and just about any other faux item you can imagine.  Today I'll be featuring some faux creations in polymer clay made by members of the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild on ArtFire.
I love this nature inspired faux bone pendant from Christina Kosinski Designs.  The pendant was hand formed in a faux bone polymer clay and has many leaves and flowers surrounding a face in the style of the leaf man or tree man.
 Leafman Style Polymer Clay Pendant Faux Bone Large Art Piece 
This faux wood pendant from Creative Sisters mimics more than one type of wood in the same pendant for a striking look.
Necklace with Faux Wood Pendant made out of polymer clay 
These hand carved faux stone petroglyph earrings are part of Cynthia Blanton's Primitives collection.  They feature hand-carved polymer clay faux stone panels with images that look like ancient petroglyphs or cave drawings.
 Hand Carved Polymer Clay Faux Stone Petroglyph Earrings 
This puzzle piece pendant from Desert Rubble was made to resemble old metal scrap hardware.  The faux metal finish comes from metallic highlights which were antiqued  to make them look old and rustic.
 Post Apocalyptic Jewelry Puzzle Piece Faux Metal Scrap Hardware 
This clock from Dreamweavers Designs was made with two polymer clay faux techniques.  The brown background and center piece are faux leather and the center plaque is faux turquoise.
 Faux leather and turquoise polymer clay clock 
In just this short post we've seen polymer clay imitate leather, turquoise, metal, stone, wood, and bone!  There really are no limits to the things you can create, and re-create with polymer clay!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Swirls in polymer clay

Today I'd like to show off some work from members of the Polymer Clay Smooshers featuring swirls.  When I see swirls I think of flowing movement and energy.
These beautiful swirl post earrings from Amazing Designs definitely have a feel of movement to them.

Lots of Copper Swirl Post Earrings 
This nature themed pendant necklace from Art Asylum is just bursting with energy.  Plus it's 30% off right now!
Nature-Themed Pendant Necklace 
This purple swirl kaleidoscope cane from Artmakers Worlds is very unique and colorful.  Just imagine the things you could create with this design!
Purple swirl kaleidoscope polymer clay cane 
Here are some beautiful swirled beads from Blue Morning Expressions, perfect for stringing together into a lovely necklace.
Beads Spacer Rondelle Polymer Clay Green Swirl Focal Lentil Red 
And last but not least we have this pretty copper colored filigree barrette from Captured by Lori.
Copper-colored Filigree Barrette 80mm x 10mm 
And those are just a few of the swirly creations made by the Smooshers.
To see more posts featuring swirls from the Smooshers check out these blogs: http://wyverndesigns.blogspot.com/2012/08/swirls-and-whirls-in-polymer-clay.html andhttp://prescencebysandie.blogspot.com/2012/08/swirl-designs-from-polymer-clay.html.
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Liquid Polymer Clay Brands and Uses


Liquid clay is a useful and versatile addition to the world of polymer clay.  It works well as a primary medium when colored with oil-based paint, alcohol inks, or powdered pigments such as Pearl Ex powders.  When coloring liquid clay mix only a drop or two at a time until you reach the desired color.  It's easy to add too much color and ruin your results.

Batches of colored liquid clay can be stored in small plastic bottles.  You can create some really interesting effects if you use squeeze bottles with different sized tips.  Another way to store your colored liquid clay is to fill empty paint pot strips (like the kind you get with paint by number kits).  Empty paint pots strips are available in most craft stores.
Here are a few uses for liquid polymer clay:
*It can be used as an adhesive to bond layers or pieces of clay together.  This works with baked or unbaked clay.
*You can use it to make image transfers.
This image is linked to a tutorial for making butterfly wings using Translucent Liquid Sculpey

*You can add inclusions such as mica powders, glitter, or fibers to the liquid clay to create unique effects.



*You can use it to seal foils, leafing, and transfers.
*You can even use it to laminate paper.
One nice thing about liquid clay is that it's self leveling.  However, when using it as a sealer be sure not to apply it too thickly or you could end up with a cloudy finish.  You can sand or buff the liquid clay after baking to polish and add clarity to the finish.  You can make the surface more shiny by applying glaze to cured liquid clay.
Applying Liquid Clay
You can pour liquid clay directly from the bottle or use a toothpick, finger tip, or brush for detailed applications.  If using a brush, a high quality hair or synthetic brush works best.  Cheaper brushes may lose bristles in the liquid clay.  Any brush that's used to apply liquid clay must remain dedicated to that use since you won't be able to clean the liquid clay from the brush.  
To care for these brushes wipe the excess clay out of the bristles with a paper towel, stroking the towel in the direction of the bristles, away from the handle.  Cover the brushes with a small plastic bag  with the handle facing down when stored,  This keeps dust and debris out of the brush.  Liquid clay can be cleaned up with baby wipes or alcohol.
After a while the liquid clay in the brush may begin to thicken and firm up.  To recondition the brush work a few drops of liquid clay into the bristles to soften them.  Then drag the tip of a toothpick through the bristles to removes the excess clay.  Wipe the bristles with a paper towel and repeat as needed.  
You can also use a heat gun to sure liquid clay.  You can see when the clay has set: the sheen will disappear indicating that the clay has cured.
Brands of Liquid Clay

Fimo Liquid Decorating Gel comes in a 2 oz. bottle and is the clearest of the liquid clays.  It has the lowest viscosity and is very flexible after baking.  Thick layers will give you a satiny gloss finish and extremely thin layers give you a matte finish.

Kato Liquid Polyclay is available in 2 oz. and 8 oz. bottles and offers the second greatest clarity.  It has a medium thickness and cures with the most flexibility.  Whether used thick or thin it has a satiny gloss finish.

Translucent Liquid Sculpey comes in 2 oz. and 8 oz. bottles and is the thickest of the liquid clays.  It has the least amount of clarity when cured and can be thinned with Sculpey Diluent.  TLS cures hard and firm with a matte finish.

So now that you know a little more about liquid polymer clay I hope you'll do some experimenting and have fun with this versatile medium!


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vote on the theme for our next Challenge!

The Smooshers haven't had a Challenge for a few months now, since I was dealing with a cross country move, but now that I'm settled in my new home it's Challenge time once again!  In order to participate in one of these Challenges you need to have an active shop on ArtFire, be a member of the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild, and create up to two entries based on the current theme.  The entries need to be handmade and must incorporate polymer clay and they need to be listed in your ArtFire shop.  Those guild members who participate in these Challenges will not only enjoy the fun and challenge of pushing their skills a little farther, but will also benefit from the additional promotion of their shops and entries.  Your entries will be promoted on the Smooshers blog, the Smooshers Facebook page, in the ArtFire forums, on Pinterest, Wanelo, and if I get enough entries (at least 16) I'll put together a Collection and a video.

The theme choices for this Challenge are Autumn Colors, Falling For You, Halloween, and Back To School.

Anyone can place a vote- you don't have to be a guild member to vote on the theme. You have until August 31st to place your vote.  For some reason I can't seem to add a poll to the blog, but you can leave a comment on this post with your choice for the theme.
Once a theme has been chosen you'll have a month to complete your entries and post a link in the Smooshers guild forums.  I'll send out a guild bulletin with the winning theme and the due date.  I encourage all guild members to vote and enter their creations in these Challenges.  Not only is it a lot of fun, but very often you end up learning new skills and improving your craftsmanship!  And everyone else gets to enjoy the amazing creations of the Polymer Clay Smooshers guild (all of which will be up for sale)!  Thanks for commenting and voting! :-)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beautiful Blue collection from the Smooshers


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A look at the different brands of polymer clay

Each brand of polymer clay has it's own benefits and limitations when it comes to workability, strength, flexibility, firmness, and working time.  Personal experience and what the clay is being used to create is the best determining factor when it comes to choosing a brand of clay.
If properly stored (out of  direct sunlight and away from heat sources), polymer clay has an indefinite shelf life.  You also want to avoid certain types of plastic when storing your clay.  Rigid plastic containers can leach the plasticizers from the clay making it brittle.  I store my opened clay in plastic sandwich  bags which I then put in another container.  I keep my colors in separate bags to keep them from accidentally mixing and to keep the clay clean.  One of the great things about polymer clay is the fact that it's relatively inexpensive and you don't need a lot of expensive tools to work with it.  This makes it a great medium for beginners and children and gives crafters a chance to experiment and find out if this is the right medium for them.
Now on to the different brands of clay.

CERNIT is a clay that is often used by dollmakers.  Cernit offers a range of flesh tone colors and the clay has a lifelike translucency after baking.  It's a very firm clay and can be somewhat difficult to condition, but once it's baked it's quite strong and flexible.  You can find more than 60 different colors of Cernit polymer clay

FIMO Classic, originally simply called FIMO, is the oldest and probably most recognized brand of polymer clay.  FIMO Classic is very popular among caners who appreciate the strength and resiliency of the clay.  Once baked it offers a good degree of flexibility too.  FIMO Classic is available in 24 colors and bakes with a matte finish.

FIMO Soft is one of the easiest clays to condition and also offer the least amount of blade drag when slicing.  It remains flexible and strong after baking and has one of the longest open times for working the clay.  It also offers superior shelf life for millefiori canes.  FIMO Soft is available in more than 50 colors and bakes with a matte finish.  

Kato Polyclay is a newer brand of clay and was created by the collaboration of polymer clay artist Donna Kato and Van Aken International, a manufacturer of modeling compounds. It can be very stiff and takes longer than other clays to condition, but it's very strong and flexible after balking.  While most brands of polymer clay are generally baked at 275°F, Kato polyclay can be cured up to 300°F  for 30 minutes per 1/4" (5 mm) of thickness.  It is available in 17 colors and bakes with a light sheen.

Pardo is the newest clay available and is easy to condition and very strong after baking. It came to the US from Germany and has only been on the market for a few years. It's made from beeswax and other natural ingredients.  It comes in reusable packaging and is available in over 70 colors.   

Premo Sculpey is a medium soft clay that bakes with excellent strength and flexibility.  It can be stickier than other clays, but it's very easy to condition.  It bakes with a slight sheen finish and can be found in more than 30 colors.  Premo is my personal favorite when it comes to sculpting and jewelry making. Premo has an "artist's palette" of colors, which are designed to mix together the same way that artist's paints mix. Premo holds fine detail and is perfect for caning, mokume gane, mica shift, jewelry, home d├ęcor and functional item, as well as sculptural pieces.

Sculpey III was one of the first clays to come in individual colors.  It's very soft and easy to condition and offers good open time.  It bakes with a matte finish but isn't flexible and can be brittle after baking.  Sculpey III is best suited  for projects with density and bulk and can be found in more than 40 colors.  This is a good clay to use for covering armatures, or as a base for other projects.

Studio Sculpey is softer than Premo and is easy to condition.  It feels lighter and less dense than other brands and it bakes with a matte finish.  It's available in more than 50 colors and has good strength and flexibility.
And that's a brief overview of some of the most popular bands of clay available in crafts stores and online.