Ever have one of those “I could make that” moments? You’ve probably thought this to yourself every time you’ve browsed a craft show, and no doubt you have a Pinterest board titled “Things to Make Someday”. I have those “I could make that” moments at least once a day. Oh, I could so totally make this:
and even this
Dare to dream right?
A few days ago, as I perused the beading aisle of a local craft shop looking for that perfect little something to add to a locket I’ve been working on for the past 6 months (and when I say working on, I really mean thinking about working on), I was feeling hopeless about not finding that perfect little something. Suddenly a light appeared from nowhere, shinning down on a display of polymer clay. The muse of polymer dangled an enticing project brochure in front of me, she whirled around me “You could SO Totally make this” she teased with a giggle, her bedazzled stola slapping me in the face as she twirled. Before I knew what hit me, I woke at my work table staring at a small lump of clay. No muse in sight.
I wasn’t too worried about my now AWOL muse or her stupid little idea book anyway! I had my own ideas. What captured my attention was not a specific project, but the endless possibilities. With an array of polymer clay, I could surely rule the world! Or at least make a small bead.
So, I had purchased a few packs of various clays for about 2.79 each. I bought red, black white and silver. I purchased Fimo, Sculpey III and Kato Polyclay brand clays. I know nothing at all about polymer clay, but I have played with Play-doh, how different could it be? From what I’ve read about it, you basically make a shape, then bake it in the oven. After baking it can be it can be sanded, painted, drilled, glued onto things… the possibilities really are endless.
All the websites I found on polymer clay stressed the importance of proper conditioning. Conditioning makes the clay soft and easy to work with. You can condition the clay by kneading it by hand or adding softening agents. Many polymer clay sites recommend using a pasta machine (one dedicated to the sole use with clay) and run the clay through it 15 times!! WHAT??? Yes, I read on one site, 15 times. I don’t have a pasta machine (surprise!). I’m not only an “I could make that kind of girl”, I’m also a “I could do this instead kind of girl” so I wasn’t about to go on a hunt for a pasta machine to knead my clay, nor was I about to plop down a wad of cash for all the little specialty tools and molds – I wasn’t even sure I would like working with this stuff in the first place, plus in my stash I was sure to find some kind of little doohickey that would work to cut and sculpt clay (ummm like a kitchen knife maybe? A tooth pick, a chop stick?) And I was pretty sure my strong hands would be good enough to condition a small square of clay.
The frist clay I worked with was Sculpey III. I just used my hands to condition it, rolling it and squishing it until it became soft and pliable, about 10 – 15 minutes. I then rolled out and formed this thin overlay for my small Altoids tin locket. I used silver Sculpey, but ended up painting it with black and silver paint after baking, then applying a protective coat of Inkssentials Glossy Accents over the paint job. I glued the overlay in place with Mod Podge.
I expected it to be hard after baking, but it was soft and rubbery, which I think is somewhat normal, according to my research. After sitting over night it was hard like baked clay should be. I’m still not sure if I did something wrong though, maybe my piece was too thin, I guess all the answers will come with more practice.
I also used Fimo clay to make these two little heart charms. I found the Fimo and the Sculpey to be very similar, except the Fimo pieces came out of the oven hard, like you might expect.
My vision for the locket was one mixed with gothic horror and the over all power and awe of the heart. The first two hearts I made weren’t offering the element of surprise or capturing the message I was trying to convey.
The next clay I worked with was Kato Polyclay. I had read great reviews about it and supposedly it’s one of the strongest and durable polymer clays on the market. At first I was disappointed. It was very dry and crumbly out of the package. The Sculpey III had been firm, yet slightly pliable. The Kato clay gave me reason to reconsider the pasta machine idea. After a few minutes of hand kneading, it was no longer crumbly, but it was still to hard to work with. Since I didn’t have a pasta machine, I thought about driving over it a few times with the car, but what would the neighbors think? Instead I just kept at it, kneading it by hand through an episode of “Breaking Bad” and finally, I ended up with something I could work with.
I decided to try my hand at sculpting a more life-like heart and just started forming the shape of a heart, then I used a toothpick to add texture. I rolled tiny little pieces to use as the arteries and inserted them into small holes I made in the formed heart, then melded them onto the heart with a toothpick. I also applied the red and blue wire to the heart by poking the ends of the wire right into the clay before baking. I was surprised how well the wires held in place.
A very blurry before shot and also a light coat of acrylic paint.
I painted the heart, but after I applied the first coat, I decided to paint after baking (for some reason – I forget why). I used acrylic paints and a little bit of silver Pearlex powder pigment for highlights. If you decide to paint after baking you will need to apply a protective sealer over it to keep the paint from scratching off. I used the Inkssentuals Glossy Accents as a protective coat and it worked really well. I was pretty happy with the way it came out:
The clay heart was just a little too thick to properly fit in the locket so I had to carve away some of it from the back. I did this with a wood carving tool I found in my stash (imagine that). My little heart held up to all this man handling very well.
As I stated, I have zero experience working with this stuff, when comparing the three; Sculpey III, Kato Polyclay and Fimo, I’m still not sure which I like best, The Sculpey and Fimo were definitely easier to condition, but I was equally happy with the end results of all three.
I’d love to hear about your adventures in polymer clay and please feel free to offer tips and suggestions. And if you see that muse, invite her over for a play date.
Thanks for reading