Friday, January 6, 2012

Learning About Polymer Clay.

New Years Eve is special for me not just because it is the end of a year.  It is also my Birthday!  So fun because that means there is always a party on my birthday.  I spent a wonderful day with my husband.  I cannot say that 2011 was an exceptional year but it had it's good parts.  The biggest was finding a talent in making jewelry and the many friends I have met both on line and at different craft shows.

There were some fun crazy times in 2011 with my sister (Lisa over at Creative Kitty Crochet) at the different craft shows we attended.  Getting lost, car catching on fire and set up mishaps.  You know the normal adventures you have when you start doing craft shows.  You can read more about those in some of my earlier posts.

As I am rolling into this new year I have made the decision to make my jewelry even more unique by making my own beads with polymer clay.  I have learned many things about polymer clay.  Each brand has it's own virtues.  I chose to start with Sculpey III.  It is easy to condition and blend your own colors.  I have made several canes (rods of clay made with a pattern running the length of the cane) with this and it requires a lighter touch when shaping the canes to keep from making a mushed mess.

As with any new project I try to buy minimal tools to begin with.  Never want to invest a large amount of money only to abandon the project down the road because I find it is something I did not enjoy.  In my opinion the must haves to start are:
Polymer clay, choose your brand by the characteristics that you find important to you.  Sculpey III is softer and easier to condition but it can be the weakest and most brittle.  Premo is easy to condition but the strength can vary with color, Fimo has a longer open time meaning it is longer before you have to stop and condition it, can become brittle when cured.  Kato can be the most difficult to condition but holds color well.  They all vary in in their finish after curing from a matte finish to shiny.  You can read more about this in Donna Kato's book The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques. 
Polymer clay roller,  there are several kinds.  They are like your rolling pin for clay and are made specific so the clay does not stick.
Poly blade, this is a straight blade that is similar to a razor blade.  Makes cutting canes much easier.
Crafty pasta machine, used to roll out sheets of clay for cutting shapes.  This helps keep your thickness uniform.  This machine is also helpful in conditioning the clay.
Sculpting tools, one with a curved end to help round, one with a pencil type end to allow for detailing, one that is like knife to help cut out shapes.
Disposable cutting boards, these can be found at Walmart and usually come in packs of three. These make great surfaces to work on.  The clay does not stick, you don't have to worry about staining your table top (the colors in the clay will bleed onto your work surface), you can also cut on these without fear of ruining your table top.
Oven, I bought a regular cheap toaster oven to start.  This is proving to be a problem as the temperature is not reliable.  The good part about polymer clay is that if it did not set the first time you can return it to the oven.  In the cheap ovens you are more likely to burn  your creations.  If you are going to start with this type oven spend a few extra dollars and buy a oven thermometer and run tests with several different thicknesses of clay so you won't ruin a beloved creation.
Molds, clay push molds can come in handy but you can cut the cost by free handing or using items around your house.  I am using candy molds I had on hand.  I leave enough clay on the top so I can grab the creation and pull it out.  Then cut off the excess clay.  There are also molds available to add texture to your creations.  Again look around I am sure you will find many items in your own home to add your own special touches.  Since I am preparing myself to create beads I have also purchased a Tri-bead clayroller .  Not a necessity but I am sure this will come in handy when I am ready to make those beads.
Baby wipes,  it is important to clean your hands in between each color to avoid unintentionally blending the colors.  Make sure to clean the crafty pasta machine and tools between colors also.
Rubbing alcohol, is good for your terminal cleaning at the end of each project.

These items will get you on your way to creating unique pieces.  Of course you will need wires or fittings to make these into jewelry or maybe you have another project in mind.  Either way jump in and enjoy the creating process.  Playing with clay may just bring out the child in you.

Earlier I mentioned Donna Kato's book.  Another book I would recommend is I Can't Believe I'm Creating Millefiore, published by Leisure Arts.  This book has easy to follow instructions on creating canes that can be used for many different projects.

Here is a sample of my first creations.
I am excited about this new year and I want to thank you for coming along with me.

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