Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ToolBox Tuesday: Clay Conditioning

Today we are talking about two fabulous tools for conditioning polymer clay.  
What the heck?  What is Polymer Clay, you ask?

These little cakes of clay are polymer.  I am sure you have seen them.  You probably have tried to use one before.  I found the secret to getting the clay ready to use.  This liquid clay is fabulous.

And this clay pasta machine is something I could have never lived without!
I know, you think I am crazy.  You are right, I am crazy, but I really have NEEDED these tools in my line of work and I will show you some of my projects a little bit later.   

First, my disclaimer.  I chose my one block of clay I didn't open up last night in my middle-of-the-night clippie party, Metallic Gold.  One problem...in some of the pictures, it..um...looks a little like...er, um..just saying it kind of resembles...OK, Just gonna say it....
Sorry about that :0)
If I hadn't really stayed up the ENTIRE night working on my clay clippies I would have colored all the clay purple in photoshop before posting.  Since I am just too tuckered out, you will just have to sit near a garbage can.  Really, try not to imagine that it is poop I am pushing through my machine, please!?!

That said, I took my fabulously metallic gold block of clay and could not even dent it with my hands.  It was so rock hard there was NO WAY it could have been made into ANYTHING!

I tried to squish it against the table, but it only broke in half along the crease line.

Eventually I stood up, squishing it with all my might AND body weight, barely making a crack in the stuff.

Here is where my fabulous liquid clay comes in.  I dropped a nickle-sized pool of the liquid in the center of the clay.  
***A couple notes about working with polymer:
Don't work on a wood surface like me :0) -this is my craft table and it has taken a beating.  I don't care if the finish comes off due to the clay, but really, I kinda wished I had started on a beat-up cookie sheet or something.  This liquid clay is MESSY!
Also, you may want to wear gloves because it is kinda hard to get off your hands.  I did find dish soap to be a good tool in the removal since it is so much thicker than regular soap.

OK, so if your clay is too stiff to squish the liquid into the clay, just stack one block on top of the other like a sandwich and then squish with all your might.

Here is the SUper PoopY picture  |0p  Yuck!  Sorry again.
Ok, so once you have done all you can at squishing the clay by hand, pull out your clay pasta machine.  
***More notes: be certain NOT to use your regular pasta machine.  The polymer clay is actually TOXIC.  You don't want to bake it on cookie sheets you actually make cookies on, you don't want to use the same spatulas or pasta machines.  You also don't want to use your fondant tools as clay tools or mix your cookie cutters.  You should have separate clay cookie cutters/tools that are only for clay.
{Stepping down from soap box}

Let me show you a little anatomy with this pasta machine.  There is a clamp that holds the machine to the table or counter.  Above that is the hand crank that you use to pull the clay through the machine.  

On the other side, there is a dial with numbers 1-9.  These numbers pertain to thickness of the clay.  9, the biggest number, will give you the thickest sheet of clay.  1 will give you extremely thin sheets of clay.
When you are conditioning, or preparing your clay for modeling, you will want to start your machine on number 9 for the first dozen times through the machine, and then maybe move it down to 7, 5, and so on as the clay gets more pliable.
****More Notes- Clay picks up any color around it.  If you run a piece of blue clay through your machine, then run a piece of white through, your white will have streaks of blue *Ugh*
Some experts recommend having a "cleaner" or practice scrap of clay, like a white or something, that you run through after a darker color or something.  

OK, so push your hard clay pile into the slot at the top of the machine, then turn the side crank while pushing the clay through the machine with the palm of your hand.  You will have to observe which direction the handle needs to be turned in order to pull the clay down into the machine.  If you are turning it the wrong direction, the clay will not go anywhere.

This gold clay was SUPER hard...like the hardest clay I have EVER shoved through my machine.  I had to push and push and turn the clay over and push some more.  See the pile of crumbs that came through the bottom?

Gather up those crumbs, squish them together, and plunge them through the pasta machine again and again.

I had to add some more liquid clay because this block was just so stiff.  In went another nickle sized pool of goo.

See how the crumbs are starting to stick together in bigger pieces.  
I just kept squishing the pile into a ball and running it through the machine. 

After a third blop of liquid clay and a few more dozen times through the machine set at 9, the clay is finally coming out in a sheet.  It is a hole-ie sheet, but at least it is finally sticking together.

Now, fold and keep running through the machine.  Now is a good time to change to number 7 on the side dial.  As you decrease the number, the clay is sheeted thinner and thinner, making the clay much more pliable and useful.

Put it in, take it out.  Repeat.

Wow!  Finally!!!
Look at that sheet of clay!  Quite the difference from THIS:
I won't tell you that it took me 25-30 minutes to get these crumbs...

to this smooth, workable state.  *Huff!*  Kinda a pain.  Actually, I like the process since I have some rather painful knots in my palms and working with the really hard blocks of clay end up a fabulous way to get a free hand massage.  

Ok, so now that I have shown you how those two tools work together
{p.s.I bought both the liquid clay and the clay pasta machine from Hobby Lobby with their 40% off coupon}

And now for my secret weapon!  Bake Shop clay!!!  It is by Sculpey and it is fabulous!  for what I use it for anyway.  The Bake Shop clay is at Joanns, Micheals, Hobby Lobby, and is only $1-$1.20 each.  They are much softer.  Only one time have I ever bought a pack that ended up hard.  It is a softer clay so it is much easier to work with.  It comes in all the primary colors.  If you want a special color you will have to go through the above process, but if you are going for the basics, this clay ROCKS!

Now to show you a few things I have made with the clay/liquid clay/clay pasta machine.

Grapes and Red Chocolates Box

Various Mini Chocolates {just ignore the other clips}

And then all my clay clips I made as samples last night:

My customers only want school related clips, so I do my best to comply.

Now, if you aren't much into clippies {like the rest of the SANE world}, here are a couple fun projects using the tools and clay mentioned above:
{super fun for girls of any age-great to make for barbie house or what not}

{Madison wants to make these all}

Darling shop on Etsy, Hummingbird Miniatures
{this is actually a tutorial for sale}

Who doesn't LOVE a charm bracelet!!!

I just can't stop staring at this house!!!  Ebay is a fabulous place to search for miniatures.  You could always take up making miniatures and sell them at $20 a pop!


LOve these pens!!!  What a fun birthday gift for girlfriends.  LOVE!!!

These creep me out, but are amazing.  Kudos to whoever makes them :0)

So darling-ly spooky

Then there is the jewelry aspect of polymer clay:
Made from stacking clay, wrapping in more clay, then rolling until thin canes of clay.  You can just buy these made, but why not give making them a try!?!

Don't you LOvE these rings:???  I do!  You could totally make these any size or color to go with any outfit.
Totally fun.

I hope you had the slightest inspiration to try polymer clay.  It is so fun.  It is like playdough for adults!!!  
And the liquid clay and clay pasta maker make the whole experience all the easier.
Go ahead.  Give it a try :0)

1 comment:

  1. I've never thought about clay, but you convinced me. Your projects are beautiful and charming. It makes me want to make them.


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