Sunday, January 17, 2010

Polymer Clay Basics

Lately, I've seen a lot of questions about polymer clay from people who are just starting out. Now, I'm definitely no expert, but I've done plenty of research recently and can share a few general tips.

Choosing Your Clay
There are three main brands of clay that most people work with. Sculpey, Fimo, and Premo. I, personally have not used Fimo so I don't know much about it. It's more similar to Premo than it is to Sculpey though. Sculpey is very good for beginners. It's the softest and comes in a wide variety of colors. Premo is made by the Sculpey company, but it is firmer. It takes some time to condition (softening the clay in your hands) before you can work with it, whereas you can work with Sculpey pretty much right out of the package. You'll find that later on, when you're working with small tiny pieces, soft clay tends to mush in your fingers and it gets hard to sculpt details. But for beginners, I definitely recommend Sculpey.

The basic tools you will need are clay (obviously), something to use as a rolling pin (a pencil works), and an x-acto knife. I like to work on top of wax paper. The clay doesn't stick to it (it sticks to paper) and it's a smooth surface. Other tools you might need are eyepins (to make charms), cookie cutters, cute add-ins (like crystals, pearls, etc. that you can stick into your pieces). Also, make sure to wash your hands well and dry with a paper towel. You don't want to get dust into your clay, which is very easy to do!

Fingerprints are hard to avoid! After you construct your clay piece, you can rub some water over the prints to slightly rub them out. Or you can wear latex gloves, but most of the time it wrinkles up and makes lines in my clay. I only wear gloves when I'm working with dark clay. Speaking of dark clay, they will stain your hands! And if you do not wash it out before working with lighter clay, it will stain your clay as well! Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly in between switching colors. 


Bake according to the directions on the package. I recommend using parchment paper laid in an aluminum baking pan. Baking on aluminum foil will leave a shiny spot on the bottom of your clay pieces. You can use your home oven or a toaster oven to bake your pieces. Just make sure not to over-bake, or else the clay can release toxic fumes that will stick to the walls of your oven... which is bad if you plan on using the same oven for food =X

After Baking
To get the shiny look on your clay pieces, apply Sculpey Gloss Glaze after your pieces have cooled. They will dry after about 30 minutes and you'll get a nice shiny finish.

How do I make cute little charms that look like little characters or tiny food?
There are tons of tutorials online. YouTube and DeviantArt have a ton of great tutorials made by people who are awesome at this. You can also look on flickr and etsy for inspiration.

This book is great too:
The Polymer Clay Cookbook
By: Jessica and Susan Partain

They have an excellent intro chapter that teaches you all the basics about types of clay, color mixing, and jewelry techniques. Their tutorials cover a bunch of cute tiny food you can make, such as pretzels, cupcakes, coffee cups, ice cream, tacos, etc.

Just remember, anyone can learn how to make cute charms out of polymer clay. If you got some time on your hands, it's a fun hobby to learn! And with practice, it'll get much easier.

Hope this helps for the beginners out there!


katie said...

oh my gosh, Fimo clay is so hard to work with! i went out and bought premo! when there was a sale at Michael's, but me being oh-so impatient, i've barely handled it so that it'll soften and be able to make things. ^^;
thanks for posting that book though!! i'm going to look for it, that will be so helpful and inspirational i'm certain! :)

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