Learning more about polymer clay

Lessons learned thus far:

1.  NOT ALL POLYMER CLAYS ARE CREATED EQUAL.  I like Sculpey but have come to discover that yes, it doesn’t always come out as firm or solid when cured (baked).  I am testing out the truth behind whether or not FIMO is indeed firmer and sturdier.  I will stay away from Craftsmart polymer clay unless I need ultra soft and brittle clay for some reason or when it’s just so irresistibly so low priced that it would do for the foundation for beads or other bigger structures.  (Don’t take my word for it as being workable for this purpose, too, though.. The clay is too soft and extremely sticky that it’s hard to use even on the usually non-stick silicone molds.)

2. I LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY.  I have read up on a lot of tutorials and FAQs but continue to research online.  No matter if I seem to have read something in someone else’s blog or notes already, I keep going back because there are always those bits and pieces that people seem to add on and which continue to add to my knowledge about polymer clay.

3. EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT.  I think this is one of the best parts of wanting to learn and do more about a medium for crafting — you try things and continue to try things.

So I baked some polymer clay onto the metal charm or finding itself and while it stuck initially, as part of my quality control, I try to see if it will  hold by trying to apply pressure to it and I discovered it didn’t.  So the solution was back to superglue!

However, baking the clay on top of the item it is supposed to “cling” to helps it to take the shape or form of the material’s surface, which was helpful as far as embellishing a round slightly curved locket with a rose was.

Since the clay is no longer pliable after baking, it helps to shape the base before it cooks.

4.  I REALLY, REALLY LIKE THE “METALLIC” CLAYS LIKE ANTIQUE GOLD, SILVER AND COPPER.

Really.

In fact I am seriously considering confining my next purchases to it, until I remembered that this whole polylclay journey was really spurred on with my intention to help my sister get on with a business back in Manila which would need the regular colors and tones.

The colors look great and the finished piece makes you wonder what the material is because it doesn’t look as “plasticized” as the normal colors.  I was just so taken by them after I created these last few pieces recently posted in the shop.

The cameo pendant was one of the pieces I baked together but this one has held fast, probably because of the surface texture of the cameo base, and the actual size of the polymer clay mass that makes up the cameo itself.  (Seriously thinking about doing a tutorial on this because I NEED TO CREATE ONE FOR MYSELF before I pull this listing off the shop so I can keep it.)

5.  I LIKE THAT I CAN CREATE MY PIECES AND SAVE THEM TO BAKE FOR ANOTHER DAY.  Here I go again complaining about how there are just not enough hours in a day.  Lately I have taken to creating tiny pieces to put together and storing them in a container lined with parchment o r wax paper, making sure that the cover rests lightly on the top to keep the dust (and other accidents) away.

This works very well for the items I create, from the hand swirled roses to flowers/cabochons cut from molds.  I’ve also started using left over clay to make beaded headpins.  They make for great space fillers when I am trying to pull together individual polymer clay elements and beads to create a new product line of mini-garden necklaces like the one shown here.

As you can see, I’ve been pretty busy.  At the moment, I’m trying to source Cernit.  I have found some online stores selling it (because it isn’t available in my local Michael’s, A.C. Moore or Utrecht) and although one is always wary of the shipping and handling fees, I have found that the discount provided by some stores online make up for whatever shipping and handling is charged.  (More on this later.)

I am also looking at working with Kato Polyclay sometime in the future but again, the only source I’ve found for this is Fire Mountain Gems (one of my favorite online sources for beading supplies at wholesale prices) , and I am not ordering from them anytime soon.  So that remains to be seen.

Back to my mini-garden necklace and my floral cameo bouquets.  Maybe a tutorial will follow next.

Art Journal Every Day: An attempt at Artful Lettering

So as always, I took inspiration from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer who had featured Joanne Sharpe in a blogpost about Artful Lettering and had proceeded to do these two layouts in two days (!).

I must confess, too, that this is my first real attempt at doing watercolor painting with real watercolor (not just watercolor pencils).  It was an adjustment tempering the muted down colors once the colors lost themselves in the water, but I think I’m getting the hang of it and I am getting to like it.

I have been trying to find an apt translation for “maarte” but I’m stumped.  Any ideas?  I was nervous with my color combinations and everything was pretty spontaneous.

For the second layout, I used a picture of my tyke with his brand new Smurf, Brainy, when he and I spent the day together  here at work. Taking Joanne Sharpe’s advice, I stuck to my handwriting and added a few swirls here and there which I really, really liked.  I tried to do something “extra” in the layout featuring Angelo by attempting to do white stamping of leaves over the layout to “cover up” my attempts at drawing swirls.

I have come to look forward to my art journal entries and I keep leafing through my journal which has a very limited number of entries.  At least I know that I’m moving on with the project instead of just leaving that stewing somewhere in the backburner.

More importantly, I’m just so touched that Julie has taken the time to comment as she said she bloghopped from participant to participant in last year’s Art Journal Every Day signup.  (We sign up every month..)

So  between the polymer clay research, experimenting and the once-in-a-while attempt to come up with something worthy of posting in my Etsy shop, I’m getting good at multi-tasking. =)

Google and Polymer Clay

The idea of getting into polymer clay has been in my head for a while now but it wasn’t until my sister, Ofie, who is based in Manila broached the subject matter of her getting started with it that put polyclay front and center in my “crafty” thoughts.

With my personal mantra “Anything can be learned” echoing in my ear, I set out to study about Polymer clay basics, and of course, I turned to old reliable Google.  My eye always scans the results page for Wikipedia when I am seeking basic information,  more so since I am not looking to buy anything yet — I just need to learn about it.

And so I found out that Polymer Clay (or polyclay for short) “is a sculptable material based on the polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It usually contains no clay minerals, and is only called “clay” because its texture and working properties resemble those of mineral clay. It is sold in craft, hobby, and art stores, and is used by artists, hobbyists, and children.”

The next thing I did was to browse Polymer Clay Images (still on Google) to actually visualize the material.  What I saw totally swept me away and made me want to learn more about polymer clay.

Of course I could not NOT search for polymer clay on Etsy, where I was further blown away by all the creative applications of polyclay.  From miniature food items to gorgeous jewelry, I couldn’t wait to get my hands kneading!

My next search string on Google was “polymer clay tutorial” which brought me to Jewelry and Polymer Clay Heaven where there was a ton of information for newbies like me.  (Pinay New Yorker HIGHLY RECOMMENDS this site!)  Start off with the basics and you will find yourself navigating through other crucial information like the different brands of polyclay, conditioning polyclay, and polyclay safety among other information.

Another website you should visit is Polymer Clay Central where you will see challenges, helpful tips, and a community of polymer clay artisans.  Their Polymer Clay FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) (Pinay New Yorker HIGHLY RECOMMENDS you read this section.) organizes the information with all the links on the front page.  Most important is the list of tools and things you will need to start working with polyclay.

But what and where to get polyclay?  I know that my favorite craft supplier, Fire Mountain Gems offered tools and a specific brand of polyclay, but I had a ton of jewelry findings and supplies in my shopping cart that I was torn about buying.  Also, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to plop that much into something I was just learning.

I could’ve waited for the weekend trip to Michael’s, but we were going to be busy that weekend so I knew it would have to be a longer wait.

And while I cannot now remember how I got there, I bought my first polyclay from Polymer Clay Superstore which not only sells quite a selection of polymer clays in two brands, but they have a free clay coupon for new sign ups.  (Is it any wonder then that they are now one of my favorite online stores?)  They also have a well-organized and very helpful section on Polymer Clay for Beginners which, I think now, is the reason why I found the store in the first place.  Although the questions asked in the various FAQs are the same, I recommend you read through the information as there are bits and pieces which are added with every FAQ you come across.

Armed with my elementary knowledge about polymer clay, I then ventured out to YouTube where you can get a wealth of information on how to work with polymer clay.  Canes? Designs? Pasta Machine conditioning?  I even watched some which were in Italian (sans translations or subtitles!) which, surprisingly, were very informative despite the language gap.  (So check them out even if you have to turn the audio off.)

I’ll share my first attempts at creating something with polymer clay in my next post.