Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Playing With Polymer Clay



I am enamored with polymer clay.  I don't remember when I discovered it, it might have been years ago when I watched Carol Duval on TV.  I guess I'm dating myself, but oh well.  Anyways, I started playing with polymer clay.

Way back in the stone age, the only type clay I could find, before the intervention of  widespread internet shopping, was Sculpey, which while it is a good clay,  it's not particularly strong and it is a relatively soft.  Then I found Fimo, which I believe is made in Germany.  Fimo is a tough clay in more ways than one.  It is sturdy when baked but I found it to be an exercise in frustration to work with.

The first time I worked with Fimo, now this was years ago, it crumbled into a million itty bitty bits.  I was picking up pieces of Fimo for days and cursing it the whole time.  Then I got the brilliant idea of mixing in some liquid translucent polymer clay.  That worked, after a fashion, but it took hours and hours of kneading and adding more liquid clay.  It was messy and if I scratched my nose without thinking, I ended up with liquid clay smeared across my face!   I would have chucked the whole mess against the wall but I was afraid of the mess it would make and I would have to clean it up.  I abandoned Fimo  for quite some time, after that.  I understand that they revamped the formula to make it easier to work with but I still find it an exercise in frustration.

Then came Premo.  Made by Sculpey, it's sturdier than the original but easier to condition than Fimo.  I thought I was in heaven.  I could create my pieces and not have to worry as much about the distortion that occurred with the softer clay.   And I didn't have to give myself carpal tunnel while doing it!  Perfect!

 So there I was, happily kneading and creating until one day I happened upon another polymer clay artist's website.  While reading the description of one of her pieces I noticed that she mentioned that her pieces were made of jewelry grade polymer clay.  What was this?!  Jewelry grade polymer clay??!!  What had I been using all these years to make my pieces, chopped liver?  I make jewelry, I use polymer clay, therefore the clay I was using must be jewelry grade, right?

Now, I'm naturally curious by nature, so I had to search for this elusive element.  I scoured the web, trying to find this wonder clay.  No luck!  Almost every link for jewelry grade polymer clay had a number of different brands.  I suppose I could have emailed this polymer clay artist and asked her, but some people are touchy about questions about their art and I don't take rejection well.

But during my search, I came upon a clay with the lofty name of  Pardo Professional Art Clay.  Well, being the professional that I am, I thought, this is perfect for me!  I guess there is another version of Pardo which has beeswax added to it, not a good thing, in my opinion, and it was deemed too soft by the artists who tried it.  But the professional clay does not.

Okay, I thought, I'll order some and try it out.  That's when I came across a reference that mentioned using Pardo Professional  Art Clay and alcohol inks.  I must mention here that I'm a compulsive shopper when it comes to crafts.  If I see something that piques my interest, I often buy it, even though I have no idea, at the time, what I'll use it for.  As a consequence, I have plastic tubs full of "carp" that I've bought but never used.  One such purchase was some alcohol inks.  I bought them when I was making greeting cards and I thought they might be interesting to use.  But since I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat, I lost interest in card making before I got to use the inks. 

Now to the real reason for this post!  Pardo Professional Art Clay and alcohol inks!  I've used alcohol inks with Premo translucent clay with varying degrees of success.  Premo tends to get sticky when mixed with the inks and I've had more success mixing in small bits of colored clay.  So I sent for some PPAC(Pardo Professional Art Clay)  Since acronyms are all the rage, I thought I'd make up my own!  Plus I'm tired of typing out Pardo Professional Art Clay every time I mention it! Anyway, the same website had a selection of alcohol inks, as well, so I ordered more of those, since the package I bought years ago only had three different colors. 

These are Tim Holtz  alcohol inks. They have wonderful names like Wild Plum, Butterscotch and Pesto and come in little squeeze bottles.  I couldn't wait!  I watched and read tutorials on using alcohol inks with polymer clay while I waited for my package to arrive.  What I neglected to assimilate was the fact that you should wear some sort of protective clothing while using these inks.  I don't know how I manage to miss this salient fact but I did.  Maybe I was just so excited to get started.

  When my PPAC package arrived, I tore it open and spilled the contents onto my workbench.  I conditioned the clay by kneading, let me mention that PPAC is not as easy to condition as Premo, but not as hard as the original Fimo, so I had to work at it a bit.  I flattened out the clay by running it through my pasta machine at the thickest setting.  I added a few drops of alcohol inks and carefully folded the edges of the clay around it.  Well, I guess I wasn't careful enough.  When I started to squeeze the clay to mix it, ink shot out of the little square of clay and all over my shirt, my workbench and my hands!  It's a good thing my dog was on the other side of the room, otherwise he would have become know as Watermelon (the color I used first) rather than Finn!

Luckily, my clothes were the old ones I use for working and my workbench is so stained with all and sundry that a few more stains didn't matter.  My hands, on the other hand, were stained a lovely shade of pink for days!  An elderly woman at the market actually asked if that was a new fad when she saw my hands!   I learned my lesson after that and always use latex gloves when working with alcohol inks.  And one other thing I've found, the color is not easily discernible with PPAC  until you actually cure the clay.  I was trying to make an orangey red clay for some little turtles beads.  I mixed watermelon and butterscotch ink into the clay.  This is what it looks like before baking, a kind of peachy brown:



This is after baking.  I added a touch of gold mica powder mixed with translucent polymer clay and applied it to each segment of the turtle's shell.



I'd like to add that if you spread the ink on a slab of clay and let it dry, it's much easier to incorporate the color.  Less messy as well!

20 comments:

  1. Love, love, love the post, Nancy! Since I can totally relate, I followed you all the way through and only glanced at my blue hands once! I love the effect that you achieved with the Pardo and ink. I have not used Pardo because I don't have local access to it, and I couldn't decide if it was something I wanted to explore, but now, I may need to get hold of a box or two. I am a Fimo girl. Just a fun post, and I do so love the looks of your turtle! Thanks for posting.

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    1. Thanks Julie! We would have gone well together at a baby shower! Blue and pink! I recommend you try it. I was just making some green clay using PPAC and Pesto alcohol ink. The effect before it was totally blended was gorgeous. I'm going to have to go back and try to replicate it and make a focal bead from it.

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    1. Thank you Jennifer! I had fun making them.

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  3. Great post Nancy! And yes, I can relate! I can't even estimate how many chunks of clay (cured and raw) have ended up in the trash. Your first experiences with Fimo remind me of mine with Kato! Wonderful turtles.

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    1. Thanks Valerie! I've never tried Kato clay but if it's anything like Fimo, I'm not really eager to.

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  4. Fascinating post, Nancy. Have never worked with polyclay - am afraid to because I definitely don't need another addiction. Am always in awe of the pieces that you, Julie and other polyclay artist friends can create, like your sweet turtles. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Catherine! I know what you mean about finding another addiction! There are so many things I'd love to try but don't have the time for.

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  5. It is always good to hear about another artist's processes. I have no clue about this clay work but am just a bit more enlightened by reading your interesting blog! Thanks.

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    1. Thank you. Glad you found my post interesting.

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  6. Thoroughly entertaining read Nancy. I loved learning how you find your way to the PPAC and the splattering of ink when you put it through the pasta machine. Keep up the great work! The turtle is way too cute too!
    Lisa

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    1. Thanks Lisa! I've certainly learned my lesson and let the ink dry before trying to knead the clay! Much less messy.

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  7. Very interesting blog and love your turtle!

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    1. Thanks! I had fun writing it and had fun making those turtles.

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  8. What an entertaining read, Nancy. Boy, do I relate to being a compulsive craft shopper having plastic tubs of "carp" as I am/have the same! Having worked with polymer clay on and off over the years and mostly FIMO I can relate to the difficulties of softening, etc. I'm impressed that you did the research and found what works best for you. And your turtle, with his sparkly gold sections, is quite attractive! As for the hands, and particularly fingernails, I won't even go there....! Anyhow, I loved your blog post. :-)


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    1. Thank you! I'm glad my post was entertaining. I'm glad there are others like me out there when it comes to compulsive "carp" buying!

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  9. Great post, Nancy. Like Catherine, I'm afraid to have another addiction. If I do try playing with clay, I'm sure I will enjoy it. I love the turtle!!

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    1. Thanks, Nat! Like you I don't need another addiction! That's why I try to stay away from the whole die cut thing. I'm sure I'd end up with reams of paper and hundreds of dies!

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