Valerie's personal "A - Z of Polymer Claying." With jokes and tips. Probably.
A) Armatures – Structures made to support clay, as it bakes. Materials can include beautiful wooden shapes, elaborate wire skeletons, or usually (in my case) the inside of a toilet roll.
B) Brands – Polymer clays are all similar but not equal – Sculpey III is known to be brittle for instance, Cernit is very strong. The best clay is called Fimo. Why is it the best? Because I use it.
C) Cutters – Cutters are made from metal, or plastic, and can cut out perfect shapes from the clay – sadly most of them offset this by having a great ugly “look she used a cutter!” seam in the side.
D) Dust Mask – Everybody wants to look pretty but I draw the line at having glittery mica powder mucus membranes in my nose, or sparkly “Perfect Pearl” lungs. I enhanced my dust mask by making it into a dog’s nose, with marker pens.
E) Extruder – Remember the Play-Doh Fun Factory? I always wanted one... Now I have it, in green metal.
F) Finishing/Sanding – Makes things look smooth and clean but boring. Oh so boring. Also you have no nails on one hand.
G) Glue – “Clay Friendly” examples include E6000, Weldbond and that Lisa Pavelka Poly Bonder, in the bottle that keeps falling over.
H) ? – I've got nothing.
I) Instruments/Tools – “Instruments”, that was lame right? But I wanted the letter T for Textures. Anyway, yeah, ball tools, tissue blades, etc.
J) Jewellery – One of the main uses for polymer clay but sadly my biggest fail. I can only make pendants – hence my plethora of tutorials for pendants. Beads… don’t even go there.
K) Kneading/Conditioning – Some people buy, or invent, special tools. I have simply developed the grip of an angry 10-pound lobster.
L) Lint (and Pet Hair) – The bane of a clayer’s life, especially as many of us “artistic” types are too busy being interesting and intellectual to actually, you know, vacuum. Plus, I'm a crazy cat lady.
M) Mica Powders – Pretty, sparkly and deadly (see D).
N) Natasha Beads/Mokume Gane – Gather some clay scraps up into a big ugly lump. Twist and cut in half, or poke and slice thinly. Voila! Something you can pass off as deliberate.
O) Ovens – Polymer clay has to be “cured” or baked, in an oven. People who use “toaster” ovens risk burning their work (which is closer to the heat element). People who use their food ovens risk finding out, in years to come, that they have been feeding their families meals poisoned by residual plastic fumes*. I know which I prefer risking – I’d HATE to burn my work.
P) Pasta Machines – I like my pasta machines the way I like my men – big, strong, smooth and preferably Italian. Mine has no motor and sometimes the handle drops off, which is basically the story of my life
Q) Questions – If there is one thing ALL polymer clayers have, apart from clay, it’s questions: Will this melt? Will this go sticky? Will this be strong enough? The questions are endless – just like the patience of Ginger Davis Allman, of The Blue Bottle Tree and Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor, who generally know the answers. Actually the questions are ASKED endlessly but in reality there are only about five of them, asked over and over… Poor Ginger and Cindy!
R) ? Can’t think. OK this one is for you to fill in…
S) Slicing (canes) – Can be done two ways: The first is by getting a tissue blade and pushing down evenly on the cane (in a vertical direction). The second is by selling your house and buying a large razor-sharp guillotine, which can slice through the actual atoms the cane is made of and possibly a limb. I can’t decide which is best.
T) Textures – To clayers, the world is full of textures we can use, and we collect them frantically. Bricks, bark, sandpaper, SO interesting. I made a lovely leather texture by pressing clay onto my Bingo Wings. (Google it!)
U) Under Baking – Don’t do it. Your clay needs at least one full stretch in the oven at a good hot temperature. Use an oven thermometer too. I won’t tell you again! (I will)
V) Varnish – Choosing which varnish, varnishing your work, cleaning your brushes… When you own a dog you get to cope with picking up poo. When you clay you get to cope with varnishing.
W) Wax – Renaissance Wax looks brilliant. I have a small tin that is still going to be half full when I die, because you use such a tiny amount. That said, Renaissance is even harder to spell than Lietz, which is a bit annoying… I look them both up EVERY time.
Y) YouTube – Home of many tutorials, a wonderland for clayers, and the place we found Ms. Salgado! Yay!
Z) Zipper Cane – A concept so complex that even the best explanation, the most amazing tutorial, still leaves me crying like a baby and sucking my thumb. Pretty though.
(* not really!)
“Ten Commandments of Claying”
Thou shalt NOT condition red clay before white and if you do, thou shalt find no sympathy on HOP - just derision and emoticons of laughing animals. I know this.
Thou shalt NOT enthuse about claying to somebody you don’t like - lest they take it up as a hobby themselves and then continuously ask you questions, copy you, and after two weeks start giving you unsolicited advice, as if they were now better at it than you. OMG.
Thou shalt NOT make Minions. EVER.
Thou shalt NOT take a commission from somebody who has seen your work, yet wants you to make something entirely different, in a style that isn’t your own. That’s a rather disrespectful request, so say “No”.
Thou shalt NOT leave cleaning out your extruder until just before the next time you start using it. Yes, I’m looking at *you*.
Thou shalt set thine own prices. Everyone considers themselves an “expert” on what you should be charging, in the same way as everyone has an opinion on how you should bring up your kids. Ignore them and see what works for you.
Thou shalt give clay items as Christmas gifts. No shopping, no spending and no more pile of "what shall I do with this?" items! Win/win.
Thou shalt risk “wasting” clay. If you haven’t “wasted” clay, you’re not pushing yourself enough. The more clay you use, the better you'll get!
Thou shalt seek out every claying video, book, article and website available, inwardly digest and then MAKE THINGS. Lots of things (see 8).
Thou shalt cover dubious-looking clay items with Swarovski Crystals, Mica Powders and leaf canes, until they look so blingy they can’t lose. That’s what I do anyway.
The British Polymer Clay Guild aims to promote the use of this amazing art medium. We welcome everyone from beginners to tutors and organise workshops and meetings across the UK.