Polymer clay: I'd like to comment about your concerns with old polymer clay. I truly shudder at the idea of everyone throwing their "old" PC into the landfills!
Kathy in Wisconsin
Old Fimo: For those whose Fimo is hard and crumbly, Sue Heaser's book recommends adding vegetable oil. I have tried this and it worked.
Linda in Leroy, OH
Paper Clay problems: Welcome to the limitations of foam core :-) The problem is the paper covering on the foam core absorbs moisture from the paperclay and since it is on one side, it warps. If you use foam core with paperclay, you need to either back it with wood or have enough stiffening features, such as half timbers, which will impart rigidity to the foam core.
The best solution is to use Gator Foam. Since it has a plastic covering, it will not absorb moisture and will not warp. It is my material of choice. I know that gator foam is more expensive but it is worth the difference.
Now to the cracking of the Paper Clay; being a water based material it will naturally shrink as the water dries out of it. The nice thing about it is that it can be patched or if, in your case, you like the cracks, they can be left. I wish I had the "Magic Bullet" to cure the shrinking but unfortunately I have found no rhyme or reason for the difference in where and why it shrinks.
I do suggest that you put a tacky coat of yellow carpenters glue on the surface before putting the paper clay on; this seems to eliminate some of the cracking and make a positive bond between the clay and the surface you're working on. I hopes this helps some, but the major problem is the foam core, which is not a structural material to start with and shouldn't be used unsupported in structural areas.
Mini preserves: Use polymer clay to make fruits and things to go in the jars, they don't have to be fancy. And use scenic water for the preserving jelly, syringed into the jars it should look the part (don't forget to put your preserves in the jar first). To finish the jars cut a tiny circle of fabric and wrap some thread around to hold it on the neck of the jar (that's the fiddly bit!) Now just set them on the dresser or in the cupboard, leave one without a lid and stick a spoon in it, spill a bit on the table or the floor.
Securing paperclay: My daughter got this information directly from Rik on Sunday at the Philadelphia Show. He told her to coat the substrate, in this case he was talking about polystyrene, with yellow carpenters glue before applying the paperclay.
Wendy in Clinton, NJ
Paperclay Brick/stones: I took close up digital pictures of the class I took with Rik Pierce this past summer and put them on my website. There are pictures of my bricks, fireplace stones, and stratified rock.
My experience with paperclay has been that you can play with it and play with it and play with it and play with it some more! If it gets too dried out, I just dip my fingers or a brush in some water and dab it on the paperclay to add moisture. A few times I even added a ton of water to a semi-dried paperclay section and kneaded the paperclay completely back to life.
The secret to my fireplace rocks was that I used a stiff stippling brush and I "attacked" the paperclay over and over until as much depth and interest that I wanted appeared. Sometimes I'd add blobs of extra clay to random sections so there would be more paperclay to mold. My rate of speed in class was one of the slowest - simply because to create that much diversity in each fireplace rock required that much more poking!
The stratified rock was created by experimentation. Slashing horizontally over a lump of paperclay with a clay tool - and then pouring a small glass of water over it and seeing how it smoothed and mooshed together all the lines - letting it air dry a bit - slash some more - pour more water - repeat.
Fruit trimmed wreath: I did something kind of cool. You know how Christmas wreaths and swags trimmed with fruit have become so popular? I made a wreath with Fimo fruit and it came out great. I found some wired trim with tiny rounded leaves at Pat Catan. Made the wreath with that. Then, trusty Sue Heaser at hand, I made yellow and red apples, oranges and pears. Before baking, I inserted the finest green floral wire I had into what would be the back side. Made grape clusters by dipping floral wire into tacky and rolling it in seed pearls. When dry, I painted them purple. Wired all the fruit to the wreath and decorated with a gold bow. I found some very narrow shiny wired gold ribbon last Christmas. It's cool to do big floral bows with because you can shape the loops and twirl the tails and everything stays put.
Linda in Leroy, OH
Baking Mini Food: I second Kim's suggestion for smooth ceramic tiles for baking mini food and other clay items. Depending on your oven, many toaster ovens will easily take a 6" tile for larger/longer items. I also prefer the glazed tiles. I make twisted candy sticks and prefer cutting to length after baking. Get several in white and a couple of a dark color like green or blue. White and translucent Fimo shows up better on the dark tile. As you are cooking with one tile, get more food ready on the extras. Write your name on the bottom if you are going to a class where several use tiles. No mix ups with someone wanting your better looking strawberries!
My favorite trick for baked "cookies" is to lay rolled out clay directly on the tile and then use the Kemper punches to cut cookies. Peel the excess away leaving the cookies undisturbed. If the baked clay "sticks" to the tile, you can pop it off with a fingernail or razor blade. You can also dust the surface with ordinary cornstarch. I quit using baby powder when I ruined some red cookies trying to get the baby powder off.
Kathy in KY
Choosing Books: The best to learn Polymer clay. There are lots of little Hot Off the Press type books/booklets that are good for specialized things (Petite Eats and Mini Sweets by Syndie Wagner, Handmade Meals by Barbara Meyer, Fimo Sweets or Fimo Leather or anything by Esther Olson) Some of the info in these type of booklets is outdated, because the clay companies have changed formulations or whatever, but you can improvise and change the "recipes" with no trouble at all.
And then there are large polymer clay books that address miniatures specifically, such as Sue Heaser's "Making Dollhouse Miniatures in Polymer Clay." Amazing number and quality of neat things you can make.
My favorite doll book is "Making 1/12 Scale Characters for the Dolls House" by Jamie Carrington (the book is just a delight to read, not to mention the wonderful things he teaches you, including how to make two-part molds!) Sue Heaser wrote a different one - "Making Miniature Dolls With Polymer Clay" which is a great book to start with... very detailed sculpting and assembly instructions. My second-favorite doll book. IMO, you can't go wrong with any of those three.
Then, too, there are quite a lot of excellent polymer books that aren't oriented toward making miniatures.... though the techniques can always be adapted for use in small scale.
Dotty McMillan's "Creative Ways With Polymer Clay" is absolutely the best book out there for a beginner - she starts with a bit of the very basics and builds on those to some pretty advanced projects.
Another excellent project oriented book is Irene Dean's "Polymer Clay - The Weekend Crafter."
The most advanced polymer book available is by Jacqueline Gikow -"Functional and Decorative Objects from Polymer Clay" - it's fantastic!
Polymer clay molds:. I just visited Sue Heaser's web site, and she now offers molds, too. Here is the link. http://www.heaser.demon.co.uk/products/Kits/dollmoulds.htm
Lauren from Abingdon
Graduation Dog: Today, I was working making heads for polar bears rugs and had a little piece of white Sculpey left over. I needed a bit of a break, and the clay 'spoke' to me, and I made a cute mini autograph dog with a graduation hat. You can see pictures to illustrate the instructions below in my Assorted Miniatures album on Webshots http://community.webshots.com/user/iamazin.
Let me start by saying you can leave off his cap and add a bow at the neck to use him for a Sweet 16 girl, or other event! The parts are pictured on the web page. Here are the directions.
After making all your parts from polymer clay, attach them together by rolling the 'seams' back and forth using a nice smooth, round toothpick or the handle of a paintbrush. When adding the head to the body, create a 'neck' by shaping the clay in that area with your tool. After you add each leg, turn the end forward slightly to form a paw. Make two vertical dents in the paw part with the toothpick to make the dogs 'toes'. If you are making the graduation version, squish a tiny ball of black clay onto the top of the head, then make sure the top of that is flat.
Bake at 275 degrees for about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Using black paint or marker, paint on two dots for eyes, a nose and a smiling mouth as in the photo. Center and glue the black paper square to the black clay base on the dog's head.
Make the tassel as shown in the picture, using a piece of silk or embroidery thread. Tie a knot in the middle of a short length of thread, then cut most of the strands off on one side of the knot. Trim to the length you want and glue to the hat, the tassel side hanging down and add a tiny black bead or drop of dimensional paint at the center top of the hat.
Using the finest point marker you can, sign your dog! You can add other names as well, or have fun letting your friends sign it! Please feel free to share this project with your miniatures friends or clubs. You can download and or print the photos from my Webshots album. All I ask is that you do NOT make them to sell.
Alice Zinn- Pt. St. Lucie FL
baking plates: Any stoneware or oven proof plate will do as long as you deem it to be for "clay only"! Of course it should be smooth and flat. I was fortunate enough to come across some oven proof restaurant platters and serving plates that are large enough to allow me work space on the plate itself and plenty of room for my finished items. This is very helpful when making pastries, for instance. I can roll them out in the middle then "press" them to the plate around the edges so they "adhere" to the plate. I find this makes it SO much easier to frost (paint) after baking because I don't have to pick each up and get paint all over my fingers trying the hold the little pieces. I can paint a whole plate in no time with great ease!
Fimo food: For those who wanted a substitute for semolina. To make a sponge cake texture you might get away with using polenta (corn meal) as long as it's finely textured. Because you are only using small amounts you could grind it finer in a small bowl (or pestle and mortar if you have one) I also use poppy seeds for fruit cakes and sesame seeds for almonds. Mustard seeds make goodcherries but they need painting first and also you can grind down small piecesof pre-baked clay to make suet pieces (white clay) orange and lemon peel (addedto fruit cake or mince pies), coriander seeds make great walnuts in a bowl(Angie Scarr tip) and don't forget some liquid Sculpey for making icing(frosting) and fillings like jam etc.
Painting Clay: I never really heard of the idea of painting Sculpey before baking. It seems like it would be a monumental mess to do, and not very safe to breathe (depending on your paint.) I can only imagine that some paints might even blister on the surface of your piece, and then you'd really have some troubles on your hands. Are you having difficulty getting your paint to adhere after you bake it? I've used a lot of Sculpey (the colored stuff for food) and Super Sculpey for dolls.
For the dolls, outside of an acrylic "wash" to blush up their skin tones, and lightly detail their faces, I've never seen a need for extensive paint work on dolls, or finishing sprays or varnishes. Less done the better...to me. The baked patina of Super Sculpey is perfect for that application (skin). With the colored stuff, or Regular white Sculpey - acrylics are a great choice for painting your baked pieces. (Acrylic is perfectly versatile as a wash and dry brush application as well.) Use a small fan brush to eliminate your brushstrokes, and give your pieces at least two light coats (after baking). You shouldn't have a problem after that.
These days I use Super Sculpey almost exclusively. (I recall the regular Sculpey being white, Super Sculpey is a flesh tone.) I'm still working on that room box, the Egyptian one...redoing the bed itself...but EVERYTHING...in that room so far outside of the wood bed frame, and the tiny glass "seeds" in the pomegranates...it's ALL Super Sculpey...the dolls, the dishes, the headboard, foot board, the table, the food. The Super Sculpey dolls were "washed" and detailed, and the other pieces simply painted outright. (All with acrylic paint...after baking) If you want to see, they're in the Egyptian room box album.) The product is really easy to "finish." I've never needed to prep it. And despite a lot of complaints I've heard about it, it has never surface cracked on me, or begun to shatter...ever. Never happened. AndI have dolls I've made that are at LEAST 10 years old. It's a great product.
Painting Fimo: If you are painting Fimo then only use acrylic based paints as anything else will react with the clay. You generally paint afterwards although there are some innovative artists who experiment with paint and clay in the oven, but let's not go there right now!!!! Most of the commercial craft paints will do the job quite nicely and for the more experienced artist then Daler Rowney or Winsor & Newton both have a range of acrylic paints and these would be found in your local art supplies shop.
Don't ignore this type of paint as there are some wonderful interference mediums that are great for fantasy figures or simply the iridescent sheen on a fresh fish(for example). If you want to color clay before baking there are a few similar ways to do this, most suppliers of the clay may or will stock the pearled and mica powders. Powdered food coloring can be used or even cosmetic powders although the longevity of these is still subject to debate. My own favorite is powdered artist pastels, they come in a myriad of colors and different grades. The softer pastels are easier to grind to a powder and easier to use, application is with a soft paintbrush or a cotton bud. The pastels are generally inexpensive and available at art supplies shops also. There is a range of colors sold for use with cold porcelain but the only ones I have found so far are quite pricey in comparison.
As a general rule, dry color is applied before baking and wet color (as in paint) is used after baking. I hope this helps.
Old and crumbly Classic Fimo: Try this site for some of the original Fimo.
Pastels for polymer foods: I thought it might be useful to go over some points. The artist pastels are basically like chalk, sold as sticks of different colors. These are used as an alternative to paint for the purpose of making objects appear more natural. They are especially useful for coloring baked goods, roasted meats, fruits, some vegetables, flowers, and much more. (I buy an entire set of 12 colors at Wal-Mart for something under $5.) To make the powder, take a stick and press it onto paper (like you did as a kid writing with chalk on a sidewalk) and that's all there is to it. You can mix colors as well. (Example: I use a coat of "mustard" mixed with a touch of brown to coat pastries and breads. Then I add a bit of solid brown and/or some burnt sienna to the tops. Note: I make burnt sienna by mixing orange and brown, then just a tad of red.) Brush on the pastels prior to baking the clay. The idea is to pretty-much dab on the color, rather than to solidly paint the object. To apply pastels to small items, such as potatoes, just roll the objects in the powder. The whole point in using pastels is to impart a depth and variance in color, such as for making oven-roasted potatoes. The pastels become a permanent part of the clay when baked, and do not need a gloss or matte protection. If you use pastels after baking, you'll find that it is harder to apply the pastels and you'll need a gloss or matte finish to protect them. Do NOT use "oil" pastels…just the regular artist pastels. Honestly, if you make mini foods orflowers from polymer clay, this product is a "must-have."
Painting plastic and polymer clay: I'm working on a project using wood and plastic together and I found the water soluble paint Polly Scaleworks GREAT! It is put out by Floquil. But if you get it on your hands it has to wear off! AND it sticks to plastic! The pigment is so fine you don't get that gloppy buildup.
I am very excited about this paint for polymer clay too. Doesn't chip easy like other acrylics. One drawback--it is a killer on brushes. The paint almost immediately dries so you have to keep the bush rinsed often. I found another paint that looks similar at MicroMark http://www.dxmarket.com/micromark/products/81878.html
mini ceramic molds: somebody was asking about a source for molds for making miniature ceramics/porcelain.
Kathy in Wisconsin
Cernit, sculpy, Premo: an excellent source for Cernit and any other polymer clay is Marie Segal at the Clay factory in Escondido. Her website for ordering http://www.clayfactory.net/
Carol Wagner Joshua Tree Calif.
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