Sunday, December 29, 2013

Crafting for the holidays

Ive been a sewing fiend for xmas this year!

I made spats/ faux leather boots for my kids. The octopus is for the steampunker, and the fleur di lis is for the pirate.
Steam kid also got some jodhpurs, since those are really handy for airship crew, pirate in training got a tri-corn. 

The hubs is still waiting for his goodies, a Star Wars shirt.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Im making some new fan art pieces.
Actually its a commission piece, but Im running with it and making a few fan-fic art pieces, because I am inspired!

Style: scrap book tag

One of the reasons this is a fun project is I am Loki'd, kind of. I mean yeah hes not the good guy, but hes got long black hair, and really, all the best lines. Have you seen the latest Thor yet? He really does have the best come backs and a high snark appeal.

So there are lots of good quotes to use, plus since he is a Norse god, I can use some celtic patterns in the mix.

The dimensional icon, his helm

Ok so I start with some sketches:

Next up make the pieces I need for molding. Te end result is going to be in metal clay. That has limited work time, so I like to be well prepared.

WhenI first got into metal clay I gutted a cheap thrift store typewriter (metal alphabet stamps were not readily available, like they are now). For the quotes, and I am making a selection of them (like I said he had some great lines). I stamped out the quotes in polymer clay and cured it. I them make reverse stamps using polymer clay of the phrases/ words. This way the word is all good the stamp at once, and I dont have to worry about the metal clay drying out while Im looking for a "T."

The helm was a bit of a challenge. At first I thought I would go with a layered piece, basically flat art, but with the appearance of having dimension. I *thought* I would use the polymer clay technique called tear away, where you burnish a photocopy onto the clay and the clay sticks to the toner and lifts away with the paper. Well since clay formulas have been changing since they removed the phalates, this doesnt readily work any more. I even researched it and found some reports of specific color mixes, and specific papers, and....well none of it worked for me.

I dont have and cant currently afford either a photopolymer plate system or a cameo die cutting system. That pretty much means I needed to bite the bullet and sculpt it.

My next steps are making the molds from the polymer clay mock ups of the helmet and of the celtic knot dog tag I made (not pictured), then its time to break out the metal clay and get working!

Ive already started this process for some Doctor Who pieces as well. I have a few mini Tardis ready for mold making, some great text in circular Galifreyan  ready to make scratch foam texture plates, and a collection of quotes: Allonzy, Hello Sweetie, Im a mad man with a box. Of course I am partial to "I wanted to see the universe so I stole a doctor and ran away" 
And there is a whole line can be done with the bad guys, the daleks, the cyber,en, and the angels. They are my fave, as I have already started making some of those.

Need to look up more classic sayings, and figure out if I need an additional icon, and of course what would that icon be? Its not like there arent 50 years of the show to fallback on.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Posting lots of new things to the Etsy store!

Take a look at some of the great things Ive been posting to the Etsy site!

Friday, December 13, 2013

My clay is too soft

Last week I explored options for what to do with stale dried up clay. This week I am looking at how to deal with the opposite problem: the clay is just too squishy.
Seems silly right? After all as polymer clay artists we want good pliable clay. Well we also want clay to hold its shape, and to not pick up every single thumb print even when your fingers aren't near the clay.

When clay is too soft and squishy its because it has too much plasticizer in it. To make a better quality of workable clay the plasticizer needs to be removed.

I only know of two ways this can be done. The first way is to leach the plasticizer out.
This is done my layering flattened out clay on to clean paper. The longer the clay is left the more plasticizer is pulled out from the clay.

In these photos, all those little oil spots on the paper is the plasticizer being pulled out of the clay.

The other method I have, is the same as one of the methods for dealing with hard clay. Layer the soft clay with stale dried up clay. The dried up clay absorbs the plasticizer, and when blended the two clays even each other out for a nice workable clay.

This tray has several colors of old dried up clay layered with softer clay of similar color. The clays will be blended after a few days (maybe a week or so) for a unified color and workable clay.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My clay is too hard

Well it happens, polymer clay gets old and goes stale.
When this happens it TAKES FOREVER to condition it, and frankly there are time when it just cannot be done with out some outside assistance.

I have a few different ways of dealing with clay when this happens.

Beat it into submission

handy dandy food processor

Standard conditioning isn't working, your hands are getting tired, and running the clay through the pasta machine just crumbles it up more. My first line of defense is the food processor. This little guy works magic, and is also "the bomb" when processing large quantities of clay.

Clay Softener

One way that a lot of folks will tell you condition your hard, dried out crumbly clay is to use clay softener. Ok, it works. But be warned: it melts the clay into a softer state, and it canpush it over the edge quickly.

The scene: the clay crumbles, wont stick to its self, forget running it through the pasta machine to smoosh it together, its a mess. You add a drop of softener, nothing happens. You add another 2 drops, and things are starting to show signs of improvement, but still not quite right. You think instead of working this mess more with your hands (getting those little clay particles a bit warm really helps them to become pliable) you decide to add another drop or 3 of softener, then whammy you have a slimy mess on your hands, and now have to figure out what to do with over conditioned clay thats too smooshy to do anything.

I have read you can use mineral oil, or baby oil. I haven't tried that yet, so I can't really tell you if its going to work.

Scrap clay/base colors

base colors blended from a variety of old polymer clays

I use a lot of "base clay," clay of whatever color as an under layer for projects. I find that this is the perfect job for old dried out clay. I take the clay, cut it into smallish chuncks and run them through my mini food processor (that I have had for 20+ years, still works great, and is completely dedicated to clay). I mix the colors all up. The funky little balls of clay will get every where, but I try to keep track of them. I run this mess through the pasta machine a bazillion times and usually end up with a fairly well mixed color.

mini balls of clay out of the food processor

Blend, slice, run it through the pasta roller

To catch the bits that fall off when I run it through the pasta machine, I place a piece of well conditioned clay, all rolled out, underneath to "catch" the pesky scraps that fall off.

Crumb catcher layer of conditioned
clay lining the bottom of the pasta roller.

Color control

Prepping stale clay to be conditioned with new clay, while maintaining the color.

Ok when color has to be maintained. I take the old hard stuff and layer it with fresh clay or the same/ similar color. I find this works best if I can layer the old clay with one of the super squishy clays like Fimo Soft or Sculpey III. Let the clays co mingle for a day or too. This lets whatever is in the polymers to sort of transfer back and forth. Then I hand condition it, use the handy little food processor if it needs some help, and of course roll the heck out it with the pasta machine.

I know some colors are no longer produced, in those cases I just go with the best match I can find.


The chemistry/whats going on here?
Im not going to get into al the fancy-dancey names of the compounds that are moving back and forth, because frankly I don't know them and don't care. What ever the plasticizers are in polymer clay that allow it be smooshable they need to be replaced in the old stale/dried out clay. Clay conditioner adds this plasticizer back in. This plasticizer can also come from other clays that still have it. In some clays there is too much of it, and thats why they are super easy to work with with minimal conditioning.

Check back next week for part two "My clay is too soft"