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When I was thinking about the next most important tools to have for working with Polymer clay I realized it all depends on what you want to do.
For instance if you are making beads you will need a piercing tool or a drill to make holes, but if you are making canes to cover pens then a smoothing tool would be much more useful.
I like to do a variety of things, such as making canes and beads for jewellery, covering drinking glasses, and combining polymer clay with leather to make cuffs.
So with that in mind I thought I would share with you what equipment I find the most useful, in addition to the essentials I mentioned in the last post.
I use biscuit cutters, pen lids, pieces of copper pipe, and anything else that when pressed hard will cut a shape .
It is possible to cut all your shapes with a paper template and craft knife, but certain shapes such as circles are much neater when you use a cutter.
You can buy texture sheets specifically for polymer clay, but I make my own with lino, some green material called adigraf, erasers and a lino cutter.
I also occasionally use stamps that are used normally in card making.
Ialso make some great patterns and textures using materials that are free .
I use leaves, odd earrings, bolts, screws, onion bags, scraps of material, pizza trays , and corks that I cut patterns into with a craft knife.
Just look around and see what you can find. You will be surprised at how many odds and ends you can find.
This is very useful if you are making beads or want to put holes into pendants before curing .
I use a large needle which I have pushed into a cork )and a cocktail or a kebab stick, depending on the size hole I want.
I made one from a foil tray and kebab sticks. If you want finer holes for the beads then you would need to thread them onto wire, instead of kebab sticks
BASIC JEWELLERY TOOLS . If you are wanting to make polymer jewellery then you need to have a pair of round- nose and flat- nose pliers, and a pair of wire cutters at the very least.
I have not used these that much, as I have not done that much modelling with my clay,( although I want to do more) but if you want to make figures or flowers then they are essential.
They are also useful for drawing into the clay, for smoothing edges, and adding textures and stuff. You can pick up ones for cake making really cheaply.
A FEW OTHER USEFUL ODDS AND ENDS
1. Sandpaper – for smoothing edge of cured clay, or for creating effects
2. Glue- for adding brooch backs , and earring posts
3.Paints , chalk, metallic powders & eyeshadow -all great for creating surface effects
4. Wet wipes- for keeping tools, hands, roller, and work surface clean
So that is my list of what I think are the most useful things to have when starting out.
There are many other items that I have not mentioned, but I would suggest rather than going off and buying lots of shiny equipment, start off with the essentials. Have a play around and once you know what you want to make then just get the tools you need for that.
Also be imaginative, and see if you can use tools you might already have.
When I got back into working with polymer clay a couple of years ago, I went off to buy some basics. As well as clay and some cutting blades, I bought a bead roller that was hanging up saying BUY ME !
I thought it would be useful, as I knew I would be making jewellery .
Well ,after the initial excitement of playing with it wore off, it went into my tool box and has hardly seen the light of day since.
It makes small uniform beads in 3 shapes, which I find quite limiting .
I tend to like my beads a bit bigger and more individual than the roller allows, and I get better effects using my hands, a piece of Perspex, shape cutters, and a kebab stick .
As with most things, the more equipment you have does not mean the better your finished piece will be.
In my opinion that comes with time, practise, experimenting, and using your imagination.
This week I was told about someone who was interested in doing a polymer clay workshop but thought that if she enjoyed it, it would mean she would have to pay out loads of money on a kiln to make it a hobby .
This is not the case , although I can understand her thinking that.
When you see the word clay , it probably takes everyone back to school days, and of making pots out of grey or terracotta sticky worms of clay, which the teacher packed into a big kiln. This was then left on for hours until the pots were “fired”
Polymer clay does not need a kiln – it is not fired, it is “cured” in a conventional electrical oven at about130 degrees C.
Any way I thought I would briefly explain what equipment you need to start creating with Polymer clay, and show that you don’t need to a spend a fortunate to create something beautiful and original using this material.
There are many brands, but they all do a similar job and are similar in price. Here in Portugal I have only found FIMO SOFT clay. To start out I would recommend buying a RED, BLUE, YELLOW , BLACK and WHITE . From these colours you can make many variations, and get an idea of what colour preferences you might have. It is also a good way to learn about colour mixing .
An electrical oven is needed to cure or bake the clay. DO NOT USE A MICROWAVE OVEN
A small toaster oven is ideal . I think you can pick up a small one for around 20- 25 euros ( and a second-hand one for less)
I would recommend having one just for polymer clay. If you decide to use your regular oven DON’T CURE CLAY AT THE SAME TIME AS COOKING FOOD ! and seal the clay inside two foil trays when curing
3 CRAFT KNIFE
There are some blades that are made specifically for Polymer clay ,but they are very expensive. To begin with I would buy a small width craft knife that has the extending snap off blades . The blade is great for most cutting tasks , and when extended it can be slid under rolled clay to separate it from the work surface.
A non porous smooth work surface is essential. I tend to use a large ceramic tile or a piece of plate-glass , but you could also use a formica board or a table mat ( as long as it is smooth and non porous).
5. A ROLLER There are rolling pins made for polymer clay work, but again they seem quite expensive ,and I have not seen them for sale here in Portugal . I use a heavy piece of steel pipe that I smoothed off at the ends. You can use any other smooth non porous round object. I know some people use jam jars.
(I also use a pasta machine for lots of my rolling but this is not essential !)
So those 6 I would say are the absolute essential pieces of equipment you need . .
As you can see the equipment needed to start with is pretty inexpensive.
In my next post I will look at what other tools and other bits and pieces I think are very useful.
For the last few weeks I have been busy sorting out a programme of workshops for this Autumn have not had as much time in my workshop . I finally managed to get the information on the workshop page ( HURRAY ) and so I can get back into creating , which is much more fun !
I have been messing around with my new little extruder tool and seeing what it can do.
First I played around with different thicknesses of round ” worms and used them to make some patterns on flat clay and around small beads of clay.
I liked the way the beads came out , they looked quite earthy and textured. Before I baked them , I brushed some green metallic powder on them to enhance the texture .
I think it’s not bad for my first necklace using extruded clay.
Every so often I get the desire to smash tiles, and I started to get the urge a few weeks ago . I have not done any mosaics for a long time, and I fancied mosaicing a table for my terrace, however until I find a suitable old table, that plan is on hold.
So, in the meantime I have been making a house sign.
Here is how it looks so far.
The next step will be to grout it .
Although I have not posted about my crafting for a long time, I haven’t stopped creating.
I have been making greetings cards, polymer & leather cuffs, working on some new polymer jewellery designs for an exhibition in July, and in between language studies have managed to fit in a bit of calligraphy practice.
In June I am running two workshops on creating with Polymer clay, which I am excited about, so I have been preparing for that too.
The first workshop is TEXTURES IN POLYMER CLAY
the second one is MAKING PATTERNS & LEARNING TO MAKE CANES.
WHAT IS A CANE ?
A cane is a cylinder of polymer clay made up using different coloured clays that have been incorporated into the cylinder in a variety of ways to make a pattern .
The pattern runs through the length of the cylinder, ( like Blackpool rock) and can be seen when the cylinder is cut though.
Some canes are simple and use only 2/3 colours, whilst others are extremely intricate and use a dozen or more colours.
Maybe it is easier to understand with photos ?
IF YOU LIVE IN CENTRAL PORTUGAL AND WANT TO COME ALONG TO MY POLYMER CLAY WORKSHOPS
TEXTURED JEWELLERY USING POLYMER CLAY IS ON JUNE 18th
MAKING PATTERNS USING CANES IS ON JUNE 23 RD
PLEASE E MAIL ME AT email@example.com for more detailed information & and to reserve a space .
It’s been a long time since I used my leather tools. The reason being that when the weather is as cold as it has been , my hands are like blocks of ice, and it is a bit dangerous trying to cut and stitch with no feeling in them.
So now the weather is warming up, I am able to start doing some leather work again .
I thought I would practise on some small items before getting into designing and making anything too complicated
Making this coin purse uses quite a few techniques, so it is a good piece to start with.
STEPS USED TO MAKE POCKET PURSE
1. Make a pattern
2. Mark out and cut leather
3. Cut grooves in back side of leather so that it can fold easily
4. Make holes for fastener
5. Punch and carve a pattern on flap
6. Mark out stitching holes
7. Glue and clamp the two edges
8. Saddle stitch
9. Burnish the edges smooth
10. Add fastener & polish
…. and that’s all there is to it .
One thing I did last week was organise my acrylic stamps. I am not the tidiest of people when I am working, and tend to have far too many things piled up around me. I noticed when I was making cards recently that I wasted so much time rifling through my stamps to find the one I wanted, that I needed some sort of system.
I don’t even have that many stamps (at the moment) so they have been sitting in a plastic container, which is a bad way to keep them.
So here’s what I did .
I did a few internet searches and watched some videos on ways that people use to store their stamps.
Many came from American and mentioned plastic wallets that I could not get here in Portugal . Others used CD / DVD cases, or the packets the stamps came in ( which I had thrown away ) stuck onto cards.
In the end I liked the idea of using polythene pockets, and dividing them up to keep a group of stamps together .
There are several videos showing this idea on You Tube, to give you the idea of what I mean.
I did not have any of the thick plastic pockets they used, so I cut out some pages from an old display book I had hanging around, which worked just as well
WHAT I DID
1. I cut out some pockets/pages from a display book.
2. I laid out my stamps and grouped them into categories where possible, such as Xmas/ winter , birthdays , flowers/ hearts, words / letters .
3. I put them onto a plastic pocket and drew straight lines to divide the pocket into smaller pockets.
4. With a craft knife I cut along the top edge of each small pocket shape I had drawn ( I put cardboard inside to prevent cutting through the back of the pocket)
IT IS IMPORTANT TO DO THIS BEFORE SEWING THE POCKETS
5. I sewed the plastic pocket along the lines, dividing the big pocket into smaller pockets.
6. I popped the stamps in their new little pockets, and had a well deserved cuppa !
I’m not sure whether I will put the pockets into a ring binder or I will stand them in a box, but already they are a lot more organised than they were !
Here are a few of the cards I have been making for Valentines day, using the distress inks I recently bought back from England
This card has a distressed background . I used denim blue distress ink on top of red card.Then I used a variety of heart stamps (bought and home-made) to stamp on top . I mounted it on a silver background and then onto Burgundy cardstock
I am not a grey and black person as a rule, but this card is one of my faves.
I used a dirty pink distress dye ( sorry I’m hopeless at remembering colour names) around the edge of an embossed pink heart, .I put strips of grey embossed hearts at the top and bottom of some black cardstock which I stamped with the words LOVE in silver and added the distressed heart and a little silver heart to tie the colours together .
I feel this one has more of a Victorian feel to it
I used a piece of packing card to dye cut a heart, which I embossed with a damask pattern . It really came to life when I distressed it with denim blue & used vintage photo distress ink ( brown) around the edge.
I mounted it on pale blue dot embossed paper, then mustard/ ochre card stock, and used a copperplate type font to add a Portuguese greeting.
This one is another one where I distressed the background and stamped onto it. However it has a totally different look to the first one .
I used denim blue ink to distress a frilly pale blue doily card, onto which I stamped two hearts.
I coloured the hearts in with watercolour pencils in pink shades and used pearly pink liner around the edges. I mounted the doily onto a bigger pink doily and then burgundy cardstock
I added a pink card strip at the bottom embossed with the words With love .
Feel free to copy these ideas …. just don’t forget to mention where you got them from !
After having a lovely ( but long) 6 weeks away, it is good to be back home. I have missed pottering around in my workshop, and although on my first week back I have found it hard to get back into a routine, I have managed to do a few bits and pieces.
Whilst in England I stocked up on a few art/craft supplies, and since coming back I have been trying them out.
The things I bought were mostly for card making/printing/ calligraphy.
I bought some clear acrylic stamps to try, a variety of stamp pads, a machine called a Cuttlebug, and an assortment of embossing folders and metal dyes to use with it.
No wonder my suitcase weighed 23 kgs !
I couldn’t wait to unpack them and start playing.
This is what my Cuttlebug looks like.
This is what it does.
Here are a couple of cards I made using it.
I was trying for a bit of a Victorian vintage type feel.
I have to say I am quite addicted to it, and have made a pile of cards already !