Sunday, 17 May 2015

Polymer Clay for Beginners. PS.... I'm the beginner!

Hello dear readers. Let me take you on a tale of adventure... 

About three years ago, I decided I absolutely had to, must, couldn't possible NOT work with polymer clay. So, as you do, I set about hunting the internet for all this "stuff" that apparently you need to have for working with clay. 

I already had the toaster oven! YAY! Thanks whoever bought it for me for our wedding (I actually can't remember who it was but I'm eternally grateful. If it was you, THANK YOU!). 

I went out and bought a pasta roller. I've never used one before. I'm a little scared of it. There are moving parts and stuff.

Buying clay is HARD. Seriously. There's about 30,000 types on the market and ALL OF THEM claim to do the same thing, more or less. After some frantic searching, I settled on Kato Polyclay as it is, after all, the best one out there. Or so I've been told. I really don't know. I haven't used anything else. 

I ended up buying a few blocks in a few different colours. Not being sure what I was actually going to make made this a little harder than it should have been (note: have your colour palette in mind BEFORE shopping. Seriously. I wish I had!). I ended up with 9 colours (pink and purple being a big feature, naturally!) 

A couple of weeks later my lovely little packages of clay goodness arrived. Yay! I lovingly stored them away in a box in among my other jewellery stuff...and they've sat there ever since. Unopened. Abandoned. Poor, forgotten clay. 

Here's the problem. The stuff TERRIFIES me. I have no idea why! It's just clay. It's like play dough for grown ups, right? There is no reason to be scared. It's not going to eat me. I've been stupidly busy at work and jewellery making in general sort of took a massive nosedive after the New Year. So, I made excuse after excuse about why I couldn't use it...why I didn't have time....why I just had SO MUCH TO DO ALREADY...

Finally, I decided I didn't really have THAT much to do already. I had time - a whole weekend even. I sat down and gave myself a firm talking to. I need to create. I need to create like other people need air, and what better way to jump start the creative juices but to play with clay? So I sat and watched YouTube videos. Lots of them. I procrastinated. "I don't have a proper work surface!" was my latest excuse. Hubby took me to the recycle shop this morning and bought one. I think he's tired of hearing "But I......." 

(You realise that writing this blog before I start is actually just another way to procrastinate and NOT get the stuff out, right?)

Back at home, after getting a total bargain on my work surface (a gorgeous brand new white ceramic tile that we spent a whopping $2 on), here's what happened:  

First, retrieve the pasta roller from the top of the fridge. I'm 4'11" tall and the fridge is taller than most non vertically challenged humans. Call in hubby to help. He wrangles it from its resting place and off we go. 

Second...put pasta roller together. Stare at it puzzled for a moment. Call in husband. He's getting irritated, I can tell. 

Third...condition the clay. Sure! Easy! I've watched LOADS of YouTube clips today so I know exactly what I'm doing. 

This conditioning lark is actually quite fun and oddly cathartic. 

Here's a photo of my gorgeous hot pink clay being conditioned to within an inch of its life :D It's a crap pic. I'm sorry. 

Wait...what the hell is that DIRTY MARK on my lovely white clay?!?!? 

Back to YouTube. Apparently it's a thing where the rollers get scratched and then they oxidise and you end up with dirty marks on your clay. Strange since my roller hasn't even been opened until today! It's all good. I found the cure. 

Fourth....roll all the gorgeous newly conditioned clay into sausages. OMG! Finally! My one and only plasticine skill that I've carried with me from primary school is about to be truly realised! 

Look at me go! 

Fifth...twist all your newly formed sausages into a big twisty sausage shape! Thank you, Mrs C for all your totally rocking play dough teaching in preschool! 

Sixth...roll said twisty sausage into a gorgeous smooth, marbled piece of clay artwork. 

I'm DOING IT! I'm working with CLAY! And so far, it hasn't bitten me! Yes!!! 

Oh GOD...those awful nails! I'm so sorry!! 

Seventh...cut off even sized pieces and roll into little bead shapes. Screw a tooth pick though them and VOILA! BEADS! 

I am a clay bead making goddess! I know exactly what I'm doing. They will be perfect, fabulous little balls of beady goodness after I've baked them to the manufacturer's directions in a toaster oven I've had for eleven years. (Yes, that last bit was sarcasm). 

What the HELL?

Not exactly what I was going for.

It turns out that my little toaster oven is about as accurate as an English weather forecast. I had it set to 300F as the instructions told me to. Well apparently according to my little oven thermometer which I forgot to keep in there for the whole time (FACEPALM!!)....that's closer to about 400F. Oops. 

What I ended up with were toasted blobs of clay that resemble raisins far more than the lovely smooth little balls of happiness I had envisaged. 

Husband comes to the rescue, and totally McGyvers a set up that any clay making person would be in awe of, with the intention being to keep the heat off them, stop them from getting flat spots and basically be amazing. My 9 year old's beads were next in the firing line. They came out as melted, brown, droopy blobs. Think Hersheys Kisses and you'll be close to how they looked...only not as yummy. Mine were actually nicer. At this point, there may have been a few tears. Not from my daughter, either. 

Back to Youtube. I frantically type in "HOW NOT TO BURN YOUR BEADS" (or words to that effect) and found an amazing channel which has seriously saved my butt. And my beads. My daughter's next batch are cooling down as we speak and so far, don't look like Hershey's. 

I'm off to the workbench now to try this again. 

Wish me luck, lovelies! 


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