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How to Work With Polymer Clay

By: Jane Pullen - Updated: 6 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Polymer Clay Baking Curing Beginners

Polymer clay is easy to work with. Very little in the way of specialist equipment or materials are required in order to produce beautiful and stunning results. Learn how to work with polymer clay using these key tips.

Conditioning Polymer Clay

Conditioning polymer clay is an essential part of working with polymer clay. Conditioning describes the process of kneading and manipulating the polymer clay when it comes straight from the packet. This process is necessary to make the clay soft and malleable and also to ensure that it is of an even consistency. Some polymer clays require less conditioning. Those brands that are marked as 'soft' require less conditioning than others. Even soft polymer clay, however, can be hard to condition and this can be down to the age of the polymer clay and the way it was stored. If the packs of polymer clay have been subjected to heat, for instance if they were displayed in a sunny window of a shop, they could require extra conditioning. The conditioning process can be done by hand or using a pasta maker. When it is done by hand it is simply a case of twisting, kneading and manipulating the clay. When it is done using a pasta maker, the polymer clay is run through the pasta maker a few times until it has softened. Conditioned polymer clay will not crumble or break.

Blending Polymer Clay

One of the joys of working with polymer clay is that it can be blended to form new colours or tones. Primary colours can be mixed, for instance, to form new colours. Colours can be lightened or darkened by adding white or black polymer clay to change the tone. This gives polymer clay artists the option to create their own unique palette to work with. Blending polymer clay is very simple. The pieces of polymer clay are mixed together by kneading and manipulating until they are no longer streaky and are an even colour. It is possible to blend different types of polymer clay together, for instance to use a coloured polymer clay to tint transparent or metallic polymer clay. It is also possible to blend different brands of polymer clay. This can change the curing or baking temperature and is more open to error so this is not recommended for beginners.

Baking or Curing Polymer Clay

The process of heating polymer clay until it is hard is called curing. It is often referred to as baking as well as curing. The best way to cure or bake a piece of polymer clay will depend on the item. If polymer clay is baked on a smooth, flat surface, a shiny patch can appear where the polymer clay was in contact with the surface. This can be sanded off the finished item, however it is obviously better to avoid this happening by baking the item so that a minimum amount of polymer clay is in contact with the surface. It is possible to improvise in many ways. Polymer clay beads, for instance, can be threaded onto skewers and these placed over a baking dish.

Finishing Polymer Clay

Polymer clay can be finished in different ways. The type of finish is often a personal choice. Some people like to have a matt finish on their polymer clay items and this can look particularly effective with polymer clay jewellery. A matt finish can be achieved by lightly sanding the end product. Polymer clay can also be buffed for a silk or satin finish. A piece of old denim is perfect for this. Very shiny finishes are best achieved using an electric polisher, although acrylic varnish can also be used to create a shiny surface on the baked polymer clay.

Using these simple steps, any number of polymer clay items can be made. This is an exciting craft with wide reaching possibilities.

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