Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lets Learn Together ~ Polymer Clay ~ Conditioning

Previous posts in this series:

Last night, I got "all" my essentials in place and thought I would condition my clay.
You must be wondering why the "all" is in quotes. Keep reading and you will know.

That's my tile (not completely white, but this is all Home Depot had, and I did not have the patience to shop around), my clay (I had a pack of Sculpey III that I bought a few years ago, and I thought of trying it out before buying the Premo.), my pasta machine, my notecard is outside the frame, but its there.
I started off with cleaning the tile with 409, and then I assembled the pasta machine.

The instructions were very simple. 1 is thickest setting, 9 is thinnest. Pass some wipes through the machine before first use to clean up any dirt in the rollers.

Now I realized I did not have wipes. So I decided to improvise. I sprayed some 409 on a paper towel and passed that through the machine. Towel came out clean, so I was happy.

Then I picked the clay. The colors are nothing exciting, so I decided to make something black and white. Picked out the white first. Cut it with the tissue blade.

Mistake 1:  I should have cleaned the tissue blade as well before the first use. The clay had small black streak where it was cut. But I did not notice this at first. I cut the block into three sections...umm...cross-sectional pieces (sorry, don't have pics, will take pics with the next batch) and passed it through the roller.

Mistake 2: I had not clamped the machine down to the table. So I had to use one hand to hold the machine. I could have used it to guide the clay properly instead.

BIG Mistake: See for yourself!

Yup! The machine was DIRTY!!!
But my lazy brain said...oh wanted black and white beads, didn't you? Yup, a true blue lazy brain! It also said, this bit is ruined anyway, so just work with it and see how you can condition Sculpey III. I suppose there is a point to that argument.

So well, I continued. I passed each of the three sections through the machine, then two together and then all three together, then folded them in half and passed them through the machine, maybe 3-4 times. I must say, the clay was really soft. Much softer than the Premo that I worked with in my class. I am going to attribute that to a very hot day (and the hard Premo to AC turned up really high at the class)

I rolled my clay at setting 3. Not the thinnest, since I didn't really need it to be super thin. The sheet in the picture above is probably taken after the final run (you can tell, I don't do instructions very well :( )

The next step was to roll this into a log, making sure it was a tight roll and no bubbles.

I rolled it up and then just rolled the log some more on my tile. Yeah, I know its ugly and dirty.

I cut off some clay from the narrow end and made a nice round ball out of it. The clay was super soft so I had no issues forming it. far, going ok, But at this point all I had was a dirty white ball. What to do with it, what to do with it? Ok, lets flatten it. Done. Now I have a dirty white disc. So then I thought of stamping something into it. So I did that.

Yup, super soft clay with a large thumbprint. And the bead had gotten kinda thin at this point, and I didn't know what else I could even do with this. So I poked a hole into it and called it done. I should have waited for it to harden a bit, it was, I think I did mention this, super soft).

This much got done very quickly. So I cut off another piece of clay from my log, and made another dirty white ball. Figured I will carve something on it. All I managed to do was poke some holes with my bead reamer. And the clay was super soft (oh, right, I did tell you that already), so every time I turned the bead to poke a hole, I got a small flat surface on the bottom. End result was an accidental faceted look :) But that felt like cheating, so I smoothed it back into a nice round dirty white ball. Here it is...

I have not baked these yet. Didn't feel like heating up the oven for just these two little things.
Not sure what I will do with them once I bake them, but I think I should.

So here are the lessons I learned:

Clean everything! Tile, hands, knife, roller, pasta machine...evvvvvverything!
Clamp the pasta machine. This one is a bit funky, as in the handle went below the bottom of the machine. So I had to have it hanging off the edge of the table. Not comfortable!
Watch the temperature of the room and my hands and all that...
Plan on what I want to do before rolling out that poor clay. I had no clue what to do next after I had my sheet!

I did buy some wipes today, so I should be ready for the next round.
I think I will try some color mixing or marbling technique next.

Here's a video on color mixing

And this one is for marbling...

Am not able to link it here, but here's the URL:

I have not yet watched these videos completely, just skimmed through them. They looked good.

Until next time....seeya!


  1. Arg..... white clay makes me crazy! I once even considered buying a pasta machine JUST for white clay. Sculpey III makes me crazy too. For me it's far too soft and not that strong once baked. The good thing is that PC takes acrylic paint very well, so I have saved ( & impoved) numerous pieces by tricking it out with a little paint and sealer.

    1. And for some reason I thought Sculpey III was the harder version. I suppose I will save it then for things that need softer delicate canes and such.

      Am not a great painter, but looks like PC is going to make me one!

  2. My brain would have said the same thing! lol. Your beads look cute. Don't people 'paint' or add patina to colors to clay? You could do that and no one would ever know the clay wasn't super white...maybe?

    1. Yayyyy, Ema!!!!!! can roll the clay out by hand for now...with a roller or pvc pipe or something. BTW, both JoAnn and Michaels have the 40 off deal this week! Hopefully your store carries the pasta machine.

      Lol, do you think I could pass these dirty little things as organic? rofl? Am going to look into paints today!

  3. What a learning experience you had all the way through. Thanks for sharing so the rest of us know what NOT to do.

    1. Thanks Dolores. That was quite the "what-the-hey" moment for me. And am actually glad that I used white, so I could see allllll my mistakes :)

  4. Those black streaks are the machine grease from the rollers. If you keep your clay to the center the first few passes and watch where the end of the rollers are you can see it squeeze out. Wipe it without spreading allover.

    Take away point: if there is something on your sheet it is never going to get better with repeat passing. At at first moment with this much grease it is a bit tricky, but you could have swiped it off with some alcohol on a wipe. OR decide this clay is you "cleaner" keep putting it through the machine right up against each side and let it do the cleaning job for you!

    Great job!

    1. You have the bestest tips and ideas, Emma! My sheet was going all over the place because I was not able to guide it, one hand was cranking the handle, the other holding the machine in place. So looks like I caught all the grease, lol :) I am definitely keeping this one as the cleaner! That, my dear, is one wonderful tip! Thank you!

  5. Morning, Kashmira! Followed your post on Creative Bead Chat FB page to here. I'll definitely be following your poly clay adventures. And yes, any speck of something, especially another color of clay on your tools, roller, will show up in your clay. Ugh. Although I have found great joy in painting the clay with inks and acrylics which hides a multitude of ooopses.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Lynda! So good to see you here :)
      I feel I am not very good with painting, but looks like poly clay is going to turn me into one, lol :)

  6. Oh Kashmira, I feel for you!! This happened to me too when I first started. Here is a link that should help with cleaning your machine. It's been important for me to carefully clean along the plate edges. That seems to be where tiny bits of clay tend to stick. After I clean along the plate edges, I put the handle in the machine and turn it slowly backwards while holding a clean baby wipe over the rollers. I do this step several times. It seems to help to collect those tiny pieces of clay that were stuck along the bottom plates. As for your too soft beads, I've had this happen too. If you put the clay in the freezer for a short time, it will firm up and you can continue to work with it. If you haven't baked your discolored beads yet, you could always color them with Pearl Ex powders if you have some, or bake them and then paint them with acrylic paints.

    1. Thank you SO much, Lisa!!! This is one life-saving link!
      Now...would regular Lysol wipes do as well, or it has to be the gentler baby wipes?

      Last question: PearlEx powders, would Michaels have them? And any tutorials out there for using them? Am not so crazy about acrylic, but love the magic you have made with PearlEx!

    2. I don't know about the difference in wipes, I just went with what was recommended in my reading about polymer clay which was to use baby wipes. I do have a suggestion if you choose to use baby wipes. I started with a store brand of baby wipes and went crazy trying to clean up the lint they left behind. I switched to Huggies brand wipes and have had a lot less problems with lint. It was very much worth the price difference to me. As to Pearl Ex, Yes Michaels carries them in small sets. I started with set #2, but now have all the colors because I love working with them. Hobby lobby carries it too, but only in large jars in very few colors, and you really don't need the large jars unless you want a certain color that isn't in your small set. You get the richest colors on black clay, but it is fun to experiment with it on white and transparent too. You can use your fingers to put the powder on or do as I do, and use a paintbrush and treat the powders just as you would paints. When you load the brush, be sure to tap it on the edge of the container to remove excess powder. As I've told you before, the powders are not permanent on the bead once it baked. (and FYI, I bake at 275 for an hour) Your beads need to be sealed to prevent the loss of the powder. After baking, it's normal for some powder to be loose. I brush it away with a soft, clean paintbrush. This also helps with adhesion of your chosen sealer. You will get acceptable results with Future Floor wax for sealing though I have chosen to go with a product called PYM II. You can see it here: It is expensive, but it's giving me the results I want. After sealing, many polymer clay artists choose to put their pieces back in the oven to harden the finish. There are many, many schools of thought on what temperature and how long it is acceptable to do this. For myself, what works is leaving my oven temperature at 275 and I bake for 10 to 15 minutes. I shut off the oven and let the beads slowly cool in the oven. I've had no problems with sticky beads or peeling with either the Future or the PYM II spray. I will also say that this is what works for me with Premo clay. I no longer work with any other brands of clay for this type of work. Yes, I think there are some YouTube videos out there for working with mica powders, but not much info on sealing or finishing. Hopefully I've given you enough information about that here.

    3. Wow!!!! Thanks SO much Lisa for the detailed response!
      I have a picture of the box of wipes my teacher had, she also warned us against lint. Will see what brand that was and let you know...just in case its more economical than huggies.

      I guess I am not yet ready for painting with powder :( But this will come in handy when I am! Thank you SOOOO much!!

  7. What a terrific post and great replies too!

    I've wanted to try polymer clay because it seems so safe. Very different from the challenges of using a torch or buying a kiln, and yet such beautiful art can come from this medium! It's something I feel good about doing at home, around my grandkids. Yet -- and that's a big yet -- I've never known where to start. What a generous, cool idea you have here! Thank you for sharing your journey. So educational for us readers. I just may tell Santa I'd like some poly clay tools for Christmas! ;)


    1. Thanks Rita! Am glad you are enjoying this and considering joining us!

      The best part, I think, is that the tools might probably already be there in your home! The pasta machine is the only "new" thing that you might have to buy, check out garage sales and craigslist...or ebay, you might get a used one for a good price. Or use the 40% off coupon the the craft stores have regularly.

      Apart from that, I the only other expense is the clay itself. I bought a box of Premo, 24 color sampler today with my 40 off coupon at Michaels for $16. But am hoping it will last a while. Its a 1.5 lb box.

    2. I am so glad I read your post before I got out the clay tonite. You definitely helped me get my priorities in order. So I decided on a project before I opened my clay--Looked at this tutorial and this one

      I used black, and the pasta machine worked like a dream. I made sure to clean it thoroughly first, thank you!! I made two pieces from the tuts above, and then I used my stamps and stamped two pendants. I haven't cured them yet, it got late and I didn't want to fall asleep while the oven was on.If you want to see them after baking, I will send you pics tomorrow. I plan to use Guilders Paste on the stamped ones, and used Lumiere paint on one of the hearts, and embossing powder on the other one, just to experiment and see what happens.
      Gina H

  8. The biggest thing to remember with Polymer Clay is that there are NEVER any mistakes, only something to keep working on. It is the most forgiving medium around.
    You have gotten some super tips on the pasta machine, but thought I would put my 2 cents in on your beads.
    The floral stamp bead you made is a great first effort, but as you realize a reverse of what you used to stamp it. Some people might see it as a "mold". In other words, after it is baked, use it to stamp a new piece of polymer to create a raised image instead of recessed.
    As far as the the round bead that wound up "not so round", my best suggestion is not to press anything into a soft bead while it is sitting on a hard surface. Have never been good at Physics, but sure it is some rule. The tip about putting it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes is a great one, and one I have used many times, to slightly stiffen the bead and make it less prone to "injury". The other tip is to hold the bead in your other hand, at the finger tips, and use them as a softer backing to the bead.
    Finally if you don't like the color of a bead you have made, it's not wasted, it can be used as a center for any other color you want to cover it with.

  9. Great tips about using the freezer! On my first attempts with polymer clay I quickly noticed that warmth is a benefit and a problem to be controlled.