There is a LOT of information out there for anyone interested in the craft of polymer clay. I’m certainly not an expert by anyone’s standards, but I’ll share what I’ve learned over the short time (about 3 1/2 years) I’ve been claying (yes, that’s a word!). Because the only thing better than having the most bestest, funnest (yep, those are words too!) hobby ever, is getting someone else hooked on the most bestest, funnest hobby ever! 😀
All these tips I’ve posted on my facebook page (there is a link over there on the right which will take you to my page), but I thought I’d post them here in 2 parts so that they would be easier to look through. Without further ado…….
Have good tools!
These 5 items I’m pretty sure I’d be lost without. A smooth tile (I got this one at Home Depot for about $3), a clay rolling pin, a ball pen (essential for blending seams), a stylus pen, and an exacto knife.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of amazing tutorials on Youtube. When I was first starting out (and even now I’ll watch a few to get some tips and ideas), I spent quite a bit of time just typing in “polymer clay tutorials” in the Youtube search bar.
Toaster oven is a must!
It’s a really good idea to have an oven that’s designated JUST for baking your clay. There are all sorts of articles out there talking about whether or not toxins are released when baking polymer clay. I prefer to err on the side of caution and not use my regular oven. Instead, you can normally purchase a toaster oven at just about any goodwill/thrift/saver store for under $10. No need to buy anything fancy.
Baking times will vary
Your baking time will vary depending on your oven and on the piece being baked. I burned a few pieces in the beginning trying to figure out what was a good temp to set my oven at, and how long to keep it in the oven.
I don’t usually bake according to the times suggested on the wrappers. The packaging normally reads to bake at 275* for 15 minutes per 1/4″. However, through trial and error, I’ve found that I need to set my oven at just above 250*. If baking a small item like a charm, then I bake for about 5-7 minutes, and if baking a larger item, like one of my Poppy or Patch figures, those stay in for about 10-15 minutes. I also tent a piece of tin foil over the items while they’re baking. This helps to regulate the heat a little so that the outside doesn’t get baked faster than the inside.
Heat gun as portable oven
I love this tip, but I can’t remember who told me about it. If you have a heat gun, you can use it to bake very tiny pieces (like glasses, candy canes, small flowers, etc). Be careful though, because as it’s a concentrated heat, your piece can burn very quickly (spoken from experience!).
My mom taught me this one all through my growing up years, and she is definitely the queen of organization! 😀 You don’t want to spend most of your time hunting for a certain color of clay or tool. If you know where everything is ahead of time it’ll make your crafting time so much more enjoyable. Maybe it’s my slight OCD, but it drives me absolutely nuts when I see people who just shove all their clay in ziplock bags and then throw them all into a big bucket. 😀
3×5 cards….not just for notes
When baking your items it’s a good idea to place them on 3×5 cards or a piece of card stock. If you bake your item directly on the oven tray then you will end up with a shiny spot on your clay.
Or should this be # 7 1/2?
This tip goes along with #7 about not baking your item on the tray because of shiny spots. You can accordion-fold a piece of paper to bake small items or items that will roll. Because it’s in the oven for a short amount of time and at a low heat, the paper won’t burn.
Make your own clay blade
So much cheaper than buying a clay blade at the craft store. Just go to the hardware aisle at your local everything store. I got a pack of 5 blades at Walmart for about $2. Then just use some scrap clay and make a handle (make sure the clay joins through the holes in the blade so that the handle will stay on). Bake and then…..tada! 🙂
There are so many colors and brands to choose from. When first starting out I recommend deciding what your first piece will be and getting colors just for that. No need to go overboard and be overwhelmed from the get-go. Then whenever you see sales, pick up a few blocks. Michael’s has a really good sale every few months where they put all their brands on sale for 4 packs for $5…..I LOVE that sale! I like all the brands except for Craftsmart (that one is too sticky for my liking). Sculpey III is my favorite.
Stay tuned for part 2! 🙂