Archive of ‘Tips’ category

Add Brilliance To Polymer Clay With Metal Leaf


Polymer clay takes on a whole new personality when married to metal leaf. Leaf can be found in faux silver & gold, genuine silver & 23K gold, copper, & variegated types. It often appears layered in mokume gane stacks where it provides a subtle shimmer. It also shines in brocade surface techniques. And you can use it on clay all by itself.
I’ll share my experience which I hope will help you explore these possibilities and avoid pitfalls. I usually use Mona Lisa brand leaf. There’s the loose-leaf, fly-away version, & a paper-backed version. Both come in 5.5″ square sheets.
Fly-away Leaf
The fly-away type needs understanding & respect. It’s packaged with tissue separating each sheet of leaf. It will not tolerate being picked up & set on the clay. Don’t sit under a ceiling fan or so much as wave a hand over it. Slide the tissue with the clay on top out of the package to your work surface. The trick is to pick up the leaf with the clay, starting at one edge & walking the clay down with your fingers. Then turn the clay over & gently burnish the leaf. You can easily patch any areas the leaf might have shunned. Stick a piece of leaf on the exposed clay. Rub off the excess leaf around the patch or it will find its way somewhere you don’t want it. For most purposes, you’ll want to crackle the leaf by rolling your acrylic rolled over it a few times.
Sometimes you want just a small piece of leaf. This can be done without sacrificing the remaining leaf. Place the clay on the leaf & hold your blade against the leaf so it will cut the leaf as you lift the clay.

Paper-backed Leaf
Paper-backed leaf doesn’t demand special handling, & you can cut it while it’s still on the paper to fit any size or shape of clay. To apply the leaf, place it on the clay & burnish it well with your fingers. Lift the paper slowly. If there are any exposed patches of clay, lay the paper down again & burnish some more.

To prevent leaf from wearing off, apply a couple of coats of acrylic varnish after curing.


Next week’s post will show how to create beautiful brocade with metal leaf.

Polymer Clay & Craft Punches Play Well Together

C-u finished w green ribbon for blog  6247 gimped When I designed my Pine Cone Ornament (see the free tutorial) I figured the simplest way to make little poinsettias would be to use my star-shaped craft punch. Did you know you can use craft punches with either raw or cured polymer clay?

The nice thing about making shapes with raw clay is that you can use your fingers and/or tools to add texture and make them three-dimensional.
When you punch cured clay, it can take considerable pressure. You may have to set the punch on the floor and step on it.
There are so many uses, even for the humble single-hole paper punch. A simple dot can bring life to a ho-hum bead. And look at the popularity of polka dots. (It’s so like me to catch the trailing end of a trend.)
Just writing this post inspires me to jump up and play with my craft punches, which is exactly what I’m going to do.

Trick for Making Polymer Clay Beads of Uniform Size

OT Lustrous 15Take the guesswork out of making round and other hand-formed beads of uniform size. I made these disc-shaped beads for my Lustrous Beads tutorial painlessly. (You may also be interested in related blog posts on impressing both sides of clay and applying powders.)



Here’s the trick:

Another Polymer Clay Powder Tip

Ball on knife w powder 6161 use in blog This tip was born of frustration. I was applying powder to a bunch of little translucent balls that will go in the center of my Poinsettia Dish. (Tutorial still in progress) My technique was to hold the ball in my left hand and apply powder to the top and side with the right. I suppose an enlightened artisan would find it a Zen experience–breathe deeply and engage in the process. Not me. Those little buggers were getting to me.

Then inspiration struck. I stuck the clay on the tip of my X-acto blade and dipped it in the powder.

Get the basics on using Pearl Ex and Perfect Pearls powders in the post “Work Powder Magic on Polymer Clay.”

Speaking of Stencils

Stenciled aspen pendant 6074 I never would have thought a stenciled image could look subtle until I played with a biscotti colored powder to get a translucent effect. Usually my play is an end in itself, but in this case I just had to make a pendant.
Scrap-stenciled aspen pendant 6076The clay was a hunk of scrap mixed with a little “mud”–scrap blended beyond recognition. Mud is useful for toning down colors–perfect for the Fall look I wanted. The stencil is “Aspen Trees,” by The Crafter’s Workshop. I lightly applied Perfect Pearls Pigment Powder to just a portion of the 6 x 6″ stencil and blotted excess powder off the stencil and clay with a piece of scrap before lifting the stencil. As with anything I embellish with Perfect Pearls powders, I applied a bit of ArmorAll after curing to smooth the otherwise grainy feel.
Stenciled reindeer 6077 There’s another stencil trick I discovered recently. I’d had disappointing results with the “Whimsical Christmas” stencils from Americana Gloss Enamels. The problem with using these stencils on raw polymer clay is that they’re adhesive-backed and tend to mar the clay. I found that dusting the back with a little cornstarch solved the problem.

Stencil on Polymer Clay

LLI Stenciled Postcard 053b
Looking for a surface technique to teach and getting a nudge from my friend Zan led me to try stenciling on polymer clay. I didn’t know how much fun it could be.
With the polymer clay postcard pictured, I pulled out maybe not all the stops, but at least a few. I stenciled on raw and cured clay, with ink, powder and marker. I used manufactured stencils and cut my own.
To start, I used Premo ecru clay sheeted on a medium setting. Because an earlier test mailing of a pastel postcard resulted in it getting soiled, I decided to imprint both the front and back of this postcard using the Texture Gallery “Cheesecloth” stamp and StazOn brown timber ink. At least smudges won’t be so noticeable.
Tip Stencil Materials 064
The boot was created on raw clay with a stencil from Southwest Decoratives. This was an easy stencil to use–a thin material with a smooth, non-adhesive backing so it doesn’t mar the clay surface. I used a piece cut from a make-up sponge to apply StazOn ink to the boot and Pearl Ex powdered pigment to the spur. Powder can be tricky in a design that calls for nice crisp edges. It has to be applied sparingly as loose powder will migrate. I discovered I can remove excess powder with a piece of scrap clay before lifting the stencil.
The spur got lost in the ecru background, so I outlined it with a BIC Mark-It marker after the piece was cured.
To stencil the thin lines of the star, I made a dauber by cutting a sponge to a narrow edge and gluing the opposite end inside a skinny straw. (I love making tools.) Having a “handle” on the dauber gave me more control than I had holding the sponge in my fingers.
Some of the elements on the postcard were created using homemade parchment paper stencils (which made me hungry for homemade cookies). You can cut stencils with an X-acto knife (thank you Cindy Lietz) or use a scrapbook punch as I did for the stars which I added to the boot after curing. One great thing about parchment paper is that it lightly clings to the clay without leaving a mark.
Both the StazOn and Pearl Ex powders must be heat set, and Pearl Ex must be varnished after curing. I didn’t want to varnish the whole postcard, so I set the stencil back on the postcard and varnished just the spur area.

Make Mirror-Image Polymer Clay Earrings

Tip Mirror Image Boots gimpedProblem: You want to make mirror-image earrings from patterned clay but have only one asymmetrical cutter. I had a Skinner blend scrap which I expanded with a sheet of gold clay. I impressed the clay with my texture sheet and wanted the whole thing–boot shape, impressed image, and Skinner blend–to mirror the first boot I cut.

Solution: Actually there were two ways to approach this. Both involved first making a paper stencil from the cutter.

The first method, which I rejected for this project, was to turn over the stencil, position it on the clay, and cut the second boot with an X-acto knife.

But, since the boot was a bit tricky to cut out by hand, I positioned the stencil on the clay and poked guide holes completely at several strategic points. Then I turn the clay over, aligned the stencil and cutter with the guide holes, and cut.

Read This Before Using Cutters on Clay

Tip Viewer Blue Picarello Tile Bracelet
Wanting a bracelet to go with a party dress, I recently made another Picarello mokume gane stack. I had mokume gane left over so I decided to make a teardrop pendant.

The problem I have with cutters is that they make it hard to find the sweet spot on a patterned piece of clay. First of all, they cast shadows. Granted that could be corrected with direct lighting. But I find my eye gets distracted by the clay outside the cutter.

My solution: make a paper stencil.

I move the stencil over the clay until I find just what I want. Then, leaving the stencil in place, I set the cutter inside the stencil. No more guesswork.

I also routinely make stencils in place of paper patterns that obscure the clay. For example, the bracelet tiles above were cut with a stencil I made from an index card.

Eager To Try New Polymer Clays, But . . .

souffle Only one thing keeps me from trying the new polymer clays: summer. Sculpey Souffle and Fimo Professional are not yet available in stores in Austin. Yes, they can be ordered online, but I don’t want to risk getting clay that has cooked on a sun-baked loading dock or delivery truck.
Some people have said Sculpey Souffle reminds them of the discontinued Studio by Sculpey clay as it has a suede-like finish when cured. Rather than ramble on here uninformed, I’ll share a link to one of my favorite go-to web sites for authoritative info about polymer clay. Ginger Davis Allman has written an excellent review of Sculpey Souffle at The BlueBottle Tree.
Fimo Professional replaces the Fimo Classic line. More later.

“Sandwich” Makes It Easy To Impress Both Sides of Polymer Clay

Want an impression on both sides of your polymer clay? Do it in a single step with a polymer clay sandwich.

To impress a thin sheet of clay, you’ll need light texture sheets. My favorites include lint-free dust cloths, mesh produce bags, and lace.
If your texture sheets are thin enough, you can make your sandwich in your pasta machine.
An alternate method is to sandwich your clay between texture sheets and roll over the top with your acrylic roller just once. (Clay moves under the roller so repeated rolling will distort the impression.)
For a thicker piece of clay, such as a bead, you can make a deeper impression. A rubber stamp and dust rag were used to impress the beads in the “Powder Magic” post.

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