Help… My Polymer Clay is Too Soft from these Hot Summer Days

Polymer Clay On Ice Packs

Tips For Chilling Hot Mushy Polymer Clay To Firm It Up:

No doubt about it, Summer is underway… at least it is up here in the northern hemisphere. With the warm weather comes soft mushy clay that shows finger prints like crazy. Great time for mixing. But building or cutting canes and sculpting is way trickier when it’s hot.

Here are a few tricks for coping with polymer clay in the heat when you don’t have an air conditioned studio:

  • A simple propeller or rotary fan can help. It won’t really cool down your clay too much but it will keep you a bit more comfortable. Super hot bodies (like mine hehehe) have super hot hands, which just make mushy clay even mushier.
  • A bucket of ice water will help. Put your hands and your clay into ice water periodically to cool things down. Use a paper towel to dry off your clay before working with it though, so the moisture doesn’t get trapped in the clay and cause problems like bubbles and cracks.
  • Work with a firm clay. Super soft clay gets even worse in the heat. Fimo, Kato and Premo do better. Leach some of the plasticizers from the clay if it is too soft to start with. There is a nifty video in my Beginner’s Course that shows you How To Firm Up Soft Polymer Clay with your pasta machine if you don’t know how to leach your clay.
  • Get out the ice packs for cooling your polymer clay. The photo above shows packages of Premo Sculpey clay on a re-freezable gel ice pack. If you put another ice pack on top to form a sandwich, the clay will chill even faster. Or, simply pop all of your clay into the refrigerator and only bring it out as needed.
  • Drink lots of Pina Coladas! This will not only cool you down but will also cause you not to stress about your problems with slicing squishy canes! :-)
  • Have fun! It is Summer after all!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. Greetings, i have gone through PC withdrawal this week because of work related training in San Diego, California. I love it when my “Day Job” sends me nice places. But I am sooo happy to be back home and in my own bed.

    I liked the Pina Colada suggestion too. I wonder if that is why Cindy made that lovely martini olive spear.
    I do my “clayin” in a spare bedroom but our house does have a room in the front that has lots of windows on three sides and I had been thinking about making my clay space. We refer to this room as the “Sun Room” for lack of a better name, unfortunately this room is rarely used because it faces West and is really, really hot in the summer. A great place for plants but not for clay.
    .

  2. Speaking of “converting spare rooms into clay studios,” I just received the following email from Bonnie who gave me permission to reprint it here. It’s a wonderful story about: Teaching; First time successes; And a supportive husband.

    By the way, welcome back Bonnie. It’s great to have subscribed at the library again. Missed you!

    [BEGIN EMAIL MESSAGE FROM BONNIE]

    Glad to be back, I miss all your fun stuff. I’ve been working to get stuff on Etsy and get my blog up and teaching polymer clay to people here in Arizona. I have a new student that I’ve been working with and she’s absolutely amazed me. The first beads she made she put in a shadow box and decorated it to be a keepsake and now her husband is rebuilding a room for her to do polymer clay in. I love it when that happens. I sent her your url and told her to subscribe when got the chance because she would learn tons of great stuff.”

    I read about your tumbler fiasco, I bought one and haven’t used it yet but want to because I hate sanding small beads. I just ordered a new buffer because I have a little 3 inch one and it works but I like buffing my beads.

    Thanks again for being there with great stuff, I’m glad to be back.

    ~Bonnie

    [END EMAIL FROM BONNIE]
    .

  3. Oh and this just in from Naama Zamir via Twitter:

    “…since i don’t have air condition in my room i work on a cold tile while the ventilator is on, directed to my work surface.”

    Cold tile is a great idea! Probably the thicker the better to hold the cold for as long as possible. Thxs Naama

  4. Cindy,I found out recently that I’m not the only one who belongs to your long list of followers. I belong to the Arizona Polymer Clay Guild and at one of our meetings a few months ago I told them about cleaning clay with a paper towel and alcohol and that I read it on your site. There were at least 5 other people who said they also belong to your Polymer Clay Tutor website and love it. If you ever get a chance, our website is azpcg.org. We have a new webmaster now who is updating our site and doing a wonderful job, I might add. You will be able to see pictures of our Camp Pinerock retreat. We do clay for 4 days. It’s fun, wish you could join us.

    Thanks for your helpful hints.

    Bonnie

  5. Hi Bonnie! I love your story! To think you were from the same guild and all hanging out here! I checked out your guild. Love your logo! (a cactus lying on it side and getting sliced like a cane)

    Looks like you guys are up to good things in your guild. Guilds are always great for sharing information and comradery. BTW you are welcome to link to our site in your polymer clay information section if you like. I don’t mind.

    Have fun at your retreat! I wish I could be there too. It sounds fun!

  6. I don’t know a good place to post these sale alerts but Michael’s has Premo and Fimo on sale this week in the US 4 blocks for $5.00. Hope this is going to be a continuing trend.

  7. Cindy, here I am yakking again. Wanted to tell you that because of your inspiration I tried my rock tumbler yesterday with polymer clay beads. First I cut up sand paper and put it in the tumbler, that didn’t seem to do anything so I did some research and saw a couple articles saying to use Bon Ami Cleanser. I didn’t have Bon Ami but I had Bar Keepers Friend and figured it would be the same thing. Worked pretty good. I let them tumble for 2 hours. These were beads I made with Studio By Sculpey. I am in the process of buffing these now. I had added a little pearl to the clay mix so they aren’t real shiny after buffing like beads get when you use Premo but they aren’t bad. I did go to Ace Hardware today and buy 4 cans of Bon Ami because we couldn’t find it at Wal-Mart or any where else. Thanks for the tip about the clay at Michael’s. I just got back and bought a bunch, just not sure where I’m going to store it. I am a clay-aholic.

  8. @Anna: Me too! Thanks for letting everyone know!

    @Bonnie: Although the Bon Ami does work I like using River Rock in the tumbler much more. Click the link by my name for a preview video on how I use the rock. I think you will prefer it too once you try it!

  9. I had a tumbler from Michaels that I had bought for my daughter to polish some pebbles. Can I use that; the barrel is rather tiny?

    Where can I buy river rocks??

  10. I bought a bag of river rocks at Michael’s today and put them in the tumbler. It was really dirty in there when I opened it up. My husband said I needed to wash the rocks before I use them. I put the tumbler on a towel in the guest bathroom on the floor and it’s been running very well in there. Didn’t want to put it in the garage because this time of year it gets very hot and the rubber tumbler expands and stops turning.

  11. @Cheryl: Sure you can use that tumbler. Lots of people have for this technique. I think they are not built as well and will wear out sooner, but if it’s just collecting dust, might as well use it!

    @Bonnie: Yeah washing them first is not a bad idea. Good tip on putting the tumbler on a towel for noise. I find the sound kind of soothing. Like hundreds of tiny hands are polishing my beads for me. I hear that vibrating machines are noisier however. So if I had one of those, I would most definitely want to muffle the sound.

  12. I am a Christmas ornament designer and my main ingredient to my ornaments is polymer clay.I would like to convert a bedroom into my studio for creating my designs. Do you have any suggestions?

    • @Nancy Jammal: Hi Nancy, welcome to the Polymer Clay Tutor website! Sue has some excellent suggestions and a lovely setup. I’m envious of her setup/space…wish I had a spare room like you guys! But anyway…were there any specific questions you had about converting your room to a studio that haven’t been answered? There are lots of people who read this blog, and many ways to set up a polymer or craft workspace. If you have any concerns or specific problems, by all means bring them up here. I’ll bet someone will have the answer/suggestion for you…they just need to know that you’re looking for! :D

      FYI: This website is filled with tips, advice, and fantastic tutorial videos on just about everything polymer clay (especially when it comes to beads/jewelry.) You can use the search function at the top of each page to find specific info (type in “clay storage”, “holiday ornaments”, etc. to get articles or comments/Q & A about the topic of your choice.) Or ask questions as you did here.

      A “cool” thing: Cindy has a Polymer Clay Newsletter (link at top of page,) check it out! You’ll get 3 free videos when you sign up, and then get 2 free color recipes each week (from Cindy’s coordinated color palettes.)
      ~Kat

  13. Hi Nancy,

    I converted my spare bedroom/junk room into a studio… Maybe you can get some ideas from what I did.

    I started by thinking about what I wanted to keep in the room, and how I liked to work. For example: I have an insane number of beads, and I wanted to make it easy to find just the right bead at any time. I wanted all my brands and colours of polymer clay easily accessible with no rummaging, even if I finished off a package of a particular colour. I wanted an area that would be suitable for metal clay and metal smithing, when I got around to that. I paint and do a few other things too, so I wanted those materials to be on hand, particularly when I might use them with polymer clay. I like power tools, so they had to fit into the picture. I often have many projects on the go at once so I wanted plenty of bench space, but I don’t like working against a wall so that’s a factor in furniture arrangement. I wanted a “no worries” work surface, where it didn’t matter where I put my polymer clay or where I put hot things. I wanted to be able to put three clamps onto my pasta machines to stop them from bucking around when rolling firm clay. I’d been used to working from three sides of my kitchen bench, so I wanted at least the same degree of flexibility. I was also used to the awesome lighting in my kitchen… would the lighting in the bedroom be sufficient? And so on.

    First up was storage. I put tall bookcases all along the back wall to hold my clay supplies, art supplies, beads, craft books, and so on. Four IKEA Billy bookcases fitted perfectly in my case, and matched the look of the bedroom opposite (where the bookcases actually contain books! fancy that!). IKEA’s Krus containers fit perfectly into the Billy bookcases, so I bought a bunch of those for storing beads, canes, and anything else I wanted to see clearly (they’re crystal clear and happen to be safe for storing Kato clay, semi-safe for Premo, but definitely not safe for Fimo). Like items are grouped together in the bookcases, starting with beads in the leftmost bookcase and ending with paint and general craft items in the rightmost (and canvases banished to the built-in wardrobe), with polymer clay things in the middle to be closest to my workbenches.

    My main working supplies of polymer clay occupy two of the most conveniently situated bookcase shelves. One shelf has my packaged polymer clay, with each brand on its own glass sub-shelf, and all arranged by colour. Packages are stacked all the way to the back of the bookcase so that if I finish a pack I just reach behind for the next pack of the same colour, rather than having to hunt around. A second shelf has containers with mixed custom clay colours, canes, scrap clay, etc. DVDs and books live above these shelves; embellishing materials, release agents, moulds/forms, cleaning products, glazes/finishes, etc., live below. And my bulk clay supplies live in 10 litre plastic boxes on the bottom shelf of that bookcase.

    Next up was my work area. I put two IKEA Udden kitchen benches back-to-back in the middle of the room to make a large island work area. These have stainless steel tops to meet my “no fuss” heatproof requirement, and the island arrangement means I can work from any angle. I bought a stool that was a good height for working at these benches, but I’ve found that I prefer to stand so it basically goes unused.

    The Udden benches have different fittings you can put beneath them, which gave me more storage options while adding enough weight to keep the benches in place. The bench that’s closest to the polymer clay has drawers on one side: the topmost has my clay tools like rollers, rulers, tissue blades, shaped cutters, needle tools, etc.; the middle drawer currently has wireworking and metalworking tools; and the bottom drawer has texture sheets and my chains of colour chips. There’s open shelving on the other side under the bench which lets me clamp pasta machines and other devices to the bench, with the shelves themselves occupied by my convection microwave (I use it in oven mode for curing beads), plus storage for baking trays, oven mitts, polyester batting, ceramic tiles, etc. The other bench has more drawers under it on one side, and a cupboard under it on the other (to be lined with sound-proofing foam; my vibratory tumbler is going to live in there).

    The lighting in the room is fairly good — a large window occupying much of one wall in the daytime, and four halogen downlights at night — but since I had a spare dual halogen floor lamp that I put that in the room too for occasions when I want extra-bright light in a particular area.

    If you’re interested, here’s what my studio looks like (pic taken tonight without any tidying up, so excuse the mess!):

    Sue Fisher Polymer Clay Studio

    [To see larger versions of the pictures, you can click on them.]

    And this is how my main working clay supplies are organised:

    Sue Fisher Polymer Clay Studio

    I still have a bit of tuning to do — for example, the unoccupied left wall is going to have either a couple of half-height bookcases or a low, narrow workbench — but it’s working really well. My biggest remaining hassle is dealing with the remaining junk that used to be in this room! LOL

    Maybe play with a few ideas on paper to see what will fit. I have a 3D modelling program I used, and I also played with IKEA Home Planner once I’d determined that I could get most of the things I wanted from there.

    In any case, good luck, and have fun!

    Sue

    • @Sue F: WOW! I love organization and you certainly have it here. Wonderful ideas and inspiration to work on. All my clay shares a room with my sewing machines and materials plus some of my doll collection. I keep looking around to see how to make better use of this room. It is a converted patio and has windows on three sides. What sounds like great lighting is tinted glass so area lights are necessary. Your bookcases look great and I’m always looking for clear containers. I like your ideas, thanks for sharing.

  14. Wow! That is so fantastic! i would love to be able to do have my own workspace. Right now, things are all over the place. i work on the dining table ( with a cover of course) We are looking at homes and hope we can move soon.

  15. What an awesome space to work in….a real dream studio. Lots of great tips and suggestions too, thanks Sue for the input and pics.
    For now, I’ll have to be content with keeping my small space tidy. Seems I’m almost there when more things enter and need more space of their own!

  16. Fabulous work space Sue!! I dream of an organized space of my own… I clay in the dining room. It works for now. :)

    Peace, Love, and Clay,
    ~Lisa :)

  17. Wow! That is so organized! I’ve got clay supplies competing for space with painting, sewing, and jewelry supplies , so I’m usually looking at a mess. Your room looks so NEAT!! I love the bookshelves and how you’ve organized them with the containers.

  18. Great space! You are going to laugh because my eye was immediately drawn to the pottery along the top shelf.

    My brother is a potter who specializes in barrel-fired raku. The two pieces on the far right of your picture look like that. Am I correct?

  19. Thanks everyone! :)

    I used to clay in the kitchen and had beads, craft and art supplies lurking in three other rooms. It got to the chaos stage before I decided to get my act together and organise it all, but I’m glad I did and now wish I’d done it sooner. It’s just so nice to have everything at hand and plenty of room to mess about in.

    I was lucky enough to have a spare bedroom to convert… the other alternative I considered was to use part of my garage: paint the cement floor and cement render and paint the walls so it didn’t look garage-y, put bench-height-to-ceiling shallow storage all along one side wall, put flip-up or flip-down benches along the same wall so as not to encroach on parking space if I did need to get another car in there, and install more lighting, but it wouldn’t have been as nice and would have been more work to set up. But maybe those ideas will be helpful to someone anyway.

    @aims: It’s hard to see even in the full size photo (which is much bigger than even the large version I uploaded), but neither piece is raku (unfortunately, because I like raku). The piece at the far right is some sort of ceramic, but don’t ask me what! LOL It has a metallic finish so it picks up colours from the dark brown bookcases and surrounds, but because it’s also covered in fine lines you get interesting colour shifts rather than an obvious reflection. The other piece is actually the same as the low bowl that’s standing vertically (third piece from the left); they have a wooden base covered in metal leaf topped with several layers of laquer. The horizontal one is reflecting the bookcase it’s sitting on, which gives that interesting visual effect. I’m a bit of a sucker for “decorator items” and all those pieces were spares that weren’t in use anywhere else in my house at the time, so I figured it would be more interesting to put them up there than back in a cupboard.

  20. Sue F., that is one fantastic studio you have now! I, too, work at my kitchen table and boy, is it a mess! My dream is also to convert a spare bedroom to my studio. I love the convenience of being in the kitchen, near the oven and sink, but have to run out to the garage to use the drill press, which is a pain to get to (anyone like to clean out garages???–call me, lol). You have given me wonderful ideas when I start on making my own workroom/studio, so thank you very much for posting your description and pics! I know you will be very happy in that room, and very creative!

    • @Becky C.: Thanks. :)

      Maybe you could put your drill press in the kitchen… I did! ;D

      That’s a good point about the sink, too. The bedroom I converted is right next to a bathroom so it’s OK for filling and emptying the water containers I use for sanding in the studio, but it was nice having big sinks to work at. Luckily I don’t need to hand-sand much as my tumbler does most of the work, but for my next house I’ll definitely want a sink in the studio.

      The other thing that the kitchen was good for was access to ice for treating translucent clay… so it must be time to buy a bar fridge! LOL

  21. Wow, Sue, this is so colorful and organized! You must be in heaven with such a beautiful room! I guess I missed this and just now saw this. Enjoy!

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