Learning the Fundamentals in Polymer Clay – What You Should Know

Skinner Blend Canes “Video got me really excited about polymer clay, in a way that the books never did.” ~Carol-C

There are some basic skills that all polymer clayers need to know in order to find success with the medium. For example, everyone should be able to do a basic Skinner Blend Cane like the ones in the photo above. There are SO many things you can make with them.

In fact, I’ll be using these simple Skinner Blend canes to make kaleidoscopes in the upcoming Volume-021-1 Polymer Clay Library video tutorial.

Speaking of fundamentals, I want to take a moment to make sure that everyone knows about my 39 part Polymer Clay Beginners Course. Every week I receive quite a few emails that basically ask some rendition of, “Do you have a starter course?” So I am obviously not doing a good enough job of publicizing that I do.

The skills you will learn in this course include proper conditioning, color mixing, baking and sanding/buffing your beads to a professional looking finish. Click this link for a full list of all the topics covered in detail.

I see so many beginners wanting to jump into more advanced techniques with out first getting good at the basics. And that is an expensive way to go. It will likely cost you more than the $37 price of the course, because of all the potential mistakes you can make with your clay and equipment.

Thank you Cindy. Really enjoyed the course and learnt so much. I hesitated in buying the course – often these things are not what they profess to be – but I was not disappointed and very happy to have spent the money – as you really have saved me money. Many thanks again. On the strength of your course I have now subscribed as a monthly member. I look forward to my on going relationship with you. ~Lynn-Z

I’d like to share my thoughts about the Beginners Course. The videos got me really excited about polymer clay, in a way that the books I have, never did. You have allowed me to purchase just what I need to get started, without wasting a lot of time and money on trying various products for myself. I like your emphasis on a quality product. I think that’s what’s been missing from the experience I’ve had with polymer clay, whether in books or pieces I’ve seen. I have high standards for my jewelry and I think that the lengthy sanding is where most people don’t seem to go. ~Carole-C

Cindy: There are no words to describe how much I love your course! I have books and videos and tapes but nothing can compare to your course.  Each video is concise and clear. Even the camera angle is superb. Other videos are shot from the front and you see more of the teacher than what she or he is actually doing. I go back to your videos time and time again because no matter how much I watch, I still need to check out something once I actually begin the hands-on portion. The cost is more than fair. Even in these difficult times the price is affordable. You are the best and I am thrilled that I found you. On top of everything else you seem to be such a sweet and unassuming person so each video is like a visit with a good friend. I love you, Cindy! ~Beverle-S

Watching the video lessons is almost like having me in the room with you, holding your hand at every step along the way.

Hi Cindy. The manner of your teaching is pleasant and relaxed. I feel like I’m in your studio having coffee with you. Your course is teaching me the correct way to do things. The camera work is great, close enough to see the detail. You share all of your vast knowledge on each subject, not just the general instructions. I’m very pleased. ~Sandra-M

Plus you have 24/7 access to the videos right in the comfort of your own home. You can watch them as often as you like for as long as you need.

Cindy – I think we are the ones who are blessed to of found you. Thank you for everything I have learned and continue to learn. I have each and every one of your videos. I still continue to go back and watch all of them over and over learning even more each time. You do not have to be a beginner to get much needed information from the Beginner Polymer Clay Course.  Even some parts that I had read about in books before, watching it on video helped me to understand it better. I also want to thank you for all the questions you have answered for me. You make me feel like no question is a silly question. Also thank you to all of the other members who have helped with my questions and concerns. I feel like Cindy has made us all a part of a special little clay family where we can help each other. So I am sending all a special THANK YOU! Keep Claying. ~Peggy-B

If you want a comparison that might put my (incredibly inexpensive) $37 price into perspective for you, have a look what the Fundamentals in Polymer Clay Workshop would cost you at the upcoming June 2010 Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee. It’s $585 — At this price, I have no doubt the event will provide quality instruction. But once it’s over, it’s over. No video lessons to go back to as a refresher. And no supportive online community when you need a little extra helping hand with something.

Hi Cindy, I thought your course was very valuable and well done. I wish I would have come across your site so much earlier. I have been fumbling around with polymer clay for awhile now, and in many ways, I do mean fumbling. There were many times I found myself thinking “Of course!” or “Aha!” or just “Duh” why didn’t I think of that,” while watching the videos. This is a fantastic course for someone who wants to save a lot of frustration (and money) while learning to use polymer clay. Your tag-line says it best, “I learned by making mistakes… Now you don’t have to.” Thank you so much for making this available.  I love all the information and videos I’ve seen on your site. ~Dawn-B

If you want even more feedback from real students who have already been through the course, please take the time to read their comments here: Polymer Clay Beginners Course Reviews

Or if you are ready to invest just $37 in the best Polymer Clay Basics Video Course on the web today, then click here to order and get instant access to the lessons. They are delivered directly to you via the Internet, right to your computer screen.

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** Win Some Polymer Clay Beads: Handmade by Cindy Lietz.
Time to send in your photo entires: Polymer Clay Giveaway Contest

For anyone who wants to follow along from beginning, the following link will take you to a summary of all the articles in this fun and educational Polymer Clay Bead Giveaway series.

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Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


Comments

  1. Cindy, the best thing about your site is the continuing support. If I try one of your techniques and have a problem with it, I can just ask questions here and I know they will be answered.

    Everyone’s so willing to share their experiences and advice and ideas. It’s awesome. :)

  2. Cindy,

    I have been a member of your Polymer Clay Video Library for well over a year, and only just recently purchased the Beginners Course. It is worth every penny and I should have purchased it sooner. I have taken quite a few PC classes at the local craft stores and paid $20.00 a lesson and did not learn half of what I learned with your course. Each video teaches me some thing I did not know before! At the craft store we would spend about 2 hours being instructed and then when I went home I would not remember half of what I was taught because I was too busy following instructions and couldn’t take notes. With your course I can take my time and watch it over and over whenever I want and it is like you are teaching only me and concentrating on me alone instead of 4 or 5 people. I love it!! Thanks so much for the time and energy you put into your work! I enjoy everything you do!

  3. Loved your course and as it was mentioned there is 24/7 availablity. I’ve paid for quite a few classes in different mediums and yes, after a few days I’ve forgotten many important details and forget about trying to read my scribbled notes (I can’t even make out my handwriting!). More importantly, Cindy, is that I feel, as I’m sure everyone else does, that you are a friend, always helping when help is requested. For all of this, this course and subsequent membership in your monthly videos is: PRICELESS!!!

  4. Thanks SO MUCH gals, for adding your comments to this post. Silverleaf touched on something that I also think is awesome… how everyone here is so willing to share experiences, advice and ideas. Although I have to charge a small amount for members to have full access my video tutorials, all of the conversations and discussions happen out in the open for everyone’s benefit… whether you are a paid member or not. I think many “observers” don’t realize how much free information is actually available here at this site.

    @Maureen – You may not know this, but I used to also teach live craft classes just like the $20 per lesson workshops that you described in your comment above. There most certainly can be a fun element to being in a room with others, especially when you have a fun teacher guiding you along. But there are downsides as well, as you pointed out. At the end of the day, I can honestly say that web video has really made it possible to bring quality instruction to a much broader audience at such a reasonable price.

    @Catherine – Thank you for mentioning about the friendship aspect of the community here. I am so pleased to have been given the opportunity to meet all of you guys too… at least in a virtual sort of way. I am also delighted to see that many of the friendships which began here at the blog, have extended into your local communities with meet ups and informal get togethers. It makes me feel good to have been able to contribute on that level.

  5. All of this, so true. This is the PC place to be. I have been poking around the web for nearly a year, thinking about getting my polymer clay out of storage and getting back into it. This is the only place I have found where you get your questions answered quickly and the people are genuinely caring and sharing. Cindy Lietz is a superwoman; there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all that she does. (I don’t know how she does it, even with her husband’s help…). Now that I am a member, I’m so pleased. Its value is well beyond such a small price!

    I haven’t purchased the Fundamental’s Course yet, but I probably will by the time I get the rest of my work area set up. I feel comfortable with the basics, but Cindy always has such great tips in her videos that you just don’t find anywhere else. I’m working in a “temporary set-up” location right now, doing some caning and Valentine’s items. But after that, I think I will head on back to the beginning and do her course. I don’t want to miss anything!

    • @Phaedrakat:
      You won’t be sorry, I know I wasn’t. I’m not sure when I joined I think it has almost been a year. All I do know is I have blown a lot of money on crafts over the years. But all of this with Cindy is an investment. If I may add, one of the best investments I have ever made. All the knowledge in the beginners course is just phenomenal. I thought I already knew enough to get buy without the beginners course (WRONG) I new some of it but now I understand all of it. Everytime which has been a lot of times I go back for a refresher I feel refreshed and ready to create. Cindy was definitely born to teach. The only mistake I have made was not joining the very first time I came across this fantastic site. I might not feel well enough to do the tuts as them come to me but I try in time and LOVE every second of it. I enjoy everyone here in the group and we just get better and better with each day Cindy and her husband give us. Cindy you are very blessed with this talent you have passed on to us which in turn makes us even more blessed. I have said this before but,
      THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU!!!!!!
      God Bless you and all of us here.

  6. Peggy,
    Thanks for responding – I know everything you said is true. I, too, recognize my mistake in not joining right away, but hey — at least I’m here now! I love the sense of community as well as the instruction. Blessings to you and yours,

  7. Cindy here… blushing. Thanks so much for the kind words. I feel so honored to know that my teaching is having such a positive impact. Thank you, thank you, thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share your thoughts in such a public way.

    Below is another related comment from Coberue that was posted in another thread this morning (see link by my name for for the original reference)…

    “Hi,Cindy- I just wanted to say that I would have never even started polymer claying if I hadn’t taken your beginning Tutorial class. I had no idea where to start. The price was incredibly low! Michael’s offers no classes in my area (suburban Chicago, Il) and even if they did, they would not begin to include all the information you taught in your Tutorial. I learned everything I needed to know to get started. Then I wasn’t afraid to dig in and GO! The videos were very clear and concise and your presented them so well that I know exactly what to do. I have since purchased many books (second hand from Amazon marketplace) and their instructions are very unclear, although I have been able to learn and see many new things from them. But your instructions are A#1! And your price is unbelievable! Thank you, Cindy, for providing such a wonderful Tutorial! I learned so much and I have since purchased almost all of the back issues of the videos and have joined the club too! I continue to learn everyday and play with the clay almost every day.” ~Coberue

  8. OOOOOO! Kaleidoscopes! I can’t wait!
    That workshop price is a steal for all the info you will impart. I will recommend it to as many people as I can.

  9. I’m not sure Shannon, but it sounds like you think I am the one teaching the workshop at the Bead and Button Show. It is not me, but actually Jill Erickson that’s teaching it. I was just using her price point of $585 as a comparison to my $37 price. I am sure her class will be great. In fact it is currently sold out.

    If you still want to send people to my course you can. The link is right by my name :-) Thank you so much for all your support. I love having you around here!

  10. After reading this I am sold. I’m starting to feel better and better each day after my surgery. I just hope I’m not too late for the contest. I don’t know how to E-Mail photos but I’ll see what I can do. I just wish I had more computer knowledge.

    I’ll say it again, “I don’t know what I would do without this site” I wish you and your husband, with all your talents, all the luck in the world. Oops, all the members too. Love everything about this site. Luck and Love to everyone.

    Honey, West Palm Beach, Fl.

  11. Hi Helen – Glad to hear you are feeling better. We missed you over the last couple of weeks. And I’ll say it again… thanks for your kind words about the site. I’m so happy that you are enjoying it.

    Congratulations on getting your Gravatar working. I know you were having challenges with this, but you worked your way through it. Yay! So I’m sure you will also be able to figure out the photo emailing thing. Not sure if you saw my comment to you from a few weeks ago, but I provided some tips that you may find helpful (click link by my name).

  12. I have to agree learning the basics is important. I bought Nan Roche first book and it helped alot. I have seen some of (the back then artists) and how far they have come. Gwen Gidson,Nan Roche,Donna Kato,Jana Roberts Benzon, Sara Shriver,Judy Belcher,Grant Diffendaffer,and Karen (Klew) Lewis are just a few I have watched and worked with their techniques and made some beautiful things. I am one that likes to try hard things and I feel real good when everything works out. So you all are in the right place to learn from beginning and forward. Cuz there is really no end, you will always be learning. As Cindy said when she knows it all she will quit. And we all know there is still more to learn. And we all will continue to learn til the end. Keep up the great work everyone.

  13. Sorry Gwen Gibson is how her name is spelled. Cindy you do a great job along with your husband to keep everyone of your members in the know. And you are also right that there is alot of helpful info to the NON-Members.

  14. new to polymer clay and computer use ! one question that concerns me and after much searching have not found an answer ,fimo liquid gel must be baked at 130 and fimo clay at 110. when using the two together what is an effective and safe temp. to use . help!

  15. @christine le grice: Hi, Christine, and Welcome! Since you’re a beginner, make sure you understand all the steps needed to work with polymer clay. Cindy’s Fundamentals Course is a great way to learn. I’m hoping you’ve decided to take it; but if you haven’t, at least read the topics covered in the course (there’s a link in the article above.) If there’s anything you do not understand, a search on the topic (use the box at the top left side of the page) will get you more information & articles on the subject. Make sure you understand the really important steps (like conditioning your clay!) You can also leave another comment to ask more questions.

    Baking: The rule when using two different types of clay together, is to bake them at the lower temperature. BUT, you bake them for a longer period of time. Your Fimo clay can handle temperatures UP TO 130C, but if your oven spikes while reheating, or you have hot spots in your oven, your clay could burn. So it’s better to bake at a lower temperature like 110/120C for at least 1 hour. (If your piece is very thick, bake it even longer.) Just make sure you use an oven thermometer so you can monitor the temperature. Clay burns when the oven is too hot, not when it is left in too long. (It’s not like baking a cake!)

    Most ovens cycle, heating up & cooling down a lot. Using the “low temp/long time” method makes it safe, yet effective for your clays. The temperature doesn’t get too high & burn the regular Fimo. Yet it also works for the Fimo Liquid; the extended baking gives the polymers plenty of time to bond during its periodic times at the proper temperature.

    There are other important do’s & don’ts when baking polymer clay. Make sure to read a few of the articles here at the website to get tips on things like using ceramic tiles (what to bake on,) how to tent your beads, or use cornstarch to prevent darkening, etc. Here is one article on baking clay, that has lots of information PLUS links to additional baking articles — just click on the links to get more baking tips.)

    Good luck, and Happy Claying!

  16. Thanks so much for all the information about how to bake polymer clay properly. Its good to have guidelines which we can trust. Trouble is I spend far too much time reading all this fascinating stuff, must really get on with the practical!

    • @christine le grice: I know, it’s hard, especially when one subject leads to another! Just make sure you have a good grasp of all of the basics (Conditioning, Baking, Sanding/Buffing, and Finishing) before you dig in to your clay. (I’m guessing by “the practical,” you’re talking about the hands-on working with the clay.)

      So I’ll just mention the first 2, hehehe. Conditioning is important so that the plasticizers are mixed throughout the clay, so you don’t get cracks or breakage later. Baking at the proper temperature (use an oven thermometer to be sure!) for the right length of time is also crucial, so that the plasticizers are completely cured. If your piece is underbaked, it can break down slowly over time. So…conditioning & baking — super important aspects of working with clay. Anyway, now you can dig in and get busy with this fun and fascinating medium! Yippee! Put your hands in that clay and have fun! :D

  17. I think I posted this in the wrong place the first time. I’m new to this whole blogging thing so I don’t really know how it works. This is what I posted: HELP! I am trying to condition some white Premo so I can finally start my opal making. I bought this Premo about a week ago but I’m fearing it may be old. When I ran it through my pasta machine for the first time I ended up with a pile of crumbles. I picked them all up and squished them together, ran those through again only to end up with a new pile of crumbles. I tried putting it into a plastic ziplock bag and submerging it in hot water. That worked for a few passes in the pasta machine but then it just kept breaking up. I spent literally 30 minutes rolling it into a snake and folding to condition it by hand but as soon as I thought it was conditioned and ready to use it started falling apart again. I have been working on this one piece of clay for over an hour trying to condition it. Is there anything I can do to make it hold together or should I just throw it away and go buy more? Thank you

    • @Cheryl V.: This sure doesn’t sound like Premo! Don’t throw it away … polyform who makes Premo! may want it for testing. You should probably contact them … sculpey.com/products/clays/studio-sculpey

      If you don’t want to go that route, you could add some clay softener – also by Sculpey. Or, you could try adding a drop at a time of baby oil.

      • @carolyn: Thank you Carolyn. I will try contacting Polyform and see what they say. That’s a great idea. Thank you for the suggestions.

      • @carolyn: I want to thank you again Carolyn. I got a very nice and quick reply from Polyform. They are going to replace the clay for me. I sure wasn’t expecting that. Thank you also for the softener tip.

        • @Cheryl V.: I knew Polyform was a great company and I had hoped that they would replace it, but I didn’t want to say that before. I didn’t want you thinking that the only reason to contact them was to get a replacement. It sure does feel good when a company truly stands behind their product.

    • @Cheryl V.:

      LOL! Never throw out clay. You have to put on your scientist jacket and figure out how to reconstitute it so that you can use it.

      Use the small coffee grinder to break up old clay and mix in additives to soften (drop of mineral oil is my fave). Gather it up and pop it into a recycled plastic baggie, massage it a minute, then let it sit overnite. The next day….beautiful clay.

  18. Well, I sent an email to Polyform but I think I already know what they are going to say. I went to the FAQ page and this is what it says about clay that is firm: “However, if it is already hard and crumbly, it has either had too much exposure to heat or old enough to have already undergone some chemical changes. At this stage, it cannot be reconstituted satisfactorily.” I am going to go ahead and try the baby oil because I have nothing to lose at this point right?

    • @Cheryl V.: Hi Cheryl, as long as the clay isn’t cured, there are other things you can try, as well. Your clay just sounds old — I’ve got lots of it that had been stored away, and it can be fixed. You just have to be patient with it. Especially since this is for the center of the opals — the outside of them is Bake & Bond, right?

      Fimo Mix-Quick, Sculpey Dilutent, mineral oil, liquid clay (any of them!) or even Sculpey Mold-Maker are all good things to soften your clay. Don’t overdo the softeners, especially something like baby or mineral oil. If you have a food processor, it makes the job faster. Or if you have some soft clay (like some translucent?) you could mix that with your white to see if that helps get it to a better consistency. Here’s a comment I left for someone else about conditioning crumbly clay, that has links to some of Cindy’s great articles and comments/answers. Let us know how it turns out! Good luck :~D

      • @Phaedrakat: Hi Phaedrakat, Thank You so much for all of the great ideas and tips for dealing with this frustrating clay. I just returned from a day trip to the coast and now I am ready to tackle the clay again. By the way, Polyform replied really fast to my email and they want to replace the clay. Isn’t it wonderful to see that there are companies that stand behind their products and we are lucky enough to want and need them as much as they need us. I am very impressed! Everyone on here is very impressive also!! I am learning so much from all of you and I thank you all for sharing yourselves with us.

        • @Cheryl V.: That’s wonderful! I didn’t expect that! Is the clay you wrote them about fairly new, or have you had it for a while? I’m curious about Polyform’s criteria for offering to replace clay. I know my own clay is quite old, so I would never ask for a replacement. But if I ever get some that I can’t condition, it’s good to know that they will replace it! And as for you, now you have some “free” clay to mess with. If you can’t get it into a workable state, you can use it for pebbles or whatever — your fresh stuff is on the way! :D

          • @Phaedrakat: I bought two 2oz. blocks of the clay a little over a week ago. I offered to send the crumbly clay back to Polyform but I got another really nice email from Pat and she said that was not necessary. Again, I never expected them to replace it and I certainly didn’t expect to be told to keep the frustrating clay. Just another statement about Polyform’s integrity! I have just ordered a clay extruder so that I can try making the Jupiter beads so I think I can use this hard clay in those. And I’ve been working on my opals all day (finally). OH HAPPY DAY!

  19. Great advice Phaedrakat and Carolyn! What would I do without great people like you coming to the rescue! It is support like this that create such a strong community spirit here.

    Cheryl, if you still have lumpy or crumbling clay after trying the tips above, it could mean it is partially cured and will never be normal again. (Maybe that’s why I’m not normal, I’m partially cured! LOL).

    Don’t despair though. If it is cured, you can still use this clay for making faux pebble beads or faux stones. You’ll just need to add it to some normal, non-crumbly clay, to get it to hold all the chunky bits together!

    • @Cindy Lietz from Purple Leopard Cane: WOW, Cindy, what a great idea. I have followed the link and I can’t wait to try this awesome project. I love this wonderful community! I feel like I’m finally home :-) My biggest problem is that I spend so much time reading everything, I’m not getting any clay projects done. I plan to get busy since my vacation is almost over. Thank you for all of your amazing ideas and teaching. You make everything look so easy and fun.

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