In today’s Studio Tip, I am going to talk about Polymer Clay Tools for Beginners.
Now I am a professional polymer clay instructor with a nice studio filled with all kinds of tools, supplies, paints, inks and that kind of thing… but that isn’t where I started out. I started out as a beginner… just like everyone else.
So, I wanted to share with you some of the things I learned and show you the real basic tools that will get you started working with polymer clay.
I dug around in my studio and found the very first polymer clay beads and canes that I ever made. I though you might like to see them.
A long time ago (probably 20 years now), I was watching the Carol Duvall Show on HGTV and Donna Kato (a well known polymer clay artist who has created the Kato Polyclay line of products), came on and made this polymer clay cane. I was absolutely fascinated with what she could do with that squishy block of plastic clay!
Now I had been a little bit familiar with Fimo… played with it as a kid and actually had a block or two, and some Sculpey III, in my craft stash. But I had no idea that you could make such cool things… until seeing Carol and Donna on that fateful day. Ever since, I’ve been hooked on polymer clay.
The very first thing I made was this flower cane that was all wonky (see video)… but I was so delighted with it. Just to show you how far I have come since then, here is an example of the Easter Lily Cane that I now teach people to make and is is so much more detailed and beautiful compared to my original quirky little flower cane.
I went on to make another cane, ended up combining it with the first cane, to make this cane here (see video). That was when I got really excited about the whole process. That you could take these wonky canes and end up with something that was super detailed.
Back then there wasn’t a lot of information on how to do things, so I had to figure out a lot of the stuff on my own. Over the years I have figured out the basic things that you will need to have success with working with polymer clay. And this is the advice that I give to beginners just starting out…
To be honest all you HAVE to have is a block of clay, your hands and an oven. But there are some things that will make the process a lot easier and I have broken it down into these five things…
(1) Work Surface: You need something to work on that is non-porous. I absolutely LOVE my We-R-Memory-Keepers glass cutting mat. But… a plastic place-mat; plastic or glass cutting board; smooth cermaic or glass tile; craft mat or other nonporous surface… will also work just fine. Polymer clay will leach oils into any porous surface like wood, bamboo, unsealed stone, etc., and will not only ruin the surface, but will also cause the clay to become stiffer when the oils leach out.
(2) Roller: You need something to roll your clay with. There are so many techniques that require a nice flat even sheet of polymer clay, that you will need to roll out. An Acrylic roller is perfect for this, because it is smooth, nonporous and nonreactive with polymer clay. Alternatives are acrylic brayers, some plastic kitchen rollers, a straight sided drinking glass, the side of a pen… but I like an 8″ Acrylic Roller the best. Of course, as you advance, you will definitely want a pasta machine to roll out your sheets of polymer… but we are just talking about basic tools to start with.
(3) Clay Blade: You are going to need something to cut your clay with. Some people use an Exacto Knife or a razor blade, but my tool of choise is a clay blade. There are many out there including the Sculpey Super Slicer set of several blades and a set of handles. You will use this blade to cut strips, shapes, canes and to lift your clay sheets from your work surface. Without a clay blade these tasks are much more difficult to accomplish.
(4) Shaping Tools: If you want to sculpt or make anything that has some shape or detail to it, you will need some basic sculpting tools. This could be something as simple as a tooth pick or the side of a pen, but there are many great sculpting tool options out there. One set that I use very often, is the Sculpey Style and Detailing Set that has three different metal ball stylus’ on one end, and different shaped rubber tips on the other. You can use tools like these to ruffle the edges of flowers, create cups and rounded shapes, sculpt faces, draw on details etc. As you advance you will likely want to add even more sculpting tools to your collection as well.
(5) Baking Set-up: Once you have created your polymer clay masterpieces, you will need to bake them. It is important to do this properly, because under baked pieces will break, and pieces baked at too high a temp will scorch and discolor. You will need an oven thermometer, an insulated pan or tile, layered with paper, and a tent or foil pan lid to protect your pieces from the top element. See video for what to use and how to use it.
These are the basic things that you will need to have success, when getting started with polymer clay. In fact, if I had to move to a deserted island (with power of course), and could only take the bare minimum, the items I described in this video are what would be in my tool kit :-)
- Related Video: We-R Memory Keepers Glass Mat
- Related Video: The Acrylic Roller Polymer Clay Tool
- Related Video: Polymer Clay Cutting Blades
- Related Video: Polymer Clay Oven Thermometer
- Related Video: Foil Pans For Your Polymer Clay Oven
- Related Article: Style And Detail Sculpting Tools
Do you have any suggestions for videos on tips, techniques or products you would like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section below!
My goal is to help you to learn quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.
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