Sunday, July 12, 2015

Polymer Clay Baking and Safety Tips

There is a lot of conflicting information about polymer out there. It's hard to know what's true and what's not. Much is passed from clayer to clayer. I made a list of some of the biggest tips and advice I hear and the best truth I could find, not just "what everyone knows". Admittedly I am more laid back than most but here are some of info I found.

1. Don't eat it. TRUE This is a big duh but actually this rule sums up how safe it is. You can do just about anything to it, with it but just don't eat it. It's not toxic but it's still not good to eat.

2.. You NEED a dedicated oven.  FALSE. The good news is it is safe to use your own oven based on this study from Duke University. You can use a dedicated oven if you want but if you want to spare the expense, your home oven is fine to use. An oven thermometer is a must have have but I discovered my new oven with digital thermometer is super accurate.
If the fumes bother you, some people might not even notice, you can use a covered dish or I discovered plastic turkey bags work really well to keep the fumes in. The fumes are non-toxic unless you burn the clay and this won't happen until 300F for most clays.

3. Any tools or trays you use must be dedicated to clay only TRUE. This is definitely true. Kitchen tools work well for polymer clay  - like garlic presses, rolling pins, graters and more. If you use it for clay, make it clay only. You might be able to fully clean nonporous smooth tools but don't tempt fate here. If it is porous in anyway like wood, it's all clay or not at all.

4. Don't use it to make dishes or anything to eat off of. TRUE, polymer clay is porous and even if you glaze it, you can't keep the bacteria out and it is not safe for eating off of either.

5. Don't burn it. TRUE This is crucial, this is the only time the fumes are toxic. Different clays bake at different temperatures so check the package. Fimo will bake at 260 F, Kato needs to be 300F to fully cure. Things can get tricky, I've burnt it with a heat gun and baked it at 400 (for 5 minutes)
The flip side is you can bake it over and over as needed without burning the clay.

6. Don't mix clays. IT DEPENDS As far as baking goes, if you mixing clays - either mixing colors or using different types in one piece there shouldn't be any problems. Most clays cure near 275F so mixing them isn't an issue. I just wouldn't use clays at the 2 extremes (Fimo 230 and Kato at 300) Either one can be mixed with Premo, Sculpey, Cernit etc that cure at 275. I usually use a temperature in the middle to bake it at.
Another consideration is if you are caning. When caning you want all the clays to be the same firmness so when you reduce the cane it will reduce equally. Clays vary firmness by brand and also color to make things more complicated.

7. Beware of phthalates in clay. NA  Dioctyl phthalate was used as a plasticizer in polymer clay but due to possible health risks, it was banned. And all clays were reformulated without  phthalates. It has made a few clays, like Kato and Fimo Classic, slightly more pliable but they are stiff stiff.

These are just a few of tips and hints about polymer clay clarified. I've also found there were no absolutes. Cynthia Tinapple of PolymerClayDaily has projects when she uses temperatures of 400F (for 5 minutes) and others were she just uses a heat gun.

I personally used my own oven for years until I went to clay guilds and was later told this was a big no-no and I need to buy an dedicated oven. I decided to risk it since I had been using my own for so long; I was glad when I found studies proved I wasn't poisoning my family all along.

There are a lot of tips and advice concerning polymer clay, more than I can list here and many can be broken.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sweet Treats-Polymer Clay Cupcake Tutorial

 This week I got a new mold for making cupcakes from MiniatureSweet on Etsy. It's silicon so you can bake in it but I was so excited to be making cupcakes, I couldn't wait any longer.

My inner sweet tooth took over and I was on a roll. I had a blast and even better these tasty treats were really each to make.
Put pastel color in mold

I started off using a cupcake base mold. I decided to indulge in actually buying the mold since no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get a regular base. This mold made all the difference.

I filled the mold with pastel color to make it look like a cupcake wrapper. I didn't quite fill it all the way but then I pushed the clay against the edges, in the case of molds - less is more.

Add Chalk for baked look

I left the base in the mold mainly to keep its shape and also to keep the icing from getting all over the place. I took a small circle of ecru and pressed it on the top of the base, pressing down the edges to give a rounded shape.

Then I used a toothbrush texture the top, just tapping it all across and added a little brown chalk to give it backed look.

Now for the fun part - the icing! I wanted a natural fluffy icing. It is easy to make but takes some patience. I mixed pink polymer clay icing cut up into very small bit with about the same amount of liquid polymer clay and mixed - this takes a while and you'll probably need to add more liquid clay as you go along. I left it a little chunky to give it some texture.

Ok THIS is the fun part decorating the cupcake. Notice the cupcake is still in the base. As you can see in picture above- the dark pink has some icing on the side.

Using a toothpick I dotted the icing on and and swirled until it looked right to me. Now I took it out. The mold is really flexible and didn't need any release material like water or cornstarch. I just flexed it a little and the cupcake popped out.  You know, it wasn't until I started writing that I realized that this is really unusual compared to so many other molds I have- and tend not to use.

After I popped it out I added some sprinkles, I make those by baking some very thin snakes and then cutting them up. It worked better than unbaked sprinkles. To make it a charm, just add an eye pin before baking.

My sweet tooth can't get enough - get out my shop for more charms

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Making Polymer Clay Boxes

Steampunk Box

Trinket Box

Garden Box

I have been having fun making boxes and it is even nicer to me when I realize I can make things that can be used as well as be pretty. I made this heart decorated pink trinket box thinking of my daughter from when she was little.

She has always loved pink - even today, her hair is pink. She was a tomboy who still like all those girly things and being a princess. It's all polymer clay - pink with gold trim and a heart shaped knob. In fact she said if she had anything to put in it like jewelry, she'd want it. It looks like it belongs to a little princess.

Check out tjese polymer clay boxes in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Anxiety - How do you deal with it?

I've been going through a rough patch with my anxiety. Even more so since it feels like it's something that is really hard to talk. How do you explain that just asking for a cup of coffee today is making you feel like you want to jump out of your skin when the day before you were chatting it up with the waitress and asking about her nail polish

There are lots of ways to deal with it and there are all sorts of triggers for different people, crowds is a big. It's always great to find someone else who understands what you're feeling. It feels even better when you realize even the famous deal with those same issues. I saw Wil Weaton's blog today --
How do I deal with anxiety where he answered the question for one of his fans. 

If you don't remember, Wil Weaton started off as Wesley on Star Trek: the Next Generation. You might not know that he is still very involved in different in the industry and also many conventions for sci-fi, comic book and other fans. His answer was very honest and upfront: 

. The first step for me is to recognize that anxiety is rising up, and then work to identify what’s causing it. (I realize that, for some people, doing just that can cause the anxiety to increase into a feedback loop, so maybe meds are a better first step until the anxiety gets under control). If I’m able to identify the cause (maybe it’s upcoming travel, or a deadline, or I have to deal with a personal thing that I’d rather not deal with) I work to separate RATIONAL thoughts from IRRATIONAL thoughts. This is a real challenge, because the brain is responsible for that job, and when the brain is being controlled by anxiety or other mental health issues, it can be less than helpful. 

I find it great to see people talking about their own mental health issues, since it is so hard to talk about. I've tried hiding it and have heard, just snap out of, I hope mental health will stop be a taboo subject as more and more people are willing to talk and share their experiences.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tutorial Thursday - Miniature Cakes

I am always on the look at for new tutorial, some are fun to just read others, I have to try. I am always intrigued by miniatures and frankly there are lots of tutorials out there for making cakes and other sweets but this one really caught me. It goes through the steps in great detail and tips. All those but why is my cake not like the one on You-tube seemed to be answered. Even better it is free and shares all the secrets.

I found this on It is written by talty who has a number of other tutorials listed there. She goes through the each step clearly and descriptive. I have made a number of cake slices and they look amazing just following her steps. If you like doing miniatures, you'll love this tutorial.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dying Yarn with Food Colors

I finished my needles out of the closet a few months ago and have been having fun knitting up a storm. I've gotten fussier with the yarns I want to use - I really don't want to use acrylic, I just don't like the way the colors look. I've bought some skeins of wool and wool blends but wool yarn often can get expensive and too often I don't find the colors I'm looking for anyway.

I do have about 3 lbs of Fisherman's Wool from Lion's Brand that I bought several years ago that is sitting there but it is just unbleached and I couldn't get excited over it. I've seen a number websites about dying with KoolAid and I figured I'd try it. Looking around I found this site and they added in food coloring as well for an idea, especially since the Lime (for green is really hard to find). This site had lots of great ideas but was light on the actual technique. On Instructables, I found this article for the how-tos of dying with food color.

So putting them together, I bought some Wilton's food coloring at Micheal's, about 10 dollars for 8 colors and picked up so vinegar. When I got home I found some other food dye as well. I had fun this afternoon playing colors in a new way. I mostly single colors and some like the pink and the orange seem very close. The brown is the exception here. when I got done, I had too much orange and wanted to try something else. I took the orange and then used the Wilton Purple to dye it again to get brown.

So now I have a rainbow of yarns to knit with and also some ideas for overdyeing so of the icky colors I have sitting around. I have 2 more pounds of fingerman's wool too. Even better, the dyeing process itself, softens up the wool.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How handmade is that?

Oh no!

 What is handmade?

Basically Etsy defines it as almost anything. Basically hand-assembled was "handmade" - so string a charm on necklace was handmade and designing a product but having it manufactured also is if you orchestrate the process. They also made this a dead topic in their forums. It usually happens when someone who sells something that is on the edge complains (no insult intended)

What is the line where an item is handmade or are there levels of handmade?

Obviously the charm necklace you buy at Target isn't handmade but is it really handmade if you buy the same charm and a chain and slide the charm on. Etsy said it was. A cluster of charms and beads in a unique way - well you're getting closer. You made the charm or pendant yourself - definitely handmade.

The best explanation I found is how raw are the materials you start with. That single charm is pretty much a finished product so not raw. You put a couple together - a little more work is involved. You made the charm/pendant? Definitely but even there, you can apply the same rule.

Then there is the question of embellishing a finished item - I'd say it depends.

This watermelon stool definitely is. It's suddenly makes you look at it differently, it's creative - it's a product than a plain stool would be. It's an original design.
 Stool By WoodWorxDesign

It goes on and on. Within the handmade community, this can be a hot topic and can push a lot of buttons, it an interesting topic that is really hard to define.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fun with Christi Freisen

Stained Glass Polymer Clay Wallhanging[/caption]

This weekend I had the thrill of doing another bunch of workshops with Christi Friesen in her stop in NYC in her world tour of workshops. I had only planned to go to 2 but I decided once I was at the first to go and do all 4. Each featured different techniques but the techniques or projects just feel like the arrow on the way. Each class was different, we did vessels on Thursday (I'm not happy with my  results on that one so I'm just not posting it)

"Painterly" or painting with polymer clay on Friday.

Saturday we started with Pegasuses, like I said I almost didnt go on Saturday because I already do her sculpture and the other project (stained glass) didn't really interest me.

Saturday we started with Pegasuses, like I said I almost didnt go on Saturday because I already do her sculpture and the other project (stained glass) didn't really interest me on paper but honestly I think I did my best stuff on Saturday but wasn't the reason I took the extra day.

If you never had a class with her, they are just plain fun. It's like hanging with your best bud. When I've had people say another work shop with her, why not something more advanced, would you ask me why I hang out with a friend too much? There are a bunch of Christi groupies there (including myself). She is free and easy with pictures and videos - here is a video I took of her teaching a simple leaf tuorial.

But she sneaks learning in, between techniques there are lots of words of wisdom between the laughs. Learning doesn't have to be hard, just like you can learn a lot from friends sitting around just talking, you can learn a lot in her workshops. First one is who you are and what you do is right. She makes it okay to be a super newbie who never picked up clay before or hobbiest or selling or an aspiring artist or all of them. I love when we were talking about moving forward towards becoming a recognized artist or finding your own style and just learning to enjoy having fun with clay and let it all come out.

She makes everyone feel comfortable and is great at finding the best in your work. She is so smart and so ready to share what she knows and what she makes, the freedom is great. I like that she feels art should be shared and techniques should be shared. People will copy, we all do but by copying and sharing we all gain.

Finding Inspiration at home

Polymer clay Urban Setting Wall Hanging

One take away from my class with Christi freisen two weeks ago was if you want to explore, you have to just create and not worry so much about what am I going to do with it after. With that in mind I've been letting my self just work in whatever size of shape I needed. Most stuff has been the size of mini wall hanging. Working without worrying if it will sell or what will I do with it, has been freeing. I've forgotten how fun that can be.

I'm also a city girl. I am not in an concrete jungle, there are lots of trees in my city and I am sitting in my backyard right now. I wanted to get across the beauty that is here. There is concrete and rust and noise but there is a lot to love. I find that forgotten in a lot of work. Nature is beautiful maybe even more so when you see it can still survive and peak through all that man has made.

I like where I am and as beautiful as the country is, I enjoy the city. I just want to share this beauty.

Turn Left

 Like that Doctor Who episode, you make decisions all the time, never knowing what the final outcome will. Sometimes you don't even realize you're making a decision or what impact it will have. I decided to start tax school but I think the real decision was started back in 2011 when I took 3 really short contract positions in a row, nothing was the same after that. Although honestly I didn't really like any of those jobs. And I really hated working contract positions, it's like always being on a first date. I'm cutting ties and going to tax school (I went last year but didn't finish since I got what was supposed to be a long-term contract and actually lasted 6 weeks) so I already know I like it and am good at it. It feels like such a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's only a couple of blocks away so I can walk instead of an hour-long commute.

This past year I also got back into knitting as I posted a few times. It has been like therapy for me. I'm still sculpting and smooshing the clay but knitting is my hobby for relaxing, when I'm watching TV or just waiting in the doctor's office. I've come to the conclusion I need to do what works best for me. Even if means taking a job my husband feels isn't "good" enough for me, just taking this a little slower and stop stressing about the little stuff.

I also went to the doctor this week, it seems I have really bad allergies to something but god knows what. Since I have had issues with my sinuses for years and no real sense of smell in years, I assume this isn't new but this month it got really bad and I couldn't breathe and nothing seemed to work.

I know this post is different from most but I also decided to change my slant on my blog. Just showing off my work isn't working for me or it seems anyone else. Actually I find it boring too. So over the next few months, I'll be making a few changes but nothing too major.

Making a Doll - Fail

In my last post, I went through some of my early steps in making this doll. She 's not quite finished but she is close. Her clothes aren't finished yet but she already has quite personality. I find my self thinking of Magrat - one of the witches from Terry Pratchett's Disc world books. Magrat would be a little younger but she had the wild hair and the country spirit. She was the youngest in the coven of 3 witches, eventually she is known as powerful with in her own right. "All but for a missing letter and her life would have been so different."

I need to add some pizzazz to the clothes, I hand sewed all the garments so far, she has a white petticoat with lace trim sticking out. I added a little ruffle of purple on her shirt and a waist band on her skirt but now interesting details await. Magrat was a herbalist and was into the occult and occult jewelry so I will keep that in mind as I add accessories.

So how to I get to here from this?

First step gluing the hands and feet on, then filling out the body with some aluminum foil and then wrapping the wrapping the doll with quilt batting for a soft body. This is when I really start to see it coming together, all that's left is to dress her. That sounded so simple until I really got down to deciding what to have her wear and then finding the supplies. I wound up dying the skirt since all I couldn't find a color I liked.

Now to clean it all up, clean up the seams, fix her hair, accessorize to make her special. She stands about 11 inches tall and stands on her own. So far this is the largest doll I made, now I want to make it the best one as well. The real mark will coming in the finishing details.

And this was the result

To me,  basically a fail. This is not way I hoped for but I learned a few things but mainly she is going into my box and staying there. The hands were too big, the face seemed wrong. It may not be one I sell but I learned a little, much of it what not to do.

Elf Warrior Doll

polymer clay elf doll
Elf Warrior Princess
With a little love and some more time, I finished a second elf. I am much happier with this doll. I gave the last one to my husband, it was kind of creepy. He's keeping at his desk to scare his co workers.

This one came out a bit better, I decided to just do a simpler face and enjoy the process rather than force a realistic face that just wasn't wasn't working. She is a tomboy of an elf, with her freckles and wild hair. She carries a small knife and has a gold armband.

Right now I'm working on a commission for a Tardis and Dr Who 10 and 11 charms. So until the next time. Have a great day

Monday, April 13, 2015

Crystal - doll in snow

I finished up my latest doll, Crystal. she is all polymer clay and has a clay base as well. Like I decided earlier, she was based on the sad girl in snow trope. I was happy to get the mouth right this time but I still was having trouble with the eyes so I decided to paint them instead of sculpting them.

She has pink lambswool hair and a hand knitted sweater to keep her warm. I couldn't knit small enough mittens so I sculpted them in polymer clay using a faux knitting technique. she's about 7 inches tall.

She's listed in my Etsy shop here.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Planning Sad Doll

I was searching for a new idea for a doll and struggling making heads. I decided until I got head I was happy with, I wasn't going to start building the doll. It's easier to build the proportions about the head than vice versa. Besides the head is the hardest part and I'd rather get than done first.

I was working intently on the head but wasn't sure of what the next step would be. My husband joking said they remind me of "sad girl in snow" which he said was an anime meme but the idea hit me as perfect. I checked a few images for it, just for some inspiration and quickly came up with this sketch. I realized I could do a soft body with polymer clay hands and  legs with boots on them.

I thought first of a winter coat but since I knit I decided a bulky sweater would work possibly a teddy bear. I have fleece and know how to needle felt. The hands will have mittens. Should I make them from polymer clay or make small knitted one, that's still up in the air.

But I have I a plan at least, which is more than I usually do plus I finished the head, I got lips down but sculpting the eyes is giving me so much trouble so finally I decided to leave them and paint them in after. I can sort of do them but they never match and tend to look off. Since eyes are such a focal point, I want them to look good no matter how they are done.

 So I actually have a plan and the beginnings of the head, now to build the rest and dress her. Sounds so simple that way doesn't it?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Anabelle - creepy new doll

Anabelle came out just like I wanted her too. There is no I like her "sorta"; no I am really happy how she came out. She's right on the line of creepy- cute. Her long black hair and eyes just seem to add to it. She is jointed so she doesn't stand on her own but a stand is included. Red striped tights just complete the look.

La da da da -- she is haunting. I listed her on ebay on March 19 to see if she sells. Wish me luck and check her out.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Making of a Doll


[caption id="attachment_1864" align="aligncenter" width="248"]Part of the doll Part of the doll[/caption]

That last head was a dead-end but then I turned the other way.  I started over and tried again. I have the polymer clay parts and the frame completed, now I have to work on the soft stuff, like her clothes and hair. It starts with the head, hands and feet.

[caption id="attachment_1860" align="aligncenter" width="264"]Unpainted head Unpainted head[/caption]

I molded the hands and feet, I was pretty happy with the results sculpturally wise but of course, she'll need some color and some hair. I used acrylics paints to add some color.

[caption id="attachment_1862" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Painted Head Painted Head[/caption]

This the head after I added the paint and the hair. What a change. I still need to style the hair but there is a little life now. I felt like the original head could go in many ways - male or female. I wanted to do a woman. She's older but not old witch old, she's got wisdom but she's still got spark with those pink cheeks, freckles and ginger hair.

[caption id="attachment_1861" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Finished pieces Finished pieces[/caption]

I sculpted the hands and feet. I didn't use armature in the hands but I did let them cool down and wait to keep them more even; I have a bad problem of rushing and the clay gets too soft - thus mushing the features. I sculpted and baked the feet before adding the sandals. I like the finished look. I decided on the style with the toe mainly because these would be the sandals I want.

After completed all this I built the skeleton/armature using aluminum wire. The head is sculpted on piece with a spiral on each end so the head is on securely and then I use 1 piece for the 2 arms and shoulders and another for the legs and hips. The wire from the head helps form the body. After using wire to secure it all together I bound it with floral tape for more security and to get the wires from getting loose.

The next step will be to glue the hands and feet onto the skeleton. As you can see from the feet, there is a hole in each - the thick wire fits in there exactly and I will add super glue to secure them in place. One they are in place I will be a soft body. Then the real fun - dress up time! I have some vague ideas but I now I need to make them real.