Nov 17, 2009
Something that I get a lot is, "Isn't polymer clay expensive?". Well, if you live in Canada like I do, yes - it is! Small 2oz bars of Polymer Clay can cost as much as $5.99, depending on where you shop. And after breaking the bank how many times, I have learned to be a bit more frugal when it comes to my clay-buying binges.
Both Canada and the U.S have Michaels (which is a large craftstore chain), but if you don't live in the city or get to one of their stores during a good polymer clay sale, you aren't going to get much of a bargain. My closest Michaels store happens to be about 1 1/2 hours away, so it isn't going to do me much good, at all, by the time I spend the money to get there and back again.
So what is the alternative? Well, consider how you are reading this very blog - the good old internet, of course! There are plenty of sites offering advice on getting the best Polymer Clay deals, but only if you live in the States. So what if you live in Canada? Well - you're in luck. With our Loonie being so strong right now, Americans aren't the only ones getting great deals!
Here is my favourite store for buying polymer clay and other great supplies:
Polymer Clay Express
This online store is my absolute favourite. It is actually run by the folks at a Brick and Mortar store in Maryland, USA, called the ArtWay Store. Being as Maryland is extremely close to the Canadian/U.S Border, shipping times are extremely reasonable and I almost always have my clay within a week. They carry all popular brands of clay such as Fimo, FimoSoft, Premo, Sculpey III, Studio, Kato, Cernit, etc, as well as several Liquid Clays, Air Dry Clays, and all sorts of other Art Supplies and Clay Supplies.
Sculpey III is only $1.50 per 2oz pack and Fimo, FimoSoft, Kato, and Premo are only $1.75 per 2oz pack. Shipping is inexpensive if you only buy enough to fit flat in an envelope - which is usually around $6.00 - larger and heavier shipments can cost more. The good thing about the Shopping Cart is that if you input your Zip/Postal Code, you can get an estimate of how much shipping will be AS you shop. And Canadian Residents, do not fret... just because it is in American dollars, you are still getting a great deal. The Canadian Dollar and U.S Dollar are so close right now that there is only a few cents difference on every dollar.
Polymer Clay Express website: http://polymerclayexpress.com/
Aug 4, 2009
I have personally tried every popular brand of polymer clay, and there are about five of them. There are also the polymer clays that require painting afterwards, like Studio by Sculpey as well as Super Sculpey... but I will not get into those.
The five most easily attainable clays are Fimo Classic, Fimo Soft, Sculpey III, Premo, and Kato Polyclay. Each have their own distinct characteristics, pros, cons, and baking times. These are my findings in point form:
Baking: 230°F / 110°C for 30 mins (per 1/4" thickness) Do not exceed 265°F / 130°C
· The firmest of the clays. Although it has gotten softer after many new formulations over the years. It has suffered many problems in recent years due to unsatisfied sculptors who favoured the old formula over the new ones.
· Difficult to work with, especially for beginners.
· Needs quite a bit of conditioning, preferably by using a mallet or by using a pasta machine.
· Tends to crumble over time, especially if poorly stored.
· Comes in a wide range of wonderful colours, including pastels.
· Great for caning and firm enough to sculpt easily.
· Certain colours can darken in the oven.
· Very hard after baking.
Baking: 230°F / 110°C for 30 mins (per 1/4" thickness) Do not exceed 265°F / 130°C
· Extremely easy to work with.
· Good for beginners.
· Softer than Fimo Classic but not as soft as Sculpey III.
· Does not need any conditioning, and can be worked with right out of the package.
· Can get sticky or mushy when over worked.
· Can be britle after baking, but not as britle as Sculpey III.
· Darker colours can bleed into lighter colours.
· Comes in many different colours as well as special effects like stones, textures, metallics, glow in the dark, translucent, etc.
Baking: 275°F / 130°C for 15 mins (per 1/4" thickness)
· Extremely easy to work with.
· Great for beginners.
· The softest clay to work with.
· Does not need any conditioning, and can be worked with right out of the package.
· Can get sticky or mushy when over worked.
· Can be very britle after baking - the weakest of the clays.
· Colours tend to stay the same before and after baking.
· Translucent Sculpey tends to brown while baking.
· White Sculpey is very bright.
· One of the best colour palettes of clay there is. There is metallics, stone, textures, pearls, translucent, glow in the dark, pastels, fluorescents, etc.
· Not very good for caning, but some people HAVE accomplished it.
Baking: 275°F / 130°C for 30 mins (per 1/4" thickness)
· My choice as the best clay to work with. Highly recomended!
· Easy to work with.
· Softer than Fimo Classic or Kato, but not as soft as Fimo Soft or Sculpey III.
· Needs minimal conditioning.
· Certain colours can be a little soft, but most are nice and firm.
· One of the strongest clays after baking.
· Colours tend to stay the same before and after baking.
· "Frost" Premo is one of the best translucent clays.
· Has an "artist palette" when it comes to colours. Such as Cadmium Red, Zinc Yellow, etc. Artists find this fantastic, but if you aren't very aquainted with the artists palette, it can be a little difficult to mix colours.
· Not as many "fun colours" compared to other clays.
· It can be very temperature sensative, so it can get mushy on hot days and really hard to work with in the Winter.
· A great "all purpose" clay, and a total happy medium between all other clays.
Baking: 300°F / 150°C for 10 mins (per 1/4" thickness)
· A very firm clay, but not as firm as Fimo Classic.
· Not recommended for beginners.
· Needs conditioning - preferably with a pasta machine.
· Can become crumbly if poorly packaged.
· Does not stay conditioned (workable) for long.
· Baked Kato Polyclay has a natural sheen.
· Surface seems to reject waterbased glazes like Varathane.
· Great for caning.
· Not as many "fun colours" compared to other clays.
· "Translucent" Kato Polyclay is very transparent.
· Strong after baking.
· Has a very strong smell during baking. Almost like the smell of "new doll".
· Tends to *gunk* up the sandpaper if you are sanding it.
· Is very good at smoothing and leaves little fingerprints.
· All colours tend to be the same firmness.
My personal favourite clay to work with is Premo. It really is the happy medium of polymer clays, although it isn't exclusively what I work with. I do not work with Fimo Soft or Kato much, but I love Sculpey III for it's awesome colour palette, and I ocassionally use Fimo Classic because it is so firm. If I need a lot of one colour, say... a nice bright red, I tend to combine one each block of the Sculpey III "Red Hot Red" with Fimo Classic "Carmine" and Premo "Cadmium Red"... the result is a fabulous bright hue of red with the firmness of something between Premo and Fimo Classic. It's lovely.
I really dig the "Frost" Premo as opposed to the "Translucent" Premo. The difference is that a bit of bleach has been added to "Frost" which results in much less browning compared to "Translucent".
Mixing brands can be done no problem, all you have to do is adjust the baking time. For example, if you are mixing Fimo Classic and Sculpey, you should go with the lower temperature for Fimo Classic, and possibly bake it a little longer. Just experiment, and use your best judgement!
Comment me with your findings to share your thoughts with the viewers! Who knows, we might all learn something. Happy claying!
Jul 8, 2009
Polymer clay actually doesn't come from the ground at all! In fact, it is completely man-made. While earth clays tend to come from the ground and are completely waterbased, polymer clay is actually created from solid and liquid polymers - which is basically plastic! It is called "clay" only because it can be modeled, worked, and sculpted like clay can.
The base of polymer clay tends to be PVC (or Polyvinyl Chloride) and a liquid plasticizer is also added to make the clay workable. While Earth clay needs to be fired at a very high temperature inside of a kiln, this temperature would be much too hot for clay and it would surely burn profusely. Polymer Clay is baked in a household oven or toaster oven at a lower temperature for a short period of time - usually around 275 degrees farhenheit for 20 to 30 minutes. During this time, the plasticizers harden which result in a rock-hard mound of clay. Unlike sculpting mediums like some Earth Clays and Playdough, Polymer Clay will not air-dry - even if it is left out for days.
Although Polymer Clay has been popular for quite some time now, it has it's roots back in the 60's where it was discovered as a molding compound by accident. Originally it was being used for a different purpose, but when it was concluded that it was not good for it's original purpose, it was put aside. Someone happened to stumble on this mysterious material and began sculpting a figure, baked it, and behold - they had found a sculpting medium! By 1967, this clay was being sold as "Sculpey" on a small scale in the United States.
The most common brands of polymer clay tend to be Sculpey, Fimo, Kato, Premo, and Cernit. Each brand has it's own characteristics and it's own colours - every colour of the rainbow, pastel hues, fluorescent, translucent, sparkled, metallic, pearlescent, textures, and even glow-in-the-dark! Colours can also be tinted with pastel shavings, inks, oil paints, powdered pigments and other types of inclusions to get the look you want.
Liquid Clay is sold by most major Polymer Clay companies. The two most commonly found Liquid Clays would be Translucent Liquid Sculpey (also known as TLS) or Fimo Decorating Gel which is sold in a smaller quantity. Both Liquid Clays have their own qualities, but the Fimo brand is known for being the most translucent after being cured in the oven.
So what exactly can you do with Polymer Clay? Well. Pretty much anything you can do with any other clay! The only thing I wouldn't really recommend is using it to create utensils or dishes that you intend to eat from, or using it to create plugs for your large gauged ear piercings. Although Polymer Clay is labeled as Non-Toxic, it is always good to take precautionary measures. The surface of Polymer Clay is rather pourous after baking, so it may store bacteria that you cannot see.
I hope that this article has informed you a bit better about what polymer clay is, and I also hope you will stay tuned for my next article where I will be discussing the differences between various Polymer Clay brands.
Jul 2, 2009
After opening up the lovely package, I was faced with many scents to choose from. I decided to surprise myself by choosing a random soap without sniffing it, and hopping into the shower with it. I like a little mystery!
As the warm misty air filled the bathroom, I turned the lid and dove my nose into a lovely pink whipped soap scented like Pink Sugared Marshmallow - and boy, was it heavenly! It had a subtle baby pink colour with a scent that I just couldn't get enough of. A delicate aroma of toasty marshmallows sweetened with a delightful pink sugar - there wasn't any other words that seemed to do it describe it better than "fluffy-sweet". The feel of the soap was nothing short of an experience as well - it felt like I was wrapping myself in a sweet and sugary cloud. The lather was rich and luxurious, and it left my skin feeling silky smooth.
It was then that I got a little greedy. I got so impatient that I just couldn't wait to smell another soap, so I ran all sopping wet to my bedroom just to try another scent. This one was a tri-coloured bar soap - with a thick tropical yellow on the bottom, a light creamy white sandwiched in the middle, and a fruity red layer on top. All of these colours and scents combined made a Strawberry, Coconut, and Pineapple treat.
As soon as those scents hit the warm water, I was imagining myself on a warm tropical island sipping on punch made from the finest fruit juices and coconut water. My skin just soaked it up like it was quenching it's own thirst. After my shower, I was surprised to find that the scents were not gone - there was still a subtle hint of it left on my skin, and it was rather nice to see that my skin wasn't dry or flaking like it usually did. That is because Verbena's soaps are not made with any chemicals, preservatives, or alcohol like a lot of other commercially made soaps.
Along with the two soaps that I had ordered, I also received quite a few samples that I am anxious to try, such as Lime Frosted Cupcake. Delicious! I would highly recommend this shop to anyone, especially if you are looking to treat yourself for a small price! We all need a little bit of pampering and relaxation once in awhile - especially those of us who do not live in luxury!
Jun 16, 2009
The winner is...
Chef Runner, with their fresh and lovely scent:
"I went running in Charlottesville, VA a couple weeks ago, and loved the smell, with all the honeysuckle blooming. It was a conference, and right before graduation, so they had done a lot of maintenance on the grounds, so I would say, Honeysuckle, Fresh Cut Grass, with a faint base note of Fresh Mulch. Smells green, welcoming, and like the early morning."Congratulations, Chef Runner! You get a $20.00 credit for Verbena Custom Fragrance Blends on Etsy! You may purchase something for $20.00 (including shipping) and send a message with your purchase noting that you were the Spring Into Summer Giveaway winner on the Monster Kookies blog!
It may not be everybodies scent of choice, of course! But Tina feels, especially, that this was the most unique and interesting "Earthy" scent she came across. She hopes to actually be able to create this scent and do it justice in one of her body products!
So, a special thank-you to everyone who participated. It was a rather hard time deciding with all those lovely fragrances you suggested!
If you stay tuned, I believe you may all be interested in a contest that I will be holding to win one of my own Monster Kookies products! I should have this contest underway very soon, so keep checking back to my blog!
Jun 12, 2009
So stay tuned, dolls!
Jun 9, 2009
There is something so playful and innocent about the imaginative polymer clay designs of Joojoo on Etsy. Her use of colour is extraordinary and it shows through in soft pastels and bright tropical hues. Little details like the addition of painted-on eyelashes are perfect and whimsical and her use of natural pieces of nature like sticks, acorn caps, and shells breathe life into her designs. They're like a breath of fresh air!
I have personally had a few delightful conversations with JooJoo, or Afi as she called herself, and she is an absolute darling to chat with. She happens to reside in the same city as I do - Toronto, and we both happen to dig the polymer clay.
I could possibly be having a love affair with every single one of her creations, but I can tell you that I am quite tickled when I see her dear little Spring Snails. Their design is such a simple one, but so admirable in every way. Their little antennae and painted eyes just make me feel all warm and fuzzy, and each of them have a natural shell and a rare earth magnet so that you can stick it to any metal surface you wish. They look especially cute on the sides of a candy tin, like she shows here in the above photo.
An amazing addition to her collection of snails would have to be her signature Tattooed Snail. The bright pinks, reds, and blue patterns against the translucency of the white are a perfect match, and the pearly white shell finishes it off very nicely. I am usually tempted to make my own creations as opposed to splurging on someone elses, but this piece makes me want to break my piggy bank!
Each of Joojoo's creations is like a fairy tale, some of them with their own little story. I personally find it truly magical to find a polymer clay artist who is just as dedicated to her lovely descriptions as she is to her wonderful creations. Her photos are fantastic, clear, vivid, and some of the backgrounds she chooses to use are just darling. Like the Nosy Toucan, pictured to the left. He's spying on his friends, and doesn't like to be caught.
Check out JooJoo on Etsy, and take a look at more of her work and to add a few of her bright and whimsical creations to your life!
Jun 5, 2009
Packing and shipping your items might seem like a meagre task, but what you are doing is sending the buyer a piece of your personality. You can't be there in person, so you have to send a good representation of yourself. A good packaging job can mean the difference between repeat sales and one time buyers, and it is up to you to give them a little bit of magic with every parcel you send. Just think of it this way - it's like Christmas or a Birthday for the buyer, so WOW them! Make it personal, make it beautiful, but most of all - make it memorable!
These ten thorough tips will get you started on packaging your beautiful products in a way that will make an everlasting good impression on your buyers. To make it easier, I will also include examples from my own experiences. So here we go!
- Packaging should reflect you! Come up with a style of packaging that matches the items you sell. If you send your items in cute yellow polka dot gift wrap, and your shop doesn't even have an ounce of cuteness, you are going to look like you are either having an identity crisis or that you really just don't know how to coordinate. My shop is basically white with many additions of lime green, purple, and black. I generally ship my items in lovely white boxes tied with green polka dot ribbon and purple tissue paper - it matches the colours of my shop!
- Don't be a grub! We all try to cut corners to save a buck when we can, but if the box that you are planning to ship in has been mashed up and torn - don't use it! Rips, tears, and other damage will always been seen as carelessness. The best rule to follow is to use new packaging products. If you decide to reuse old packaging supplies, just make sure that they are in excellent condition. Wrapping things in newspaper, Christmas wrapping paper (if it isn't Christmas), old Chatelaine magazines from 1976, or worn & old bubble envelopes are an absolute no-no and will put off your customer in an instant.
If you make your own boxes or bags, do a good job - don't just throw them together. Remember - presentation is of the essence!
- Serve and Protect! It is a real downer when you open a package only to find that it's been damaged or broken. Do all you can to make sure that your items are safe and cozy, because postal workers tend to play football with your parcels, sometimes. Things like tissue paper, cotton, shredded paper, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, plastic balloons, and bubble envelopes are a good way to protect your items from damage as well as the elements.
- Keep it clean! Nothing is more disturbing than finding pieces of pet hair, human hair, and fuzzies in a brand new parcel. It's un-hygienic for sure, but it is also a turn-off. Always keep the area where you package things free from dust, hair, and smoke. Do not eat or drink around your shipping area, as cookie crumbs and soda stains are no fun either. One of my biggest pet peeves is receiving an item that wreaks of cigarette smoke. If you smoke, don't smoke around your items - or better yet, smoke outside.
If you pride yourself in being green, recycling is definately a regular part of life for you. Recycling boxes and packaging supplies is not necessarily a bad thing unless it is in bad condition - so think before you use it!
- Keep shipping realistic! If you charge too much for shipping, you might not even got as far as a sale, at all! All you have to do is visit your local post offices' website or pay them a visit and ask them a few questions. An example of a no-no would be the actions of the majority of eBay sellers: Many eBay sellers give you a great deal on the product, but shipping is through the roof to compensate for a low selling price.
Only charge what is realistic for shipping. Invest in a moderately priced digital scale and measuring tape, and get your shipping fees down to an art before you start selling. Any costs such as boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap, and other packaging prices should be incorporated into the items selling price - not the shipping price.
On the other of the spectrum, do not under price your shipping. By doing this, you are reaching into your own pocket each and every time you sell an item and are undercutting any profit that you make from the item. If you plan on selling as a business, you need to think business. If your shipping prices are on the high side but are realistic, all you have to do is explain why, and most of the time people will understand. If your product is good, the shipping price is always worth it in the end.
- Include a business card! Business cards can be made for rather inexpensively. I personally use Vista Print, and their cards (in Canada, atleast) start at $17.99 for 250 cards. Stick the business card on your package; or better yet, stick a few in with the package. If you include more than one card, chances are that the buyer will pass them on to somebody else who may be interested in your products.
- Offer coupons and freebies! How many of us flock to free sample stands in the grocery store? If it's free - we love it! Try adding a little something with each package that you send out - such as magnets, stickers, and buttons with your business name on it. It's such an inexpensive way to say thank-you, and most people will be very happy about it. A great way to coax buyers to come back is to include coupons with their purchases. Things like "10% off your next purchase" or "Free shipping on orders more than $20.00", are great promotions to offer. Just make sure to set an expiry date!
Things not to include are freebies that could result in a mess upon opening. For example, chocolate is a cute gesture but what if the person lives in a warmer climate? You don't want chocolate goo all over the product, do you? The same goes for extremely strong smelling perfumes, soaps, and candles - they can permeate the entire box!
- Personalize your packaging supplies! A plain old box is all well and good, especially if it looks great the way it is, but try adding your own flare to it by stamping your name and website onto the box or adding a sticker with your store logo. Not only does it look professional, but the buyer will be reminded of you everytime they see it!
Don't just think inside the box - think outside! On the outside of the parcel, that is. Add your logo name and website on the outside of the envelope where all the shipping information is. Do you know how many people handle your items before it gets to it's final destination? Many! If your name or logo looks interesting, somebody who handles the parcel might write it down for their own references.
- Write a little thank-you note! Buyers just gush over the fact that their product has been made just for them. It really is a luxury that you cannot find with mass produced items. Your products come from real people with a heart - not a robot. So show it! Write a quick thank-you on a cute stick-it note and make the customer feel special! Because they are!
- Follow Up! Just because the item has been shipped does not mean that the transaction is over and done with. Send them a quick message or e-mail asking if they have received the item and check to see that they are happy with it. If you're on Etsy or eBay, leave positive feedback and ask the buyer to do the same for you. Happy buyers are repeat buyers!
Jun 3, 2009
We as humans are very interactive creatures - we love to completely SENSE what we are getting. We want to touch, smell, taste, look at, and listen to everything. If you have one shot at getting a customers attention, your pictures will certainly have a huge part in it. This isn't a photography lesson - obviously I cannot teach you how to use your camera, but these are some pointers that will generally help you to get the best results. A good example of the use of some of these tips is the photo off to the left that I took of my latest creation - Bertram the Mechanical Birdie.
- Lighting is extremely important! You can't take your pictures in the dark, can you? If your lighting in the house is minimal and dingey, invest in a few inexpensive clip-on desk lamps -they can be found in hardware stores as well as big box stores. But don't go for soft light bulbs - go for Daylight bulbs. They give off the same type of natural light as the sun does. Colours are more true, and brightness is at it's best.
The best light you will ever have is the natural light of the sun. If you live in a sunny climate, or it happens to be Spring/Summer where you live, take your pictures outside! There really is no comparison - the colours are their truest when the light is natural.
- Show your product in it's true environment! If you are selling prints, you might want to stuff it into a frame and take a picture of it hanging on a wall. If you are selling bracelets, show the product on somebodies wrist. You don't have to do this of course, but it really aids in helping the customer visualize how it would look in their own environment.
- Your product really needs to steal the show! Don't take pictures of it on top of a busy or clustered background. You need a background that will allow the product to practically POP off the backdrop! Say your product is purple - take a picture of it on a green, yellow, or orange background. You can use the "Color Wheel" to find some great colour complements and opposites. Another good tip is to take pictures of light objects on dark backgrounds, and dark objects on light backgrounds.
- Keep your photos clean! I know it is extremely tempting to add huge borders and decorations while editing your photos, but it can be really distracting on Etsy. Try to skip out on adding names and words on your photos as well, as they can be very distracting.
- If you do use watermarks on photos, add a disclaimer! Especially if you sell prints, most people tend to add watermarks to avoid having someone steal the image. If you use watermarks, make sure you add a disclaimer to your listing that says something along the lines of, "If you purchase this print, it will not come with a watermark on it." I know it sounds sort of obvious, but you'll be surprised how many people can get confused by this, and think that your photos really do come with "Copyright so-and-so on such-and-such date" plastered across the entire print!
- Make sure your photos are large enough that customers can see all the details. If it's too small, people will be scared off because they can't see what they are buying.
- Nobody likes blurry photos. Especially if you are taking pictures of smaller objects, use the Macro setting on your digital camera to get a well focused and sharp photo.
May 28, 2009
Now, I am going to describe MY process to you. Other clay artists may have a different approach to the same process, but you might develop your own techniques as you go on. This technique will get you started. But first off, we need a few simple materials.
- Wet/Dry Sandpaper
- Polishing Cloth
Personally, I work with a 600 grit, 800 grit, and than a 1200 grit to finish it off.
Any sort of canvas will do - you could use burlap or white denim too, just as long as it has a good coarse rough texture. I use a piece of painters canvas that my old high school Art teacher gave to me. As for a polishing cloth, you could try looking in the automotive department with all the car waxing supplies or in the fabric department. Find a piece of material that is very soft like fleece, flannel, soft cotton fabric, or terry cloth. You could even tear apart an old shirt!
Now that you know a thing or two about where and how to get the materials, I guess we should start the sanding process! Lay out a towel onto your work surface, and get yourself a container filled with warm water. This container should be large enough so that you can dunk your hands into the water without being too cramped - just as long as it is comfortable for you.
Now, get your clay creation out! All it needs to be is baked and cooled, and you can begin to work on it. Make sure you haven't painted it yet, as any painting you need to do can be done AFTER this process. Give your clay a dunk into the water, and grab yourself the coarsest grit of sandpaper (in my case, a 600 grit) and dunk it into the water, as well. Now, working over the water, begin to sand your clay, working in small circles, and paying special attention to all the nooks and crannies. When you notice that the clay particles start to fill up on the sandpaper and the clay, just dunk them into the water to give it a rinse. If there is any dust, impurities, or unevenness in the surface of the clay, this is the point where they need to be sanded away.
When the surface starts to improve, move onto the next grit of sandpaper. Just like before, sand the entire surface and pay special attention to the nooks and crannies. Keep dunking the clay and the sandpaper into the water to remove any clay particle accumulation. When the surface becomes more even and smooth, move onto the finest grit and repeat the process over again. By this point, your clay will be extremely smooth - but not as smooth as it is going to be a little later!
Dry your clay off with your towel, and grab your piece of canvas (or whatever you chose as your rough material) and begin to rub your clay. Get into all the nooks and crannies, move in circles, and don't be afraid to apply some good pressure. After about 3-5 minutes of buffing, we can now move onto the polishing phase! With your polishing cloth, do the same thing as you were doing before with the canvas - rub and polish your clay until it is bright, shiny and smooth!
This process really is easy, but many people just don't go through with it because it takes too darn long. If you sit in front of the T.V, it helps to be a little bit zoned out - or try listening to some music, as it makes the process a little more enjoyable. If I could offer any advice at all on this process, it would be to spend the MOST time in the first phase while sanding. This phase is crucial because it defines the final product.
If you don't spend much time sanding, than buffing and polishing isn't going to make it look much better. How does that saying go? "You can't polish a turd"... hah! Spend the most time with the coarsest grit of sand paper - I usually sit there for a good 8-10 minutes sanding away. Than spend a little less time with the next grit, and even less time with the finest grit. This phase is always the most time consuming, and for good reason! Buffing with the canvas and polishing with the cloth usually don't take that long.
If you like, you can add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to your water at the beginning. It creates a little less friction, and heck - it smells nice! You will find that if you are going to be adding any painting detail after this process, the paint will go on even smoother and it will hold on more easy. If you add any paint, just go over the entire surface with a little bit of rubbing alcohol - this gets rid of any excess dirt and oils so that the paint will stick even better. If you are used to glazing your clay creations with layer upon layer of gloss, you will only need ONE layer of gloss for an equivalent shine after the sanding, buffing, and polishing process - it is THAT shiny!
Seriously, if you haven't tried doing this before, just try it once - that is all you will need to convince you. After gazing at your smooth, shiny, and beautiful creations and seeing your practically seeing your reflection in the clay, you will be wondering how you did without it!
May 27, 2009
I discovered a fantastic product in the automotive department of our hardware store. It's called Fast Orange, and it comes in all sorts of forms from Hand Creams to Wipes - but the product I am love with is their Pumice Bar Hand Soap.
This stuff is designed for automotive mechanics - the ones that have dirt and grease up to their elbows all day long. Not only does this fantastic soap help a polymer clay artist by taking off dirt and dust - it gets into all those nooks and crannies that you can get to! The crud that you didn't even KNOW was on your hands will be gone, and you can actually physically feel the squeeziness in the clean!
This soap cleans off grease, oil, resin, tar, grime, sealants, adhesives, ink, glue, paint, rubber cement, epoxies, and all sorts of nasty sticky dirty stuff! You'd think that a soap with gritty Pumice in it might dry out your hands, but it is filled with moisturizers such as aloe, lanolin, glycerin, and jojoba to keep your hands smooth and conditioned. It is biodegradable, non-toxic, and has a citrus orange scent to keep your nose happy!
I know what you may be thinking... is it expensive? No. It isn't expensive at all. You can buy it for $2.50 CAD a bar - it's a big bar, may I add. It'll last quite awhile! You can buy it all sorts of places, just look for it in the Automotive section of hardware stores, general stores, grocery stores, etc. Some stores that carry it are Ace Hardware Stores, Do-It-Best, True Value, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Lowes, & Princess Auto (in Canada) to name a few.
Seriously. Grab yourself one bar of it and prove me wrong. I wet my hands with warm water, scrub my hands good for about 30 seconds, rinse, and dry with a PAPER towel. Don't use a cotton towel to dry your hands before playing with your clay - they are full of fuzzies! After giving your work surface a good cleaning and washing and scrubbing your hands with Fast Orange, you'll definately be a lot less worried about all that invisible crud that SOMEHOW always gets onto your clay.
May 26, 2009
Miss Alice Citrus-Wedding is a lady who is all about sweetness and colour – and her polymer clay creations express this. She only started about a year ago with this medium, and her creations have progressed tremendously over time.
We all look back on our first creations and laugh, but so few of us can actually look back and see our art as a milestone. I have been given the honor to watch Alice as she learns new techniques to apply to her pieces, and I have gotten to see the progression in her pieces as she does this.
Many of us start with cupcakes and donuts with polymer clay, but we don’t exactly develop a style that is all our own, and many things look the same. Alice’s creations boast an originality and flair that make them distinctly feminine and sweet – much different than just deep fried dough with icing.
If I had to choose three of her creations to be my favourites, I would choose her “Fizzy Cola” earrings, first. All of us grew up with penny candies, five cent candies, and such, and this brings back memories to the days that my mother would give me a quarter or a few dimes to buy myself a few pieces of candy on the way to school. The cream-white and brown gummy cola bottles covered in that sweet and sour sugar was my most adored candy – and Alice has recreated them so flawlessly that I would probably eat them if I didn’t know they were clay.
The “Sprinkly Donut” earrings that Alice creations are just simply darling. The combination of pinks and browns almost always scream delicious, and these are no exception. Chocolate donuts slathered in vanilla icing, as well as vivid pink and yellow sprinkles are a cute concept on their own of course, but the addition of that glimmery pink bead with the silver earring hooks really add a chic touch.
Her “Toothpaste & Toothbrush” earrings are a cute reminder that we need to brush those pearly whites after attempting to sink our teeth into Citrus Weddings’ sweet creations. The squishy little toothpaste tube is just perfect in that baby-blue hue, and the toothbrush is so dainty and a lovely shade of purple. They match eachother so well!
Alice is definitely crafty and is no stranger to other mediums as well, so I have no doubt in my mind that Citrus Wedding will continue to grow and that I will be hearing more about her work in the future – perhaps saying that she has made it big!
May 23, 2009
The entire body of the heart is brass. Usually people ask for the steel/silver body, but I wanted to give this piece a particular old machinery look. Most of the features have been picked out in a worn steel colour and than antiqued with black acrylics to bring out the textures and details.
The front features a centralized round panel with some intricate detailing and a small red LED in the middle. From this, extends a long metal strap with large rivets. There is also a large receptacle-like rivet off to the left side on the front. On the right side is two receptables with thick silver cable going from one receptacle to the other. On the left is a very interesting Industrial scale pattern with angled spiked edges.
On the back is a textured silver panel with large rivets and a silver cross button in the middle. There is also a carbon composition resistor running along the panel in the top. There are also other little details like tiny silver cylinders and screws as well.
It's one of my favourites so far! I just saw Terminator for the first time the other day, and so I had cyber-borgs and red LED's stuck in my head for a few days. Hehe. Hence, the title as well!
There is a loop in the top so that this heart may be strung on a 20" black rubber necklace with chain extension and heart charm, which this piece comes with. The entire thing has been antiqued with black to give it a worn appeal, and it has been glazed once to allow for a touch of shine and durability.
Industrial Heart Information
For answers to ALL your questions about my Industrial Hearts or if you are wondering how to get one, please check out this link: Industrial Heart Collection FAQ. Want to see more of my work? Please check out my website at MonsterKookies.com. You can learn more about me, see my past work, or buy something from my Shop.
May 21, 2009
In my last blog entry, Sweet Sweet Candy... Soap?, I featured Verbena Custom Fragrance Blends - an Etsy Shop that sells the most sweetest and delightful soaps and fragrances imaginable! From their rich Buttery Toffee Caramel Whipped Body Frosting to a refreshing Pineapple & Jasmine Shampoo - everything is just lovely! The owner and creator of these fine body products is named Tina, and she only uses the most purest ingredients for her sugary body sensations.
Tina, the owner and creator of Verbena Custom Fragrance Blends as well as me, Kimberly aka Monster Kookies, would like to present a Spring-Into-Summer giveaway to get you guys ready for a nice hot Summer - and we want you smelling nice and feeling good!
What's the catch?
Leave me a comment stating the most creative and yummy fragrance you could think of. Surprise us with THE MOST truly delightful fragrance combination, and the BEST fragrance will win a $20.00 credit to use in the Verbena Custom Fragrance Blend Etsy Shop. This credit entitles you to buy anything you want for $20.00 (this includes shipping) or you could use it to buy something worth $20.00 and just pay for the shipping on your own. Your choice, of course!
You do not need to buy anything to win - just leave a comment with your most innovative and creative scent - you could win!
Each person gets one entry, so please think carefully! If you are not signed up for Blogger/Blogspot and choose to comment anonymously, please leave us a way to get in contact with you in your message, otherwise we won't know where to find you if you win! Something like an e-mail, etsy shop, or your website is a good option to add.
This "Spring Into Summer" Giveaway will end on June 12th, and Tina and I will be announcing the winner here on June 15th! So good luck, and get creative my friends! Make your idea sound as wonderful as possible, and comment away!
In the meantime, check out the Verbena Custom Fragrance Blends Etsy Shop! And check out the Monster Kookies Etsy Shop while you're at it - for lots of Cutesy & Creepy jewellery made by the Mad Scientist of Polymer Clay!
CONTEST NOW CLOSED!
"My soaps are nothing put pure natural goodness! I don't use artificial lathering agents in my soaps like SLS or Propylen Glycol. All of my handcrafted soaps get you clean without stripping your skins natural oils and they have a silky glide - you can shave with - and a rich creamy lather. Your skin won't feel dry or tight, just pampered and moisturized!"
Not only do her soaps apparently moisturize, they also give your skin a sugary treat! Flavours like Chocolate Raspberry Cream Roll and Coconut Cream & Frosted Lime Cupcake sound more like desserts than soaps, but what really got my attention was the Pink Sugared Marshmallow scented Whipped Cream Soap, pictured above.
Quite literally, you spread this soap onto your skin like you spread frosting on a cupcake. A little goes a long way, as those sweet pink bubbles lather up and leave your skin hungry for second helpings. And for all of you who aren't digging the chemicals - most of her products are 100% Vegan, with certain lovely exceptions such as the Strawberry Coconut & Chocolate Goats Milk Soap, pictured above, or the Strawberry Banana Coconut Marshmallow Fluff Parfait scented Whipped Yogurt Body Cream. Delightful!
Check out the Verbena Custom Fragrance Blends Etsy Shop, and get your skin some dessert!
From my experience, you can use a WIDE variety of things with your Liquid Clay. If you want it to be Translucent though, I suggest using Fimo Decorating Gel. It is EXTREMELY translucent and makes the BEST sauces and syrups and anything else that needs to be coloured but still still transparent. TLS will leave you with an opaque mixture, so it's good for things that don't need to be see-through like chocolate sauce, slime, blood, icing, etc.
For colouring, things like Oil Paints, shaved Oil Pastels, Chalk Pastel/Charcoal, Kneaded Polymer Clay, Eyeshadow, Metallic Powders, Alcohol-Based Ink, Dry Pigment Powder, etc...
DON'T use Acrylic Paint. It does BAD things when baked, and turns out like crap!
I can't tell you how many times I have been questioned on how to use liquid clay, though. How do you make icing? How do you make chocolate sauce? All sorts of things can be made from it, so here is a little list that I have compiled!
Blood Hah, figures I start out with something morbid, huh? A good thick red blood is a combination of TLS and red oil paint. Just squeeze a dab into the TLS, mix it up, and than drizzle or squeeze this liquid onto the object of your choice. Here is an example of BLOOD: [link]
Slime Like blood, slime is just compiled of TLS and a mixture of a bright or royal blue and bright yellow oil paint. Just mix and use! Here is an example of SLIME: [link]
Frosting/Icing When I make icing, it is generally a mix of TLS and Kneaded Polymer Clay. If you add Polymer Clay to TLS, it gives the mixture a very spreadable texture, and is much more thicker than using something like Oil Paint. Just take a ball of the colour of polymer clay you want your icing to be, and knead/warm it in your hands. When it is nice and warm, tear it into pieces and throw it onto a ceramic tile or into a container.
With the back of a spoon or a solid mixing object, add TLS and mix and mash it until it becomes smooth. A lot of people get discouraged because it is chunky at first, but trust me... just KEEP mixing. If it is too thick, add more TLS... if it is too thin, add more clay. After it is nice and smooth, spread it onto your cakes, cupcakes, and cookies with a stirring stick or something that spreads well! Here is an example of FROSTING/ICING: [link]
Syrup & Sauces A great way to make syrup is with TLS or Fimo Decorating Gel and shaved chalk pastels. If you want a VERY clear syrup, I suggest using Fimo Decorating Gel. Take a brown chalk pastel, and swipe it across a nail file or piece of very fine sand and put it into a little baggie. Add a little bit of Liquid Clay and squish it around with your fingers until it is mixed. This will make Maple Syrup! If you want something like a strawberry syrup, just use red chalk pastel! If you don't have any Fimo Decorating Gel, mixing the chalk pastel with some gloss also works well. Now you just pour it on top of Pancakes, Waffles, Cheesecake and such!
Here is an example done with Fimo Decorating Gel: [link]
Here is an example done with TLS, see how much more opaque the syrup is? [link]
Peanut Butter Whether you like it crunchy or smooth, all you need is TLS and some kneaded brown (peanut butter coloured) clay! Just knea the clay, add the TLS and mix mix MIX! The more you mix, the more smooth your peanut butter will be. If you don't mix it all the way, you have chunky peanut butter!
Whipped Cream Like Frosting/Icing, Whipped Cream is also made with a mixture of TLS and Kneaded Polymer Clay. Just add slightly more TLS. If you want that "piped" look, just scoop some into a baggie, cut the corner, and squeeze it out! You can also use Cake Decorating bags and tips, as well! Just make sure to keep ones just for using with your clay - don't use them for cake decorating once you use them with clay! Sometimes I like to add a tiny bit of Vanilla Scent to my whipped cream just for fun! Here is an example of Whipped Cream: [link]
Here is an example of how whipped cream or frosting can be PIPED to make it look really pretty: [link]
Chocolate Sauce: Is made the same was as blood and slime (Gross, huh?) except with Brown oil paint!
Drizzle: Great for finishing off baked goodies like cinnamon rolls and donuts! Just mix some TLS with some white oil paint (for Vanilla Drizzle) or any colour you want, stick it in a small baggie and make a TINY cut in the corner! Drizzle across your piece, and bake! Here is an example of Drizzle: [link]
Have anymore suggestions? Go ahead and make a comment!
May 20, 2009
If you remember your kindergarten days, you might re-call several occasions in which you mashed and poked away at that vivid and doughy sculpting clay called Plasticine. This stuff would entertain me for hours, and I always loved it more than Playdough because it would never dry up. Whenever something looked all wrong, you could just ball it in your hands and roll it around some more to create something entirely different.
Polymer clay is quite similar to Plasticine. Both of these clays are somewhat solid when you buy them, but are softer from the heat of your hands. They both have an "oily" feel to them that leaves that residue on your hands, and they do not harden in the air. Plasticine is one of those clays that does not solidify at all, unlike Polymer Clay which, when baked, turns hard as a rock. So, if you intend to create a figurine, piece of jewelry, or some dollhouse miniatures that you would like to last forever, than Polymer Clay would be your best bet.
But Polymer Clay is a clay in name only. It is actually PVC based, and is more of a moldable and sculptable plastic than anything. It doesn't actually contain any Earth clay at all. Polymer Clay doesn't require any curing in a kiln, but it does require you to bake it in a conventional oven, ranging from 265* F to 275* F for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the object you are baking. Afterwards, you may choose to sand buff it to create a surface sheen, file down any imperfections, and than leave it as-is or gloss it with a water-based finish.
Polymer Clay isn't a new concept. In fact, it has been on store shelves for almost 40 years as a sculpting material, and even longer for other purposes. So, it's no surprise that there are a vast array of clay brands and colours to choose from.
The most popular and well-known brands of Polymer Clay are Fimo Soft and Sculpey III. Through the years, these companies have come out with different formulas for their clays, so the texture and feeling of the raw clay in your hands has changed tremendously overtime. For a beginner, I would suggest that working with either Fimo Soft or Sculpey III would be your best bet, namely because they are easy to handle and easy to find. You can easily find other brands as well online, such as Premo or Kato Polyclay, and they can also be found in your local hobby or arts & crafts store.
Polymer Clay generally comes in small 2oz packs of one particular colour, although many brands also offer boxes of 24 or 32 small packets of various colours to get you started. This may be your cheapest option if you have never worked with clay before. If you wish to create something with just a few colours, than you might be better off just purchasing the small amount of colours that you need. You may want to go ahead and buy just one block of each brand just so you can get a feel for their qualities and decide which brand works best for you.
One of the most favourable aspects of working with Polymer Clay is that it comes in so many colours. There is basic colours, fluorescent, metallic, pearl, glow in the dark, translucent, glittery, and even textured clays. Unlike sculpting materials like Terra Cotta, you don't have to spend all the work painting your creations afterwards. The option is always there if you would like to add details after your goodies have been baked with paint such as acrylics.
The great thing about colourful Polymer Clay is that it does not shrink or alter shape after baking, and most of the colours only change hues a very small bit and are quite unnoticeable. The downside of so many colours to choose from is trying to keep them separate. If you have several packages of opened clay, you may want to invest in some zipper-top baggies and an airtight container. If you have too much clay to handle, invest in one of those plastic organizers with the different compartments. Grab some sticker labels, write down the colours, and stick them on the matching compartments. This will keep your colours separate and clean. A good idea is to keep opened clay in one place and un-opened clay in another place to avoid opening several packages of the same colour when you already have some opened.
Cleanliness is another huge factor in Polymer Clay sculpting. Light colours such as White and Yellow just love to pick up specks of dirt and dust from the air and your hands. Even when your hands appear clean, these specks somehow seem to find their way onto your clay. Here are a 3 steps to keeping your clay nice and clean.
1) Keep a smooth and clear work surface. An ideal surface would be a big chunk of ceramic tile or glass. Clean thoroughly with soapy water, baby wipes, or some rubbing alcohol. After the surface starts to get tacky or oily again, keep paper towels and alchohol to give your surface a wipe down.
2) Keep your hands clean. I find that washing up with dishwashing liquid and letting your hands air dry works the best. Cotton towels are monsters for little specks of dust, so avoid them. Also avoid wiping your hands on anything or touching anything. A good hard wipe with a paper towel on your hands does wonders in getting off any dust. Keep a scrap piece of clay to roll between your hands to get off any spare dust that the paper towel didn't pick up.
3) Work with dark colours last. Dark colours leave dark residue on your work surface, and when you are rolling light colours on the same area, you are going to pick this residue up and your colours can get very muddy. Also, red seems to be a bad culprit in bleeding into other colours, so consider this a "dark" colour.
Another addition to Polymer Clay is the very useful "Liquid Clay" usually sold under the names "TLS - Translucent Liquid Sculpey" under the Sculpey brand, or "Fimo Decorating Gel" under the Fimo brand. Use liquid clay on your wire when you insert it into the clay before baking. This keeps it from slipping or falling out eventually, and acts as a very good adhesive or glue. When you attach pieces of clay to each other before baking, try adding a bit of Liquid Clay to the joint before sticking it on, as this will ensure a strong grip onto the clay base. Liquid Clay can make very attractive garnishes, such as frosting, icing, syrup, and glaze. If you add some colour, either by Oil Paint or by shaving in some hard coloured pastel, you can make yourself some glaze or syrup. If you add solid clay to the liquid clay, you can stir it constantly to a smooth consistency and make some very tasty looking frosting or icing for some clay cupcakes. Liquid clay can be baked with the rest of your clay at the same temperature and the same time, so they can be combined effortlessly.
Polymer Clay can be rolled out and cut out with cookie cutters, it can be pushed through a clay "extruder" to create strands in all different sizes and shapes, it can be sculpted with an unlimited amount of tools such as toothpicks and Popsicle sticks, and it can be rolled into different shapes and stuck on itself. Experiment! If you look up "Polymer Clay Tutorials" on the internet or in a bookstore, you will get many helpful resources to get you started as well if you do not know where to begin.
You can do a lot with clay. It doesn't just have to sit on a shelf and collect dust. You can wrap pens in it, create picture frames and light switch panels, or you could do what I do - make some jewellery! Before baking, try sticking some wire loops or eye pins in the clay so that it can be hung on things like jumprings and earring loops. Polymer Clay makes very attractive necklace pendants, rings, keychains, and all sorts of accessories that anyone can enjoy.
Sculpting with Polymer Clay is an entirely different world where you are free to create all that your imagination conjures up. What I have explained will get you started, but if you are ever curious to know more about the art, there is a wonderful Polymer Clay encyclopedia on GlassAttic.com. The creator is a Polymer Clay guru, and she is always happy to explain anything you need to know about the wonderful art of Polymer Clay. Experiment and enjoy!
Original Source: Crafts: Working With Polymer Clay
May 19, 2009
What is this blog about, exactly? Well. I want to give the world some insight in what I do and what I create. I am a mad scientist of polymer clay, and I want to show you what I make! I also want to share tips, tricks, and all sorts of information on polymer clay that is useful to reader. I don't want to sit here and yabber on about myself all day - that would get very boring.
In addition to that, I might add a bit of my writing on social/youth issues, music, etc. I am very passionate about things like that. I am also passionate about the DIY ethic, and I would LOVE to feature independant artists and their creations online. So all in all, this is a blog about the Independent Artist - taking nothing from nobody, creating by feeling, and expressing who they are. That is an artist, my friends!