Wednesday, April 22, 2009

polymer clay tiles, part one

Here are some polymer clay supplies. The big white tile was purchased at the home depot, but you can get them at any tile place or home improvement place. it's completely smooth, which makes rolling out clay safe and easy.

The clays I use are pictured. There are others, as you know. Fimo is a Sculpey product, and it comes in different types. I like the classic type the best, because it's not so soft that it will break easily, but it's not as hard as Primo. It's really hard to soften Primo up, but it's also sturdier than the others. Everyone has their favorite. Mine is Fimo Classic. However, I wanted gold and I couldn't get it in classic when I was shopping, so I have it in this other type that I've never used before.

Anyway, for this thing for some reason I just felt like making a black and white marble tile.

I took the black Primo and some white Fimo classic, and used half of each block. I probably should have used more, because the tile would have been bigger, but it doesn't matter.

I conditioned the black Primo first because I needed to have fresh hands for the stiffer clay. The issue with using black clay and white clay is that you need to clean your hands and your work surface after using black, because it will definitely stain the white when you start working with it.

Conditioning involves squeezing and softening the clay with your hands. Some people really love using pasta machines, but I think it takes longer and I don't need my clay to be that pristine. I just work with it carefully so that I don't get a lot of air pockets in it.

This is a picture I had to lighten because like a dummy I was using black clay first, so the details didn't show up unless I took off some contrast. You can see that when I fold the clay after rolling, it shows cracking on the crease. That means it hasn't been kneaded enough and I have to condition it more.

As soon as it gets soft enough, I use the roller to roll it out, which softens it more thoroughly. I roll it, then fold it carefully to avoid air pockets, then roll it more, then bundle it up in a ball for final rolling.

Because I wanted to make a marble effect, I made little snakes out of the clay pieces. I split both colors in half so I had two snakes of each. I then put the snakes together. By breaking up the two colors before marbling, you'll get a more clear marble effect. The more two colors are kneaded and rolled together, the more quickly they will blend into one color (in this case, grey) and there will not be a marble effect. By squeezing them together in smaller batches, you can keep the colors from bleeding into each other as much.

I then took the two batches of marbled clay and rolled them together in a rounded ball. I wanted a smooth round ball before the final roll out because I wanted a more uniform spread. I intended to cut straight sides out of it, but I didn't want a narrow rectangle.

As you will see, different parts of the marbled ball look more interesting than others. If you find your favorite section, place that so it will be rolled flat and exposed more than the other parts.

After rolling, I looked at both sides of the disk and picked out my favorite side. That is the side I will imprint with the stamp shape.

I liked the first side the best.

I wanted a squared tile, so I put a straight edge down and then cut the side with the clay blade. If you don't have this blade, you might want to get one. It's very thin and sharp, so you can cut and get under clay much easier.

For the square tiles that I made before, I used a square paper coaster, like you get at a bar, and I placed it over the clay and cut that shape. Of course, there are also round paper coasters. Any flat geometric shape can be laid over the clay at this point and cut around, if that's the shape you want.

This time, I just eyeballed my rectangle and cut away the rounded excess. You can see by the cut side of the clay excess (on the right in the above photo) that the inside of the marble disk has some interesting patterns. People form marble cubes and balls and then cut them in half to find these patterns. I'll have to play with that some more because it's neato!

After trimming the shape the way I want it, I like to release my clay from the work surface so that it's free to finish molding. It's usually not going to be perfect, so now that it's looser from the surface, I use my metal ruler to firm up the sides by pushing it against the sides to straighten them (not pictured, sorry).

I like how Mika impresses the clay with lines and designs freehand, but also uses stamps and even buttons and pins and anything with a shape she likes, into the clay. I happen to like using these unmounted rubber stamps from Michelle Ward along with other surface background stamps to make impressions on my clay, but so far I've only used my tiles one at a time and haven't made mosaics. If you have something that has a design you like, like a ring, a button, a frame, anything, you can impress the clay with that and then paint it or use pearlex powders the way Mika does.

This marbled clay will not show a design as clearly as a solid color tile, but it will still be interesting with the texture. Given the size and shape of the tile, I thought the old Latin script would look good, so I picked that long stamp to use.

Clay can be really soft or it can have some firmness. Considering that this marble was half Primo clay, I thought it would take some extra pressure to get an imprint. Therefore, instead of just pressing with my hand, I decided to use the roller to press evenly down on the clay. This is going to distort the shape of the clay a bit, but you can trim it back into a square if you wish, afterward.

However... I think the clay was softer than I'd expected, because the sides were distorted more than I thought they would be. But I still liked the tile, so rather than rolling it up into a ball and starting over (especially since the marbling would be less distinct if I did), I just trimmed off the squished edges and made sharp corners and sides again.

Tomorrow I'll bake it. Sometimes when you bake polymer clay, it gets darker. I'm hoping the white in the tile will not get very dark because I'm not going to paint this tile. If you were using all one color, and it came out too dark, you'd have the option of painting it with acrylics after it was baked. It might have been better if I'd used more white to black in this mix.

Now, it's possible you already knew how to prepare the clay, but I wanted to tell you exactly what I do.

Before I bake it, I am thinking I will put little holes or troughs in it, for adding beads, which Mika also does. If you like working with these, the book will give you a lot more ideas I haven't tried yet.

more later.