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Different brands of clay have varying properties and hardness. Old clay becomes hard over time and crumbles when you try to work with it. There are things you can do about this but for now let’s start with some fresh clay and prepare it for working.
Conditioning Polymer Clay:
Simple steps and practical experience are your best teachers.
Conditioning clay warms it up and gets the ingredients in the material moving. Once conditioned, polymer is a fabulous material for sculpting but if it not prepared well you will not have good results.
The process of conditioning changes with every brand. I teach all levels of students and find PREMO! the easiest clay to work with for classes. So here is how to condition PREMO! polymer clay by Polyform, my choice for beginning polymer clay students.
You Will Need The Following Supplies:
- PREMO! by Scupey : Sculpey makes Sculpey lll which is soft and easy for kids’ hands but is brittle and not a good quality clay so be sure to buy PREMO! clay. I use ecru, white and translucent colors for my basic mix
- A pasta machine or acrylic roller (if you prefer to work without a pasta machine)
- A cutting blade.
How to Condition Polymer Clay:
- You can condition polymer clay using either an acrylic roller or pasta machine.
- Both processes are essentially the same.
- If you are using a pasta machine, be sure to slice your clay to a quarter of an inch thick and not more or it will strain your pasta machine.
- Take your clay and pass it through the thickest setting on your pasta machine. This is easy to see when you look down between the rollers. As you change the setting they become wider or closer together.
- Once you have the rolled piece, fold your clay in half and put it though the rollers folded end first. This will let any air bubbles out as it squeezes through the rollers.
- Repeat this 30 times. In a warmer climate you may not need the full 30 repetitions, experience will teach you.
- If the clay becomes too soft try putting the clay in the fridge for a while and then simply rework it to soften it again.
- Well-conditioned polymer clay is wonderful to work with. If you see the clay cracking as you are sculpting this means it is most likely not conditioned enough.
- If you are buying clay in a store check the packages for the freshest ones. Older clay is harder than fresh clay. For figurative work I recommend soft fresh clay.
- Pasta machines are inexpensive as a “craft item” but they are often not very reliable. I would recommend watching for a good used model in your local thrift store. I use one designed for polymer clay called Makins Pasta Machine. It has Teflon coated rollers which means the clay does not stick to them as easily. It also has a motor unit you can add if you are planning to do a lot of clay work.
MY suggestions for CLAY
- Once you have tried using PREMO! and feel comfortable with this you can try other brands and see what your preference is. If you have warm hands you may find this clay too soft and prefer to use another clay. I would recommend Fimo Professional or their art doll clay which has lovely skin tones. Warm the clay next to your skin or in your pockets first if you do not want to get into using mixers and more things to make it soften.
- Polymer Clay is a personal choice and once you have some experience other clays are worth trying to decide which clay is preferable for you.
- The clay needs to be elastic and flexible. If it is cracking or breaking it is not ready to work and you need to condition it more.
- When the clay is hard I will put it in a plastic bag and slip it inside next to my skin and let my body warm it up. Once warmed it will be much easier to work with. Do not “heat” the clay (in an oven or other hot device) because it will begin to cure and then become unusable.