The other day I dragged my family to the Maker Faire and saw all the cool DIY stuff folks are getting up to. In that extended tribe of creative, technical types tips and hints are called hacks. In that spirit, here’s a few of my favourite clay ones:
- A little rubbing alcohol will soften your clay until it evaporates. Great for surface smoothing of projects.
- If you need the clay to be a little softer but don’t have purpose made clay softner, a little mineral oil will do the trick. Just mix well and use sparingly.
- Essential oils or extracts will also scent your clay for a while. Mix into your clay ahead of baking for cute scented mini foods or add a few drops of essential oils after you bake it.
- After years of claying, I still bake on folded copy paper. It keeps things from rolling as much or getting flat bottoms. Paper is safe in the oven at clay temperatures.
- And even with jars and boxes of tools my favourite all purpose tool for clay remains my toothpicks and knitting needles bought from the dollar store or the thrift shop.
- I am a terrible slob but there are three things I am neat about in the studio because the consequences are messy or frustrating: the lids on my powders go right back on, the washers go right back on my tumbler tops and I set my pasta machine back to the thickest setting every time.
- More than any other medium I’ve worked with, polymer clay results seems to vary by user, room temperature, tools… learn your best range but always add a few extra beads, canes, bits of clay because something wrecks. Often.
- While you should know how to do tasks manually, as soon as you realize you’ll be claying for a while and doing that task over and over… get the correct tool: a pasta machine (or a motorized one even!), a tumbler, clay in pound blocks are just a few examples.
- If you have a limited polymer clay budget, practice before using expensive materials. You can cut plain clay ahead of cutting expensive canes. You can do your first blends to colours that mix to make usable colours – white to anything for example.
The flowers above are lopsided flower cane slices shaped with an old paintbrush handle… one of my favourite rounded end tools.