Reported by Erika Martin
When I was younger, I played around a little bit with modeling clay, but it was always the cheap stuff. Usually very hard in the package, my hands got sore and felt arthritic from softening it. Or, it was the clay we used at school, which we knew had been touched by a bunch of other students and had a funny smell.
For years, I’ve seen the Sculpey clays in stores, but it wasn’t until just recently that I found a love for working with it. When I reviewed the book, “Beyond the Bead,” I picked up some clay to create some of the jewelry projects featured in the book. A whole new world of crafting possibilities opened up to me. My almost-10-year-old daughter also got into it and we bought her a stash of her own clay so she could create with abandon.
Last week, I picked up the Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine and WOW! Even more possibilities have opened up to me!
I want to show you some techniques I’ve learned along the way, as well as how to use the Clay Conditioning Machine.
Sculpey clay may seem hard when you hold the package in your hand, but it’s actually very easy to soften in your hands. It’s great therapy, too. It might be a bit difficult for some, though, if you have muscle problems or arthritis, which is where the clay conditioning machine will come in handy.
I like to cut off small pieces with an X-acto knife as I find them easier to work with and soften when it’s in smaller pieces.
I roll the clay into a ball and then clasp my hands together and wring my hands like I would do if I were nervous (that’s the best way I can describe it). For me, I find that this is the easiest and quickest way to soften the clay.
Once you’ve softened the clay, you can then work it and sculpt it free hand if you’re feeling adventurous. This is a great way to get your kids involved in imaginative art. It’s amazing the things they’ll sculpt as their imagination lets loose.
Roll out different colors of clay to add dimension and color to your projects. I like that the clay sticks to itself really well as I’m creating and layering. I find that any small pieces that don’t stick completely can always be put back on after baking the clay with a small amount of craft glue.
I seal all my dimensional pieces with a thin coat of matte finish Mod Podge.
The Clay Conditioning Machine (also by Sculpey) is very easy to put together and take apart. It’s wonderful for softening clay if you’re using it for free-hand sculpting or if you’d like sheets of clay to work with. There’s 9 thickness settings on the machine, which gives you lots of options when crafting.
The C-clamp and the handle are separate pieces, but easily fit into the machine by popping them in place. The machine should always be clamped to a surface when using it. The handle won’t turn a full revolution if it’s not clamped onto a surface, as the handle needs to turn past the bottom of the machine.
I cut a couple of slabs of clay from my block with an X-acto knife, set them side-by-side above the rollers, and then turned the handle. The clay went through very smoothly (the directions state not to try to push excessively thick clay through the rollers) and this started the conditioning.
I dialed the setting to #2 and sent it through again. I set it to #3 and realized it was too thin. The great thing about clay and the machine is that you can roll your clay in your hand and send it back through the machine on a different setting if you need to.
I stamped into my moss-colored clay with a fern image, making sure to put a good amount of pressure on it to get a good impression.
I used an X-acto knife to cut around the fern before baking it according to the package directions (275 degrees, 15 minutes).
I had some moss clay left over and decided to blend it with some brown clay to create some rolled beads. I sent some brown clay through the machine to get it the same thickness as the moss clay. I layered the pieces of clay on top of each other and then put them through the machine to bind them together. I used my X-acto knife to trim the edges of the clay to make them even.
I then rolled my clay and kept rolling it back and forth to bind the clay together and also form the tube to the length and shape that I wanted.
I cut slices of the clay to create my beads. I kept them the shape that was created when I cut them, though I could have shaped them in my hand a bit to make them completely round.
HINT: If you want to get rid of any fingerprints on your clay pieces, you can either wear a tight pair of rubber gloves or you can also wipe your pieces quickly with your finger to smooth the clay out.
A couple of beads were a bit uneven on the ends (these were the two on either end of the tube) so I put the beads through the machine and got long flat pieces with a really cool effect that will work great as pendants or earrings.
I used a large tapestry needle to make the holes in my beads. I then heated all my clay pieces for 15 minutes at 275 F degrees.
I added some wire elements to my bumble bee for the antennas and the wings. I also placed and eye pin into the body to eventually turn this into a key chain. I used a black glaze pen to complete the eyes.
I rubbed some gold metallic rub-on paste to my beads for a vintage feel and strung them on a cord with green and gold beads to create a necklace.
I also rubbed some of the rub-on paste on the fern that I created and will use this on an upcoming scrapbook page. (If you’re using rub-on paste, make sure to seal your pieces so that the paste doesn’t rub off.)
So, what have you made with Sculpey clay? Have you used the Clay conditioning machine? What’s your favorite Sculpey clay color?