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Book Review: Amazing Clay Flowers

Reported by Lisa Fulmer


I think I speak for lots of crafters when I say that we are hoarders when it comes to supplies. Whatever our favorite craft is—scrapbooking, cardmaking, knitting, sewing, painting, beading…we probably own more supplies than we will ever use. Which means we struggle sometimes with justifying the purchase of a bunch of new stuff for a type of craft you have never tried before…even when something incredibly inspiring comes along.

Clay sculpting has been that craft for me…I just haven’t been able to get “into” it. But I totally love what I see my creative pals doing with air-dry clay. I’ve seen so many interesting ways to use it to make jewelry, containers, sculpture and ornaments.

And now I see flowers…20 different beautiful, delicate, life-like flowers handmade from resin clay. This new book by Noriko Kawaguchi, Amazing Clay Flowers may very well be the impetus that finally starts me on a little air-drying clay journey.

I’m not a flowery girly-girl type, nor do I have many “dust catchers” on display in my home. But I could immediately see lots of ways to incorporate these flowers into my altered art projects. The book is gorgeous—really lovely photography and lots of clean white space. The flowers look amazingly real! The instructions are very nicely organized and chock-full of how-to images that are good enough to make actually reading the directions feel optional.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had many of the tools and other supplies already in my arsenal…things I use for beading, metal embossing, even stamping.

What I didn’t have were the two most important ingredients – resin clay and oil paint. To be honest, I didn’t know what resin clay was; I had only ever heard of polymer clay. And I don’t work with oils, I use acrylic paints. But after digging around online a bit, I learned more about resin clay.

Resin clay is just an alternative to polymer; it’s very popular for making little food miniatures because of it’s translucency and super soft texture. It comes in either clear or white, and takes a couple days to dry. It shrinks as it dries, so you need to start your project in a 10-15% larger scale. It remains flexible without cracking after it’s dry. You can blend acrylics or other pigments into it to make different colors, but I read that oils are better because they won’t fade over time the way other media might when blended with the resin clay. With oils, the color will actually darken as it dries, so you need very little paint. The brands of resin clay that I could find (Cosmos, Sukerukun, Grace) were Japanese and mostly available online.

So while I’m still deciding if I want to spend $20+ dollars on a 200 gram pack of resin clay (7 oz.) and another $20+ dollars on a starter set of oil paints….I pulled out the one tiny plastic-wrapped log of polymer clay that I had gotten as a sample somewhere and decided to see if I could make a basic leaf. 

A little harder to do than I thought, but I think polymer clay is too bulky to get the same realistic effect that the author does…I can definitely understand why a soft, translucent resin clay would be more desirable. I tried adding some gold paint to make my leaves intentionally unrealistic looking and I rather like them this way. I can imagine using them individually as an accent on something like an altered box or ornament.

When I think of how long it took me to make one leaf, and then multiply that by the dozens of leaves and petals required to create one floral arrangement, it felt a little daunting. But I must say this book makes even the most delicate flowers look pretty achievable…and the idea of being able to work on a larger scale (knowing the finished piece would shrink down a bit) was appealing for my soon-to-be-50-year-old eyes.

Funny though, I realized that I don’t know my flower parts. Well, I know petals and leaves and stems. But the anthers, stalks, stamens, pistils, and sepals all had me a bit stymied. Never fear, my botanically-challenged friends…the book walks you right through each part with pictures, so I think I’m finally ready to work the word “calyx” into conversation.


Pros:
  • Beautiful project photos
  • Well-organized and detailed instructions
  • Helpful close-up how-to shots for each step

Cons:
  • Would have liked more information on resin clay and how it differs from other clays
  • Ditto for other kinds of paint besides oils
  • Last 30 pages were printed in black/white for some reason…maybe a printer error?
Have you heard of resin clay? Ever used it? Leave us a comment and let us know!


Disclosure
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Pardo Polymer Clay by Viva

Reported by Jenny Barnett Rohrs


Polymer clays by Sculpey, Cernit, and Fimo have been around for years, but now there’s a new player on the field: Pardo polymer clay by Viva.

Originating in Germany, it’s main distinction is that it’s beeswax-based (and therefore somehow more environmentally-friendly) and phthalate-free. It comes in 70 colors, which are supposed to reflect precious metal and precious gemstone colors. I was told at CHA that they also closely align with the Swarovski Crystal bead colors.

It’s sold in 1.2 oz mini-pack (which contains 6 balls) and 2.7 oz plastic jars, which the company is also touting as being more earth-friendly. This seems really counter-intuitive, as instead of being wrapped in cellophane like most clays, it’s packaged in hard plastic containers. However, they hope that people will reuse or recycled the containers instead of pitching them (I think they are being overly optimistic here!).

It’s billed as “jewelry clay”… so that’s what I set out to do with it. I opened the package, and sniffed. SNIFFED? Yup, sniffed. Some brands of polymer clays have an odor, and I’m pleased to report that Pardo had no real smell. Good for you sensitive folks out there.

As I stared kneading the clay, I noticed a faint stickiness- very comparable to other soft clays, such as Sculpey III. It’s not bad, but you do feel some residue on your hands, and there were fingerprints in the clay that needed to be smoothed out. It went through my pasta machine like a dream, and in 2 passes it was ready to work. This is GREAT news for folks with fibromyalgia, arthritis, etc.- more playing, less conditioning!


I used Olivine (green with glitter inclusions) and gold. I will say that the colors are saturated and rich, and some of the “transparent effects” clays have no equal in the market.

The first project I made was a little holiday pin using cookie cutters. It cut cleanly and layered well. The fingerprints left behind needed some smoothing, but no biggie.


I then attempted to make a Skinner blend using the two colors. I’m not sure if my technique was just off or what, but I was not pleased with it’s ability to blend smoothly. I also tried caning… and dearies, I’m not even going to dignify that with a picture! The clay is so soft that it just doesn’t hold up well to constant manipulating. I tried reducing a bulls-eye cane, and it was just kinda mushy and wouldn’t slice cleanly. (I also offer up that my studio is on the cold side and I have cool hands- so it wasn’t the conditions, it was the clay.)


So I baked up my little holly pin, and it cured as advertised, taking 30 minutes in a 275 degree toaster oven. (Tip: ALWAYS use a thermometer to make sure you’ve really got the right temp, most ovens are not calibrated accurately.)

After it was all cooled off, I buffed it with a felt buffing wheel on my Dremel, and it came up to a lovely luster. Like most sparkly things, it was hard to capture the shine in a photo. But I DID love the green glitter… it’s a winner!

Now, for the bad news. This clay is 1) hard to find, and 2) it’s pricey. I’ve heard rumors that Hobby Lobby is carrying it, but it hasn’t shown up at my other favorite craft stores (of course, it’s available online if you Google it.) Even if you DO find it, you might want to wait for a coupon. On the whole, it averages TWICE the price per ounce. Ouch.

On the whole, I would use this clay for jewelry, but I probably won’t go out of my way to buy a lot of it unless the price comes down. It may be the new player on the field, but it’s not “MVP” in my book.

Pros:

  • Lovely color selection
  • Easy to use out of the package- great for folks who have hand problems
  • More “natural” ingredients (beeswax)
  • Packaging easier to recycle

Cons:

  • More expensive than other polymer clays
  • Not widely available at this time
  • Plastic packaging may end up in landfills
  • So soft that it’s not great for cane work

If you’ve played with Pardo Clay, feel free to leave us a comment and let us know what YOU think! Happy claying, and craft on!

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