In my polymer clay studio I love incorporating natural elements into my sculptures like stones, wood and crystals. In this two-part blog I’ll demonstrate how I enjoy using natural materials in my art. Over the years I’ve discovered some easy ways to successfully work with polymer clay and natural materials, so I put together a guide so you can start sculpting on stones and wood, too!
Step 1: Gather some Supplies:Since stones are naturally heavy, they make fantastic, strong bases for polymer clay projects. With minimal materials, you can easily prepare a stone for sculpting. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Natural Rock
- Pre-baked Clay Project to Add to the Rock (optional)
- Dark Colored Polymer Clay
- Clay Blade
- Poly Bonder or superglue
- Scrap Computer Paper
- Translucent Liquid Sculpey and dedicated brush
- Quartz Crystals (find these strung in the jewelry section of craft stores)
Step 2: Find A Rock You can find very pretty, smooth stones wrapped up in little mesh bags in the floral department of most craft stores. OR. Go outside (put your shoes on, it’s probably cold out), look down, and hey! A rock!!! Walking trails, parks, and your neighbor’s yard are good places to be on the lookout for natural elements to use in polymer clay projects. You know, I found a nice rock in the median by my local McDonald’s the other day. Proof that inspiration is everywhere as long as you’re looking for it.
Step 3: Take the Roll Outta the Rock Lemme level with ya. Stones usually don’t sit perfectly flat. They can roll all over making them difficult to work with, much less sculpt on. When you need a stone to sit flat and not wobble, grab some dark colored clay, that wobbly rock you want to work with, and a bottle of Polybonder (superglue works, too).
Make sure the stone is clean of dirt and debris by giving it a good, stern scrub. Take your day out on it, compose yourself, dry it off, then condition and roll out little balls of clay and cut them in half using a sharp clay blade. Now the clay has a flat surface to apply the polybonder to. I like to use three to four half spheres depending on how unstable the stone is.
Apply Polybonder to the flat sides of the pieces of clay, then stick them right to the bottom of the stone and let set for a few moments. Superglue works for this, too. Grab the kind with the brush applicator. Flip the stone over and press down onto a piece of paper. Pressing straight down makes the spheres of clay spread out, creating little legs that stabilize the bottom so the rock won’t roll away. Pressing down onto paper is best because the clay won’t stick to it. Once your stone is level, bake it and its new clay “feet” according to clay package instructions. Allow it to cool, and the stone is ready for sculpting and not rolling off your desk. And don’t worry. Rocks are just fine in the oven. Just think of all the stonewear baking dishes that are out there! Rocks won’t melt. Promise. I like to prep lots of stones at once so when I’m feeling artsy I can just grab one and sculpt away!
Now that the rock has been de-wobbled, it’s time to build! Start by conditioning a piece of clay and flattening it into a shape that is slightly smaller than the stone you’re working with. I’m making a garden in this demo, so I chose dark green clay. I like to make my shapes a bit organic-looking. Once happy with the shape of the clay base, apply a thin, even layer of polybonder (or superglue) to the piece of clay, and adhere it to the top of the rock, allowing it to set for a few moments.
My work contains lots of gardens, so I like to begin with a grassy-looking base for my project. To achieve a grassy look, use various shades of cool and warm green clays and layer them on top of each other going from dark at the bottom to lighter shades of green at the top. Once the greens are looking lovely, begin texturing the slab so it looks like grass. I made my own toothpick tool by snapping toothpicks in half, jamming them into some scrap clay, and baking it. You should make one right now. Go. It’s a handy little thing. Texture the clay well, and it’s ready for a subject.
Step 5: Front & Center
I am a huge fan of pre-baking my main clay pieces when it comes to sculpting on stones. Since polymer clay can conveniently be baked multiple times, I help myself out by fully curing my focal piece ahead of time. In this case, it’s a fairy cottage. Did you know I have a fairy house lesson here at Sculpey.com so you can make one, too if you want? Here’s a link to my free fairy house tutorial: Fairy House. You don’t have to make a fairy house, but whatever you make give pre-baking a try. It allows you to continue working on a piece without the risk of smooshage. Yes, smooshage is a technical term, you know, and I bet you don’t want it.
To mount a pre-baked subject into raw clay, all you need is some translucent liquid sculpey (TLS). It’s magical stuff that creates the strongest bond when attaching clay pieces together. Apply a small amount of TLS to the area where the subject will be. Press the cured piece into the TLS and raw clay. This would be a lot trickier if the cottage wasn’t pre-baked, by the way. If TLS oozes out, use a paintbrush to wipe it away. I recommend having a dedicated TLS paintbrush because it comes in quite handy. Now that the cottage is securely planted into the “grass” with TLS, I know the two will have an incredibly strong join when baked together.
Step 6: Bling it Out Another fantastic element that pairs well with polymer clay are quartz crystals. Find ‘em in the jewelry section of your craft store strung up with the beads, or mine and cut your own. Before using the crystals, prepare a raw clay base to work with. In my case, I whipped up some fluffy bushes surrounding my fairy cottage because they’ll make great bases for my crystals. Begin incorporating crystals by applying a strip of TLS with a paintbrush around the bottom quarter of the crystal, then apply polybonder to the bottom.
Jam the crystals into the raw clay. Jam, again, is a technical term. A good way to make sure the crystals are strongly in place is to apply an additional thin layer of TLS around the crystals and build the area around them up slightly with more clay. Once everything is cured together, those crystals will be secure and solid.
Step 7: A Rockin’ Project
Once everything is firmly in place, fully cure the entire project according to clay package instructions. Once cooled, all the clay parts should be securely bonded to the stone, making a very stable piece.
I hope this demonstration opened up your creativity to consider using natural elements in your polymer clay projects. Experiment by using different materials with your clay to open new dimensions in your art! Be sure to stay tuned for part two of my blog where I’ll demonstrate how I enjoy working with polymer clay and wood.
See you Soon & Well Wishes,