Products You Can Use Safely with Polymer Clay
This month I am taking some time to talk about mixed media. In order to make mixed media work for polymer clay, you have to know the things that do work and the things that don’t work. Today I’m going to help narrow down your search in the craft store because not everything can be safely used with polymer clay.
A Quick Note
Mixed media is a vast field that uses products from all kinds of art forms. It steals and borrows techniques made for other arts as well. A perfect example of some of these that are already popular in the polymer clay community are: mokume gané, a metalsmithing technique; millefiori, a glassmaking technique; carving, a woodworking technique. We polymer artists are notorious for borrowing and adapting skills, traits, and techniques from other fields. A true mixed media piece is a piece that uses many different kinds of materials (media) combined into one finished element. This post is to help you be able to quickly narrow down your search at the craft store or online shopping center you like to frequent.
Paints (and the supplies that go with it) are another must have for most polymer clay artists. I prefer acrylic paints and in many cases “heavy body” acrylic paints, but any type of acrylic paint is safe to use directly on polymer clay. You can use acrylic paints before baking OR after baking your clay. Your choice will depend on the type of project you are working on and what effect you’d like to achieve.
TIP: When using acrylics on a piece after baking I like to “heat set” my acrylics by rebaking my piece for 2o minutes at 200 degrees to make sure I have good adherence.
A NOTE ON OIL PAINTS: You can also use oil paints on polymer clay, but there are specific techniques and ways to use them as oil paints behave very differently on polymer clay than acrylics do.
This necklace is a HUGE chunky bead that I made from two of my favorite faces I sculpted. I wanted a way to let them travel with me, so I molded the faces and made these beads (inspired by Debbie Crothers “Symbolic Beads” tutorial). Once they were baked, I antiqued them with acrylic paints. Heat set the paint. Added oil paints in greens, reds, & purples to accent the bead.
Ah yes, metals are hugely popular in clay work. Why? They can withstand the low temperatures clay is baked at and looks very beautiful when used correctly with polymer clay. My favorites are brass components that I purchase from BSueBoutiques.com but you can purchase brass components (think Vintage) from any big box store as well. Lisa Pavelka also has her own line of metal findings that you can use with polymer. My favorite though is to go to your local surplus store and see what metal bits, bobs, and doodads they have. You’re bound to find some unique items to use in your work.
Here’s one of my newer pieces that combines all kinds of metal bits: chain, gears, hardware store components, clock hands, steampunk stuff and so much more. This piece is entitle “JunglePunk” and made by Katie Oskin of KatersAcres.
Chalks, Chalk Pastels, & Mica Powders
This is a daily used item in my polymer clay studio. I can’t clay without my chalk palette. I use this “Bold Brights” set from Inkadinkado (purchase yours on Amazon here). These chalks are very hard and need to be broken in a little, but once they are, they are some of the best I’ve used. In addition, they aren’t horribly expensive and last an incredibly long time if you use them in conjunction with a nice soft brush. You can also use Chalk Pastels (purchase yours on Amazon here) from the art section of your local craft store. They work just as well, though may not be quite as intense. Another popular selection from polymer artists are Pan Pastels (purchase yours on Amazon here). Pan Pastels are fabulous, but be prepared, because they can be quite pricey. Mica powders are another popular choice among polymer clay artists. My preference is for the Perfect Pearls as they combine a resin element when heat set that does not necessarily need to be sealed.
The colored portions on this bangle were made by dusting chalks in the “white spaces” left behind by my stamped image. Using chalks is a great way to get an instant splash of subtle and yet gorgeous colors.
There are so many different kinds of inks available to ] artists today. Knowing which one to use and when is the challenge and the trick of mixed media. The tried-and-true for all clay types are alcohol inks. Many pigment, dye based, and my favorite, chalk inks can also safely be used with polymer clay.
NOTE/CAUTION: Not all inks will “dry” on all clay types. Some will need heat set after application (which means you need to BAKE your item for the ink to dry completely). Environments, clay types, humidity, and technique uses will vastly change the usability of your inks. Be sure to try a “test piece” before committing any unknown ink on any polymer surface for a large project.
This little tin was made using a wide variety of techniques using layered inks on the surface of the clay. A few of the inks I chose were not initially set on the clay until post-baking as they needed heat set in order to lose their “stickiness.”
What artist doesn’t have an arsenal of stamps at their disposal? Stamps can be used for the following, as well as many other options:
- In conjunction with inks on top of the clay.
- In conjunction with powdered products (chalks, mica powders) on top of the clay.
- As a tool for embossing on clay.
- In conjunction with paints on top of the clay.
There are literally hundreds of places you can buy stamps either locally at big box craft stores or online. Christi Friesen, Lisa Pavelka, and Barbara McGuire (shown at left) have some gorgeous stamps to choose from.
Stencils / Masks
Stencils and masks are great fun ways to spruce up your surface design of your clay. I prefer stencil “masks” to regular stencils. Here’s a few ways you can use stencils:
- With chalk powders on polymer clay
- With paints on polymer clay
- With masking fluids (Repel Gel) on polymer clay
Stencils are readily available from many retailers and if you have a Silhouette machine, you can even make your own in whatever design and pattern you choose!
Example Piece: See “ClockWorks” Tin Above
Glass in any shape and form: from beads, crystals, chatons, vintage and so much more. Glass has long been a favorite of clayers not only because of it’s versatility but because of the vibrance and elegance when combined with polymer clay.
One of my favorite are hot fix crystals because they bond to clay permanently when clay is baked, meaning there’s no need to remove it and “add glue” post baking. Please be careful and do not buy the plastic hot fix crystals as they will melt when they are baked.
When making flower pendants, I love to add a little crystal to the center for a pop of sparkle and shine. It’s unexpected and yet makes the piece look more finished.
Polymer Clay & Mixed Media
Playing with mixed media in polymer clay is a lot of fun. If you haven’t tried it yet, I suggest you give it a try. The project shown below is a very special piece to me, read the story here, but incorporates almost all of the mixed media components listed above. Read about how this piece “Plumb Outta Time” was made here.
Katie Oskin is teaching a sculpting class at the 2016 Polymer Clay Adventure. There are 24 projects throughout the course of the year presented by 22 teachers. This online retreat means you work at your own pace and learn from the comfort of your own home. Come over and check it out and then come join the fun.