One of the best parts about working with polymer clay is being able to transform it to resemble practically anything. Stones, shells, wood and more can be imitated using polymer clay, making it one of the most versatile mediums on the market. Even though these elements can be mimicked with clay, using natural materials with polymer can bring a new dimension to projects. Through lots of experimentation, I’ll share how I use natural elements in my sculptures. First, I’ll share some of the convenient materials that help me achieve a successful project.
Translucent Liquid Sculpey-Great for attaching raw clay to baked clay, and for creating stronger bonds. When translucent Liquid Sculpey cures, it’s a translucent color.
Bake and Bond-Perfect for attaching clay to wood and other materials, it cures in the oven to create a strong join. When Bake and Bond cures, it’s a white color.
Polybonder-A wonderful high heat adhesive that bonds instantly and securely. Oven safe, it’s the super glue of bonding agents. This material is clear.
Here is how I like to use these three materials to incorporate wood, shells, and stones into my polymer clay projects.
Wood-Sometimes wood can have lingering moisture in it, so it’s best to pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 275 degrees to allow any moisture to escape. After the wood is cooled, clay can be applied. I find it best to use equal ratios of Sculpey Bake and Bond, and Tacky glue to adhere the clay to the wood. I dot drops of one material, then fill in the gaps by dotting with the other. Once the tacky glue sets up a bit, it holds the clay in place for easier sculpting. The Bake and Bond will fill in all the nooks and crannies of the wood, creating a strong bond after curing. BONUS TIP: I find that wood has the tendency to absorb adhesive materials quickly. If I notice my clay lifting from the wood while I’m sculpting, I apply a bit more tacky glue/bake and bond with a toothpick to the areas that require it. Curing right after sculpting helps the bonding agents work a bit better, too.
Shells-Sculpting on shells can be a little finicky, so it’s important to choose a shell that has some thickness to it. It’s best to pre-bake shells to remove any moisture that may be lurking inside. Heat may also cause cracking, so it’s best to see how the shell will react to heat before committing to a project. Once your shell is stable, attach raw clay by offsetting dots of bake and bond or translucent liquid sculpey, and polybonder. The polybonder will join the clay to the shell immediately, and the bake and bond will create a strong join through curing. As soon as the polybonder sets, sculpting can begin. BONUS TIP: If a shell happens to crack, the crack can be filled with a mixture of shell-colored clay diluted with some translucent liquid sculpey. Fill the crack, cure, and move along.
Stone-When collecting rocks for the bases of my sculptures, it’s useful to select stones that will sit flat and not wobble. No preparation is required for stones, so attaching raw clay is as easy as adding some polybonder and adhering it straight to the rock. The bond is instant and strong, so sculpting can start immediately.
BONUS TIP: If a favorite rock does wobble, use a drop of polybonder to glue a little ball of clay or two to the bottom of the stone, press down against a flat surface so the clay spreads out, balancing the rock. Cure, cool, and continue on with the sculpture. No more wobbly rocks.
So many materials work wonderfully with clay, so I find it helpful to keep notes while I’m experimenting so that I know what works, what doesn’t work, and what I might try next. When planning a project, I schedule some extra time to make sure the elements I want to use will work well with polymer clay. Using other elements with polymer clay can truly take a project to the next level, offering endless creative possibilities!