Anyone who’s into mixed media art, altered objects and the like, will know that embellishments are a big part of what brings a project to life. There are all kinds of stuff that can be used as embellishments, some stuff that you wouldn’t even think could be part of an art piece, just lying about the house, it’s one of the many reasons I love mixed media art.
But what if you have a certain vision in your head, and you can’t find the right embellishments to create it? You want something exact and specific but it’s seemingly unattainable? I found the answer to this when watching a video by the very talented Gabrielle Pollacco, where she made some fabulous tentacle embellishments out of polymer clay. Aha! Clay, of course, you can create anything you want then, thought I. As sculpting isn’t exactly my forte I was a little unsure, but nothing ventured nothing gained blah blah blah so I got online and ordered myself some Sculpey Premo in black. I got it from an online shop called Happy Things, who sent it to me along with a cute little baggy (I presume for the beads they thought I’d be making) and a hand written note telling me to have fun with the clay, which was rather nice of them.
Now, I do wish I’d done a little research into types and brands of polymer clay before rushing to buy some, because the first thing I discovered about Sculpey Premo is that it is HARD.
I’d watched a couple of ‘polymer clay for beginners’ videos on YouTube, and learnt that polymer clay needs to be ‘conditioned’ before using. This basically means you have to soften it up a bit before it’s pliable enough to use, and this mainly involves kneading it although there are some other methods that can be employed. I kneaded the bloody stuff throughout the course of an extensive documentary about secrets of the Olmecs, and it still wasn’t at the level of pliability shown in those videos. Perhaps I wasn’t kneading it right I don’t know, I would love for anyone with more experience to come along and give me a few pointers.
Anyway, although it wasn’t pliable enough according the rules, I still managed to get it pliable enough for what I wanted to do. I’ve since seen that there is a ‘Sculpey Soft,’ so the next time I decide to use polymer clay I may give that a go.
The next part I had trouble with was the baking, but this was pretty much down to my own crappiness with anything involving numbers, and the crappiness of my oven. It states on the packet, and in the videos I watched, that you need to bake it at 275 degrees Celsius. That’s Celsius, NOT Fahrenheit, like I got confused with when doing test bakes and ended up with charred twiglets… My oven is old and goes by gas mark, 275C is apparently around gas mark 1. I once tried to bake a cake on the recipe instructed gas mark 3, and nothing happened for 40 minutes until I turned it up to 5. So knowing my oven has a mind of its own, I decided to do some test bakes at gas mark 3, and ended up baking the final product for 20 minutes on gas mark 3.
If you’re going into polymer clay for the first time like me, and are a bit unsure, my main advice is to test, test, test. And get an oven thermometer, which is what I’ll be doing next time!
So here is my first polymer clay embellishment! The 80s kids among you may recognise this as the Auryn symbol from the Never-ending Story. I coloured it with Perfect Pearls by Ranger in ‘Pewter’ and ‘Heirloom Gold’, they were easy to brush on (which I did before baking) and had a lovely deep metallic shine on the black clay. I’m planning to use this in an upcoming never-ending story themed project which I’m really excited about, so watch this space!