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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect....

On one of the blogs that I read, Kathi complained that as a clay newbie, the items she was trying to make for a swap weren't coming out right and she was giving up.
Reading that reminded me of one of the first things I made: apples.
Apples should be easy but look at my mess. Back when they were made, I wasn't sure about baking time, about whether I should use my kitchen oven and even whether I dared to bake clay indoors. That white stuff on the apples is talc; I'd read that if you baked directly on a tile, your clay would get shiny. (couldn't have made them look worse LOL)
Take another look at what I called apples then: the colors are all wrong; the texture looks off. Those apples look exactly like what they are: dead clay!

Take a look at my apples today: The one on the extreme left is still not quite right but you've gotta agree it's quite an improvement!

So if you're a clay newbie, allow me to pass on what I've learned....
....and let's stay with apples for now.
Every teacher I've learned from, starts off with "it may sound stupid" and continues with "but". So I'm going to say it as well:
It may sound stupid, but.... pretend you're an apple & think about how you look. Go out and buy whatever it is that you're trying to portray & really take a look at it.
The apples that you're looking at are about 4 inches in size so make your miniatures approx. a 1/4 inch but don't be too precise about it. All apples are not alike.
Look at the shapes, and the colors...sorry no Macintosh or Red Delicious; Ken ate them before I got around to photographing....look at the size of stem in comparison to the apple. Too often the stem is shown as a giant stake bisecting a miniature apple. Try using thin wire. If you're making toffee apples, try using the bristles of an unused broom.
Take a look at the apple bottom. If I had my Red Delicious, you'd be able to see 5 little humps at the flower end. Take a look at a banana; it has 5 sides. Nature seems to like 5s.
Next let's talk tools. If you put the tips of your thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand together, you'll be looking at your best clay shaping tool.
Baking time: did you know that under-baked clay is brittle and that when clay is baked for the proper length of time it's actually slightly bendable.
And here's another thing that no one tells you. Because clay is porous, acrylic paint will not adhere permanently. You can "paint" unbaked clay with colored chalk and as the clay bakes, the chalk will adhere to it. But if you want to paint baked clay with craft paints, you have to seal it first otherwise the paint will wipe off.
If you're worried about getting shiny spots on your finished clay, then lay a paper towel on your tile before your clay. You might even use fiberfill.
And for goodness sake, tent it! By that I mean take some tin foil and cover your clay with it like a tent. Light colored clay darkens and browns easily. Look at this poor little had an accident & had to be glued and then rebaked. Unfortunately I forgot to tent it. Can you see how his head & feet are slightly browner than his body?
And that brings me to mention clay "glue". There is really only one type of glue that will hold baked or unbaked clay together permanently: TLS (translucent Liquid Sculpy) or liquid fimo. If you're adding unbaked clay to clay that's already been baked, use either of them. If you want to ensure that your one clay section holds together with the next, use them. If you want to remove fingerprints, you can actually brush it over your item.....(of course you could also use a tiny bit of alcohol too).
Next on to finishes: I rubbed my apples with waxed paper. Gives just enough shine to make them look right. So take a look at the object you're trying to miniaturize and ask yourself whether it looks shiny, glossy or has a matte finish.

Since you know that I got myself involved in 5 swaps, I guess you can tell that most of my items have been made of clay. This last photo shows an item that I worked on for almost 2 weeks before I finally set it aside. I may finish it one day but only when I have more time and less deadlines. They were going to be Christmas lights made of clay and wire.
A hole made in unbaked Sculpy keeps it's size. That same hole in Fimo shrinks. I was used to working with Sculpy but having just gotten a deal on a "truck load" of fimo made me switch. So my last advice to you is: try out the different clays and see if you like one better than the others.

Just to update you: I've mailed out 3 of my swaps and expect to get the first swap items back soon. I've got 2 to go: my dressed bed and Rosanna's circle swap or in other words 3 pillows and a possible 2 items that are neither red nor green and are wrapped in an unusual container.
The pillows left to complete the bed are easy ones. The hard ones are done. I know exactly what I'm going to make for the circle swap; both the items and the container are easy. I'm in the home stretch so why do I feel like I'm going to wake up to Groundhog Day all over again.....


  1. Good blog, In art classes it is called "learning to see".

  2. very good advice- I am printing this page. I have just barely started playing with clay and it can be very frustrating to have one thing in your head,and then to have results that look nothing like your vision! It is also good for me to remember that the wonderful items I see everyone make were not their first attempt. This post has made me remember that I cannot be "perfect" without practice and experience and play time. Thank you for all your advice!!!

  3. What a wonderful post! Thank you so much! I'm going to bookmark and save this. I really haven't totally given up on clay. I made some lemons this weekend and they actually look like lemons! :) They are a bit too shiny and the texture didn't turn out right but I'm happy with them anyway.

  4. Можно добавить? Если у меня возникает необходимость добавить свежей глины на уже запеченный кусок, я пользуюсь не гелем, а разбавителем для масляных красок, -пиненом. Эффект тот же, но дешевле)))


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