Don't try this at Home
Leave the bungling to the professionals!
Okay, so I'm no professional and I am learning as I go by trial and error. Perhaps (I say to myself trying to justify my ignorance) this is the most effective way of learning because, if you just ruined something you spent many hours on, you are not likely to make THAT mistake again. No, no. you just forge on to make new ones!
At least that is what I seem to do. :)
A few of the lessons I have learned over the years:
Do not bake a clay journal cover decoration directly on the journal cover if the pages are secured to the binding with glue.
Why? Well, the heated glue softens and all of the pages fall out. Not a good thing if anyone wants to actually write in the journal.
When covering a hollow egg, or any form where air will be trapped inside when completely covered, leave a hole to allow the heated air inside a way to escape during the curing process.
I didn't and the result was odd bumpy tumor like swellings in the most inconvenient places.
Be sure that the material you intend to include in your clay piece will withstand the heat of the curing process.
Resin is a sinister impostor. I have mistaken it for metal, glass and even ceramic. Generally it does not do well in very hot conditions. It softens and collapses in on itself, shrivels and puckers and even becomes a bubbling goo.
In rare cases it has actually been a happy accident. One where my reaction when I pull if from the oven (where it has morphed into something totally unexpected) isn't a groan of despair but a wondrous cry of "Oh cool!"
This is exceedingly rare.
Check to be sure whatever you plain to paint or spray on it is compatible with polymer clay BEFORE using it.
Sealants and Adhesives.....shudder.
I have ruined quite a few things because of these two. They are the bane of my existence.
I have had so many catastrophes due to using the wrong adhesive or sealant. Some "Super" glues will form hazy crystals on glass or acrylic. Some sealants will turn your finished masterpiece into a sticky mess that will never dry......trust me...I know.
Most of the time it will not tell you on the product's package but there are plenty of polymer clay artists out there that can guide you in the right direction.
Condition your clay well and cure it properly
It was quite a while before I realized that cured clay can be very brittle if not conditioned well. By this I mean kneading it or rolling it out, folding it and rolling it out again over and over until it is soft, supple and pliable.
I cringe to think of all the times that I used it practically straight from the package. Once I made this really unique journal cover that included a little cave. Later, this became a cave-in when it crumbled to bits.
The other equally important step is to cure it properly. By this I mean the proper temperature for the proper amount of time. The thicker the clay, the longer the curing time. I had this really lovely piece begin cracking later because it had not been cured long enough. Cracking is usually not a good thing.
This brings me to my newest lesson. Exhibit A:
Here you see an egg I just recently finished. What is wrong with it you may ask? We'll get to that in a minute.
It is a gift for my Dad. I worked well over 6 hours on this little guy. As a result of all of my previous "lessons learned" I conditioned the clay well, made sure I left a small hole to let the heated air inside escape and cured it properly. It was perfectly shaped and as hard as stone.
No paints or other surface treatments such as Rub'n Buff or PearlEx pigments were used so I did not have to seal it.
There were no loose items on the surface that needed to be better affixed with adhesive so I didn't have to mess with that thank heavens.
All is well and good. I was happy with the result and was going to take some photos then wrap it up when I took another look at it and wondered if I shouldn't polish it up a bit. Give it a bit of a shine.
This brings us to my current lesson...
I had heard that denim is a wonderful material to use to buff cured clay to a nice glossy finish. I remembered that I had a pair of jeans I bought a few years ago that were too short so they had never been worn. For some reason, I never returned them and I thought "ah good, I can finally put them to good use!"
Foreshadowing: They were never worn, never washed and brand new.
I pulled them out all happy with myself and had visions of presenting my Dad this beautifully polished gift.
I laid them across my leg and began burnishing the egg vigorously stopping to check to see if it was working. Ah yes! I could see the beginnings of a glossy shine on the surface. Back to the vigorous scrubbing of my tiny "masterpiece". Visions of every one's cooing and awing over it's perfect polished surface spurred me on.
Mind you, my eyesight is not so great in dim lighting.
Once I was satisfied with the result I took a few photos before wrapping it up. I uploaded them to my computer and viewed them up close. What? What was that dirty film on the upper surfaces? I thought I had wiped it off well when I was applying the acrylic paint I use to accent the crevices! I zoomed in on the photos and this dirty film and a blue-ish tint to it. Denim blue-ish to be exact.
I was able to rub a good deal of it off with considerable effort so it wasn't completely ruined. Crisis averted! I guess I should have used old worn denim where most of the dye is washed out. Lesson learned. I won't make THAT mistake again!
I forge on bravely, to boldly go where I'm sure other clayers have gone (but am completely unaware), to make mistakes others have already made because I (apparently) like to learn everything the hard way!
Maybe I should actually read all of the polymer clay books that I buy. Right now I just gaze in awe at the pretty pictures.
Stay tuned for more from this hard headed goof ball from the "Show Me" state. :)