Polymer Clay — To Burn and Crack or Not

My Personal Fears and Work Situation

When I started with polymer clay and figurative sculpting, I immediately had problems with burning (Super Sculpey) and cracking (Sculpey UltraLight) when doing figures. (I didn’t have much of a problem with curing my polymer clay beads.) To be honest, it kind of scared me off from doing art dolls for a while, after I tried Super Sculpey and a full body sculpt (as opposed to assemblage type dolls upon which I affixed polymer clay heads, hands and feet). And I was busy parenting teens or was later taking care of infants. Well, the youngest grandchildren are toddlers now and I can get my grandson, whom I watch the most, to busy himself at the easel with his non-toxic Crayola products while I get some art done. I can get in maybe about 20 minutes at a time that way and then more when he naps. That’s up to 3 hours or more if I really apply myself and there are no other duties that might interfere.

Back to the burning and cracking issue… Even before the sculpting has begun, there’s the research, idea development, tests, planning, safety precautions, setting up a work place, finding and maintaining dedicated tools, networking… Who wants all their effort to get ruined during the curing process? Not me.

My Information-Packed, Fabulous Polymer Clay Troubleshooting and Problem Avoidance Binder

So today I gleaned information about how to avoid cracking and burning, as well as why these things happen, from all over the web, books and that fabulous glassattic site. I condensed it down into a couple of pages and into my Clay Art Dolls binder it went. I love that binder. It’s all organized with a table of contents and tab separators and it’s more thorough than any one source. The research and writing took hours. Problem-solving pages are written in  easily referenced, fleshed out, sweetly succinct outline form.  Bingbadaboom!

Local Doll Clay Shopping

Later in the day, when scouting local stores for doll clay the next town up the road, I stumbled upon a clearance section in Joann Fabrics. Mwhahahahah. They were clearing out the Adirondack inks and Ranger Rick stuff along with those protective work mats that protect your work surfaces from inks, glues, acrylic mediums and polymer clay. I got a few things for a third or a fifth of the normal price. Those are my kind of prices. Yeah.

What I found out as far as polymer doll clays and local stores go, Super Sculpey aside, is that the only local store within 20 miles that sells polymer clay specifically for sculpting art doll dolls is Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby sells Puppen Fimo. (2016 Update: they stopped selling Puppen Fimo). I’m not a huge fan of that store due to their Christian Nation stuff and Wall Builders associations, but then I’m not a huge fan of ordering clay online either.

Creager DVDs

Anyway, while at Joann Fabrics, I got some Super Sculpey and white Premo to mix because that mixture seems to get fewer moonies (white spots that show up after baking) and this is what the Creagers use. I am presently studying art doll creation with the Creager DVDs. Their 3 DVDs are amazing.

Between the Creager’s tips on the DVDs and the information about avoiding cracking and burning I gathered today, I finally feel confident about curing polymer clay doll bodies or parts. I like the combination of informed innovation or experimentation with tried and true methods. — that’s the sweet spot.

Art Doll Materials

I bought 2 packages of doll (polymer) clay today (on sale, of course). I’ll use what I already have in terms of paint and such to color the dolls but I’m not sure what I’m going to do for fabrics. I’ll get to that later.

It’s been a while since I last sculpted and I’d say I’m still a beginner even if my first art dolls were in an art gallery. I have a lot to learn. This time, I’m going to solder metal for parts of the armature when necessary. I got a Micro torch for that but have to order some solder, the metal and a few odds and ends. And a fire extinquisher (better safe than sorry). I can borrow a few tools from the hubby like his drill?


Art Dolls

(URLs For Included Links Last Checked and Corrected: Jan. 6, 2015.)

What’s Your Reality Bubble?

Professionally speaking, Art Dolls are works of fine art that aren’t created to be played with and aren’t created by using commercial molds. They can take a day to a month or more and are sold for 100 US dollars, if the skill level is lacking, to 10,000 US dollars or more when made by highly skilled, better known artists.

Altering stuff made while using commercial molds means you used a commercial mold and therefore any work made with that isn’t an art doll in any professional sense. Those creations belong to different categories of doll. See the array of industry-recognized, doll categories and their titles covered on ODACA’s (Original Doll Artist Council of America) Standard Definitions Page.

My pinterest board on art dolls and spirit dolls shows some of the finer examples of art dolls.http://www.pinterest.com/sari0009/art-dolls-and-spirit-dolls/

Although some “art doll” artists who use commercial molds and commercially made doll parts may hold workshops and/or write books, they are usually not among those who are selling said “art dolls” professionally as active members in any of the better known art doll associations as professional art doll artists.

Why Differentiate?

Art is art, right? If it’s a doll, and it’s art, then it’s an art doll; case closed. Not so fast…

In the professional art doll world, many art doll artists can take weeks or months to create their art dolls and props. It’s a concern when doll crafters who use commercial molds or parts flood youtube and the marketplace and call their work “art dolls” or One of a Kind (OOAKs) Art Dolls. Differentiation using professional definitions protect the entire field of art dolls. 

I went to a SOFA exhibition (Sculptural Objects, Functional Art, and Design) around the year 2006 or so and wondered why there weren’t a bunch of art dolls there. Many people think art dolls are just for old broads over 50, or some such nonsense. Because “dolls.” The morass of what people try to pass as art dolls creates problems for the art doll field too. This is why some art doll artists make sure to classify their work as “figurative” or “fine art.” E.g., Hidden Hollow’s description of “Original One of a Kind Figurative Clay Sculptures & Other Works of Art,” by Dianne Mayne. Another example comes from Anna Klocko’s webpage, “My dolls, which I call Figurative Sculpture, are the culmination of many aspects of my artistic life.”

Pure Sculpts: I prefer to pure sculpt art dolls in clay, though the trunk of a doll may sometimes be stuffed fabric. When I say “pure sculpt,” it means the artist takes raw clay and sculpts it with their own hands (or feet if they don’t have working hands) or sculpting tools, as opposed to using commercial molds in any manner. Pure sculpt art dolls can reach the heights I want to as an artist, capture a precise moment or an expression, and can artistically push the envelope in some way. They are created as pieces of fine art. This is why if I altered a molded item, I’ll say that’s what it is, and if I make a pure sculpt, I’ll call it a pure sculpt.

Note: The following definition is based on various official and standardized definitions and additionally addresses OOAK clay art dolls, specifically, as opposed to all professional art dolls.

Pure Sculpt OOAK Art Doll Definition (My Definition) — An original one-of-a-kind (OOAK) doll made by the artist using no one else’s patterns or molds. The doll is made of any medium or combination thereof and is the artist’s original work and design — no class dolls, no reborns, no repaints, no commercial molds and no recycled or mass produced doll parts. A pure sculpt, the doll is sculpted completely by the artist’s own hands to fulfill their vision and is created as a work of fine art. Art Dolls go for fine art prices and collectors ask for them the world over.

Again, an art doll is original one-of-a-kind doll made by the artist, using no one else’s patterns or molds, made of any medium or combination thereof and is the artist’s original work and design — no class dolls, no reborns, no repaints, no commercial molds and no recycled or mass produced doll parts. Art Dolls go for fine art prices, collectors ask for them the world over.

Art Dolls (Fine Art) vs. Crafting: It’s generally understood, in professional art doll circles, that if you use commercial molds, then you’re crafting and you’re not creating an art doll. More on the different terms you might hear on ODACA’s (Original Doll Artist Council of America) Standard Definitions Page.

Professional, Standard Definitions

The Standard Definition for OOAKs: “When the original or first doll is sculpted, assembled, costumed and finished by the artist and this doll is never made again, it is called a one-of-a-kind doll. One-of-a-kind dolls are almost always entirely designed and handcrafted by the creating artist.”

ODACA (Original Doll Artist Council of America) Excludes the Use of Commercial Molds: “All work made from commercially available molds, even if significantly changed by the hobbyist, should carry original marks followed by “reproduced by . (craftsman’s name or initials).” To do otherwise can constitute infringement of creator copyright. Makers who sell works made from other’s molds as their own originals may also be subject to charges of fraud.” In case it’s not clear that commercial molds shouldn’t be used for art dolls, this is the standard definition for an art doll artist: “One who takes an idea and transforms it into a three-dimensional doll form by using his or her hands to sculpt or re-arrange raw materials.”

Wikipedia’s Definition of Art Dolls: “Art dolls are objects of art, rather than children’s toys, created in a wide variety of styles and media, and may include both pre-manufactured parts or wholly original works.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_doll

Etsy’s Word on Art Dolls: “There’s no hard and fast definition to be found for an art doll. They can be made out of almost any medium or several different media. They come in various shapes, sizes, styles, and designs. They can be very realistic or abstract with barely anything recognizable on them. They can be human, humanoid, anthropomorphic, alien, fantasy, sci-fi, or just about anything in between. You can read more here.”

NIADA (National Institute of American Doll Artists) Doesn’t Allow the Use of Commercial Molds and Parts: “A NIADA artist who uses molds in his/her dollmaking is expected to produce such molds, or have them produced by a mold-maker from a sculpture made by the artist. No commercial or “repro” molds may be used.” See NIADA Artist Handbook.

International Art Doll Registry’s Say on Art Dolls:We accept figurative Art Dolls made from polymer clay, cloth dolls with original sculpted components, air dry type clays such as Paper Clay and also figures made from Epoxy Sculpt or Aves. We do not register works that are pre-manufactured dolls such as reborns or fashion doll repaints.  We do not register animal or other non-human sculpts other than fantasy (fairies, mermaids, centaurs, etc) and anthropomorphic dolls.” In case that isn’t clear for the crafters, “original sculpted components” means don’t use commercial molds and call your doll an art doll, specifically. http://www.international-art-doll-registry.com/join 

For More…

See “The One of a Kind Debate” at http://www.dollmakersdream.com/one-of-a-kind-debate.html.

More about OOAKs at http://www.niada.org/fundraiserdolls/DollSaleLI.html.

Also see the NIADA site. http://www.niada.org/about.html.

ODACA (Original Doll Artist Council of America) — http://www.odaca.org/index.html.

And then there are Spirit Dolls

Prismacolor Pencils: They’re a Gamble in Regards to Quality Control

In the last few years or so, the company started making their colored pencils in Mexico and I don’t know what happened but quality became erratic. (I suspect they might have lost some of their more experienced employees?) Regardless of trying these made in Mexico pencils with an array of quality pencil sharpeners both handheld and electric, pencil leads break repeatedly on some pencils, the wood splits, and the leads are not bonded to the wood as they are with some other high quality colored pencils. Some of the colors don’t feel as creamy either.

If you look at reviews on dickblick.com, for example, and they’re one of the sites with the most customer reviews, some customers are happy and some aren’t.

Since the quality control problems are erratic, their quality control issues haven’t hit Prismacolor financially, and therefore they don’t address the quality control issues on their site and things haven’t improved.  Quality is still erratic. Sometimes everything’s fine with their pencils, sometimes people notice the problems mentioned above.

Therefore, buying Prismacolor colored pencils is a bit of a gamble, quality control wise.

I’m so angry that I bought these a few years ago, thinking they had a long standing reputation for turning out high quality pencils. I will never buy art supplies again without researching them and paying closer attention to reviews and talk about their quality.