The Fine Art Air-Dry and Polymer Clay Market Can Be Confusing for the Beginner to Intermediate Artist

What this page is and isn’t about — It’s about fine art air-dry and polymer clays. It’s not about ceramic, cold porcelain, resin clay, epoxy clays, or any kiln-cured products.

This page was written after reading https://www.reviewstream.com/reviews/?p=155083#thoughts-box, which was about Premier clay, which is an artist grade air-dry clay, and the beginner’s needs and understandable confusion.

For jewelry making, Premo!, Fimo Classic, Kato, and Cernit are some of your better choices of oven-cured polymer clays –they’re durable enough and do not have to be sealed unless certain surface treatments (mica powders like Pearl Ex or Perfect Pearls…) require it. See: https://thebluebottletree.com/seal-polymer-clay/

Durability… While people making charms often use various air-dry clays, they usually don’t construct bracelets or rings out of air-dry clays. Jewelry may take much more wear and tear.

Seal it or not? As a rule, air-dry clays generally have to be sealed once dry and finished but oven-cured polymer clays don’t. (Two-part epoxy clays don’t have to be sealed but although they’re often called air-dry, they actually cure by chemical reaction and may even be able to cure under water. They’re not true air-dry clays.)

Cracks in Premier clay.… Cracks don’t mean your air-dry clay is weak. Premier is one of the strongest air-dry clays. Nearly all air-dry clays have some shrinkage and Premier is no exception, although it shrinks less than some air-dry clays. Having a good armature, if armature is necessary, and using minimal amounts of water while sculpting with Premier can decrease the likelihood or severity of cracks. Sometimes cracks happen but they’re easily be repaired with Premier, even if your item dried. See the below video. Cracks may occur if you added too much water while sculpting, used a cardboard armature, used thin clay over a rigid armature (Ostrich legs, for example), let your item dry too quickly, or didn’t support sculpture parts subject to gravity. Don’t dry your Premier clay items under a fan, for example. Do remember to keep unused clay in an air-tight bag and/or container.

For figurative works, Premix, an air-dry clay made by the same company as Premier, is easier to sculpt and blend than Premier. Doll artist Hannie Sarris loved Premix clay. Premier clay may take some different sculpting techniques than what one would be used to with polymer clay and one uses minimal (!) amounts of water are used while sculpting Premier. People working with these air-dry clays might lightly dab their fingers across a wet sponge to keep clay moist enough while sculpting. They may use a mister type of water bottle. Do not use Sculpey Clay Softener or any type of oil to soften, smooth, and blend these air-dry clays — they are hybrid clays and have their own characteristics, sculpting techniques, storage and compatibility considerations. They’re not like the majority of polymer clays that are oven-cured (e.g., Fimo Classic, Fimo Soft, Cernit, Fimo Doll, Premo!). They’re not like most air-dry clays on the market. They are used by a number of very famous art doll artists and others.

So yes, there are indeed air-dry polymer clays — Activa Lumina Translucent Polymer Clay, Staedtler Fimo Air Basic Modeling Clay, and Activa LaDoll Premier clay are examples of air-dry polymer clays. Activa, the company that makes laDoll Premier clay, describes Premier clay as a type of polymer clay on their site. Lumina has long been known to the polymer clay community. Fimo Air Basic is weaker than either of those.

Polymer clays have their own issues — Dirt, lint, hair, compatibility issues, and baking considerations (always monitor your oven with two oven thermometers, not counting the oven’s own temperature reading). If you look at it that way, a few easily repaired cracks in Premier clay items isn’ts a bad deal.

Sculpey Diluent, AKA liquid Sculpey Clay Softener, works with oven-cured polymer clays, specifically, and not with air-dry polymer clays. Here’s the Sculpey Clay Softener Material Safety Data Sheet: https://www.sculpey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Clay-Softener-SDS-10282015.pdf

In contrast, Makin’s, Hearty, Das, “cold porcelain” clays, Creative Paperclay, Celluclay, and epoxy putties are not polymer clays no matter who describes them as such.

For a whole lot of information on all things polymer and air-dry clay, see:

…Or go to clay manufacturers’ sites and hit their FAQs and MSDS pages. I wish there were sculpting, storage, compatibility, MSDS and other information (to seal or not to seal) with each clay package that one takes home, but that’s sadly not the case.

Viva Decor Precious Metal Colour Paint in Gold Was Heat-set on Cured Premo Polymer Clay, by Karen A. Scofield

Viva Decor Precious Metal Colour Heat-Set on Premo Polymer Clay

The Clay

I added crushed, shiny micaceous (meaning it’s loaded with mica) rock, fine gold glitter, and Blank Slate Gold and Silver Flake Mix, in order of volume, to some Premo! polymer clay (a Sculpey product). That’s why it’s sparkly and can appear darker or very light depending on how the light shines on it and it moves, you see sparkles as well as flashes and glints.

Aside: The Backstory on the Micaceous Rockhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/sari0009/19354330223/in/dateposted-..

The Paint (and A Closed US Office)

Spelling

Viva Decor’s US office closed in 2015 and my bottle is labeled “Precious Metal Colour” because that is how the UK spells it. Many sites and blogs still use the US spelling (Precious Metal Color), you may notice.

Viva Decor Closed Their USA Office in 2015. European Offices remain open. 2016.

Viva Decor Closed Their USA Office in 2015. European Offices remain open. 2016.

Inclusions Added to the Paint

Precious Metal Colour gold colored paint, specifically, has larger glitter-like particles while the mica powder has super fine (!) particles.

  • Alone, Pearl-Ex mica powder has a very slight orangish undertone by comparison.
  • Alone, Previous Metal Color is a bit bright and silvery.
  • Combined, the color is amazing and the larger particles of the paint aren’t glaringly evident.

So, I added a decent amount of Pearl Ex mica powder to Viva Decor “Precious Metal Colour.”

Rule: With mica powder, less is more, meaning you start by adding very small amounts and adjust according to your liking. I found my mix pleasing as a 14 karat gold color.

This doctored up Viva Decor “Precious Metal Colour” acrylic/enamel paint was painted in 3 or 4 layers on an already baked Premo polymer clay mix.

The bezels were entirely painted with the paint while the figurative beads only had detail work painted.

Heat-setting

All but one were heat-set at 275°F  for 30 minutes. There was no visual or tactile difference between the baked and unbaked paint.

I couldn’t scratch the paint off with a fingernail once the paint was heat-set. The paint looks the most like real gold. I finally, after years of looking for a rather durable solution, now have a tremendous amount of confidence regarding gold detail work on my beads and pendants.

Although Varathane Gloss sealant is one of the top choices for sealing polymer clay, it’s water-resistant, not waterproof. I’d prefer not to have to seal my beads at all.

Acrylic Paints — Drying Time vs. Cured

Note: There is A difference between drying time in curing time. Drying time might occur within minutes or a few hours for acrylic paints while curing time might take a few days. This difference might help explain some problems with heat-setting acrylic paints a polymer clay.

I say it might help explain some of the problems because, according to Blue Bottle Tree, there was a correlation between painting the paint on raw polymer clay before heat-setting and the paint bubbling. This was dependent upon brand of acrylic paint and/or polymer clay, whether the clay was raw or cured, and other factors. For more information, see that Blue Bottle Tree blog post.

One Minor Problem to Solve

When removing these painted bezels from the glossy tile they were baked on, some of the gold paint stuck to the tile. There was enough paint remaining on the bezels so this wasn’t a problem but I’d would still prefer this not  happen.

Perhaps baking on a silicone mat would improve things.

Micaceous Rock and "Yellow Gold Glitter" Premo Polymer Clay Mix, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Polymer Clay Micaceous Rock Composite Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Polymer Clay Micaceous Rock Composite Goddess Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Polymer Clay Micaceous Rock Composite Goddess Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Rock and

Micaceous Rock and “Yellow Gold Glitter” Premo Polymer Clay Mix, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Polymer Clay Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Polymer Clay Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Appears more glittery and sparkly in person.

Micaceous rock from family land in South Dakota was crushed and added to “Yelllow Gold Glitter” Premo polymer clay — the stronger polymer clay by Sculpey that’s suitable for making thinner beads like this. (Always wear a mask if working with micaceous rock in this manner to avoid permanent lung disease.)

About 2″ long and 1/4 inch thick. Mica powder patterns, a sun or spirals, were stamped into the raw clay before curing. The sun and spiral symbolism can have significance. E.g. http://www.whats-your-sign.com/spiral-meaning.html. Small bead holes are added after curing (now shown), usually after jewelry design is complete. Design may determine hole placement and number.

The finished beads look very much like some of the micaceous earth in South Dakota. The particular rocks used in making this came from family land right by Medicine Mountain, which is sacred land. So these beads have personal significant meaning for me in at least four ways. They are my creative expression, the rock comes from family land, the rock comes from the vicinity of sacred land upon which I attended a ritual, the rock represents time spent with family, and the symbolism is well chosen, of course.

Medicine Mountain Background:www.flickr.com/photos/sari0009/19354330223/in/dateposted-... There are two Medicine Mountains and only one is in South Dakota. The history and backstory for this particular Medicine Mountain is hard to find, hence my link is offered here.

Interesting Factoid: In some areas of South Dakota, the ground glitters like gold due to the earth and rocks’ micaceous (mica-filled) nature and looks magical.

Hand Sculpted Voluptuous Ceramic Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Finally Glazed my First Ceramic Goddess Pendants!

Two of these darlings are in Red Roses Bead Haven, a local bead shop, to test the waters, as it were.

Pictures and a short video. These pendants  represent my first experience with teaching myself how to sculpt and work with ceramics. I previously worked with polymer clay. It’s taken me four months to get to this point because I don’t own my own glazes or kiln. I’m lucky enough that a local art gallery will fire them for me and will let me use donated glazes. However, it’s often three weeks or so between firings, more if the kiln breaks down as it did recently.

One is made of red micaceous (contains mica) clay and didn’t need to be glazed like the rest.

Hand Sculpted Voluptuous Ceramic Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Hand Sculpted Voluptuous Ceramic Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Ceramic Goddess Pendants by SE Wisconsin artist, Karen A. Scofield

Ceramic Goddess Pendants by SE Wisconsin artist, Karen A. Scofield

Ceramic Goddess Pendants by SE Wisconsin artist, Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Ceramic Goddess Pendants by SE Wisconsin artist, Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amohora, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Unfired Ceramic Amphora Bead, by Karen A. Scofield

It’s my first one, it’s hollow and the cap,  which will be permanently chained to the vessel pendant, is removal. It will be glazed;  my daughter thinks a light driftwood or ivory color but I’m thinking something blue. Decorative slip decorations were added and slip was painted over them in multiple layers to avoid separation while retaining the dimensional  image. Once it’s completely fired and glazed, the tip of cap which fits inside the vessel will get a coating of silicone to make it stay put when closed but still allow the vessel to be open and closed. …If the silicone works out.

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amphora with Removable Cap, by Karen A. Scofield, 2016

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amphora with Removable Cap, by Karen A. Scofield, 2016

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amphora with Removable Cap, by Karen A. Scofield, 2016

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amphora with Removable Cap, by Karen A. Scofield, 2016

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amohora, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Unfired Earthenware Ceramic Amohora, My First, by Karen A. Scofield.. 2016. Will fire to white bisque, will be glazed. First Attempt. 2016.m

 

Bisque Fired Handmade Earthenware Ceramic Clay Goddess Pendants by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

My First Ceramic Bisque Fired Goddess Pendants

Bisque Fired Handmade Earthenware Ceramic Clay Goddess Pendants by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Bisque Fired Handmade Earthenware Ceramic Clay Goddess Pendants by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Yes, another picture and video of my beads but these are my very first ceramic fired anything! It took several weeks for them to get fired (not my schedule, not my kiln), but here they are before an iron oxide wash that will give them an earthy iron color. Weeeeee! I have to grok at them some more because I DID THESE! Me! He he.

Taps all fingertips together at once … what else can I do with cermamic clay without a wheel?

Sculpted Goddess Pendant strung with wooden and ceramic beads, By Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Sculpted Goddess Pendant strung with wooden and ceramic beads, By Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

 

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Ceramic Clay Dare: I Sculpt a Goddess Pendant on Camera

I sculpted with polymer clay before and, in ceramic clay, I sculpted the backside of a bead without a mold. Now I have dared myself to sculpt an entire bead without the use of any of my molds ( I molded my own beads)in earthenware clay, a medium still very new to me. So I did this on camera.

I’ll get better at filming. And sculpting. But for now, at least I know I can do this and I feel a lot better about doing 20, 50, or more figurative pendants like this, in different sizes and styles of course.

The Finished Pendant (Standing)

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield