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.

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The Mad Art Doll Sculptor Experiments — A PaperClay-Premier Slurry Mix (Slip)

He-he-ho-ho-ha-ha! Mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha-HA!

It’s kind of like that for a few seconds but then days (and into some mornings) were spent examining many different art doll mediums, sculpting techniques, youtube videos, and pinterest pins. But you know, that initial glee does infuse a peaceful and intense joy into hours of research.

Related Pinterest Boards

I’ve built up little libraries on my Pinterest boards. It’s not all the usual, so you may want to check these boards out.

La Doll Premix Clay, an Air-Dry Clay

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/444941638163831573/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/444941638163831549/

Official sites refer to La Doll Premix as a stone clay, a paper clay, and a polymer clay  — a hybrid clay! It has paper pulp in it as well as two types of finely ground stone – talc and pumice. It also has other stuff in it that allows it to dry to artist grade strength and you can make hollow dolls with it just as you can with La Doll Premier clay. Premix is a proprietary mix of La Doll Stone (often just referred to as “La Doll) and La Doll Premier, their most advanced clay. It is stronger than if a customer mixed the two, I’m not sure how.

Unfortunately, I can’t find Premix locally and shipping costs are financially prohibitive so I turned to an experimental mix.

Considering Air-Dry Clays … Paperclay and Premier

I have some delightful polymer doll clays (Cernit, Puppen Fimo), but have become quite fascinated with the air-dry clays suitable for art dolls, mainly Padico La Doll Premier, one of if not the strongest air-dry clay on the market. (Clays that seem to dry in the air but that really cure by chemical reaction not included.)

Air-dry Clay Directory: http://newclaynews.blogspot.com/p/adc-brands.html

Many of the renowned figurative art doll artists on my pinterest  boards use these two air-dry clays. Others most commonly use artist grade polymer doll clays, often Cernit and Fimo.

Air-dry Clay Slip … What For?

Padico makes Premier, Premix, and La Doll (meaning their original Stone clay) and  La Doll Cloth Clay, a clay slurry/slip version of Premier air-dry clay, essentially.

Slurry, n. — a semiliquid mixture, typically of fine particles of manure, cement, or coal suspended in water.

In the ceramics world, clay slurry is referred to as “slip.” It’s used to coat or join pieces. It’s also a handy way of recycling dried up bits of clay, as they can be rewetted (providing they weren’t fired, I presume).

The Cloth Clay page states: It is a liquid air-dry clay sure to inspire some new styles of doll crafting. It can be used in a manner similar to the clay-over-cloth technique currently used by many cloth doll crafters or used for draping fabric on a sculpted clay figure. It can also be used like a clay slip, to fill small holes or cracks on finished surface of a sculpted figure.

If you go to the video on youtube, “Japan ‘Ichimatsu’ doll Making (without subtitle),” you’ll notice they’re working with a surface clay made of pulverized shells (must not breath in while dry!) and do wonders with clay slip. They don’t just use it to join things like the ears. They also use it to create the eyes — to embed the eyes. They later carve them out in a highly stylized way. Captivating.

Ecorche (sculpting of the muscles, often over a wire armature), such as what sculptor Julian Kohr accomplishes, involves sculpting the fatty padding and skin for a more realistic appearance.

https://youtu.be/SXmtItK9SmE

Can an art doll artist do that with Premier and other artist grade air-dry doll clays, maybe like this at times? It’s a WIP (work in progress) by russian art doll artist extraordinaire, Михаил Зайков (Michael Zajkov). Such an approach would better portray all sorts of people — young, old, female, male, active, inactive and an artist could better portray the body as a living, breathing, body, a person with a story.

The Questions, They Burn!
  1. Why not do an adapted version of ecorche and then dip the sculpture in a clay slurry to add fat/skin?
  2. Why not dip armature in a clay slurry to start coating the armature with clay?
  3. Why not, at various stages, dip WIPs in clay slurry to smooth things out and bulk things up at the same time?
  4. Will slurry be smoother and easier, more magical, than traditional additive and/or subtractive methods, litterally and figuratively, pardon the pun? If it is, can a slurry open doors when working with air-dry clays? Is it part of how to work air-dry clays masterfully? Is it part of that toolbox?

Slurry Creation, a 3:1 Mix, and Testing it Out

https://youtu.be/ri6UQKRJZPU

I got two larger jars, put in a block each of Creative PaperClay in one jar and Padico La Doll Premier clay in the other, in chunks. I then added water and tried to break the clay down  and create that magical slurry. Apparently, that was going to take forever so I transferred the clay and water to a blender and added enough water to make smooth slurry of each kind of clay. I added cling wrap over each open jar then closed the lids.

I started testing. I wanted slurries to provide a smooth and an even enough coat and then sanding can take care of the rest.

  1. PaperClay slurry was too gritty in a coarse way.
  2. Premier clay slurry was so smooth and gelatinous-like that it bunched up when I tried to smoothly apply it over a sheet of paper with a brush. Nope. Neither were quite what I wanted.
  3. A mix of the two?! In mad scientist mode, I got a trusted dual ended measuring spoon out — a teaspoon on one end and a tablespoon on the other end, and made a 3:1 Creative PaperClay Premier clay mix, meaning one part Premier (1 t) and three parts PaperClay (1 T). “T” is for tablespoon and “t” is for teaspoon.  I mixed it up well, applied with a brush to paper, applied it to a papier-mache egg, filled a mold with it, and dipped a wooden skewer in it.
    1. The 3:1 molded clay slurry has dried.
      1. Dried, the molded clay slurry is close to a thin wafer like medallion and it broke easily. Curious, it’s strong if it’s coating something, even a thin wooden skewer normally used in BBQing, and is whacked against something hard but if strong shearing force is applied, if on its own, the dried 3:1 clay slurry breaks. So it has some kinds of strength but not others. Unless someone tried to snap doll in two, dried slurry remains incredibly strong. This is a vote for using this slury as part of the sculpting process, but only in thin layers over something else — the first coating of armature, coating musculature to soften appearance, adding sculpted eyebrows/moles/elbow skin. I will not use it for joining limbs, other body parts, or digits. It’s a vote for either decreasing amount of Creative Paperclay slurry in the mix or switching to a premade slurry of eithre La Doll Stone (regular) or La Doll Premier. The slurry for La Doll Premier is called Padico Cloth Clay. I just now ordered some Padico Cloth Clay for $11.20 US dollars. I must compare, of course.
    2. The clay slurry dried on the wood, paper, and papier-mache very nicely, stayed put, dried overnight, and sands ever so easily.
    3. Strength and other qualities will be continually checked as I use this mix.
    4. The clay slurry I haven’t mixed will be kept separate by brand and used with the clay it’s made from…unless I mix it for certain purposes. I don’t know if I will?
    5. Two coats of 3:1 slurry on a wooden skewer, letting the first dip dry overnight before dipping again, made the stick at least twice as thick as its original width. It does not easily chip off even though I whacked the coated skewer against many surfaces many times.
    6. One coat of 3:1 slurry dried on paper does crack and separate one dry when you fold the paper.
    7. Testing of brand-pure, 3:1, and other ratio mixes of slurry will be dried over armature and tested.
    8. Putting clay slurry in a thin line squeeze bottle to write, create brows, create moles and other details is still a monstrously good idea. I was incredibly pleased with the results.

Conclusion

I am more interested in Premier, Cloth Clay, and Premix than ever. Premix is not available locally or from many o the major art supplies online stores.

The book Yoshida Style Ball Jointed Doll Making Guide, by Ryo Yoshida just arrived. I got it for 20-something US dollars, a good price. It came weeks early, a rather pleasant surprise. Now I must find help with translation or find ready-made translations of chapters online. No one’s Japanese here is that strong.

Strongest Air-Dry Clay for Sculpting Art Dolls?

Note: This page doesn’t cover all the wonderful Japanese resin clays (not to be confused with casting resin). I don’t find them readily available in the US, have no experience with them, don’t know if they’re even suitable for sculpting figurative fine art dolls, but see them used for creating jewelry charms.

Artist Grade Air-dry Clays

Some of the artist grade air-dry clays are great choices for creating artist dolls. They are generally messier to work and unused clay must be sealed in a plastic bag  that the air has been squeezed out of, and then stored in an air-tight container. Finished dolls are usually painted and sealed.

Some Top Artist Grade Air-dry Clays for Professional Art Doll Artists, Specifically, in Canada, the US, Europe, and Russia

In order of strength:

  • Premier by La Doll — Strongest
  • Premix by La Doll — 2nd Strongest — Easier to sculpt than Premier
  • La Doll  Satin Smooth Natural Stone Clay — Often simply called Satin Smooth —  Third Strongest
  • Creative Paperclay (official blog!) — Fourth Strongest — Least Strong Of These Four Choices Here But Certainly Strong Enough for Some Sculpting Shapes and Sizes

To recap, of the air-dry clays Premier is the strongest, followed by Premix, La Doll, and then Creative Paperclay. Premix is very close to Premier’s strength though, considering the whole range of air-dry clays.

Both Premier and Premix are strong enough for hollow sculptures as well as fingers, toes, ears, etc, that won’t easily break off. Premier is the most advanced clay. Premier cracks the least while drying.

Creative Paperclay is pretty sturdy except fingers and smaller part that project out will be more susceptible to breakage. All of these clays, since they dissolve in water, should be sealed once the sculpture is finished.

Top doll artists use artist grade air-dry clays like Creative PaperClay, Premier, La Doll, and Premix. Both BJD (ball jointed doll) artists and other art doll artists use these clays. The late Hannie Sarris mastered both Premier and Premix by LaDoll, but came to favor Premix. You can witness many of their works via my Pinterest page on Art Dolls and Spirit Dolls here.

Where to Find These In the US:

Which Formula is Stronger, More Advanced?

From what I can tell from the more reputable sites, professional art doll artist input, and company descriptions, LaDoll Premier is indeed the most advanced and strongest of their three clays, and Premier is stronger and smoother than Creative PaperClay, the latter which is made by a different company. So, from what I can put together from all the input, Padico’s La Doll Premier airy-dry clay is the strongest, smoothest, and most advanced air-dry clay commonly available in the US (and possible Europe). It’s also the stiffest to sculpt, which is why, I suspect, the late Hannie Sarris, doll maker extraordinaire, worked with Padico to develop La Doll Premix. Premix has properties of both Premier and Stone but is finer than Stone but has more pliability, making it easier to scupt than Premier alone, presumably.

Note that while La Doll Premix is advertised as being so strong that it can be used to make hollow objects, hollow BJD (Ball Jointed Doll) parts for example, a lot of very successful art doll artists, including BJDers, have already been using la Doll Premier for hollow parts and have been doing so with great success. Also, while Padico made their La Doll Premix stronger than what any artist could mix up using La Doll Premier and La Doll Stone, meaning they did something to their proprietary mix and they charge more for that, they still describe La Doll Premier as their strongest and most advanced clay.

So Premix is a mix of Premier and Stone but is stronger than what you could make mixing those two clays, it’s neither more advanced nor stronger than Premier alone. That’s what I could surmise by looking at all the official sites and professional doll artists feedback. Premix sadly isn’t available locally and I have to use what I already have, which is La Doll Premier and Creative PaperClay, as far as the air-dry clays are concerned anyway. (I also have some of the polymer doll clays.)

I don’t have a lot of Premier or Creative Paperclay, so I’ll have to build up an armature and add ir-dry clay to it. They say it dries better that way anyway.

Creative Paperclay has a wonderful site full of information. It’s not as strong or suitable for delicate hand sculpts that are positioned away from the body, but it too can be a wonderful clay. Your sculpting style may influence your choice of clay.

Premier Air-Dry Clay

  • Contents — Pumice (a stone), talc (which is processed from rocks), small amounts of paper pulp, and additional binders.
    • As for the paper pulp part, how you process paper pulp and what you use makes a tremendous amount of difference. I found that out from watching a master art paper maker.
  • Is extremely plaint but is stiffer to sculpt than La Doll (“La Doll Natural Satin Smooth Natural Stone Clay”)
  • Is ultra-lightweight
  • May blend with La Doll
  • Has a bright white finish
  • Has exceptional strength — works well for small, delicate areas such as fingers
  • Air dries — no need to bake
  • Is best air dried rather than dried in an oven an even a very low setting
  • Has fine smooth texture, fine body to the clay’s feel
  • Capable of fine detail
  • Doesn’t attract dirt and tiny bits of who knows whats that float in the air
  • Keep it moist so you can work it
  • Add fresh clay to dry by re-wetting, attaching small pieces of new clay, and bleding it in — can work on it for a very long time this way
  • Adheres to any core material — wire, mesh rigid wrap, paper, glass, plastic, wood, Styrofoam, and more
  • Can be stamped, carved, or sculpted with exceptional detail
  • Can be drilled, sanded or sculpted when dry
  • Accepts acrylics, oils, water-based paints, as well as dry finish powders (dry artist pastels, for example)
  • Dissolves in water to be used as a finish coat or to soak paper or cloth in so you can form it in shapes
  • Dries with minimal shrinkage

Doll Artists Who Have Used Premier Clay are Too Numerous to Mention Here, but I’ll List a Few

Vocabulary Notes

Some people, a lot of people, call only Padico’s “La Doll Natural Satin Smooth Natural Stone Clay” just “La Doll” but all three — Satin Smooth Stone, Premier, and Premix made by Padico — have “La Doll” on the package. Even Padico sometimes calls their Natural Smooth Stone Clay just “La Doll.” Also, some packages say “La Doll Natural Smooth Stone Clay” on them and others just say “La Doll” on them for this same clay. To get a bit more confusing, all three clays are listed on their site under “Stone Clay.”

Stone Clays or Paperclays (Air-dry Clay) — Some people call the stone clays by Padico “paperclay.” Many official sites, including Padico’s, categorize them as stone clays. Premier, for example has paper pulp in it, yes, but these clays also have pumice and talc (which comes from rocks) in them, which is why they’re probably labeled as stone clays and why they’re stronger than Creative Paperclay. Some official sites refer to them as polymer clays too. Do they technically fit al three categories? That is quite possible. It seems that users most often call them paper clay and official sites most often call them stone clays.

Epoxy Clays

Magic Sculp and Apoxie Sculpt technically aren’t air-dry clays — they can cure even when wet — their curing process is chemical. Also, if you use these two-part epoxy clays in the construction of a doll’s armature, they’re so tough and strong that if you wanted to cut through it later, you’d have to use a saw and it’d be hard work. Magic Sculp has an indefinite shelf life though and both can withstand heat up to 300 degrees F. One can create entire sculpts out of the epoxy clays, use them for armatures to add strength, sculpt part of the doll with epoxy clays, and/or sculpt props and bases with epoxy clay. They can be painted with acrylic paints. They’re great stuff but they’re not air-dry clays, technically.)

Techniques, Cracks, Storage, Sanding, and Working Time…

Working time with artist grade air-dry clays can extend into weeks. 

Cracks don’t mean that you failed, should give up, or that the clay isn’t artist grade.

  • Storage of Opened Packages — Keep a damp cloth or terra cotta disc in with the clay and keep the clay in a zip lock bag with the air squeezed out of it. Keep that bag in an air-tight container.
  • When Sculpting, Keep a Spray Bottle of Water at Hand — Spray areas you’re working on to keep moist, as needed.
  • Joining New Clay to Dried — Moisten the dry clay a bit where you’ll attach the new clay.
  • Sculpt in Stages, Letting Dry Overnight — This makes for better drying and less or no cracks. Stages can be armature, basic bulk out, final layer, fingers, toes, details.
  • Sculpting Details — Can be done through a combination of additive and subtractive sculpting, meaning you can add new clay or take it away. Subtractive sculpting can be accomblished with carving tools (both regular sized and micro, for micro see Dockyard Micro Carving tools), rasps, nail files, sandpaper or even, in more advanced methods, keyhold X-acto blades. You can use dremels too but they’re much more difficult to control, as far as fine tuning sculpts and such goes, and are probably better for drilling holes or major reworking.
  • Cracks May Happen — Cracks are often a normal part of both the drying and sculpting process with artist grade air-dry clays. They can be filled in with more of the artist-grade air-dry clay. Cracks do not mean, however, that artist grade air-dry clays are less worthy or suitable for art doll dollmaking. They shrink a little while drying is all, therfore…cracks. That being said, don’t sculpt air-dry clays over springy, boingy armatures and expect those cracks to be okay. That’s a whole other story. And hey, polymer clay artists have to worry about burning their polymer clay, moonies, and other issues sometimes. Every clay has its quirks artists learn to work until they rock it (masterfully work it to magnificence). When you’re already working with an artist grade clay but cracks stop you, it’s not the clay, it’s the artist that determines success. When I first started with air dry clays, I used it for Ostrich legs. The metal was too sproingy. The clay cracked big time. That was a major structural fault. That this stopped me from using air-dry clays for years was my fault as an artist. I needed to understand more about armature and the nature of the clay. Instead, I thought I was a failure and never finished the sculpture.
  • Smoothing/Shaping — Use wet-dry sandpapers (you can wet them a touch on the back, but keep the sanding side dry, to make them more pliable), nail files, nail file/buffers, dedicated pedicure sanders/scrapers, metal rasps, fine drywall screen, and even flat beach stones that have some texture. I have a jar of “smoothing stones” that I’ve found work for the purpose. I got the idea from professional doll artists who use smoother stones to smooth out raw polymer clay doll surfaces. So now I have smoothing stones for polymer clay and sanding stones for air-dry clays).

Don’t Let The Confusion Out There Get to You

Doing some research over several years, I’ve found different answers on what is the strongest air-dry clay for sculpting art dolls.  Be careful, anyone can make a web site. Some sites didn’t do their homework and tell me that student grade clay, really weak stuff, is the strongest and may not even mention Padico’s La Doll Clays (Stone, Premier, or Premix). There’s also some confusion regarding vocabulary and categories of clay.

Armed with a little of the right and thorough enough information though, you can proceed and have a lot of fun.

Happy Doll Making!

Spray Sealants for Polymer Clay

Spray sealant on polymer clay?

You can get very different results using the same sealants because people may be using different formulations of the same brand products that are different ages.

Background: In 2006-2008 and since,  numerous brands of polymer clay reformulated numerous times, first to take out phthalates (certain type of plasticizer) and then to purportedly to improve clays. Some sealants have also been reformulated, for other reasons.  It’s reasonable to expect that such changes may account for some of the different results while using some of the same products.  It’s reasonable to suspect pages may be quickly outdated because of such changes.  http://www.garieinternational.com.sg/clay/shop/fimo_new_formula.htm

Warning: Manufacturers don’t always announce reformulations and how they will affect artists. As always, your success is up to you. Test first. Companies producing sealants may reformulate their products too.

I have clay 12+ years old and spray sealant 10+ years old. Also, the age of products in stores may vary. 

It’s a good idea to test and check for chemical reactions months later. Some people keep binders or boards of test pieces with notes (products, methods, date, date checked, results.

To avoid having to use sealants is the ideal. Many artists refuse to use sealants on their polymer clay, either spray or bottle versions! E.g. http://www.patriciarosestudio.com/html/tips.htmlDoll artists, for example, may color their dolls with artist grade acrylics or Genesis heat-set oil paints used and loved by so many, as opposed to blushing their dolls with artist chalks (soft pastels), in order to avoid the morass of possible sealant issues.

Yet as a doll artist, I am very interested in the possibility of coloring art dolls with fine art soft pastels. Will the sealer be too glossy, how will it age, will it smell, and could it turn my polymer clay doll permanently tacky?

The bead artist in me loves mica powders on polymer clay, something which provides my top reason to use sealants. Mica powders applied to polymer clay surfaces before baking must be sealed once the clay is cured or they wear off. Some spray sealants create droplets and alter the mica powder appearance for the worse.

Polymer Clay-Friendly Spray Sealants

Note: For possible incompatibility, check your results at several days, weeks, and again at 6 months. Check for any tackiness.

When looking at other clayer’s results regarding spray sealants. on polymer clay, keep in mind the following

  1. They’re usually not coating beads treated with mica powders.
  2. In most cases, they’ve coated the bead’s surface with an acrylic paint or other surface treatment, and that coverage may prevent chemical reactions between the polymer clay and the chemicals in the spray’s propellants.
  3. They  back up a little more, spray at a slight angle rather than directly over the pieces being sprayed, and keep the spray nozzles clean to avoid creating spurts and drops.

Known Polymer Clay-Friendly Spray Sealants, In Some Cases

  • PYM II — a bit shiny
  • Lascaux Fixative Matte UV Protect II Spray Sealant — Tested — Pretty mat and still not tacky on different polymer clays old and new (listed below) even 6 months later!
    • Museum Quality “Lascaux UV Protect 2 Fixative/Sealant In Matt” Was Tested On Different Polymer and Other Clays (Mostly Polymer Clays): An Ultralight and Premo mix, Amaco Cold Porcelain, Fimo Effect colors, 10+ years old Premo, Cernit, Liquid Sculpey in gold, Studio by Sculpey, more old Premo, Original Sculpey in Terra Cotta, Pardo Jewelry Clay, more Premo from different years, fresh Yellow Gold Glitter Premo, older Premo clays again, Super Sculpey, Polyform Model Air Porcelain, fresh Premo, fresh Sculpey Soufflé, Puppen Fimo (doll clay, now called Fimo Doll Professional polymer clay), Cernit Doll Collection polymer clay. That means there are only two commercially prepared cold porcelain clays and the rest are polymer clays. Among these test pieces are the following finishes: Golden brand micaceous iron oxide acrylic paint, metallic acrylic paints (Folk Art, Viva Precious Metal Colour, DecoArt Dazzling Metallics), Pearl Ex mica powder, Perfect Pearls mica powder, Adirondack Alcohol Ink. #lascauxfixativ  #spraysealants  #polmerclay  #lascaux2  #testingspraysealantsonpolymerclay  #periodicchecks  #testing  #thorough
    • Will wear off with heavy wear. Perhaps spray first, let dry two days, then seal with a quality two-part resin (Ice Resin, Art Resin).
  • Mr. Super Clear Spray UV Cut Flat —  For hybrid clay called Premier Clay not regular polymer clay — mat (more so on some clay than others)
  • Duncan Super Matte — For hybrid clay called Premier Clay not regular polymer clay — not an absolute true mat on some surfaces (like polymer clay)

For clarity’s sake — I’ve especially heard a lot of good things from the BJD and repaint doll communities about Mr. Super Clear Spray UV Cut (Flat), specifically. Reportedly, people who have dolls worth a thousand dollars or more really trust this stuff, say it has a very fine spray (could it be used on mica powders then?) and doesn’t alter their work. Keep in mind they’re using or working on all sorts of clays and resins — Padico La Doll Premier Clay, for example. It’s a strong air-dry stone clay know in professional art doll and other sculpting circles the world over. Some call Premier clay a polymer clay, others a stone clay, and others called it a paper clay. It’s possible it’s a little of all three?

As for the shimmery mica powder effects on polymer clay, most mat finishes tend to bring it’s shimmery/metallic look down a few notches or a lot, depending on how mat the sealant is. I found the above Lascaux spray did so the least.

Protect your health and wear a mask with spray sealants, and Mr. Super Clear brand sprays are certainly no exception.Work in a well ventilated area.

Other candidate spray sealants?

I have so far seen only one mention that Blair Spray Clear, which comes in Gloss and Matte, is another quality spray sealant that supposedly can work on polymer clay. From product reviews, it’s said that this product is not as smelly as other spray sealants generally are. I have some and find that to be somewhat true. It still smells. She also isn’t telling us if she checked her work months after creation, an important note because sometimes the detrimental chemical reaction between spray sealants and polymer clay happens more slowly. I have not so far risked it on polymer clay and the person who said it works well with it isn’t telling us whether her polymer clay work was protected by a coat of paint or other surface treatment.

Australian Art Doll Artist, Amanda Day reports using Boyle Matt Spray Finishing Sealer (www.boyleindustries.com.au) on polymer clay. She’s the only one who’s reported using that particular spray on polymer clay, specifically, as far as I can tell, and I’m not sure what subsequent testing she’s done in regards to this use. From other mentions, it isn’t as mat as the other above mat sprays. As for potentially using this spray sealant over mica powders, I don’t know about that because it reportedly can darken other powders. I’m also not sure it’s available outside of Australia.

Note: Spray sealants tend to have a strong odor unsuitable for wearing close to your body. Some of my beads smell of the spray sealant even years later — some people can’t smell  it much while it may really bother the next person.

This information was originally on my tutorial on how to make polymer clay mica powder covered goddess beads. This page may be frequently updated at times.

Can You Condition Hard, Crumbly Polymer Clay or Should You Get New Clay?

Hard and crumbly polymer clay could be older, partially cured, or the plasticizer has evaporated or leached out. Some clays tend to be more crumbly by nature if older than a year or so old, e.g., Cernit Doll clay. The question is, can it be successfully , softened, conditioned and then used?

Bottom Line or Pro — Unless the clay had been cured, most hard, crumbly clay can be softened.

Pro: Not all methods of softening difficult-to-condition polymer clay require adding products.

Possible Con: Adding products changes the way clay feels and behaves so some techniques will require new, fresh clay instead. If in doubt, test.

Work it or Buy Fresh Clay? That’s a decision that you’ll make based on a variety of criteria. Personally, with the price of larger “bricks” of different doll clays, which is mostly what I have, I’m going to choose “work it” more often than not. I’ve worked really old clay (10 to 15 years old) for 30 to 40 minutes, conditioned it, and used it with satisfactory to excellent results. Often, it doesn’t take nearly that much effort.  If it hurts your hands to work the clay into submission, you might want to consider using a mallet or NeverKnead (a machine).

Goal: The Goal of Methods 1, 2, and 3 are to make it possible to clump your clay together and run through the pasta machine repeatedly and/or work it with your hands in order to condition your polymer clay.

Method 1: Put it in a zip lock baggie then. in your pocket or otherwise against your skin for a bit to warm it up.

Now try to condition it.

Method 2: It’s not too stiff and crumbly but still needs a little more help?

Soften it with physical manipulation, additives, or a combination of physical conditioning methods and adding new materials to make it supple and workable. Here are your options. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether physical efforts vs. additives are your best options for your techniques.

  • Whack It — Whack the clay with a rubber mallet to “get things moving.” A few good whacks can “jumpstart” conditioning — the more you whack it, the better it behaves, generally.
  • NeverKnead (Tool)– NeverKnead is a modified arbor press that smashes polymer clay. It allows you to condition it without hurting your hands. This can be a boon to those with arthritis.
  • Use Clay Softener (Diluent) or Translucent Clay – Work some softener or translucent clay into it. Start with smaller amounts!  you can always add more but it’s difficult to leech it back out.
  • Translucent clays – Translucent clays have more softening agent  and many clayers soften their crumbly clay by adding some translucent clay.
  • Fimo MixQuick — Fimo MixQuick helps soften hard polymer clay.
  • Sculpey Mold Maker – Sculpey Mold Maker can also help soften hard polymer clay.

Now try to condition it.

 Method 3: If it’s really hard, crumbly, and unresponsive

  • Chop — Chop up the clay in tiny bit using a blade or dedicated food processor.
  • Add — Add Sculpey Clay Softener, mineral/baby oil, liquid polymer clay, or Fimo MixQuick to your polymer clay, if you didn’t already, or maybe again if it needs it, and mix.
  • Simmer” in a Ziplock Bag — Place in a zip lock sandwich bag let sit for a few days in a cool, dry, dark place so that the liquid or plasticizers in Fimo MixQuick seep into the hard clay and soften your clay.
  • Repeat — Repeat the process with more liquid or Fimo MixQuick if necessary.
  • NeverKnead/Mallet — Whack the clay with a rubber mallet to “get things moving” and/or use the NeverKnead.

Now Try to condition it. Again, the goal of the above 3 methods is to make it possible to clump your clay together and then condition it in the pasta machine and/or with your hands.

 “Conditioning Fail”

If even method 3 doesn’t work, your clay was probably partially cured. It can be used as clay crumbles in faux rock or other uses, perhaps, or it can be thrown out.

Prevention

Avoid ordering your clays in the hotter summer months, buy clay only just before you need it, and consider your storage conditions. Your clay is supposed to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Many people try to order the clay just before use. Others found a bargain and store it until later.

I have clays that are 10 years and older that I’ve conditioned and used. We have central air. I store my clays out of the sunlight in a cool, dry, dark place.

Polymer clay can start partially curing at 90-something degrees F. So while it’s okay to warm polymer clay against your body before conditioning for short periods of time, never leave your polymer clay in a hot car while shopping or on a warm windowsill. Store it in a cool, dry, dark place…about 74 degrees or lower, ideally. If you don’t have a house or other storage in which you can keep it 74 degrees or lower, your clay may not fare well if stored for longer periods of time.

See: Glassattic.com’s page on storage

art doll sculpting parts stand

Video: Adjustable Art Doll Sculpting Stand & Oven Cover

Many art doll artists build up and sculpt their polymer clay doll parts over wooden dowels. My recent youtube video shows that I can place these dowels in my stand and tilt the whole thing so that the art doll heads or other parts tilt up toward me as I work. I can just as easily return the stand to level position. The clay stand can go from work table to oven and has so far prevented burning of polymer clay parts during tests. It also evens out the temperature. Even good ovens momentarily spike in temperature, from what I understand, so it’s wonderful if you can find something that holds temperatures even within it, despite expected oven fluctuations.

I made my stand out of clay using what I had, which was Amaco Air Dry Modeling Clay, but the one shown in the Creager Studios instructional DVDs was made out if wood. Since I made this with a natural air dry clay, and not a more durable kiln-cured clay, I coated it with Kato Liquid Polyclay and cured it. If I hadn’t done that, the stand could leave clay dust and crumbles all over while manipulating it. Problem solved. The Kato Liquid Polyclay was chosen because it cures at a higher temperature than the polymer clays I chose for creating my art dolls. This means I don’t have to worry about the Kato Liquid Polyclay burning.

I guess I’m the oddball that makes a stand like this before really getting into sculpting polymer clay art dolls, I’m still a beginner, but I like figuring things out ahead of time in order to hopefully avoid some of the most common problems — how to comfortably work with your clay yet keep it as clean as possible, how to avoid marring it when working on it or between sculpting sessions, and how to cure it properly without burning or darkening the clay. Yeah.

Karen A. Scofield Learning with Creager Studios Workshop DVD. Progress shot. KarenAScofield

WIP: Sculpting with Creager Studio Workshops Sculpting the Head Volume 1

2015_01_11and12_SculptingArtDollsAgain 001

Note: This page will show more as my work progresses.

The above shows my progress during the first two days. I have to add the lips, eyes, flesh it out more, shape it more, add details and then bake it.

Where to buy the Creager Workshop DVDs: http://www.creagers.com/. I have all three and they’re really helping me. I love them.

Rusty and a Beginner — I was a beginner when I started sculpting art dolls in 2005 but managed to get juried into an art gallery with assemblage type dolls. I’m diving in again after a years-long hiatus and this time, I want to do far more pure sculpting. I tried one head to toe body pure sculpt and then stopped. It’s been years since. I have hours and hours of practice ahead of me — I both look forward to it and dread the awkward stage. This time I hope to stick with it.

So … I cracked open my Creager DVD on sculpting heads and this time I’m going to keep on trying.

Right away, I came across numerous technical problems.

Clay — Ooops. I chose a clay blend because I was in love with it after some pretty decent results in one of the softest clay — Sculpey UltraLIght. Like straight Sculpey Ultralight, however, my Super Sculpey-Sculpey Ultralight clay mix doesn’t blend or smooth well. After this practice head, I’ll switch to working with more traditional art doll clays. They have varying degrees of softness and firmness but will blend and smooth well.

Unfortunate Combination of Store Practices and Super Sculpey Packaging  — Super Sculpey boxes aren’t sealed in a protective wrap, the boxes don’t close tightly, people often pinch off a piece or mar the clay, and stores invariably place Super Sculpey on bottom shelves where they’ll be exposed to the most dirt, dust, and lint. It’s not one of the more popular clays among hobbyists, so boxes often sit on the shelves longer than other clays, thus compounding the problem. Consequently the clay is often dirty before you even get it home and you can’t simply wash off the lint. I could shave off the sides and put them in a scrap clay container, I suppose.

Brushes That Stain Clay — Jodi Creager said to use artist brushes…any small enough to smooth the clay. Not her fault, Murphy’s Law and all, but Daler Rowney Simply Brown Nylon Brushes leave their bristle color on my clay. Only the brown ones do that so far. I’ll look for other brushes, white and/or natural bristle ones. I guess I should test even brushes on polymer clay first. Test, test, test. Lots of testing with everything.

Lint — I’m wearing light colored cotton with a white lab coat over it. No dark fibrous sweaters or towels are allowed in the studio. Pets are not allowed either. I cleaned my station for two days with wet wipes and even rubbed my claying mat with a wad of clay to pick up the lint and I’m still finding dark fibers of several different colors in the once clean clay after working it yesterday and today. Argh!

Jan. 15, 2015

Learning to Pure Sculpt More with Creager Studio Workshops "Sculpting the  Head" Volme 1 DVD

Learning to Pure Sculpt More with Creager Studio Workshops “Sculpting the Head” Volme 1 DVD, third day…

Jan. 19, 2015

Learning to sculpt polymer clay art doll heads with a Creager Studios Workshop DVD

Learning to sculpt polymer clay art doll heads with a Creager Studios Workshop DVD

I’ve been making progress every day or other day, the latest involving fine-tuned shaping and texturing, but as soon as I added rudimentary ears and and started to correct the jaw, I saw a bunch of things I want to change. I need to add more to the top of the head, add more flesh to outer upper eyelid to reflect age, redo and lower ears, redo chin, add a bit to the upper lip right under the nose thus changing the bottom of the nostrils and nares slightly. For starters. Then I have to do the neck and continue with the rest of the body. I’ll probably have to do more texturing and even further fine-tuned shaping. Here’s a video that shows him from different angles at this stage, just in case WIPs (Works in Progress) interest you. For me, they’re a good record that I can organize into one ongoing post.

Progress Jan. 26, 2015.

Learning with Creager Studios Workshop DVD. Progress shot. KarenAScofield

Learning how to sculpt with more of an additive process with Creager Studio Worshops “Sculpting the Head” Volume 1. Progress Jan. 26, 2015.

I have to revisit the entire list of everything I’m working on because I didn’t make nearly the progress I wanted. Perhaps it’s better to make slow, small changes than to make such mistake that I don’t know how to save the work from that point.