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!

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

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.

Polymer Doll Clay Storage by Karen A. Scofield

Cernit Doll-Making Clay — Conditioning and More

Naysayers, Difficult First Experiences and Crumbly Clay

Unless it’s very fresh, Cernit Doll clays can be hard and crumbly out of the package … but it’s one of the best polymer doll clays on the market. That confuses a lot of people because most clays are partially cured when they’re crumbly like that (partial curing can start to occur at 90 degrees F). Cernit clay, however, can be crumbly just because that’s its nature if it’s not manufactured quite recently. Don’t immediately assume this polymer clay is impossible to work with just because it’s crumbly.

See “Can You Condition Hard, Crumbly Polymer Clay or Should You Get New Clay?” It lists three methods of conditioning hard, crumbly polymer clay. Adding Fimo MixQuick isn’t so much a problem with doll clay, specifically, because many doll clay artists already do that to add flexibility so little fingers and toes don’t break off so easily during shipping.

Weighing Quality vs. Conditioning Work

Is Cernit Doll-Making clay more difficult to condition? Sometimes. The quality of the clay, it’s strength, the skin-like transparency level and color can be worth it and many hyperrealistic art doll artists choose Cernit Doll clays. With Cernit Doll clay, you can have more control over the softness and firmness of the clay once it’s conditioned precisely because it’s more temperature sensitive. That can be a tremendous plus.

Conditioning Older Cernit Doll-Making Clay

Food Processor to the Rescue! — I’ve had great success with taking the old Cernit Doll clay and mixing it with Puppen Fimo (now Fimo Professional Doll Art Clay) and/or a 1/3 to a 1/2 package of Fimo Mix Quick (which one can get from JerrysArtarama.com).  Place these in a larger food processor that can handle harder work and whir it around on high until it’s very finely pilled. If the Cernit is really hard and crumbly, I  put my Cernit Doll clay into a food processor until it becomes a fine crumbly mess. Then I add the Fimo Mix Quick and maybe some Puppen Fimo too.

Some of it will stick to the food processor walls but a rubber/silicone spatula can help you get it out.

Jar or Bag It and Let it Sit — Remove the contents into a wide mouth glass container or zip lock bag. I prefer the glass jars. Let it sit for a few days to let the plasticizerrs on the MixQuick do their work and soften crumbly clay.

Fastidiously Clean Your Food Processor As Soon As Possible — Clean with rubbing alcohol and wipes and dry before next use.

Labeling and Attaching a Baked Chip — Once the clay is in my glass jar, I take an index card write what’s in the glass jar, how old the clay is, and baking instructions. I pause to bake a well blended chip. I have found I can easily punch a hole in a 1/4″ thick chip with a hole puncher meant for paper. I tie it to a string and attach the chip with the string to the glass jar that contains the far clay or clay mix. If I have any notes about tendency toward moons or to darken while baking, I add that to the index card and tape it to the glass container.

Cover your Jar — If you think it might sit a while, you can cover your jar with a pillow case or homemade cover to keep out the light.

Use It — When I’m ready to work with it, I put on disposable latex gloves (not thicker household rubber gloves), pinch together a bit of clay, and start conditioning it with my hands. I work on a clean polymer clay mat and will often rub my work station and hands with scrap polymer clay kept for this purpose — it picks up what your hand washing and wipes may have left behind.

If that doesn’t work, refer to “Can You Condition Hard, Crumbly Polymer Clay or Should You Get New Clay?” again.

Polymer Clay Storage

Polymer Clay Storage

Some Cernit Doll Polymer Clay Information

Origin: Belgium. Made by The Clay and Paint Factory S.A. Yes, they have a Facebook page.

Availability: May be more easily available in Europe and other places than in the US.

Cernit MSDS: http://cdn.dickblick.com/msds/DBH_33904XXXX.pdf

Artist Grade: Yes. Cernit is more translucent and stronger than ProSculpt, another artist grade polymer clay, once conditioned and cured properly. (Reportedly, one can add Premo translucent to Prosculpt to get something close to Cernit but then it begins to work like Cernit — hard at first and then too soft – without becoming as quite as strong as Cernit.)

Strength and Durability: One of the strongest clays in its properly conditioned and cured state.

Shipping: Cernit is more susceptible to transportation and storage temperatures/conditions when in the raw. Cured, it’s one of the strongest clays but finished works still should be well protected/padded during shipping.

Shelf Life: It should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Some people have used 20-year-old Cernit with no problems. Obviously, it may last this long only if transported/kept in a cool, dark, dry place. Reformulations may affect shelf life? The brand is more sensitive to transportation and storage temperatures than other clays.

Multiple Stations: It saves time and sometimes a great deal of frustration to have different stations at which to paint, sew/costume, play with settings, and photograph. For example, once I got wool roving all over my work station, loose bits and all, fibers flying into the air (no, I didn’t shake it about), I had to clean my work station and studio several times and still found those little wool fibers here and there. They’re a pain to get out of polymer clay. So I have a folding table in the living room to use as a wigging and costuming station. I wish I had the space for various permanent work stations but I don’t, so folding table it is!

Cernit Doll Clay Colors: Has range of doll clay colors and can be mixed with each other or other brands to tint. Cernit Doll Biscuit color deepens after baking and Cernit Doll Almond is not quite as yellow.

Conditioning: Warm briefly but sufficiently against body before conditioning. It’s misleadingly crumbly right out of the package but once conditioned may produce superior results, providing that the reason that it’s crumbly is not because it was partially cured due to improper transport or storage temperature. (Most clays are crumbly because they’re partially cured but Cernit is crumbly out of the package before conditioning because that’s the nature of the clay, unless it’s freshly made within the last month(s).) To condition, try pressing it for a while at first more than rolling and twisting. It may get “sticky” if it becomes too warm in the hands. Proper conditioning is crucial to attaining the clay’s ceramic-like, slightly translucent quality though.

Note: Stays softer longer once conditioned, as opposed to other brands of polymer clay.

Cross-Brand Mixability: Yes. Cernit can be mixed with other brands of polymer clay and Fimo MixQuick.

Sculpting: Uses some different sculpting techniques than the rest of the polymer clays. Some people make their doll in Super Sculpey or another clay, create a mold, and then make their item out of Cernit Doll Clay. Others do fine by using warm tools and/or hands when blending clay during a sculpt. Many (most?) sculpt and series bake (bake then proceed to next stage/part) when using Cernit Doll. Lighter colors may make it more difficult to see sculpting details. Check with a mirror and photos that you take of it.

Blending: It is reportedly the most difficult to smear or blend one piece onto another – a feathering and pressure method is often used. Some people report that a Cernit 50/50 with the Classic Fimo blend makes for better doll sculpting. Many add Fimo QuickMix to Cernit and use Sculpey diluent to ease blending.

Armatures: Cernit can get softer while sculpting and baking and needs more excellent and carefully constructed support (armature) than perhaps other clays might.

Water: No! Cernit possesses a filler (natural clay, possibly kaolinite) that absorbs moisture. Therefore, talc or cornstarch are the better release agents and Sculpey Diluent/Softener is better for smoothing the clay than using water.

“If your clay is burning, the temperature of your oven is too high. Address your temperature, not your bake times! Baking longer is never what causes burns if temperature and baking methods are correct.” — http://thebluebottletree.com/how-long-bake-polymer-clay/

While you can rebake your doll many times, you may want to avoid bake times longer than necessary when using the light colored doll clays. Light colored and translucent clays can yellow an darken a bit if baked too long. Experiment and know your clay.

“The instructions on the package are what is going to give adequate results for most consumers. They are not designed to give the optimal results for perfect and controlled conditions. Feel free to do your best to create the best possible baking conditions for your polymer clay so that you can get the best results possible.” — http://thebluebottletree.com/how-long-bake-polymer-clay/

Avoiding Cracks, Plaques and Oven Hot Spots

Know Your Oven – Test your oven — Moniter temperature throughout the baking process, with one to two independent oven thermometers.

Test Your Brands and its Particular Colors – Lighter colors and translucent clays are more susceptible to darkening or yellowing while baking. Test, test, test. Test bake times and temperatures in of your brands and colors. Also, lighter and translucent colors will have to be buried in baking soda and/or covered with polyester polyfil.

Cure the clay without sudden temperature changes. Place your covered and protected polymer clay piece(s) into a cool oven, turn the oven to the correct temperature, and begin timing only once the proper temperature has been reached. Once baked, turn off the oven but leave your items inside the oven until they have cooled. This is to help avoid cracks and fissures.

Some people bury their Cernit beads or dolls in baking soda to avoid thermal shock and to insulate from oven hot spots. Dolls can lay on a bed of baking soda.

Others protect against thermal shock or hot spots by covering item(s) or parts of it with polyester batting (does not burn or melt at these temperatures).

Information for Before You Bake Your Doll 

  • Lighter Colors of Doll Clay — Lighter and translucent colors will have to be buried in baking soda and/or covered with polyester polyfil.
  • Series Baking — Cernit can be baked in stages (“series baking”) so you can add fine details without marring the sculpted piece. Let the clay cool completely between each layer to prevent air pockets and defects in the finished piece.
  • Sufficient Oven Temperatures — Cure at sufficient temperatures and avoid water or too much hand sweat in order to avoid cracking/figures but verify your oven’s temperature with a separate thermometer (or two!) and to cover your items while baking to protect against burning or dark spots.
  • Polyfil for the Delicate Areas — Cover delicate fingers, toes and other parts with thick layer of polyfil.
  • Choice of Oven — A digital convection oven is more temperature accurate than a regular home oven and a toaster oven is your most volatile and least accurate, as far as temperature accuracy and steady temperature are concerned. The reason that toaster ovens are your worst choice is that it doesn’t circulate the heat and spikes occasionally in order to bake! A regular home oven can suffice just fine with proper testing, baking, and monitoring methods.
  • Choice of Cooking Container – You want a covered or tented pan for baking your dolls. Metal pans and wing components heat up faster and higher than glass, ceramic and many other materials. If the recommended temperature says 265-275 it will bake correctly on glass, but be darker on the edges if you use metal cookware. Surround your doll with a layer of polyfil and monitor delicate wings and fins as much as you can while they are in the oven.
    • Convection Oven Tent — Some people tent their doll, meaning they create a tent of aluminum foil over a basic tent armature and use that as a tent to put over their doll while baking in a digital convection oven.
    • The Home Oven Disposable Pan “Clamshell” – Create an enclosed baking contain by placing one disposable aluminum baking pan over another to create a covered cooking pan, then clip shut on both ends. You’ll have placed a glossy ceramic tile on the bottom of this and will have surrounded your doll with polyfil, including a layer of polyfil under it to prevent flat, shiny spots where the doll rested on the tile. Or the doll can lay on a bed of baking soda and have hands and feet wrapped in polyfil.

One Possible Doll Curing Method

  • Test Bake with Independent Thermometers — Do a test firing before baking each doll. Test your oven with one to two independent oven thermometers. Do not depend on the oven’s indicator regarding whether the proper temperature has supposedly been reached. Test your oven’s actual internal temperature for about 40 minutes to see if it a) attains the desired temperature and b) doesn’t spike high enough to burn your doll. It is possible to burn parts of the doll but underbake the rest of your doll.
  • First Bake – Place your art doll in a cold oven, set the oven temp so that it actually attains 230 degrees F. Once it attains that temperature, set your time for 18 minutes or so. This first bake can decrease chance of cracks and fissures and firms the doll up just enough to work it before the final cure. You must do the following though.
  • Cool the Oven With Doll in It — When your timer goes off, prop the oven door open a bit and let it cool completely. Do not handle your doll. Keep it in the oven with the door open a bit and let cool completely.
  • First Scrape and/or Sand — Scrape and or sand with 320 – 600 grit fine wet/dry sandpaper, keeping the sandpaper wet while working. Scrape larger lumps, sand the rest of the body. Rinse your doll clean.
  • Acetone Rub — Clean it lightly with acetone and a cosmetic cotton pad if you need to remove white scratches or lumps found in any larger areas of your doll.
  • Second Bake — Place your art doll in a cold oven, set the oven temp so that it actually attains 270 degrees F. Once it attains that temperature, then set your time according to the doll’s thickness.
  • Cool the Oven with the Doll in It — When your timer goes off, prop the oven door open a bit and let it cool completely.
  • Painting – You do not have to heat set acrylics. If you use Genesis Paints, once it’s painted, put your doll back in oven and fire for 5 minutes at 250 degrees using the above method of placing your doll in a cold oven, etc.
  • Cool the Oven With Doll in It — When your timer goes off, prop the oven door open a bit and let it cool completely.
  • Embossing Gun Option for Genesis Paints — An embossing gun cures the genesis paint faster and is a better way than putting the doll back into the oven for that paint firing. One must use a thermometer to monitor temperature, however, and constantly move the Embossing Heat Gun back and forth over the surface of the painted areas to avoid burning, etc.

A Nice Youtube Video on Mixing Cernit Doll-Making Clay with Puppen Fimo polymer clay

http://youtu.be/wtfmlPq7JcQ