Vintage style with a steampunk twist

How to:

Conditioning your polymer clay

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Poly clay stored in glass jars

Polymer clay is a great product that is fun to work with, but it can be frustrating if you don’t treat it right. The polymers that make the clay soft and pliable can leach out over time leaving you with a crumbly mess and your project can end up a wreak, breaking apart after curing.

This little how-to will go over the best ways to condition and store your clay so you never lose a minute in crafting or lose a project after hard work.

Polymer clay comes in several sizes, the small bricks are divided in to 4 sections that make it easy to break apart. When you get your new clay home, start with the lightest colors first and wash your hands in between, so as not to transfer colors.

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Break off one of the bars and then break it in half. (Make sure to get all the crumbs!) Start rolling the half bar of clay between your palms, folding it in on itself so that you don’t lose any of it. Once you get a long worm shape, do the same with the other half, then roll the two halves together until they are well mixed. Roll them out into a final worm and then coil it up into a ball, continually rolling between your palms.

A ball is the best storage shape, since you can easily start rolling it again to recondition for your next project. Drop the ball into your glass jar (I save jars from jam, pickles, olives, or whatever else I find interestingly shaped) Repeat this process for each bar until you have lots of colorful clay balls. Cut your label off off the packaging and tape it on with clear tape so you remember the color and brand of each jar. Each package of small clay can make 4 balls, the larger packages, obviously, make more and would need a larger jar.

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Lots of colors in their own storage container

Move to your next color and do the same. Use a different jar for each color and type of clay, so you can keep your collection well organized.

Glass jars are one of the best ways to store your clay as air, wax papers, and plastic wraps can leach the polymers out of your clay. The glass is a neutral space, easy to stack, and easy to see which clay you need at a moments notice!

If you have older clay that you find to be crumbly and hard to work with, here is a good way to recondition it. Get your glass jar ready, crumble your clay into it, into tiny pieces. Squirt in a little bit of mineral oil (I use the unscented kind so as not to add anything unnecessary into my clay, like scent chemicals) into the jar, cover and shake. Don’t use too much, as you don’t want the clay to be liquidy, but use enough to saturate all your clay. Shake it around and then let sit a while, then see if you can start making your worm rolls. If you can, just process as you did your clay above. If not, use a bit more mineral oil and let it sit a bit longer. Keep adding a little bit until you can get your clay to roll together without crumbling too much.

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Only do this if your clay is unsavable otherwise, as it does change the properties of the clay a little, which could have consequences for your piece on down the line. I’ve done it to several blocks that I would otherwise have had to throw out and never had a problem with my finished product, but your mileage may vary.

When you are done processing all your clay (I recommend starting a good movie that you love and have seen often, if you have a lot of clay to do) and gotten them into their storage jars, you can stack them on your desk or shelf. Where they will be handy and also be a pretty, colorful, and arty room decoration! You can even decorate the jar tops if you wish. (I’m much too lazy for that, at the moment 😛 )

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My stored poly clay jars

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Verdigris aging your copper pieces

Copper is a great medium. It can be shiny as a new penny, aged to a lovely darkness, or beautifully green with verdigris. If you are like me, you love to try and get all these different looks, but not spend lots of time and money on them. So here is a great way to get that gorgeous green copper look with things you probably already have around the house!

Also, remember to do this project outside or in a well ventilated area because it can be stinky, as well as ammonia can be toxic if breathed too much!

What you will need:

  • copper things – cost: varies
  • an airtight container (I use an old sandwich meat container ) – cost: free after a good lunch
  • alternately, you could use a plastic ziploc style bag to create your humidity chamber
  • lemon juice (optional)  (sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t) – cost: 2$ for a bottle
  • household ammonia – cost: depends on bottle size- generally a few bucks
  • ammonia-based window cleaner – cost: 3 or 4 dollars
  • white vinegar – cost: depends on bottle size- generally a few bucks
  • salt – cost: depends on size- generally a buck or two
  • Sealant such as clear spray paint or Future varnish (I use Future) -cost: 4-5 dollars
  • Spray bottle for your mixtures – cost: depends, I got mine at the dollar store. They are small, but work well and are easy to store at my work area. You could use an old cleaner spray bottle as well. Just wash it thoroughly first!
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My spray bottles of formula, humidity chamber, and copper pendant piece ready to be greened up

If you shop around or already have most of these ingredients for your household cleaning, then your formula will cost almost nothing. I had all of the components already at home!

Ok. Now, there are several different recipes that you can use. I tend to use the first one more, but they bother work equally well. Experiment and figure out what you like best, that’s half the fun!

  • One option is to blend 1/4 cup (.19 liter) each of lemon juice, household ammonia, white vinegar and salt. Stir or shake thoroughly.
  • An alternative is to put 1 cup (.24 liter) white vinegar, 3/4 cup (.18 liter) household ammonia and 1/4 cup (.19 liter) table salt in the spray bottle. Shake it to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

You can adjust up or down based on how much you will be spraying, but this amount should go a long way. Put the formula in your spray bottle and shake before each use.

Now on to the directions!

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Sand wire to make sure the patina takes

1) Spray your ammonia-based window cleaner on the copper item you want to patina. Wipe the surface completely with a lint-free cloth. Be sure to clean the entire surface, including all the small crevices and corners.
For the aging process to be most effective, the copper must be free of oils and other surface contaminants.

If you are going to age some wire,be sure to run some sandpaper over it first, as most wire has a coating on it to keep it from darkening.

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Spray your copper with the patina formula

2) Spray the copper lightly with the window cleaner again, but do not wipe it off this time. This serves to break the invisible surface tension so that the aging compound makes solid contact with the metal itself.

3) Spray the entire surface with the patina mixture, making sure to get into even the smallest spaces. Do not over-saturate the piece, but be certain that you have covered all of the metal.

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High humidity container

4) Place the copper item into your container and cover to create an artificial high humidity level. Allow it to sit, undisturbed, for about 1 hour.

5) After an hour, remove the item from the container and apply the patina mix again, once more making certain that you have covered the entire metallic surface.Return it to the humidifying container, and allow it to rest overnight.

6) Repeat this last step as many times as it takes to get your desired level of patina

7) After your item is done you can sand it off or wash it a bit to lessen or control the patina, but it is not necessary. I only do this if the patina went out of control in an area 🙂

8) Use your spray or brush on Future varnish with a paint brush to seal in your lovely green patina and enjoy!

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The finished product!