Mistakes happen. We’ve all been there. Today I’m going to share with you 15 common polymer clay mistakes that you need to understand when working with this versatile medium.
Common Polymer Clay Mistakes
Let’s be honest, no matter how hard we try, we make mistakes. Those mistakes happen in life, in art, and even in polymer clay. There’s some universal truths that we need to understand about this versatile medium, polymer clay, that we enjoy. These mistakes are not in any certain order. All these common mistakes with polymer clay should be avoided.
- Failure to Fully Condition Your Clay: This is so difficult for so many people. They (wrongly) assume that because a clay is “soft” that it doesn’t need conditioning. Every polymer clay needs some conditioning. No exception. [Read this article for more information.]
- We Buy More Products Than We Can Use: Ah, the typical and most common mistake amongst artists. We simply buy more than we can use. We hoard it, collect it, stash it, hide it from our hubbies, and purchase products thinking how it will “transform” our work. The reality is that almost all of us have things in our studio that are unopened, unused, or heaven forbid still in the bag we bought it in. The solution? Stop buying products. Start making art.
- Failure to Clean Your Work Surface: This is a big problem for a lot of new artists as well. What many don’t recognize is that lint, dust, dirt, rouge cat hairs, etc easily contaminate clay. Even the simple act of using a Baby Wipe on your work surface prior to claying can remove the worst offenders to your clay. It’s worth it to take the extra minute and wipe down your work surface before and after claying. [Read this article on how to clean your studio in minutes.]
- Collecting Too Many Ideas: Here’s why this is a problem … we collect idea after idea after idea. But the problem is, we spend more time collecting ideas, researching potential projects, and never actually spend any time creating. Pinterest and YouTube can be great sources of information, but they can NOT make you a better artist.
- Failure to Pre-heat Your Oven: This is so common and something I truly believe in. Many clayers do not pre-heat their ovens, but I find this step very necessary and crucial to the strength and stamina of my pieces. Pre-heating your oven will help to curtail oven spikes and risk the burning of your pieces. Placing your pieces in an already HOT oven will ensure that they cure at the correct temperature over the correct length of time. So many mistakes as burning, cracking, and scorching can be completely avoided simply by pre-heating your oven. [For more info on baking clay, read this article.]
- Comparing Ourselves to Others: Okay, here’s the thing … we ALL do this. We compare ourselves and our art to others. Here’s why it’s wrong: there’s only one YOU. There is NO ONE else like you. You have your own voice, style, preferred color and sense of design. Why then do we let others dictate how we should or should not make things? Being true to yourself is the most precious gift you can give yourself. Don’t let others take that away from you.
- Failure to Make Your Own Colors: Many artists (especially new artists to the claying world) use clay straight out of the pack. They never ‘take the plunge’ into making their own colors, using color recipes, or experimenting with combining clays & colors. It’s true that polymer clay colored blocks can make clay easy to use and easy to work with. But each brand of clay offers only a limited color palette. By creating your own colors, you open up your world to limitless color possibilities!
- We Don’t Know When to Stop: Sometimes a piece is done … there’s nothing more that should be added, fixed, or altered. Yet so often (especially as newer artists) we go too far and we just simply don’t know when to stop. We add more mica powder, more chalk, more ink … before you know it, the piece was better 4 steps ago. Learning when to stop takes time, but it’s a valuable lesson that we all need to heed. [The converse is also true. Read about it here]
- Believing that Expensive Products / Materials Will Make You a Better Artist: Marketing has a strong impact on our belief system. Somehow we believe that if we have the most expensive tools, the best paints, the higher quality materials will somehow magically transform us into being better artists. That’s simply NOT TRUE. Granted, quality materials will last longer … but they will NOT make you a better artist. Your inner artist needs practice, skill, and a sense of design. No tool or material (regardless or price) will give you this. EVER.
- Failure to Enjoy The Process: So often we find ourselves focused on the “end result,” doing the “steps” correctly, or following a tutorial precisely that we miss the complete enjoyment of the process of making our art. Art should bring you joy. If it doesn’t, then why are you doing it?
- Failure to Test Products Yourself: Often we rely on others to test products for us and see if they are compatible with polymer clay. While there are some hard and fast rules of what works and what doesn’t work, you should ALWAYS try these things for yourself. If you’ve been on the inter webs, you know that often what works for one artist, fails for another. Test things yourself. Don’t be afraid to do it.
- Never Investing in a Class, Tutorial, or Book: It’s true that there is a lot of good free information on the internet for learning polymer clay. Even I have provided 200 FREE tutorials here on the site for you. But there is so much more to be learned and discovered by taking a class/workshop in polymer clay, purchasing a tutorial, or investing in a polymer clay book [get a list of my favorites here]. If you truly LOVE your art, take the time to invest in learning it.
- Too Much Social Media!!!!!!!: This is the most common problem of the majority of artists. We so want to belong to a community (which is not a bad thing) that we spend way too much time on social media. From falling into the endless stream of FaceBook group notifications, endless Pinterest inspiration, and watching just “one more” YouTube video. The problem with this is that very quickly minutes turn into hours and we find that rather than actually being creative we haven’t even begun that journey. Don’t get me wrong, there IS a place for social media! But living on FaceBook, searching Pinterest, and watching YouTube all day will NOT make you a better artist.
- Not Making Time To Create: The above leads right into this. Sometimes for whatever reason, we avoid our art. It’s not always intentional and sometimes it’s even subconscious. But not making the time to create is detrimental to your art as a whole. You don’t get to be “good” in your medium without practice and time. Do your own art a favor and build TIME into your planner to create. [Read my post on Routine Building to help your creative journey.]
- The “I Can’t” Mentality & Fear of Claying: One of the biggest things that holds us back in life in general is the “I Can’t” mentality. Generally speaking, this mentality is one that is produced from fear or intimidation. Have you ever said to yourself “I can’t do that!” or “I could never be that good.” How do you really know unless you try? Somehow over time we develop a fear of our process, a fear of our worth as artists, fear of making a mistake. Somehow that inner “I can’t” we allow to rule our life and our art. DON’T! Stop it right now. Dive in and enjoy! Turn your “I can’t” into “I can” and if you can’t do that, at least turn it into an “I’ll try.”
Thanks for joining me today,
Clay on my friends,
If you’re looking for product mistakes (which this article does not cover), I suggest visiting The Blue Bottle Tree and reading this article.