I love that you, my readers, are so interested in polymer clay and how to improve your talent & skill. It thrills me to no end that I get a dozen questions a week from you, either here on the blog, or direct to my email. The past two weeks there has been one question that I have received multiple times: How to take out all the imperfections in your work.
Perfection Takes Time
First thing is first … you have to understand that perfection takes time.
It is NOT something that comes over night and it is NOT easy. Many of you have written to me asking how to make your work more perfect. Many of you want to know tips or tricks. There are a few, but the biggest example of how your work will get better is this: it takes time. The longer you clay, the harder you work at it, the more experience you have will allow all those imperfections to disappear over time.
The Most Often Asked Questions
How Do I Keep Dust Off My Clay?
This is a great question and often there is an easy answer, but sometimes not. First make sure that when you are not claying that your piece or your clay itself is covered. Even if it is in a separate room with a door, dust settles. Cover your clay with saran wrap, or if nothing else, just a paper towel … but cover it. Additionally, much of your “dust debris” on your clay is actually coming from your hands.
- Wash your hands before you sit down to clay. This will get the general dirt, stray eyelash or pet hair, and any other “gunk” off your hands. A huge number of people don’t do this. Despite what you read online, it’s not enough just to use a wet wipe.
- Dry your hands on birds eye cotton cloths. (See this post here for more information). Paper towels, cloth towels, and other cloths often leave behind tiny fibers when you use them to dry your hands. Birds eye cotton leaves behind no fibers. This means that your hands will be clean & fiber free.
- Use rubbing alcohol right before you clay. Even though your hands may look clean, there may be makeup or something on your hands that you can’t see. Take 5 second and use rubbing alcohol on your hands.
- Use lotion on your hands right after your rubbing alcohol. This will help protect your hands as well as keep the clay dyes from soaking into your skin. (See more information here).
- Before you touch the clay you are working with, roll a ball of scrap clay in your hands. Roll a ball, then a snake, then a ball, teardrop, whatever. But do it for a good minute with scrap clay. This will get any excess fibers, dirt, or miscellaneous substances off your hands onto the scrap clay and not onto the clay you are using.
- Most importantly: Watch what you are wearing! Wearing a smock or pants that won’t leave behind fibers are best. Why? Jeans, sweatpants, & lots of other materials have tiny fibers that will be picked up onto your hands when you smooth out your seam of clay and wipe it on your pants (which we all do at times). Now you have fibers on your hands … not good. Wearing light colored clothing that is low in fiber residue and you will be amazed at the difference this makes.
If you follow the steps outlined above, you will be astounded how this will change the “dust” left on your clay.
Emergency procedure: In case of an emergency, for dust that it on the surface of the clay (or mica powder where you didn’t want it, loose chalk dust, etc) you can take a Q-tip soaked in alcohol and rub it over the surface of the clay. This will removed the entire top layer of clay and clean your piece. Please understand, if you have embedded the dust, dirt, & fibers into your clay, there is nothing you can do. Only use this option if completely necessary. This option should be saved as a last resort. Period.
For more tips, help, & information please see The Blue Bottle Tree’s article on dust & lint in your clay.
How Do I Keep Fingerprints Off My Clay?
This is another good question, and again while there are some “tricks” that you can use, nothing … I repeat, nothing … is better than learning how to manipulate your clay with a gentle and soft touch. When you first start claying, this will be one of the hardest things you will combat because you aren’t used to the softness of your clay (even though it can be quite firm) and its ease of workability. All of my first time students into my studio struggle with this problem. The reason is because they have not yet mastered the art of a light touch. This is something that will come with time, but something that you should strive for. This being said, if you have a very organic style like Christi Friesen, fingerprints are your friend and can work for your style. I create character with broad, whimsical expressions … fingerprints are not my friends, though they do happen. Here’s a few tips that might help you, however, please know that nothing is better than mastering the art of a light touch.
- Wear latex gloves while you clay. This will help cut down on your fingerprints. A word of caution is that not only are these very hot and very drying to your hands, many kinds of latex gloves have a texture on them and will leave the texture behind on your piece.
- Lightly dust your fingers with cornstarch. Many, many people recommend this method because it does work, but I do not recommend this and here’s why. When you dust your fingers with cornstarch and the rub a bead or a piece you are working on, you are making it virtually impossible for the clay to have anything joined to it. For beads this might be okay. For sculptures, not so much! If I covered the body of my character with cornstarch to get rid of my fingerprints, now my arms won’t still and the seams won’t blend.
For more tips, help, & information please see this post.
I hope that these tips are helpful to you and to your claying journey. As always, feel free to contact me with any of your questions by commenting on the bottom of a post or send me an email and I will get back to you just as soon as I can!
Thanks for joining me today,