No Such Thing as Scrap Clay Tutorial

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Polymer Clay Blocks

No Such Thing As Scrap Clay

Polymer Clay Blocks

You’ve heard it said many times in polymer clay books, in tutorials, and most likely many other places that there is “no such thing as scrap clay.”  But there’s a trick to gaining usable scrap clay and not just a mess of murky, brown, dirty ugliness.

What prompted this post was a question I got from another crafter: “How do you store your clay?”

They were highly interested in this because many people store their clay many different ways. First, I store partially used blocks of clay in a divided beading storage bin. I have divided my clay by clay colors: red, fuchsia-esque, pinks, yellow, orange, whites, purples, blues, black, browns, specialty, greens, metallics, dark browns, and pastels.  I really don’t worry about clay touching or mixing a little. Why? Because by the time it’s properly conditioned, those little tiny bits get all absorbed and blended into the clay; and in reality those tiny bits won’t change the color of your clay that much. I use primarily only one type of clay: Premo by Sculpey.  You can see some clay is in “wrapping.”  This is because it is Cernit, Kato, or Pardo.  The Fimo is easy to tell apart from the Premo because it is “sectioned” differently than the other clays. I use my divided storage bin primarily for clay that has been “unblended” by me.  It’s straight from the package clay…even if it’s little pieces!

But, not to be undone, I also have a second storage system for my clay: a mini 3 ring binder.  The mini 3 ring binder has a notebook in the front cover pocket, colored dividers, and clear see through insertable pages.  I keep my clay inside these pages.  It’s already run through the pasta machine and it’s ready to go for my next claying…all you do is take it out, fold in half, and run through the pasta machine.  I do this for all my scrap clay custom blends (which you will see at below) and for all my other custom blends and color combos.

NO MORE SCRAP CLAY TUTORIAL:

  • TIME (From Start to Finish): Approximately 35 minutes for every 4 ounces of scrap clay.
  • MATERIALS: Scrap Clay (At least 4 ounces)Pasta Machine

Now for the truth: How long does it take you to have little tiny bits of clay floating all over the place?  Some of those little bits can be used for details on your pieces, but most likely even the tiniest of bits (especially from custom marble blends and mokume gane) end up in the “scrap pile.”  I’m praying that you have one of those…if not…GET ONE!  Here’s my scrap pile.  This has been accumulated over approximately two months….let me tell you, there’s a LOT of clay here, it’s just hard to tell!  In total what I have shown here is about 6oz. of “scrap clay” pieces, components, balls, and nubby ends (an equivalent of 3 blocks of clay).

Here’s the first step…separate all those bits of clay from each other and put them into coordinating color palettes.  Whatever you decide will work great…don’t stress or worry over this, just do it! Every time you do this your “piles” will be different.  For my scrap pile I had a custom order that used a lot of pink, so there was quite a bit of different pink colors floating around my scrap pile.  Next time this might not be the case.  Seriously though, use what you have and don’t stress about your piles.  This part takes the longest in most cases, so don’t worry or panic, just take your time.  Pictured at right are my separated scrap piles (clockwise from top left): pinks, browns, darks, brights, whites & tiny bits too small to separate, reds, and yellows.  You’ll also notice in each pile I have some white or blended white clay with pearl in it.  This is too is scrap clay; but I’ve added it to each pile to liven up the colors so they don’t dull out and become too murky.  *Remember, white acts as a brightener.*

Next, you are going to take all those pieces (starting with the lightest so as not to color taint your hands) and put them in your hand.  Now close your hand around all those pieces and begin to squeeze gently and warm the clay.  Slightly “smoosh” it as you are working, again this will help bring out its polymer properties.  Then roll them into loose balls.  You can see all my balled up clay here in this picture.  Looks kind of gross, doesn’t it?!  Trust me…this is part of the process!  🙂

Now that you’ve done the hard part (which was getting all those tiny bits so that they were sticky and so that they weren’t hard little rocks) it’s time to condition and blend the balls of clay together.  This is the easiest part, but it takes the most time.  Just flatten the balls and plop them into your pasta machine and blend, blend, blend until there are NO streaks remaining.  You’ll be really surprised what you get when you are “done.”  In my “scrap clay” piles these are the BEAUTIFUL colors that I got.  I’ll show close ups in a minute, but look at these!  Before they were grungy, ugly, frightening tiny bits and lumps of clay.  Now they are beautiful usable colors.  Because most of my custom blends contain pearl, most of these colors have gorgeous shimmery metallic palettes to them.  The brown on the bottom right had embossing powder and glitter in one of the mixes, so this blend will have a special touch when it is baked.  You can also blend the darker or more single toned colors with a touch of pearl to give it pizazz and a lustre that is simply striking.  But this is the point: USE YOUR SCRAP CLAY!

Now the big question…”What do you do with them?”  That’s the beauty of it: you can do anything you want to with it!  You can use them to make custom Mokume Gane blends, design sculptures with it, make unique jewelry components, use them as a base of another newer blend, it really doesn’t matter.  All you have to do is USE IT!

Let your imagination run wild and enjoy this new endeavor of “no scrap left behind!”

Here’s the most important key to remember: Had you taken all those tiny bits, bumps, and pieces of clay in the first picture and balled them up all together you would have had a murky, ugly, non usable grayish/brownish mess!  By following this super simple tutorial you too can have usable scrap clay.  By doing this tutorial you have retained colors & their properties and given a second life to what might have become “trash.”
Thanks for joining me today,

Clay on my friends,

28 thoughts on “No Such Thing as Scrap Clay Tutorial

  1. Great post, Katie! Thank you for sharing. It’s kind of you to help us newbies. 🙂

  2. […] But it is fun to come up with new custom shades. Katers Acres has a good example of using scraps to mix custom colors. Another illustration here. I did smush up some leftover mica clay and make the lovely pale pink […]

  3. I didn’t know to look at it this way. Good one. Next time I get a “scrap pile, I will then try this out on it. I am using a lot of the current one with a touch of yellow to make a cane. The darks and murky colors are cut up tiny and a few yellows mixed in in small pieces to look like a recycling center for road signs. This is what the cane is to somewhat look like just for fun. J.F.F.

  4. Katie I am now doing this and then I sort my colors in sections. great idea and thanks for the reminder.

    Cindy
    Howling dog jewelry

    1. You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help.

  5. […] remembered a fun tutorial on KatersAcres.com about grouping clay scraps into similar colors -> No Such Thing As Scrap Clay. Here is my application of her […]

  6. […] scrap clay and the things that you can do with it. My most popular technique with my readers is this one, taking those colors and making brand new blended color sheets. But here’s a little secret […]

  7. I just found on pinterest, glad I did.
    Love the tutorial on clay scraps.
    I love to mix most of my clay with translucent.
    It seems to make it tougher for jewelry and everything else!
    I have just come back into my clay after quite along time.
    I am wondering how long have you’ve kept any of your canes or logs or sheets, and still have them workable? Mine have been wrap in saran and also in plastic containers. Tip I put clay in bag and then in pocket to warm it! It works well. thank you sam

    1. I have some canes that are 2-3 years old and they still work beautifully, but I have to reduce them a little first to soften them. Come back anytime Sam!

  8. […] been so busy in my studio lately that my scrap clay pile has grown to enormous proportions and may in fact be the biggest it has ever been! Want to know […]

  9. […] I’ve been so busy in my studio lately that my scrap clay pile has grown to enormous proportions and may in fact be the biggest it has ever been! Want to know what to do with scrap clay? Get a tutorial. […]

  10. >This is a great tutorial! NO SCRAP LEFT BEHIND! Love it! It saves a lot of money and cost, and helps your profits by doing this. Really great job! VERY organized 🙂

  11. >Wow, that's incredible! Those colors look amazing!

  12. >uniquecozytreasures – What a great clay tutorial. Thanks!

  13. >Very beautiful and organized job! Katie, you are talented person.

    When I saw the clay I remembered a story in the bible on how God is the Potter and we are all the work of his hand.

  14. >Great ideas to reuse scraps. That clay is costly. This is a good way to recycle it.

  15. >Great tutorial, thanks for the information 🙂

  16. >Thanks everyone for the comments on the idea & my organizational skills too!

    @Robbie – Your comment on Parker's eye is HILARIOUS. His eye isn't in there, but if you look close, the CURVE on his HEAD is in there! I put a hat on him and had to chop the top of his head off. LOL!

  17. >Katie, brilliant idea!!!
    I have a 'scrap pile' for my extra canes and scraps, but I usually end up using them as a base layer for larger projects because the 'mush' is usually gray/brown. but THIS is brilliant!!

  18. >You are so creative and organized! Great post.

  19. >i think i saw parkers eye in there somewhere! very cool blog!

  20. >beautiful Katie! The blended clay looks as good as new!

  21. >You are one organized cookie ^_^!

  22. >awesome information on clapy!

  23. >I totally I t it!!!!!Wow, I save my glass bits, too. I have a multitude of glass scraps…takes up much more room than clay!

  24. >Thanks for this. I believe there are no such things as scraps, and waste. I have all these bits of stringing material, and chain, and single beads, that I refuse to get rid of, because that would be wasteful. but I hadn't thought to seperate and reblend my scraps. I has previously used them as the "base" of a 3D object and covered it with my "pretty color"

  25. >i agree with crystal! i'm stunned by the amazing colors. great tutorial, thank you for sharing!

  26. >Wow, interesting how you can make something so beautifully colored from a pile of scraps!

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