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.
Rewritten, edited, & reposted: 7/22/23
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 in many different ways. First, I store partially used clay blocks in a divided beading storage bin. I have done this since 2007 and still continue this method to this day. In order for this method to work for me, I have divided my clay by general 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, mixing, or even keeping brands separated. 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 all different brands of clay but primarily stick to Premo by Sculpey, Cernit, & Fimo. If the clay is rolled into balls, it has already been blended with something. If it is still in its block form, it is unblended, straight from the factory.
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 were quite a few 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, 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 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 are the BEAUTIFUL colors 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 baked. You can also blend the darker or more single-toned colors with a touch of pearl to give it pizazz and a luster 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 them, make unique jewelry components and use them as a base for another newer blend, it really doesn’t matter. All you have to do is USE IT!
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.”