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MakeBox – Polymer Clay Jewellery

I often get so wrapped up in textile projects that I forget to go down my shed and play with clay instead, so the polymer clay box from MakeBox & Co was the ideal opportunity to do so. I was quite excited about the orangery slab design as well. I have made some very simple slabs before but never one as complicated as this so I was really looking forward to giving it a go.

Included in the box was:

  • Polymer clay blocks x4 (blue, white, orange, green)
  • Rolling pin
  • Scalpel
  • Circular cookie cutters x2 (large and small)
  • Pliers
  • Mixed bag of jewellery findings
  • Toothpick
  • Paper templates

The first half of the instruction book was full of helpful tips for working with, baking, and storing polymer clay, as well as jewellery making. I didn’t agree with the advice to pull open jump rings as this can make them misshapen when you try to push them back together. It’s always better to twist jump rings open and closed for a much neater finish.

There were three slab projects to complete to give you a range to shapes to make jewellery out of. A slab is a flat sheet of clay which a design is created on and then shapes can be cut out either with a knife or a cutter. The first was a marbled sheet, made by twisting the blue and white clay together to create a marbled effect. This is probably the easiest to do but is very effective and can be done in so many different colour combinations, and with three or even four colours, depending on the look you want to achieve.

The second project was an abstract slab, which was great for getting used to attaching different shapes to a sheet of clay and discovering how the clay would react when you pushed it or rolled it. The design was made up of really simple shapes that combined gave a really fun, colourful finish.

The final slab design was the most difficult. It’s called the ‘Midnight Orangery’. It is a dark blue background with oranges nestled amongst green foliage and white blossoms and it was difficult because it was made up of so many tiny parts that had to be placed with care onto the background to create the right effect. I think it’s a beautiful design and love the 3D effect of so many layers built up. It did take me a long time to do and was very fiddly, particularly adding the lighter green stems on top of the leaves. I actually started it and then wrapped it up to stop it drying out and came back to finish it the next day as I could feel myself getting tired and careless and I wanted it to come out looking neat.

Once all the pieces were baked and cooled and the edges had been sanded it was time to make some jewellery. I really liked that some clip on earring backs were included as I don’t have my ears pierced so it’s nice to be able to wear some of my creations! 

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Tea and Crafting – Polymer Clay Baubles

I had a super crafty weekend! I attended online workshops on both Saturday and Sunday and it was such a lovely way to spend my time, especially getting to hang out with other crafty people. I feel like I made so much this weekend, so I’m only going to talk about one of the workshops today: polymer clay Christmas baubles with Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/). 

I’ve done several workshops with Jane from Tea and Crafting, both in real life and online. She is such a fantastic host and is so great at talking through and demonstrating each instruction. I also love how enthusiastic she gets about what everyone has made! As this was an online workshop everyone was sent a pack of materials in advance. This is all included in the cost of the workshop, which was £38 plus shipping (£2.99). Included in the parcel was:

  • Fimo polymer clay x4 (white, red, blue, and yellow)
  • Polystyrene balls x3
  • Lolly sticks x2
  • Bauble hangers with caps x3

We did two different pattern techniques, marbling and terrazzo. We spent a little while conditioning the clay with our hands to get it warm and pliable before we could begin using it and once it was soft we could then start to create our patterns. We started with the marbling, rolling the clay into sausages and then twisting them around each other to create the effect. The lolly sticks were used for rolling out the clay to the right thickness. Once the clay was rolled out to the right size it could then be wrapped around the polystyrene bauble. Jane showed us how to trim away the excess and smooth over any holes to ensure there were no extra thick parts as this would affect the baking time. 

The terrazzo style was super easy too. Before creating the pattern we took some time to create some new colours by blending the colours together, I made green and purple. I also blended some yellow and red, but I didn’t add quite enough yellow for it to be as orange as I would have liked! Once this was done we could then roll them out into super thin sausages before cutting off tiny amounts, which were then placed all over the base colour, creating the terrazzo effect when it was rolled out. 

For my last bauble I just rolled all the colours I had together to make a super colourful marbled one! It was so much fun to see everyone else’s creations, everyone had such different colour combinations and styles. I was really glad that I attended the workshop and didn’t just try it out by myself at home, because Jane was able to tell us the exact temperature and timings for baking our baubles in the oven. If you don’t get this right then you risk the polystyrene balls melting inside! I also wouldn’t have known to allow them to cool down in the oven and would have just taken them straight out!

I think community is so important to the crafting world and it’s always so great to craft along with others. I can’t wait to get back to it in real life, but in the meantime I have another Tea and Crafting workshop coming up this week and I absolutely can’t wait! 

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Craftiosity – Marble Clay Coasters

This month’s Craftiosity kit was marble clay coasters, made using polymer clay. I always have mixed feelings when I receive a kit with polymer clay in, because I am so familiar with it and have used it for years so I’m not as excited as when I receive a box containing a craft I’ve never done before. On the other hand I’m always interested to see what different techniques and tricks I might learn that I may never have tried.

Included in the box was:

  • Fimo polymer clay (black, white and gold)
  • Wooden rolling pin
  • Baking paper
  • Sandpaper
  • Cardboard cutter
  • Paper template

I usually use a brand of polymer clay called Premo Sculpey, mainly because that’s what I used when I was first taught, so I haven’t used Fimo very much. One of the things I really liked about it was the division guidelines. Premo only has four guidelines for slicing off blocks of clay, but the Fimo had larger guidelines on one side and smaller guidelines on the other. This is so useful if you want to make sure you are using the same amount of clay each time, or you want the same amount of several different colours. I was slightly sceptical that the cardboard cutter wouldn’t be any good, but the Fimo seemed to be a lot softer than Premo and the cardboard cutter had no problems going through the block. 

Marbling the clay is always the fun bit! There isn’t really any science to it, you just make sausages with your chosen colours and twist them together. Obviously the more you twist the less defined your pattern will be as the colours start to blend together and the less you twist the more blocky your pattern will be. Once the clay has been twisted in on itself enough, you can form it into a ball ready for rolling out.

Once the clay had been rolled out to a large enough size to accommodate the paper template (the instructions recommended a 3mm thickness) it was time to cut out the hexagonal shape of the coasters. Here is where the cardboard cutter had a bit of trouble. The cardboard had to be a certain thickness to maintain its rigidity, but that meant that it didn’t produce a nice clean cut. I completely understand the complications of sending blades through the post, but I think a tissue blade or even a craft knife would be better to use at this point. I always find that the cleaner you can make it before it goes in the oven, the less sanding it will need when it comes out. 

The instructions said to put it in the oven for thirty minutes, however I know that my oven can be a bit fierce, especially with thinner items, so I set a timer for fifteen minutes and checked them. I felt that the white clay was started to look a bit dark and I didn’t want them to burn so I took them out. After they had cooled I then sanded them. The sand paper provided was a finer grade which worked really well and didn’t leave any scratches on the coasters. I did actually trim some of the rougher edges with a pair of scissors as well! I squashed the offcuts together and rolled them out to create a fifth coaster so I didn’t waste any of the clay, which I then baked whilst I was sanding the others!

This was such a great project, which I think would also be great for older kids as long as they were supervised by an adult, especially with the oven part! The whole project took me around an hour and a half in total, which I guess would vary depending on how long you bake the coasters and let them cool down for. Another good one from Craftiosity (https://craftiosity.co.uk/)! 

I’m looking forward to receiving some Christmas themed boxes in the post soon. I don’t normally start thinking about Christmas until December, but I think this year we could all use some extra cheer! I’m also starting my gift shopping soon as it will be mostly online and I want to support small businesses so I want to get in early and beat any postal cut off dates!

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Knack Box – Polymer Clay Earrings

I have another new subscription box to share with you! This one is called Knack (https://www.theknackbox.com/) and is a monthly subscription that is a little different to some of the others I’ve signed up to. With Knack you as a subscriber get a say in what the future projects will be. I signed up in time to receive the June box which was polymer clay earrings. After signing up I received an email asking which colour clay I would like included in my kit and have since completed questionnaires about which glass bead project I would like to see in the July box (majority vote wins), what colour beads I would like and a general questionnaire about what kinds of projects I would like to see in the future. The interaction is great and really makes you feel part of a creative community. The instructions for each kit are presented as a live session on Zoom, but if you can’t make the date then you can watch the video either in your account on the website or via the Facebook members group.

Included in the June box was:

  • Polymer clay (black, white and colour of your choice)
  • Pliers
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Files
  • Earring wires
  • Jump rings

The session was hosted by Eveline Zemla from Flamingo Jewellery and the project was to make some marbled earrings. I couldn’t attend the Zoom session but I followed along with the video on Facebook. The edited video was about an hour long, but I would imagine that the Zoom session was a bit longer than that. Eveline started by going through the equipment included in the kit and extras you might need such as scissors/a knife etc, and what temperature to heat your oven up to. She then demonstrated how to condition the clay and whilst we were doing that she then showed us two different marbling techniques. The first was one I was familiar with, making sausages with the clay and twisting them together, the second I hadn’t done before but I thought it was a great technique once I had had a go. It involved adding small pieces of clay to a larger, flat piece which created a more delicate look than the first technique when it was rolled up. 

Although it was a little strange watching a tutorial on something I already know how to do I tried to complete the project as though I were a beginner so I could see how the kit would work for someone who hadn’t used polymer clay before. Eveline mentioned that she would normally use a pasta machine to roll out the clay and cutters to achieve a more uniform look, as I do too, but for the purposes of this kit she was showing us how to do it all without any fancy equipment. I found that I actually really enjoyed getting back to basics and creating more organic pieces just using my hands.

Whilst the beads were baking in the oven Eveline showed us how to make small tassels using thread and a fork. It is a very similar technique to making pom-poms, but you tie them on one side rather than in the middle, cutting only one side open and then transferring them from the fork to a jump ring.

Once the beads were baked and had cooled Eveline then explained about sanding them. She used a basic nail file to do this, but mentioned that some makers use sand paper or sanding blocks to reshape their pieces or smooth rough edges. She also said that it made her smile/laugh when she saw jewellery that had not been sanded or had evidence of finger prints on as it showed that the maker was a beginner or amateur. I have to say that I disagree with this sentiment. I often find that when I have sanded my polymer clay it leaves scratch marks and scuffs on the surface of the clay which ruins the look of the piece, unless you are willing to work through all the different grades of sand paper from roughest to smoothest. I have been playing and making with polymer clay for probably over ten years now and have attended several courses on using it too. I have found that if you take enough care and attention whilst you are making your piece before baking it then you probably don’t need to sand it at all.

After she had demonstrated the filing Eveline then showed us how to construct the earrings using the ear wires, jump rings and pliers. During the video we were encouraged to make enough beads for a couple of pairs of dangly earrings with several connections in each one, however I found that I didn’t have enough jump rings to complete the designs I had in mind. I found some spare in my studio, but not everyone would have some lying around. If I was redoing this kit I would do a bit more planning before making my beads.

Overall it was a fun project and I enjoyed being a ‘beginner’ again. I’m looking forward to the July project as I have never made a hair clip with glass beads before so I really will be a novice! Knack is quite a new subscription box that only started in May. I did actually back order the May box, but the project was candle making which I have done quite recently in another subscription box so I haven’t got around to completing that one yet. As soon as I do it’ll be up on my blog! The monthly subscription for Knack is £22.99 including postage, but there are also options to buy a longer subscription or a one off box.