Disaster day discoveries

An alliterative title to commemorate my crossing some interesting milestones in my polymer clay journey over the past few days. They’re disastrous events (obviously)… But. What’s experience but mistakes that one learns from? I wrote this long post because a few months from now, I think I’ll find it extremely funny to relive these moments. (It’s already a bit smile-inducing.) So here goes.

It’s festival season here in India, which means shopping discounts galore. I had a list of things to buy (not jewelry related) if the post-discount prices fit my budget. In the days before the shopping madness would descend on the nation, I debated long and hard about also buying polymer clay related items if I find good deals on them. (I don’t usually buy tools like crazy when I’m just starting out with a new pastime.) I finally decided that I would buy something if it’s a good deal and can be used for other purposes if I decide this craft is not for me.

I bought a nice little toaster oven at almost 50% discount, because a lot of people online recommend a dedicated oven for clay baking, and a lot of people say it’s absolutely safe to use home ovens, and I decided to side with the different-ovens people for various reasons. I was happy when the oven arrived, and promptly went through the instruction manual. (Yes, I do that, but only if it’s a couple of pages thick.) After some recommended pre-use heating, I set about making some sample pieces from the clay I had, so I could bake in my new oven.

My clay practicing has gotten to the stage of rolling manageable clay sheets, and cutting with manageable precision, so I took it one step further and tried to attach two sheets of different colors side-by-side with as minimal distortion as possible. I made a cool-looking piece, with not two but three sheets, and I added additional texture with a blade and a cross-stitch canvas mat. No pictures clicked, but you’re gonna love what comes next. πŸ˜›

I set the temperature and the time in the oven, and put the piece in. I watched it for less than a minute, and it seemed to be fine. I was going to come back after a couple of minutes, but after barely a minute, I smelled this burning stench. I turned around to see smoke rising from the oven. I ran to it, switched it off, opened all windows and doors and ran back away. During all this, I saw that the heating rod was grayish red, which means it had gone full blast while my back was turned. @$#%!@#!! Argh!

I came back a long time later to discover a blistered slab of dark chocolate in place of my light-colored piece. It didn’t taste like dark chocolate, obviously — it smelt of soot and smoke. It looked good, though. Fabulous, in fact. That bubbly texture — if I could only recreate it without burning my piece! πŸ˜€ So after keeping it outside to air, and discovering that it would stop smelling eventually, I borrowed some paints from my sister and applied it to the burnt piece. Looks better, doesn’t it?

Polymer clay pendant, burnt

Burnt piece before and after applying paint

Is it salvaged? I don’t think so. I don’t know if I’m going to wear this; maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but the important thing is that I learned to always, always, always cover my items while I bake, to protect them from sudden temperature fluctuations.

I made a paper box with card stock, and a lid for it, and covered each on the outside with foil.

That’s one milestone reached. (I’m keeping the pendant, by the way. At least as a memento.)

I made another piece with two different colors. I was in a hurry this time, and the join wasn’t neat, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to try out something else. I brought out some shaping tools that I’ve borrowed looonnng-term πŸ˜‰ from my sis. I sculpted the gray with them, and used an old toothbrush to texture the pink. (Picture clicked this time.) Loved how the textures felt, put the pendant in paper box, placed the box in oven, set to recommended temperature and duration, watched the oven like a hawk until it was done. (And what do you know, there were no heating rod flare-ups after the pre-bake. Life is just so weird, isn’t it?) With bated breath, I removed the piece from the cooled box.

Applause! A total take-a-bow moment! The piece had baked soo well. The textures, so good. I ran my fingers over the pendant again and again, savoring my success. Finally, I opened up my jewelry kit, took out a jump ring and tried to insert it through the hole.

Snap! [Crumbles fall to the floor…]

Polymer clay pendant, chipped

Brittle piece before and after chipping

Apparently, Sculpey III, the clay I used, is very brittle. People recommend that it not be used for thinner items.

Okay then. I quickly did some research on various brands and types of clays. Of the Sculpey types available in Bangalore, I now know which ones will handle whatever I throw at them — SoufflΓ©. Or Premo!.

Not that I’ll never buy Sculpey III ever. I’ll just not use it for thin pieces. And I’ll continue to use it for my initial learning.

That’s the other milestone. (This pendant, I snapped into smaller pieces and threw away. It was like breaking a nacho.)

Such events make me (re-)realize that there’s only so much one can read up on; sometimes, experience works much better to prepare one for next time.

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