Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Texture Sticks -- my favorite handmade clay tool – and it's all made with scrap clay!

Somebody asked me recently what I do with my scrap clay. My first question was – what scrap clay? because until you bake it you can continue to reuse polymer clay. But then I got to thinking about the question and I guess I have to say that my favorite thing to make with scrap clay - once it becomes really muddy - are handmade tools - and my favorite handmade tools are my texture sticks. Which, of course, led to the question "What's a texture stick?"

Last fall our guild taught an Introduction to Polymer Clay class at a local community center and one of the items we wanted to make was a Santa. We were debating on how to add texture to his beard and hat because this is so much easier for beginners than trying to get all of the fingerprints smoothed out. When I made the prototype, I had used two different texture sheets but to include them in the supply kit would run up the cost for the class. We wanted the students to have everything that they would need to go home and make another Santa. So what to do???

I remembered seeing an article on PolymerClayWeb about making your own texture tools using buttons and other things around the house. I took that a step further by cutting ½ inch round swirly textured disks (for Santa's beard) and ½ inch round disks of different textures (for Santa's hat). These were then laid on tiles and baked just long enough to firm them up – about 10 minutes. The reason that I did this was so that when you attach them to the "sticks" you don't want to mess up the texture.

Now for the sticks – I rolled a log of scrap clay approximately ½ inch around and cut it in 2 inch sections to make the sticks. I put a drop of liquid polymer clay on the back of a "beard" texture circle and pressed it on one end of the "stick". I repeated the process with one of the "hat" texture circles and pressed it on the other end of the "stick". On both ends, the raw clay was pulled up and blended with the slightly baked clay for a smooth transition. When they were all finished, they went back in the preheated oven for 1 hour at my normal clay baking temperature. After allowing them to cool, I hit the edges with a fairly course sandpaper to knock down the harsh edge and they were ready to go in the class kits! This was a lot of fun because several of us got together for a clay play day and made these so every class participant could have one.


Since I love to add texture to my pieces, I figured these texture sticks would be somewhat useful but I had no idea just how useful! I have since made many, many more with different textures on each end. They fit nicely in a box on my work table and I don't have to dig through a whole drawer of texture sheets to find what I want. Also I can use these in relatively small areas where the full texture sheet is a bit cumbersome. See all the texture on the snowflake? All done with a couple of these texture sticks! They are great when you need just a little bit of something -- and all made with scrap clay! In the slideshow above, a texture stick has been used to texture every piece in one way or the other.

6 comments:

Kate said...

All your pieces are great Arlene but where's the photo of the texture stick? :) would love to see them too!

Arlene Harrison said...

I did indeed intend to go home and take a picture of some of my texture sticks but the mind tends to wander (grin)! I'll take care of that tonight!

Its All About Creating said...

The ability to use them in smaller areas is perfect! Thank you so much for sharing your artistry!

Jill Palumbo said...

Your texture sticks are ingenious. Thanks for sharing that idea.

Alice Stroppel said...

I just found this link in your new "Tutorial for Domed Ornaments." Just another helpful hint you have shared with us. Thanks so much, I can't wait to make some of these and to make a domed ornament. You rock!!

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