It’s been a busy season for my hands.
Sometimes I am left with lots of pain in my hands and forearms. Working clay is not only hard work, it is physical labor. It’s important to find ways to aid your tendons from becoming over stretched or strained. And now starts my tips for working with sculpey!
#1 When working with sculpey you are usually working small batches; so, it’s awkward to use your full hand and your shoulders to soften or prepare the clay. Which is what you do with large batches of clay, such as for throwing, which helps the creator to evenly spread the force required for kneading. Also exacerbating the problem, clay dries out, like with this fox’s orange. Making it even harder to get to a malleable stage.
Helper: Warm it up, give it to someone with really warm hands (my hubby is great for this) (a method I haven’t used – pop it in the microwave for a minute) or the best solution I have found get one of the acrylic rolling pins. You can use it’s size to give you enough space to use your full hand and shoulders to apply the necessary force. It also helps greatly when you need to add sculpey softener to repurpose the clay. Roll the clay out flat, as best you can. Apply drops along the length then fold it over on itself until you have a mound and roll it back out. Do this over and over until that softener is totally worked in. Then reapply softener until the sculpey is at the workable stage you prefer.
#2 Sculpey that is pre-colored bleeds. The richer the color the more it gets all over your hands. This is not obvious until you touch another color and you notice traces of the last color you were using. The biggest offenders, reds, dark blues, black, and pure white, although not the light weight white.
Helper: Always have a rag or paper towel on hand to wipe your hands clean between each color.
#3 The longer you have been working with your clay the softer it tends to become, easily denting or knicking from your nails or fingers left in one spot for too long.
Helpers: Let your clay rest, put it in a place where it can cool down.
Keep your finger nails short.
Hold your clay gingerly as you work on different areas. Try to never linger too long and if you have to work on something for a long time try to hold your clay in the least damaging way possible. Be prepared to do some reshaping.
#4 Clay can get overworked. Sculpey lends itself to being bubbly or rounded. The need to get things perfect can cause you to work an area with smoothing and shaping for too long, making the clay look wrong.
Helper: Don’t futz. You have to let things go. If something doesn’t come out right, realize it is your own need to grow. The next time you make it, you will get the shapes right and you won’t have to spend a half hour smoothing out a problem spot. With every ornament I make the first one is practice and never seen by people that don’t visit my house. I have never gotten an ornament right the first time and as with all crafts the more I make them the better they get.
These are tips I sculpt by. I hope they are helpful to some of you as you play and create with sculpey. I realize some of the explanations may be confusing without pictures, especially #1. I am going go snap pictures the next time I soften some clay and give a step by step post. Look for that soon! Happy sculpting!