Monday, January 30, 2012

Questions? Ask me! Polymer Clay Troubleshooting

I will be posting a dos and don'ts as well tutorials on polymer clay beadmaking soon. In the meantime, feel free to use this post to ask any particular questions you might have about polymer clay. I will answer within the comments section.


  1. Wow! Where do I begin... I joist did my first batch of beads.. At first they just all cracked once they dried... I could literally break them in half. I have run the clay through a pasta machine that Seems to help the texture... But still not sure what I am doing wrong... How do you make them beautiful faceted ones... So sweet of you to share.

  2. The faceted ones will be a tutorial. They are so popular that I may sell a detailed tutorial with photos, & with possible alternate techniques and options,etc., but I will give a basic tutorial here for them soon. Simply, they are plain round beads that are altered post-baking with carving and then painted strategically. Simple when you get the hang of it, but kind of time consuming. Tutorial coming soon.

    Ok--what you are describing about the breaking-in-two beads, I have heard before. I have never had it or anything like it happen, so I am going on the descriptions and dynamics based on helping others. I am almost certain it has to do with one (or both) of two things: a lack of conditioning the clay, and/or bead shape.

    Your solution of using a pasta machine should definitely fix the problem. But--still knead it with your hands before and after using the machine. If you feel like it just kind of helps and doesn't completely solve it, I would suggest using another brand or color(s.) Believe it or not, there is a ton of difference between different colors in the same brands, and sometimes even between the different packs. What you want to look for in the store is a really soft clay. Harder clays may be old, or...whatever. I don't know if this is relevant to your case, but clays that come in kits or non-single packages tend to be a lot harder. I believe all polymer clay, no matter how hard, can be used if properly conditioned, but some of it is like a frickin brick. Get the softest you can find. There is also a product called 'clay softener' but I have never tried it.

    When you are conditioning it, you want to get it super super soft before making it into beads. You should be able to pullt it apart and not see any 'breakage' or roughness to the inner texture at all. That texture you see when pulling it apart raw is going to be the texture of the inner of the bead after baked. If it crumbles raw, it will crumble baked.

    A properly conditioned bead should never ever crack. If you continue, just move on to a different brand. I usually use Sculpey. Also, the store brand/generic/cheaper clay at Michael's is good.

    Another dynamic could be the bead shapes you are making. I will explain why in my dos and don'ts, but for now I'll just say keep the beads as round and centralized as you can. This includes roundish shapes like ovals, rondelles, very fat teardrops, and fat nuggets. If you are getting all exotic right off making flat charms or things with tendrils, petals, and all the things that are so tempting to make, this could be another reason for breakage.

  3. I'm working on my dos and don'ts and something I wrote reminded me of another dynamic that might be involved--translucent clay. If you are using translucent clay or a mixture that includes it, that might be partially responsible. It is very temperamental and requires special care when baking. Avoid translucent clay when beginning.