Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Clay and I

I'm not sure what it is with me and clay. I kind of like the idea of working with it, but when I have it I end up not doing that much with it. Be it a lack of inspiration or lack of the proper tools, I just don't seem to be able to do anything good with it. Part of me says it's because I'm no good at moulding and sculpting. Let's face it: I've always spent more time painting and embroidering, working with flat images. Sometimes dimensional, but rarely in "full 3D" as you -- most of the time -- do with clay. So maybe I'm just supposed to admire ceramics and other clay artists rather than work with it myself. Perhaps, eventhough I wish it was otherwise, clay -- of any kind -- just isn't my thing.

Let's review it. When I first heard about silver clay as a newbie beader and jewellery maker, I was really interested, but like many things it fizzled out. I didn't have the money to buy everything you needed and the clay itself was expensive. I'd printed a lot of how-tos from the Net and even got a book, but to this day I've never touched it. I became very dedicated, as I always do when I hear about something new and interesting that I want to know more about. For example, I spent months reading photo mags, learning about cameras and photo editing, before deciding which camera to buy. I can spend days researching a feature for Manekis Pärlblogg. If something catches my interest, I easily become that way. It can be a good thing, but sometimes I have to tell myself to stop and think it over so it doesn't just end up being a matter of acting on any whim I get flipping through a bead mag or reading about jewellery techniques/media/products online. Because that doesn't work in the long run.

So I didn't act on that first crush I got on metal clay. My wallet thanked me and I found new things that seemed to be a better match for me when it came to jewellery making. Then I got to see the artsy side of polymer clay. I grew up with Fimo and Cernit. It was clays for children to make cute and childish sculptures, beads and more with. Then I saw what kind of stuff adults could make of it. Sofisticated jewellery and effects that couldn't be replicated using ceramic clay. (Now, ceramic clay I had used before as a kid in school and children's art classes -- pretty ugly things, but in the eyes of a child they were fantastic.) So I read all I could about PC as a bead making medium and bought clay, glitters, Deco Gel etc. Did a few things -- including some fun mirror-image beads -- but found it probably wasn't really my thing. At least I didn't find inspiration to work with clay and it was hard to find the time to sit down in the kitchen and claim the oven for my beads and pendants. Sold off some of the clay and glitters, but still have some left. Can't sell it all if inspiration strikes: after all, one day I'll probably get an idea that requires PC.

What happened then? Because we both know that's not the end of the story. No, cue base metal clays. Ah, I love base metals! Much more than I've ever cared for silver. And here they came. First bronze clay. Then copper clay and last but not least steel clay. Oh, these are so cool. I want to work with them and they brought back some of the things I felt when I first read about silver clay. They rekindled my love of metal clay. But they require special equipment and are even more cumbersome than silver clay to fire. The price of it all makes me hesitate: what if it all just ends up like with the polymer clay? Though I've got ideas for these clays -- carving molds for pendants rather than sculpting -- I fear it'll all be a lot of money for a small output. But steel clay... I want it so badly...

Now, is that the end of it then? No, recently I've gotten an interest in resin (epoxy) clays and Fuwa fuwa, japanese paper clay. Like with PC it doesn't require a lot of equipment and cumbersome firing. In fact, it doesn't require that one thing that was partially responsible for me not working with my polymer clays: an oven. These are air-dry clays. Ok, there are two problems: paper clay has interesting textures -- perfect for Swiss rolls and similar miniature cakes for kawaii charms -- but it needs to be sealed to withstand moisture in the long run. And I generally don't know how durable it is. And resin clay can be very sticky. And I know things like that can have a -- a-hum -- negative effect on my mood if things start to go wrong.

So that's where I stand right now. I know I haven't exactly shown that I'm any good at working with clay, though I thing part of it has been that I either haven't found the right clay techniques for me (or the right type of clay) or that I haven't had the space and equipment to work with clay when I've had the desire to dabble in the medium. So one voice in my heads keeps saying "resin clay looks cool and useful, I should try it", while another voice is just telling me " yeah, right, it'll just end up like with the polymer clay, much ado about nothing".

If I have the money I probably will buy some resin clay (or putty) at least. It seems like a lot of fun and it can be used in so many ways compared to many other clays, seeing how it can be both a clay and an adhesive. The rest will have to wait. Even it I want to dabble in it, I will not buy any other clay until I've got some actual ideas about how I want to use it. Not just one or two, but a handful of good ideas worth the investment (of money and time) in yet another material. Sensible. Not fun -- I'd love to be rich enough to follow all my creative whims -- but sensible.


  1. I completely understand! I've been hoarding a tiny little package of silver PMC for months and months...I'm worried about making something and messing it up :)

  2. Feels good not to be alone in feeling like this. :) Yepp, those pesky worries sure can get in the way of one's creativity one way or another. And the thing with products like silver clay is that it's pricey. Compared to that, it's ok to mess up a package of Fimo or Cernit as it doesn't cost much to buy a new one. With some things it's not a matter of money as you can reuse the materials or buy new for a few coins, but with some supplies it's simply not possible to replace it every time you mess up... And part of learning is messing up. Some types of "messing up" is ok as it doesn't matter for the end product, it can be undone, but that's not always the case. If you blend two colours of clay you can't "unblend" it to take a very simple example.

    Once you've taken that first step and bought clay it's also a matter of shelf life. Not just worrying to mess things up or lacking the creativity to work with it, there's a risk the clay with desiccate if not used. A bigger issue with some clays than other and not least if you open the package and just use some of it. On one hand, if you don't buy clay you might end up never trying it at all. On the other hand, there's a risk of it being left for too long on the shelf if buying before the ideas come along and the worries of messing up keep you from daring to open the package. There's a sort of quiet stress in thinking about that.


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