Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Really simple stamping and polymer clay - part 1

And yes I do mean really simple. Like many of the techniques I revert to, this is very forgiving and suitable for even the most inexperienced of stampers, nothing gets wasted and apart from the clay you only need a few materials that you probably already use for normal paper based stamping projects.

The basic ingredients are:

Polymer clay (Sculpey or Fimo work fine). I usually use black but colour doesn't matter for this technique because all the clay surface is eventually covered.

Mica powders. Again any sort will do. I use a mixture of Pearlex, Perfect Pearls and Moonglow in this project because that is what I happen to have collected over the years but if you don't already have any Cosmic Shimmer Powders come in sets of pretty colours to get started with.

Stamps - rubber or clear, mounted or not. The key here is not to choose too detailed an image. Photo type stamps do not work well. Something bold, outline or text which adds texture as well as an inked image is good. Here I used the Eco Green Garden Chic set from my Altered Element DT challenge pack.

Ink. I used Brilliance but Crafters or Chalk ink pads which also heat set will work too.

And to finish as many bits and pieces of embellishment as you choose from your stash.

A few basic tools are useful and those you don't already have can be improvised. I work on a heat proof non stick craft sheet so it is easy to transfer projects. A rolling pin (or substitute) and a blunt edge like a table knife for cutting are pretty much essential too. You can buy lovely purpose made tools for working with clay though if you intend to use it a lot.
All the materials and tools can be obtained from The Altered Element.

To make a finished piece to fit roughly folded A5 or a 4x6 incj frame, take half a block of clay.

First condition it by warming and rolling in your palms until you can form a ball. Then roll it out, either through a pasta machine (note DO NOT use it for food as well) or with a rolling pin. You can buy acrylic rolling pins for the purpose but a child's plastic one from a baking set is cheaper and works as well (or even an empty - well it wouldn't be full would it - wine bottle). Roll and fold 4 or 5 times to get a flexible sheet of clay. I roll in opposite directions each time so the end result is something like a rounded square rather than long and thin which it is after the first roll - unless of course you want a long thin project.
Next trim your sheet to the size and shape you require. Here I have straightened the edges. You can use a plastic blade or a table knife as the clay is very soft. Note: I have learned the hard way not to use a craft knife - you can see the line cut through my craft sheet as a result in the picture below!

(My piece was a bit square so I gave it another roll before the next step.) Now cover the clay completely with mica powders in your choice of colours. Use either a soft brush or just your finger tips to spread the powder onto the clay. It will stick by itself with no pressure so that you end up with a smooth sheen on the surface.

Next ink up your stamp and stamp onto the prepared surface of the clay. Press down evenly over the whole stamp. You need to take a little care to press so that you make an indentation into the clay but you don't need to press really hard or you go right through.

The good news is though that accidents are easily put right. If you press a little too hard and end up with a mark where the edge of your stamp pressed this can be disguised by gently rolling the clay again. Your impression will be deep enough to remain after the edge marks are smoothed.

If that doesn't work you can still either carry on with the next steps and add design features and embellishments to disguise blemishes or roll the clay up into a ball and start again. This works even after you have applied mica powders and ink and in fact if you've had several goes the powder helps stop the clay becoming too tacky and overworked.

Stamping into the clay will distort it a little but it doesn't matter because the next step is to take advantage of the clay medium and add some more distortion.
Gently peel some of the edges up from the craft sheet and gently stretch the clay a little so it doesn't lie flat again. Make small nicks into the edges (I use my thumb nail) and then roll the clay edge back to get an effect a bit like the curled edge of an old scroll.
Finally poke some holes hrough the clay. A ball ended parchment or metal tool or the rounded tip of a paintbrush handle works fine. Simply push the tool right through and circle slowly to stretch the hole to the size you like. You might need to brush a little mica powder over the edges and holes to conceal any bare clay exposed at this stage.

When you are happy with the result it is time to bake it. Follow the manufacturers instructions regarding temperature and timing. I transfer the pieces still on my craft sheet onto a baking tray, cover it with foil and fold the edges to seal in any fumes.

Remove from the over after the recommended time and leave covered to cool. As a precaution I generally unwrap outside to release any fumes.
The final steps are to embellish and mount the piece. Here I have made spirals of wire to thread through the holes at the top and then pulled these into 3-D shapes. I have threaded beads and cord through the holes at the side and added some Vintaj brass charms to finish.
The whole piece is mounted onto an easel style card but you could also frame it. Use an ordinary photo frame and put a sheet of card or paper in front of the glass inside the frame, then glue the clay piece into place.
For further ideas on using the scraps trimmed off and to see my first experiment with Bake and Bond please come back and see installment 2.


  1. I love this! I've had some clay for a while now but I've not got around to using it, this tutorial makes me want to get started :-)

  2. Very good tutorial thank you.

  3. Kate congratulations on a fantastic tutorial with the most stunning end result. Lynne M x