Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Carving up more than the Thanksgiving turkey!

The theme for the December 2014 challenge for the PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy) is "Carved". I had been wanting to try my hand at carving for a while, so even though I'm quite busy right now with various other projects, I couldn't let this challenge slip by without giving it a try.

I've been having a lot of fun doing larger scale items, moving away from jewelry design. I will eventually go back to Jewelry (I think), but I'm having so much fun working larger with home decor and sculptural items. So, when my thoughts turned to this challenge I immediately was thinking on the larger scale. Then one night when I was in my creative brainstorming time (just before falling asleep) I struck upon the idea of using up all the cured polymer scraps that I had sitting around. These are pieces that were made and after curing either weren't strong enough (pieces that broke during finishing or jewelry assembly), pieces that burned during curing or were experiments that didn't turn out well. I have a lot of these scraps, to give you an idea, here's my box 'o scraps:

I got the idea to make a kind-of polymer soup, mixing these cured scraps with some liquid bonding agent (Bake 'n Bond). But, "what to cure it in?", was the big question. I needed something that the polymer wouldn't adhere to or be tough to remove. So I thought of silicon bakeware. Luckily, my local thrift stores usually have a piece or two of silicon bakeware, so off to the thrift I went. I found what I can only describe as what looks like a gravy boat, all in silicon, and it was only $1! Perfect!! I brought it home and set it in my studio. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that its original owner was a heavy smoker, the next day, as I began working on my other project (with the silicon mold sitting next to my workspace) it literally began making me sick! My sinuses dried up and my nose became stuffy. Whenever I left the room for a decent chunk of time, the stuffiness subsided. I kept getting the hint of stale smoke, but couldn't figure out from where it was coming! I finally realized it was the silicon piece, so I soaked it in a bath of bleach water for 24 hours. The smell still wasn't removed, but it did lessen it. 

In the meantime, I decided to try a practice carve, using the tools I use for wood-cut printing to carve my polymer. I had a business card case which I had decorated with a polymer slab, but then decided I didn't like it. When I tried to remove the polymer, the superglue had other ideas, and the polymer came off in tiny bits leaving big bits behind. I decided this would be my trial piece. I carved into the polymer pieces left behind and then coated it with black LPC before curing. A coating of resin, some sprinkles of glitter and another coating of resin, and here's my practice piece: 

Kind of funky and interesting, so I kept it and added some black liquid pc leaving areas of the bare metal uncovered, added a touch of glitter and two coats of resin. I intentionally added scratches all over the metal case to add to the primitive feel of this piece. I'm not quite sure if it's finished yet, I'll have to give it more consideration.

So, trial carving out of the way, it was time to get down to the business of my challenge project. I made a thick soup of some of the broken bits of cured polymer and the Bake 'n Bond. The uncured raw "soup" looked like this:

I made sure that all bits of cured clay were covered and I kept some bits of the cured clay peeking out of the top. In it went, to be cured for almost an hour. When it came out, it looked like this:

I decided to cut it in half, so that the sculpture could stand on its own. I was going to use a saw for this, but decided to just use an old tissue blade to saw through the cured clay. That worked surprisingly well. Then, time to sand! I needed to sand the two newly formed bases, as the cut wasn't as even as it might have been had I used a saw. Plus, I wanted the rounded, moulded sides to be finished to shiny perfection. So I sanded through many grades of micro mesh and then buffed with my buffer/grinder.

Now I was ready to begin the carving. I started first by hand drilling circles with the flat v shaped carving tool. Next I mapped out where I wanted spiral shapes to be added, by drawing them with a sharpie marker. Tip: If you've never worked with carving tools, when you are trying to carve a continuous line, it helps to first draw outlines with a straight carving tool, then go back and carve out the inside with either the v-shaped carver or the c-shaped carvers. This rule holds true for wood cuts as well as carving polymer. Even when one takes the time to cut an outline the gauging blades still can slip if given too much force, and that will either scratch the piece or skid across and slice one's hand (ask me how I know this). Three V shaped cuts in my left thumb plus a bandaid later, I had both pieces carved to my satisfaction.

I decided to paint the carved out areas with black acrylic, to make them stand out against the background. I really like how these two pieces can be arranged in different ways, according to one's preference, which could change daily! ;)

Finally, here's a shot from the side, so you can see how deep the clay is, and how the carved side has edges of the scraps that pop out of it:

I had a lot of fun with this challenge. While I like carving a lot, the part I had the most fun with was using up old failures and upcycling them into a new piece! My inner enviro-girl was quite happy about that! ;) I still have lots of scraps in my box 'o scraps, so I plan to do more of this scrap soup making in the future!

Voting for this challenge will open on December 1st, and will run through midnight December 7th. Remember 3 randomly chosen lucky voters win a prize every month! I'll try to remember to post a voting reminder here!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this project, and on my carved primitive card case too, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!


  1. Very cool idea. Although my collection isn't as impressive as yours, I never throw away polymer clay either, scrap, dried up, cured, fugly mistake, or otherwise. Never know what you might be able to use it for.

    1. Thanks Tammy! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who can't bear to just trash something that broke or was a mistake! You're right, you never do know what you might be able to use it for! ;)


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