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Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger Pitcher Sculpture
Discussion:
Polymer Clay on Found Objects
Following is information about putting the clay on glass or other found items.

While you are creating, it is simple to put polymer on glass or ceramic, as the unbaked clay just loves to stick. At this stage, the thing to watch is that you don't trap any air bubbles. Little bubbles expand in the heat of the oven and become big, ugly bubbles during firing.

It is after firing that things most often fail. If you don't plan properly, the clay will crack and detach from the glass or ceramic.

The three main things I do to assure a finished object remains as strong as possible are: 1) condition the clay properly, 2) use a brand of clay that is strong in thin sheets, and 3) bake the item thoroughly. Here are some specifics--

1) Prepare your polymer well, by conditioning it properly (fold it at least 14 times while you blend it). All brands need this conditioning, even if they seem soft enough to work. This process makes the clay stronger after baking.

2) I never use Sculpey III for thin layers of clay. It is far too brittle. If my experience holds true for you, it will crack and come apart if you handle the object much. (I had some heartbreaking experiences with this.) FIMO, Cernit, Promat and CFC/Premo will work fine.

3) Make absolutely sure you bake the item long enough. The glass must come up to the full oven temperature before the clay can even start to fuse. Therefore, you must bake much longer than you would for beads or other small items.

Since the clay has no water in it, it can not over-bake unless you have the heat too high. You can literally bake something overnight if the temperature stays in a proper range. Use the temperature range given on the package, as every brand is different. Make sure you use an oven thermometer! My oven can't be trusted-- it gets hotter the longer I leave it, so be sure you know your own equipment well.

Neon colors and glow-in-the-dark white are more sensitive to heat and will discolor if your temperature is too high. On the other hand, if you bake at too low a temperature or don't bake long enough, the clay hardens so it looks and feels done, but it will not be durable because it will not be completely fused.

I typically bake at least an hour for any item made of ceramic or glass. In one case, that was not long enough and I had a failed piece because of it. I have read that polymer clay can get stronger the longer you bake it, up to two hours of fusing time. My experience concurs with this.

In addition to the above considerations, you will also be influenced by the shape of the item you cover with polymer. I have made several wall pieces by applying the clay to flat sheets of glass. This requires planning ahead. If you merely place the clay on the top surface of the sheet glass, after baking it will peel away from the sheet. This may be what you want, but be sure you plan around this inevitability.

Sometimes I do want bits of clay to appear "floating" on transparent glass. In this situation, I peel up the smaller unattached pieces after baking. I then glue them on properly with E6000 or Goop glue as a contact adhesive. I have been happy with the results. (Note: Make sure you apply these glues as a "contact adhesive" or the bond may not hold over time. I have had poor durability with cyanacrylate "super" glues such as PicStic or Zap-a-Gap for this kind of work.)

In some instances, you will want to be very sure that your clay does not remove itself from the base surface. Be sure to wrap the clay around any edges that would provide a "grip" for the clay. On sheets of glass, I wrap the clay around the edges most of the time. This creates a "mechanical" connection between the clay and the base object. With objects such as vases this is less of a problem because of the shape of the item itself.

If you are working toward translucence, I am not experienced in this area. People who have done this quite a lot include my friend Vince Budnick, who does great night lights. Vince has a page detailing how he builds his night lights, if you wish more information on using clay to transmit light.

Good luck. Expect some successes and some failures. Keep on creating, and you will learn what works for you. The more you make, the more you will succeed and also fail, and the more you will understand what works.

Thanks for listening.
Lynn
Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger
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