I created this masked face today. It took me what seemed like hours to condition the clay that I used for the face because it was so hard and crumbly. I have one of those big blocks of clay and for reasons beyond my imagination it hardened since I used it last. I didn't want to throw it away, what a waste that would have been, plus the fact I would have had to run to the store to buy another. There is nothing more exasperating than to delve into a project and have to run to the store or spend more time conditioning the clay than actually creating something with it. Okay, should I flip a coin ? Heads I go to the store or tails I use the crumbly clay. Not really wanting to get dressed, get in the car, ride the whole mile to the store (okay now you're laughing and so am I. I could have gone to the store and been back with the new clay in record time.) Lets get back to my problem clay.
One thing I have that helped me condition this clay is Quick-Mix, but it still took me a lot longer than I would have liked to make it pliable. When I finally had it conditioned and the face formed, I was unhappy with how lumpy it was. I don't mean big lumps, but kind of wavy lumps that I was having trouble smoothing out. (It's hard to imagine, especially with all the work I put into it, but maybe the clay wasn't quite conditioned enough) It was then that I remembered I had bought the Isoprophyl Alcohol just for times like this. I dipped my fingers into the alcohol and lightly rubbed it across the face, nervous as to what it would do. WOW, was I amazed at what had just happened. I had never used the alcohol before, but had heard that it works. The lumps began to disappear. As you can see by the picture, the face turned out very smooth.
After I finished this mask, I decided to check out the different ways to condition clay and this is what I found on the internet. I was surprised at a few of the methods being used.
How to work with Fimo Mix Quick
Fimo Mix Quick is an essential ingredient of any modelers "toolbox". The chemical reaction that happens between Fimo and this clear and slightly soft product is absolutely amazing. You only need to use a very small amount of mix quick, say 1/8th of the amount of Fimo being used to achieve the desired effect. You simply take the Fimo and Mix Quick and knead them together. Keep turning and stretching the resultant combined material until it suddenly softens in your hand and the Mix Quick has disappeared leaving your Fimo once again smooth, elastic and usable.
It is important that when you choose your blocks of Fimo at point of sale that you gently press the block to make sure that you are not purchasing something that has been incorrectly stored. If you see any cracks appear do not buy that block but show it to the shop keeper, as it may have been overheated while on display.
Conditioning large amounts of clay can take enough time and effort to be annoying, particularly if you have arthritis in the hands, or are using a stiff clay. There are a number of ways to make conditioning faster and less hard on the hands: Pre-warming the clay
You can start the conditioning process by putting the clay in a warm place for fifteen or twenty minutes; for example, you can stick the packages you'll be working with in your clothes (some people sit on the clay packages), or use a hot-water bottle. Warning: Excessive heat or ultraviolet light will cause the clay to start curing, making it unusable except as scrap. Don't put the clay in the sun. If you're using a heat source such as a lamp or heating pad, make sure the clay does not get much warmer than your body temperature. Chopping the clay
Many clayworkers use a food processor to chop up the clay. The small chopped bits are easier to work with than large chunks, and the friction of the blade warms the clay. After chopping the clay, you dump out the chopped bits, press them together with your fingers, and continue the conditioning as described above. Adding softening agents to the clay
There are a number of things you can add to polymer clay to make it softer:
Eberhard-Faber (makers of Fimo) make an item called "Mix-Quick", which is a solid block of extra plasticizer; you can add Mix-Quick to your clay up to a third of the total.
Sculpey Diluent is a liquid that does essentially the same thing, softening clay when you add a few drops.
If you're using a stiff clay, you can add as much as a third of Sculpey transparent to soften the clay without changing the color.
You can also mix a few drops of mineral oil or a dab of petroleum jelly into polymer clay. (Add only a small amount; it's easy to overestimate how much you need.)
Thank heavens, I only have a small amount of the crumbly clay left, which I will use as soon as my hands are ready for another workout.