Sunday, August 8, 2010

What makes a basic clay kit?

Hi Everyone,

Recently I've been asked what makes a good basic clay kit for beginners. Here are my thoughts.

Absolute Essentials that you might have to pay for:
  1. Clay, of course, and, horror of horrors, I'm actually admitting that Premo might be a good start. It's soft enough and there's such a wide variety of colours that it won't turn off beginners. But don't try canes as a beginner with Premo. I'd buy about $25 worth. If you're at all intrigued by canes then go ahead and buy either Fimo or Kato.
  2. A pasta machine. Many books say you don't need one, don't believe them. However, I'll go against the grain here and say you don't need a good one. Use the 40% off coupon and buy one at Michaels. You can upgrade later and use this as your portable one. With the %40 off coupon you're in for about $20 I believe. I have bought them from kitchen stores as well but the brand that's cheap isn't very durable if you're forcing a lot of clay through.
  3. A work surface. I like the feel and weight of a ceramic tile, but I've also used dollar store plastic placemats. You can buy the tiles at any home renovation store for about $2, sometimes less if you're willing to accept chipped ones.
  4. Blades - absolutely important, razor blades and knives really don't work well. Again, use the 40% off coupon at Michaels to buy them and get the variety pack. I mostly use the firm blade. $5-$10 will get you all the blades that you need.
  5. An oven thermometer. This used to be optional for me, but I quickly tired of burning translucent clay, so spend the couple of dollars and get one. My current baking oven runs about 25 degrees warmer than the dial says it does and this is a critical temperature difference. Cost - about $2 - 10. I have the step above the dollar store one.
Total beginning cost - approximately $50 USD or CDN.

Essentials that you can scavenge from home:
  1. An oven. You can use your household oven and bake in aluminum foil tins, or roasting bags. I don't sweat the odd piece that I cook in the oven due to size, but many are more cautious and if I were to do any large production I would be as well. For a few dollars more you can buy a toaster oven and I had a small one that I bought on sale for years that did me just fine. Another $20 if you buy your own.
  2. A roller. A wine bottle will do for a while, particularly if you've got a clear one. We have salad dressings that come in smaller diameter bottles that also can work. I do have to say that it's worth the money to go ahead and buy an acrylic rod. I use mine all the time. With a 40% off coupon they cost less than $10.
  3. Storage containers. You'll very quickly start accumulating so you'll need something to store your clay and other things in. Shoe boxes work for a while and so do tupperware type containers.
  4. A computer with access to the Internet. While you can buy books and DVDs, there is so much information on the Internet that it's not necessary. A really good starting place for ideas is Polymer Clay Central.
Additional cost for essentials: $30-50 USD or CDN. So, really, for about $100 you can get a good start on clay.

If I had to choose my top three items that I wouldn't be without beyond the essentials they would be:
  1. Pearlex - great for covering or changing the colour of scrap clay
  2. Liquid clay
  3. Texture sheets or stamps
Interestingly enough, my mother's top 3 items would be:
  1. Needle tool
  2. Extruder
  3. Texture sheets
I'd be curious to hear other people's opinions on their top 3 non-essentials. Even within our clay group we're fairly evenly split on some of these items. Some believe that needle tools are essential, whereas I might use mine once in every 10 clay sessions. And yet others could care less about Pearlex.

If you've got opinions, feel free to share.




Elaine said...

My 3 non-essential essentials would be:

1) liquid clay
2) extruder
3) small cutters (I use these for EVERYTHING)

And while these days I use mostly premo to cane, my recommendation for beginning caners is to use the firmest clay they cane handle until they can get a light tough.

Kate said...

My 3 non-essential essentials would be:

1) needle tool (for me this is an essential!)

2) knitting needle (for smoothing out prints to cut back on sanding)

3) Texture sheets

I do a lot of canes and I love Kato polyclay the best for definition, condition time and durability when cured.

Louise said...

I would say

1) needles sewing or knitting
bamboo skewers or tootpicks.For modeling they are a must bead making also.

2) tiny cutters . Can' live without them.

3) acrylic paints.

Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

My top three Non-Essentials are:

1) Micro-Mesh Abrasive Pads my new favorite supply I can;t live without(or wet/dry sandpaper in 400-600-1200 grits as a last resort)
2) Amaco Bead Rack with pins (way easier to deal with than other methods.)
3) Cornstarch and Rubbing Alcohol (Sorry I cheated and put two here. Both are so useful they couldn't leave one out. Cornstarch for smoothing clay, a mold release or a bed to bake sculpted beads on. Rubbing alcohol to clean surfaces like blades, cutting boards and pasta machines, as well as removing finishes and spilled alcohol ink.)