This week's topic at Studio Friday is "Fragile!"
Here's the prompt:
What is the most fragile in your studio? What makes it so fragile? What would you do without it and where do you keep it so it is safe and won't break?
Hm. Well, I have some metal leaf (which I use for mokume gane and a few other techniques), and that's pretty fragile. The stuff is rather maddening to work with, actually. It's incredibly thin and lightweight, so it really wants to fly away and tear into millions of featherweight pieces-- or be lifted on the slightest breath of air and crumple together.
But to tell the truth, the first thing I thought when I read the prompt was, "the clay itself!" Which is... misleading, maybe. After all, polymer clay, if of a good brand (Premo, Fimo Classic, Kato, for instance) and if cured correctly, is fairly durable. Some people swear that their clay pieces can be twisted and "bent" without breaking. I'm still too nervous to do that with my own stuff-- but I did try it on a little scrap of clay rolled into an ultra-thin snake and cured-- and it was very flexible.
So, why do I still think of it as "fragile"? I guess there are a couple of reasons. First, I started out with Sculpey III and had a couple of my early pieces break. That "put the fear in me", so to speak. Second, I'm extremely cautious about the curing of my work. I don't want to scorch it, of course, but neither do I want it to be "under-cured" and disintegrate over time. I don't worry about it quite so much, these days, but I'm still vigilant about it. And I guess that translates into my persistent feeling (right or wrong) that the clay is fragile... Or at least, that the curing process is fragile-- delicate-- requiring careful attention.
The other parts of the question--
If metal leaf "breaks" (or tears, rather), I can still use it. It's just a bit more of a pain to adhere to the clay in a somewhat-solid sheet. But since I usually crackle it, anyway, a little tearing here and there doesn't matter much.
If I had to do without it, I'd just use metallic paints and inks instead. I already use them and am happy with the results. The metal leaf has a nice look, but sometimes I actually prefer the paints. In other words, life would go on. ;o)
I store the metal leaf in the package it came in. It comes in little "booklets", sandwiched between sheets of tissue paper. I keep these booklets in the snap-shut plastic sheets they were originally packaged in. It's "nice and neat", and I like that-- though you might not guess it to see my house, right now! ;o)
As for the clay-- What would I do without it? Well, since it is the primary component of most of what I do... I'd be stuck! I'd have to find another medium, I guess. Fortunately, it's not really that fragile. Oh, and if a single piece breaks (which does happen from time to time-- especially if I'm experimenting with something new), I can either try to repair it, save it for the scrap pile, or toss it out and start over.
There's really no way for uncured clay to "break", but it can be partially cured if it's stored in too warm or sunny of a location. If left open to the air, it will also collect dust and hair. I store the uncured clay in plastic bags, which I keep in plastic boxes (for long-term storage) or small plastic, unlidded bins (for immediate use). If I know I won't be using it for a while, I sometimes keep the uncured clay in the fridge, in a crisper drawer. The cooler temperature is supposed to keep it fresh for a longer period of time.
Cured pieces are just here and there, in ziploc bags, in a bead box, in small bins-- waiting for me to turn them into jewelry. I keep them where they won't be trod upon or eaten by my dogs. I don't think much else will hurt them, unless you go out of your way to damage them! (g)
I don't work with very fragile materials, I guess. The clay and accompanying materials are fragile enough for me!