Thursday, March 29, 2007

Texturing Tools and Other "Found" Goodies

I love reading about homemade and "found" tools for use with clay. I love it for a variety of reasons, including the following:
  1. It appeals to my thrifty side, for one thing. Less money spent on tools = more money left over to spend on supplies like clay and ink and other fun stuff.
  2. Finding a new tool for free is like winning a scavenger's hunt! ;o)
  3. I'm inspired by the ingenuity of the people who discovered that such-and-such effect can be made with this, that, or the other.
  4. I like the "custom-made" quality of it. (No-one is going to have a tool just like yours, if you've made it yourself! Found objects are almost as unique.)
  5. Something about it just brings back that feeling of... "poor-man's wealth", let's call it... that I so enjoyed when I was a child reading books about fairies and other tiny people using common cast-off objects to enrich their lives. A thimble becomes a cup. An empty spool of thread is a perfect sitting stool. And a box of cornflakes can feed the village for a month! (I also loved reading the Little House book with the Christmas pennies and imagining what would happen if I could go back in time and give Laura and Mary a whole dollar each. (g) What? Is it really that weird?)

So when Pookie B asked about what I use to texture my mini cookies, I thought it might be fun to write a post about some of the "around the house" tools I've been using. And if anyone has some others they'd like to suggest-- or a link to a related webpage-- that would be great, too! :o)

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For a fluffy, spongy texture, try pouncing a brush lightly over the clay. (Try pouncing less-than-lightly, too, for a different look.) I've tried a few different brushes-- just what I had handy at my worktable-- but I ought to try a larger variety-- and you should, too. ;o) Different brushes will produce different results. My current favorite brush is an old toothbrush.

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Old toothbrushes are also useful for getting paint into nooks and crannies when you're antiquing something-- or any other time you're trying to get paint into every possible opening.

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For a crackled look, use a small scrap of crumpled paper or aluminum foil. Crumple the paper or foil up, smooth it out again, and press it into the clay. Experiment with different degrees of "crumpledness", different thicknesses of paper, and different degrees of pressure when texturing the clay. Repeated "applications" of the paper/foil to the clay add more and more texture.

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For times when you don't want texture, a piece of thin paper can come in handy. Baking parchment is recommended, but if it's not available, try wax paper or any other paper you have access to. To remove light fingerprints or to soften or remove textures, try placing a piece of the paper over the clay and gently embossing (rubbing) your finger over the paper.

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This bit isn't all about texture, but texture comes into play at the end...

I usually bake my mini cookies on some type of paper. I baked the first one directly on the tile and didn't love the ultra-shiny finish it had on the bottom. (Not that the bottom of the cookie really matters, but still, it was just too smooth, and it bothered me. (g)) So these days I use paper.

Cardboard will work. (I use cardboard salvaged from food packaging. I figure I'll use it as much as possible before adding it to the garbage I throw away.) The only negative with cardboard is that it will bend in the heat of the oven, unless it's weighed down, and I've found that this can lead to slight curves in the lightweight cookies. Not a big deal, but I prefer to avoid it, if I can.

I mostly use baking parchment for the cookies. It doesn't bend as much as the cardboard, so I don't notice it affecting the shape of my cookies. My husband says that the texture on the bottom of the cookies (a result of baking them on the parchment) is just like the texture on the bottom of the real cookies he baked as a child. Now, we never used parchment, so I can't say, but maybe he's right. Clay does have an interesting way of picking up the texture of whatever surface it's baked on. If we remember that, we can use it to some interesting advantages. :o)

Oh, and I imagine you can bake the cookies on just regular paper, too-- but unmarked paper is best, as clay can pick up ink and newsprint if it's left in contact with it.

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Use drinking straws to press or cut circles into clay. Or cut the straws at an angle to make oval- or leaf-shaped cutters. Collect straws from different places so you'll have them in a variety of sizes. I love the tiny straws provided with coffee at fastfood places. The tiny straws that come with "juice packs" (like CapriSun) also work, though they're thicker.

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This isn't strictly a texturing tool, though I have I used it to make some textures... One of my favorite bead reamers (for use on uncured clay) is a thick needle I got in a set of "household-use" type needles. I believe it's a canvas or a sail needle. It's much thicker than a regular sewing needle, and it's blunt, so I don't have to worry about constantly pricking my fingers with it. The whole set of needles was just a dollar (at Dollar Tree, if you happen to have one nearby). I love this needle because it allows me to easily pierce my beads with holes big enough for the thicker stringing material I often use. A knitting needle would also work, but since I don't knit... ;o) A bamboo skewer would also do the trick.

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When making texture sheets, I used a variety of things I found in my "hardware scraps" jars. These included the heads of screws and the tips of wire nuts (those things you use to protect the connection when you screw two electrical wires together). You can find all sorts of textures in a toolbox! Try sandpaper, for instance, for a nice, even texture-- useful for covering fingerprints.

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Another of my favorite texturing tools-- one I use a lot for faux metal and stone-- is a large metal medallion I bought at a sale at Claire's. The necklace itself was, IMHO, hideous. The medallion was about four or five times bigger than anything I'd ever actually wear, but the medallion has a great textured design that transfers easily to clay.

So, while you aren't likely to find the same exact medallion I have, you can still remember to keep clay and textures in mind the next time you're at a sale (or wandering through the junkyard, or rummaging through the attic, or... you get the idea). You can get cool textures for next to nothing! Look at "junk jewelry", children's small toys and trinkets, silverware (for the patterns on the handles), shoes (for the patterns in the treds), speaking of treds-- the tires on toy cars are a great possibility, and the list goes on!

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For more information about texturizing tools, visit Polymer Clay Web's page on texturizers. One of these days, I'll get around to making more pages about texturizers and other found tools. It's on my list-- I promise! ;o) In fact, I'm in the process of writing a section about homemade stamps, which is certainly related to this subject.

At the bottom of that page, I've somehow failed to put any related links, I see. I'll have to remedy that. If there were a list of related links, this one would certainly be on it: Glass Attic: Texturing. Glass Attic is another excellent source for information about all things polymer clay. Sometimes there's so much information that it can be overwhelming, but it's a great place to browse for new ideas.

3 comments:

Pookie B said...

Thank you so much! I thought the cookies looked like crumpled aluminum (oatmeal raisin) and sandpaper for texture. I also love the parchment idea for baking the cookies on, makes total sense. I usually just bake my stuff on a cookie sheet but of course don't always enjoy the slick surface.

Thanks again! And thanks also for making me get off my butt and update my blog, lol. When I saw the link to it I decided I better update it =P

Michael said...

Glad you enjoyed it! :o)

I think I may have tried sandpaper for texturing a cookie early in my attempts, but I need to try it again, because I can't remember how it looked. I like the brush because it's so easy to get into nooks with it, but the sandpaper might actually be better for some things.

Pookie B said...

thanks again =)