Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Top Ten on Tuesday -- Tips for Using Liquid Clay with Miniature Foods

Hey there! I'm back home after a long vacation. Not quite back in the groove, yet, but I'm getting there. ;o) My next "assignment" is getting back into the habit of blogging, so here goes!

I've suggested before that someone interested in making realistic miniature foods (out of polymer clay, at least) really ought to get some liquid clay and play around with it. Today, I'll offer a few insights that I've gathered so far in my own experiments with liquid clay in mini-making.

Top Ten Tips for Using Liquid Clay with Miniature Foods
(in no particular order)

1. Often, when working with teensy things, you'll find it helpful to cure them in stages. (That way, you'll have something to hold on to without constantly worrying about leaving fingerprints or completely squashing your carefully sculpted work.) A dab of liquid clay (hereafter shortened to "LC") acts as a glue between cured and raw clay, when you're ready to continue working on a partially cured piece.

2. Adding a little mica powder (pearl is a good all-around choice, but others can work, too, depending on the application) lends a slight sparkle to your LC mixes. This shimmer can be useful in duplicating the appearance of sugary glazes, certain gravies, and so on.

3. Know the properties of different brands of LC and use them to your advantage. Kato and Fimo liquids are clearer than TLS, so use them when you need only the slightest hint of color.

4. Another hint related to the one above-- For more transparent food items (glazes, translucent syrups, jams), tint your LC with alcohol ink, when possible. This yields more transparent colors. (Obviously, you'll also want to use a brand of LC that cures clearly-- Kato or Fimo.)

5. For opaque food items (chocolate sauce, nacho cheese), try oil paint or powdered pigments to add more opaque color. (In this case, you can use any brand of LC-- clarity is not an issue.)

6. While I generally prefer to use cheap mineral oil for mixing my icings, you can always use LC for that, too. Just mix a few drops into regular clay of the color you'd like your icing to be. Continue mixing and adding LC (a drop or two at a time, as needed) until you like the consistency of the mix. (If you get the mix too sticky, you can thicken it back up by adding more regular clay to the mix.)

7. Don't forget that you can combine regular clay and LC. A gravy made of LC can be poured over tiny "meat and veggies" (bits of regular clay in the right shapes, sizes, and colors) to make a convincing bowl of "stew". (Obviously, in this case, you'd want to use your most translucent LC and coloring agent, or else you may not see much of your veggies through the gravy, and instead of "stew", you'll get "weird, bumpy brown stuff". ;o)

8. Pay attention to sheen. Is the food you're imitating matte or glossy? TLS cures to a more matte finish than Kato or Fimo liquids. If Kato is cured at a higher temperature (or hit briefly with a heat gun), it takes on a higher gloss. (Of course, you can always apply the pc-friendly finish of your choice, once a piece is cured.)

9. If you want a "thick shine" on a piece-- more dimension than you can get with Varathane or Future-- you might try a clear brand (Kato or Fimo) of LC. This could be useful for the suggestion of a little water on top of a pot of veggies, for instance. (You could also use epoxy resin for this, but if you're like me, you may prefer to stick with clay as much as possible. I am going to try resin, one of these days, but honestly, I'm a little scared of the stuff. (g))

10. Don't forget your artist's pastels (or other powdered pigments). Those same powders that make your loaves of bread brown so realistically can be applied to cured LC to add a touch of toastiness. (You'll need to seal the powders in with a pc-friendly finish, if the piece will be handled or worn, as in jewelry.)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~
I am becoming more and more enamored of liquid clay-- not only for miniature-making, but in other polymer clay projects, as well. The more I see of the stuff, the more amazed I am by the possibilities.


milo said...

So glad you're back Michael, I've been missing you a lot!

thanks for this comprehensive list of tips - I love the one about mica powder for gravy, hadn't ever thought of that and it definitely requires closer investigation ;o)

I agree with you, LC has so many uses and many more that we haven't come across yet. When I think that I had been having a bottle of it sitting on my desk for more than a year before actually trying it! Now I can't do without it...

hugs, and pls keep on posting!

Michael said...

I'm glad to be back! I really missed the clay (and related pursuits, like blogs) while we were gone!

I hope you'll find the mica powder helpful. :o) I haven't done much with it myself, yet, but I had the idea "by accident" when I was trying to use up the first batch of liquid clay I tinted.

It took me a long time to start using mine, too! I'm bad about that-- I hesitate to use new supplies because I don't think I know how to use them to the best advantage, yet. Well, I probably don't, sometimes, but how am I going to learn if I don't at least try? ;o)

milo said...

Michael I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes I think I am a collector of materials rather than a crafter ;o) I stash supplies away and don't dare use them, only to find after some time that they have dried up/evaporated/become unusable :o\

Michael said...

It makes me sick when that happens!

Well, I've made up my mind! I have at least three new materials that I haven't tried yet (and that's just counting the ones I haven't forgotten about), and I now solemnly vow to use at least one of them per week until I've tried them all. ;o)

Squirrel said...

Thanks for sharing, Michael ;)
I hope this isn't too off-topic: I'd like to ask your help on something regarding liquid clay, as it seems to me that you know many tips. I wonder if this ever happened to you as well.
Did it ever occur to you to buy some liquid clay that wouldn't work? With this I mean that the product is glue-like, rather than liquid, is very hard to squeeze out of the bottle, and doesn't spread. At first I thought it was old, but it was bought 4 months ago.
I searched in Glass Attic and on the web, but couldn't find any solutions.
Maybe adding some PC liduent, like fimo mix-quick, would help? But they're specific for solid clay bars, not liquid.
Any suggestions? :(

Michael said...

Hi, Squirrel-- just saw your question.

I haven't had that happen to me, but I've only bought two bottles of liquid clay, so far (one TLS, one Kato).

My first thought was like yours-- maybe it's old. Even if you bought it recently, maybe it's possible that the bottle was on the shelf at the store for a long time... Or maybe it was a bad batch from the factory. (I've heard of solid clay coming from the factory too soft, too hard, etc., so I imagine it could happen with liquid clay, too.)

I do know that if you leave the liquid clay out exposed to the air, it can thicken up somewhat-- but since yours was in a bottle, that doesn't seem to be the problem. (And I have left small amounts out for months at a time. It does thicken, but it's still "spreadable".)

If I were you, I'd take a *little* of the the liquid clay and try to soften it with diluent (the liquid kind, like on this page-- http://www.brain-kids.com/goods_img/sculpey_diluent.jpg) or mineral oil, if you don't have diluent. But I'd just try a little at a time and then test it to be sure it's still "working"-- curing correctly, that is.

Oh! I just found a couple of interesting pages somewhat related to your problem.

Here's an article by Jeanne Rhea on the differences between diluent and mineral oil when used to thin TLS: http://www.polymerclaycentral.com/cyclopedia/tls_thinning.html
It seems that diluent works better, if you want to maintain the flexibility of the cured TLS, but mineral oil will work, too.

This page suggests adding a drop of diluent to thin it, if it thickens: http://www.sculpt.com/catalog_98/clay/SCULPEY_TLS.htm

Good luck! I hope your next bottle won't give you trouble like this!

Anonymous said...

I need help with icing :P I browse Etsy talking to people but i just find out how they do it :P