Christmas music's been playing in certain stores for weeks already, and though some of us might think there's still plenty of time, it's never too early to get started on your holiday shopping.
If you're like me, you have a hard time coming up with gift ideas for most of the people on your list. Here are a few-- well, ten-- suggestions for gifts, if you know someone who can barely leave the polymer clay long enough to scarf down supper.
(Well, if you're reading this, chances are that you are that person glued in front of the clay table, so you might "accidentally" leave this page open for someone else to find. ;o) Or see if it helps you make up your personalized clay-related wish list.)
Ten Gift Ideas (in no particular order) for Clay Fanatics:
Disclaimer: What your clay-loving friend needs will depend on whether s/he is just getting started with polymer clay or is already a confirmed clayaholic. If at all possible, sneak a peek into the recipient's studio/clay closet/etc. to make sure s/he doesn't already have these items before making a purchase. Otherwise, it's always safest to save receipts.
10. Pasta machine
If they don't already have one, they'll probably be thrilled to get one. Possibly of less interest to a sculptor, but it can still be useful for conditioning clay (softening it up/mixing it properly before using it).
Similar items, different price range: Acrylic rods and brayers are cheaper than pasta machines, but they serve a similar purpose. Most people eventually want a pasta machine and a rod or brayer. The pasta machine is the easiest and most precise to use, most of the time, but occasionally, a rod or brayer comes in handy.
9. More clay!
We can always use more clay! Most of us who've been doing this a while prefer a certain brand, and we use more of some colors than others; however, most of us will eventually use it, no matter what color it is. Peek into the clay stash, if possible, so you can see if s/he uses only one brand. Generally speaking, Premo, Kato, and Fimo Classic are more durable than Sculpey III or Fimo Soft, so they're probably safer bets, but everyone has her own personal preference. (Of course, you can always give a gift certificate or cash, if you think s/he'd prefer to choose the brand and colors.) If you're buying the clay in person, give each block a little squeeze to make sure it isn't rock hard. (That might indicate that it's been on the shelf too long and will be difficult to work with.) Be sure to store it in a cool, dry place. Leaving it in a hot car is a definite no-no.
8. A "big ticket item"
Maybe you've heard your clayer talking about things she'd like to have "someday". A few more expensive gifts would be a new oven (a toaster oven or possibly a full-sized oven, if you have the extra room), a rock tumbler, or a buffing wheel. If there's room for a clay studio, maybe she'd like a good quality lamp, a new table, ergonomic chair, or a special storage solution. You may even decide that it's time to buy a new camera (especially useful for people who sell their creations online). For these bigger ticket items, you might want to consider asking for in-put from the clayer herself. It may not be quite the same as surprising her on Christmas morning, but I'm sure she'll be thrilled no matter when she finds out about your generous gift!
7. Guild membership
If your friend is the type who'd enjoy some social interaction with other clayers, you might consider buying him/her a guild membership for a year. I actually haven't checked this out, but I imagine that you can buy a polymer clay guild membership in someone else's name. If not, you could at least see if there's a guild in the area and put the money or check in a pretty card with a homemade "gift certificate".
Similar ideas: Enroll him in a class (if there's a class you know he'd love to take)-- or give him cash for the class/retreat/etc. of his choice. (These can vary widely in price-- anything from $20 for a basic class at a local shop to hundreds of dollars for a multi-day workshop.) Buy her an account at flickr or one of the other online photo-hosting communities. Not only do they provide a place for her to show off all those polymer clay creations she makes, but they're also a fun way to make new friends. (You can use many of these sites for free, too, but there's a limit on how many photos you can put up and how you're allowed to arrange them.)
6. Books (or instructional DVDs)
If you know there's a book or DVD s/he'd like, they make great gifts. There are new books coming out every few months, these days, so if you know your clayer's area of interest (jewelry, sculpture, everything), you can be fairly certain of pleasing with a freshly-published book. If you're not sure which books s/he already has, you might consider a gift certificate to a favorite bookshop (or cash with a "choose a new book for yourself" note).
5. Magazine subscription
There's currently only one magazine devoted entirely to polymer clay (and the occasional air-dry clay project), and that's Polymer Cafe. This is a nice gift, if you know that s/he isn't already a subscriber. A few other magazines also feature polymer clay-related projects on a regular basis. Look here for more information: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/magazines.asp
4. "Clay Coupons"
Remember making this type of coupon for your mom on Mother's Day? "This coupon is good for one breakfast in bed"-- that kind of thing? Well, why not do something similar for your clay-obsessed loved one? This is a great idea-- not just for children, but for anyone whose wallet is going through a lean period. The coupons will of course vary based on your circumstances. Tailor them specifically to your loved one's needs. If the recipient is a busy mom who barely has time to clay these days, give her a few coupons that entitle her to a carefree hour (or two-- or whatever) to spend with the clay while you keep the kids occupied elsewhere. Maybe one coupon could entitle her to a clay-friend (i.e. you) for an hour (unless, of course, the clay is her escape from the rest of you crazy people (g)). Or-- and this one would be worth gold to many of us!-- make a couple of coupons that volunteer your services as a bead-sander. Consider one that reads, "This coupon is good for one full meal prepared while you play with clay". . . and so on! Have fun with it-- but remember, if you make the coupon, you should be prepared to ante up-- cheerfully, or it's no good. ;o)
3. "Crossover" tools or supplies
If you know that your friend doesn't have a particular tool (say, a wavy blade or some shape cutters), by all means, go for it! (You can read about many polymer clay-related tools here: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/tools.asp.) Better yet, there are some tools and supplies that serve double duty. That is, they can be used for polymer clay, but also with another hobby or medium. For instance, stamps are great for polymer clay, but you can use them for scrapbooking, card-making, and other hobbies, as well. Linoleum-carving tools will carve through polymer clay in addition to linoleum and other stamp-making materials. If you know that the recipient of your gift loves paper crafts and polymer clay, some nice stamps might be just the thing that she can use in both hobbies, while the linoleum cutters would be ideal for someone who'd like to try making her own stamps. Someone who makes polymer clay jewelry might like some jewelry-making tools or a selection of lovely beads or findings, which can also be used to create non-polymer jewelry. Keeping all of your friend's crafty interests in mind might help you narrow down your list of gift possibilities.
2. "Stocking stuffer" goodies
You know your "target" better than I do, so you'll have to make a judgment call-- but many of us who make jewelry with polymer clay are absolutely addicted to all the "extras" that we can work into our polymer clay designs. Paints, glitter, mica powder... Embossing powder, metal leaf, metallic foil... Leafing pens, ink (both in ink pads and in re-inker bottles)-- and the list goes on. If you think your friend's a magpie (someone who loves sparkly, glittery things), you can find some wonderful "stocking stuffer" size gifts in the glitter and embossing powder section of the craft store. (Look in the stamp section for embossing powder. Sometimes there will be glitter there, too. Otherwise, check out the fabric-decorating aisle for the high-quality glitter that is sure to work well with polymer clay. Cheap metal glitter isn't a good idea; polyester's better.) For more information on these types of things (and specific brands that are proven to work with polymer clay), look here: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/materials.asp
1. Cash! (Or, if you insist, a gift certificate...)
I've mentioned this one a few times already, but it's worth saying again. After all, who wouldn't like to go on a little shopping spree?! Cash is really best, since your friend can use it absolutely anywhere, from an Internet-based shop that specializes in clay-- to the local bookshop-- or even a hardware store, if it's time to finally get that clay-related power tool she's been dreaming of. However, if you're convinced that cash is too impersonal, a gift certificate to her favorite craft/art-supply store will be more than welcome. We crafters can always find something we'd love to have from those places! (g)
So, that's my list of suggestions. I hope it's given you a few ideas or helped you come up with some of your own. If you're still feeling terribly confused or uncertain, maybe you could ask for a wish list. Many of us have such extensive ones that we'll still be surprised, even if someone shops from the list! ;o)
Oh, and when you're out shopping, don't forget to check out sales and coupons. Get the most for your money! Happy shopping! :o)