I've already shared some ideas for things you can re-use and recycle with polymer clay — things like tin can lids and cardboard. But today I'd like to talk about "recycling" the clay itself.
One of the nice things about clay is its built-in reusability. Nothing's permanent til it's baked. So if you decide halfway through your project that there's no hope, you can just wad up your clay up and start again. (Or if you're like me, carefully pick apart the separate colors first. Course, I was also the kid who didn't let different foods touch each other on my dinner plate. Maybe this is the grown-up version of that?) Not every medium is forgiving enough to let you start over mid-way without any waste... Aren't we lucky?
Here's a few more ways you can reuse & recycle your polymer clay:
- Don't throw away old packages of clay. If you have clay that's several years old, it may seem too hard & crumbly to use. But unless the clay is partially cured from being stored in a too-warm place, it's pretty easy to re-condition. Just add a drop or two of mineral oil or baby oil to the clay. If you have a clay-dedicated food processor, mixing the clay in it will make your job easier. But mixing by hand works just fine.
- Use that scrap clay. Scrap clay is the uncured stuff you have left over from your previous projects. Some of it's perfectly usable as is. But sometimes you mix your cane ends together & end up with an ugly color, or you drop your clay on the floor too many times & it ends up covered with dirt and cat fur. This less-usable stuff is still good for plenty of things — whether it's serving as the middle of a bead (hidden by a decorative top layer) or being used to clean your pasta machine. Check out Polymer Clay Web's Uses for Scrap Clay for more scrap clay ideas.
- When in doubt, don't throw it out! Even the baked stuff — the stuff that got air bubbles, or broke, or just didn't turn out like you'd hoped — can be creatively repurposed.
- Use that unfinished bucket as a source of creative challenges. Try randomly pulling things out & finding ways to use them creatively in a completely different way. Have a couple of extra beads left over from a jewelry project? Try making a Bottle of Hope that features them as embellishments — or maybe as a lid. Making Artist Trading Cards is another low-stress way to use something you liked well enough to save. It can be really fun & uplifting to take a messed-up project and turn it into something creative and new.
- Broken pieces are great to use as mosaic tiles. Cut or break them down even more, then apply them to a strong clay base. This works for even weak & brittle brands of baked clay, since the mosaic's base provides the piece's strength.
Looking for more recycling tips? Check out these ideas from other polymer clay artists:
- Block Party Press challenges us to leave nothing behind — and offers her own leftover paint artwork as inspiration.
- Too Aquarius offers 10 green tips for clayers, then 11 more. I love her suggestion for milk jugs!
- Looking for more things to recycle? Cindy at the Polymer Clay People forum has a list of 54 things to cover with clay.
- Heather at CraftGossip has a list of Earth Day tips, including donating unwanted projects to kids' classes.
I hope you have fun finding ways to reuse and recycle polymer clay. Happy Earth Day!