The very-generous Maria Maestri allowed me to teach a couple of projects from her Simply Ornaments CD (reviewed here) to my local polymer clay guild last weekend. As I was preparing samples for the class, I tried to come up with a variety of suggestions for changing up the projects and personalizing the characters. Turns out, one of the easiest ways to do that is to dress your characters up in different polymer clay clothes.
Here are a few ways to make your own "fabric" from polymer clay — whether you need it to clothe your custom characters or make mini clay quilts:
- Make Patterned Canes: Canes are an obvious choice for creating your own polymer clay fabric, since you can cut lots of identical tiles to replicate a fabric's repeating pattern. If you need a starting place, check out Lisa Clarke's tutorials for making weave and plaid canes.
- Extrude Your Own Fabric: I'm not much of a caner, so I was excited to find a recent tutorial by Sue Choppers-Wife on Art Ravings. She shows how to use an extruder to make your own polymer clay fabric.
- Just Applique It: If you want an even easier option, use small cookie cutters to create simple shapes from an unbaked clay sheet. (Or use a hole punch with baked clay sheets.) Apply your appliques to a solid color or Skinner blend background to make a simple fabric.
Whichever method you use to create your fabric, don't forget to texture it. The Art Ravings fabric post suggests a straining screen, and I love her results. I also like ShadeTex Texture Sheets — the Textile set is perfect for texturing fabrics.
And once you've made your fabrics, what can you do with them?
- Clothe Your Characters: Maureen Carlson's books have the best instructions I've seen for making realistic clay clothes, with tips for making "patterns," draping fabric, and more. I can personally recommend her excellent How to Make Clay Characters. And while I haven't read it yet, her Family and Friends in Polymer Clay also appears to include good fabric- and clothes-making advice.
- Make Polymer Clay Quilts: If you've got some fabric scraps after clothing your characters, use those to make your own patchwork quilts. Sarajane Helm and Judith Skinner wrote the definitive book on this: Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay. But you can also check out these sites for more quilted goodness:
- beadyeyedbrat lists lots of polymer clay quilt resources, including cane tutorials, quilt inspiration photos, and more.
- Jenny Patterson of Quilted In Clay has lots of gorgeous examples of polymer clay quilt blocks that she's turned into jewelry. She also occasionally writes about her creative process on her blog.
Winter may be on its its way — but if you follow these tips, your polymer clay characters will be happily bundled in warm clothes & quilts til the springtime thaw!