Monday, July 20, 2009

10 Things I Learned While Playing With Play-Doh

There has been quite a bit of chatter on the various polymer clay groups and forums about using Play-doh and scrap clay to pack your canes. Here’s a link to the video just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about:

If you are not a caner, this won’t make a whole lot of sense to you but if you’ve ever packed a flower cane, reduced it and then tried to slice it thin enough to avoid getting a “halo” effect from the translucent clay, you will LOVE this technique. I did a demo at our guild meeting this past Saturday and our president, Joyce, made the comment that I really should have made anybody who had never packed a cane do it the old way first. Only then would they appreciate the difference!

Now – about those 10 things:

1. Play-doh does not stick to polymer clay! That’s what makes this technique work.

2. Play-doh is readily available in most big box stores and craft supply stores. I think the correct name for this clay is water soluble air-dry clay and several different companies make it. The brand I use is RoseArt from Michaels. I believe Crayola may make a version of this also but I haven’t tried it. The main thing you need to look for is “water soluble”.

3. Play-doh can be run through your pasta machine – at least the RoseArt brand can. I run it through mine on the thickest setting, then again on a thinner setting – about mid-way through the range of settings. You don’t want it too thin.

4. Play-doh is more cost effective (cheaper!) than translucent clay! After doing a lot of research on the internet about how to pack a cane to keep it from distorting, and messing up a fair amount of clay in the process, I had a light bulb moment! Why not use extruded snakes of translucent clay? No more tediously shaping each piece to fit exactly into the valley between the petal tips! Just add snakes as needed until the gap is filled, reshaping the petal as needed while you pack it. And once you reduce it down, all the snakes meld together as a translucent background. But that takes a fair amount of translucent clay and then I rather tediously trim off as much of the translucent as possible before I begin to cut slices off the cane to avoid a “halo” effect. What a waste of time and clay even though it goes into my scrap clay container.

5. Play-doh forms nicely to the contours of your flower cane. I wrap a thin sheet of Play-doh around the clay, gently pushing it down into the valleys with a small knitting needle. Make sure you don’t have any areas on the sides of the cane that are left uncovered.

6. Play-doh creates a barrier between the cane and your scrap clay. So now that I’ve wrapped the thin sheet of play-doh around my cane and shaped it to follow the valleys and peaks of the cane, I extrude snakes of scrap clay in a mid-size round and fill in the valleys. This is where having a thinner layer of the play-doh comes in handy. It’s just there to separate the cane from the scrap clay but if I leave it too thick, it is too soft to hold the elements of the cane in place. I fill in the valleys with the extruded snakes of scrap clay, making sure to reshape the petal points if needed as I go. Then I wrap the entire cane with a thick layer of scrap clay then sit it aside to “rest”. This allows all the different parts of the cane to come back to the same basic temperature – again less distortion. If the scrap clay gets too thin when I start reducing the cane, I add another layer and roll it on good and tight to make sure it bonds to the first layer of scrap clay.

7. Play-doh is water soluable. When you are ready to “peel” your cane, you can use a craft knife to cut down one side – in the valley between two petals – and peel off the scrap clay and any play-doh that is sticking to it.. How thick you have the outer layer of scrap clay affects how easily it peels off. Too thin and you may accidentally scratch part of the outside edge of the cane. Just right, it will come off like a wrapper. I rarely get it just right but I can get most of it to peel of relatively cleanly. Some of the play-doh will still be on the cane itself but all I do is drop it in water and let it sit for a while. I usually leave mine overnight. When I come back in the morning, I use a soft-bristle paint brush to gently brush out any play-doh that is left, but most of it has already dissolved – leaving you with a beautifully shaped cane with no background.

8. Play-doh can be mixed with scrap clay. On the first few canes I made using this technique, I tried to soak the scrap clay that I peeled off so I could reuse it. Frustrating to say the least. It can be done but patience is not my strong suite so that didn’t last long. I had it in my hand – ready to throw it in the garbage – but decided to see if the play-doh would affect the effectiveness of the scrap clay when used in this method. I so hate to throw anything away!!! So I tried it on a cane that I wasn’t that crazy about so that if it didn’t work I wouldn’t be too upset with myself. It worked beautifully! So now the scrap clay that I peel off the canes goes in an empty play-doh container and gets reused again and again!

9. Play-doh gets hard when it dries. I get all of the play-doh out of the valleys between the petals that I can see but I’ve missed small amounts that dried hard as a rock! Oh no! My cane is ruined! Nope. Just take a needle tool and pop it right out of there. Not a problem at all!

10. Play-doh gets hard when it dries. I know – that’s a repeat – but then again, it isn’t! If you don’t want to peel your cane right away, but you don’t want the play-doh to dry in the cane, the scrap clay wrapped around it will keep it from drying out, however, you will need to protect the exposed ends, so you might want to wrap the entire cane in plastic wrap – just to be sure. Now I haven’t tried this yet. I’m still having too much fun peeling them and being amazed!

Have any of you tried this technique yet? Do you have more tips about what works well and what doesn’t? I’d love for you to share. Leave a comment below and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for one of my borderless canes sections. Be sure to leave your name and check back on August 1st to see who won!


Alice Stroppel said...

You really have explained this very well. I haven't tried it yet, but I know I will like it better than translucent. I have never wrapped my canes with translucent so this should be a great thing to try. Thanks for sharing your experience.
And by the way, your bracelets are fabulous and I can tell you had fun. Alice

Arlene Harrison said...

The main reason that I like to pack my canes is so I can have them in several different sizes. I make one cane that averages about 2 1/2 to 3 inches across, then reduce it down to about 3/4 inch for my largest size, then about half that size, then tiny. My next experiment is going to be using the blue tack stuff to cradle the bottom of the cane when I slice so it won't distort. Now if I can just remember to get some when I go to the store.....

Edie said...

I love this technique, and the smell of the playdoh takes me back 45 years to preschool- and I think that encourages the child in me to play. It works well for caning and it does amazing things to my willingness to put aside my adult mind and experiment!


Laurel said...

You did explain this well. I can't wait to try this technique. About using blu tack to pack the cain for cutting, couldn't you just leave one part of the cane packed with the play doh stuff, cut your canes and then peel out the play doh? Have you tried this and it didn't work? I guess it might leave play doh behind and then you have to deal with getting play doh off each cane slice. But if you let them dry, you could just pop them off, right? Just thinking if you could cut out the step of packing part of the cane again. Let me know if you have tried that.

Arlene Harrison said...

In reply to Laurel's question, I haven't tried it because after I pull the play-doh off, I drop the entire cane in water overnight. You don't have to do a precise packing with the readi-tac, just fill it in enough to stabilize the bottom. If I get a chance this weekend, I'll take a picture and post it. If you read today's post, you'll realize that this week has been so packed that I'm having clay withdrawal pains!!! Going to take care of that all day tomorrow!!!!!