Wow, you covered a lot of different polymer clay techniques with your first stuff! All very nice
and they show you have good design ideas too. I think once you learn some of the tricks for working with this new medium (including mixing colors), you'll be doing creative stuff that's more "finished" and more what you probably see in your head, as well as perhaps stronger.
Btw, is that yellow braided cord a drawer handle??
You asked for critique and suggestions, so here goes!
I was curious to see how flexible without breaking the material was. . . .
Different brands and lines of polymer clay differ in their baked
Basically, Sculpey, Super-Sculpey and Sculpey III will be "hardest" after baking, but in thin or projecting areas they will sacrifice strength for that surface hardness and be more brittle/breakable.
Most of the other brands/lines will be flexible in thin or projecting areas, and much stronger (with FimoSoft pulling up the rear).
However, any brand/line of polymer clay will get stronger the longer it's baked (therefore the more completely every bit of the clay is fully polymerized). That can make the weaker clays somewhat stronger but still not strong enough for many uses, which is one reason those who really get into polymer clay seldom use them (except perhaps for flesh-colored SuperSculpey for faces/hands/etc-- though even SS can be mixed with a stronger clay and/or used over armatures for more strength in any thin areas).
There's more info on all that on my (temporarily-problematic) Characteristics of Clays
page, under Strength--Flexibility, Rigidity
The twisted ropes you used for hair may be a problem too since they're projecting (unless they never get stressed). Even if you did use a stronger clay for them, things like that can be a problem, so they're often pressed down to the surface of the piece as much as possible to lower their profile, or they have armatures under them (wire, for example), or they're mixed with Bake and Bend polymer clay.
. . . had no problem being screwed into a board. .
Polymer clay is strong enough to be screwed into (or drilled) even when thin and shouldn't break (as long as a strong brand is used--Sculpey/etc wouldn't be good unless you barely screw the screws onto the surface or into a pre-drilled hole).
You might want to paint your screw heads though, or cover them with a bit of clay to match the background or with clay that's just decorative.
There's some info on doing those things on this page since screws/bolts have to be tightened against the clay when attaching clay-covered switchplates back to a switch box in the wall:http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/covering.htm
(...click on Switchplates
under Plastics, then scroll down to Screws & Holes
There will often be better ways of attaching clay embellishments to things though... e.g., a single screw (for a drawer knob perhaps) can be embedded into the back side of the clay, or pieces can be hung (with invisible hangers) instead of screwed in, or inset holes can be used so that baked clay plugs can be glued into the holes once the screws are in place, etc. There are also temporary adhesives and putties that can be used to mount things if permanent ones aren't allowable.
it has been through several washings and tossings. We do not have a dishwasher. So it gets tossed into the wash basin and then washed by hand with boiling water. No problem as of yet.
Polymer clay does fine in the washer/dryer/dishwasher from the heat**, though you probably don't want to use actual boiling
water more than briefly only because the clay will begin to soften a bit if left at that temp for long. The weaker clays though may not take too much stress from being pressed or banged by other things in a dishwasher, etc. if they're thin, and so could break.
All clays however could get mini-scratches if they're buffeted around against sharp surfaces or edges very much. In general though, covered silverware and other cooking tools do fine in a dishwasher.
**in fact, some people even have even buffed some of their (pre-sanded) polymer items like beads in the dryer on purpose
Ahh, but alas, not all bic pens are equal. They must be the true hard plastic bic, as the other orange plastic melted and burst the polymer in the oven.
Yep, the Bic you want is the one called Round Stic
--which is actually not the hardest Bic. The type of plastic used for the Round Stic can tolerate higher temps, and also won't shrink.
Papermate has a similar cheap pen but it's tapered and can be harder to cover, especially for beginners.
Other pen brands will work too but it's not always obvious which they'll be without actually trying one. There's a partial list of brands though on my Pens
(click on Brands
the polymer on the fork was slightly "harder" than on the pen. My assumption here is that the fork was hotter and cooked the polymer more?!
If you used the same brand of clay for both, then the fork covering may have been harder because the clay was thicker or because the armature underneath was more rigid. Or you could have cured it longer, as you mentioned.
I am still a bit worried that I have curred it long enough to remove the elasticizers (is that correct Diane B.?), but I had it in the oven for 15-20 minutes and it was very hard when cooled. (I once over cooked some polymer and it lost its color and was as hard as a rock (brittle) when cooled).
There's no way to really tell after baking only from feel or look
whether polymer clay has completely cured all the way through.
If it hasn't been cured thoroughly, you may notice over time that some of the uncured plasticizer will leach out ...if the item has been sitting on a porous surface, it will leave an oily spot; if it's been sitting on some kinds of plastic, the clay and the plastic can begin dissolving leaving a gooey mess. In some cases the baked item alone could actually become crumbly and begin to fall apart.
The only real help is to use a cheapie oven thermometer next to the clay (after testing all areas of your oven for hot spots), always preheat, then be sure to bake for at least the recommended time per the item's thickest area.
Baking longer isn't great for those Sculpeys mentioned though because they will begin to darken then even at their recommended temps --though partially or completely enclosing them while baking can help.
You'll also want to be careful of the materials you're baking on
because some can heat up to a higher temp than the air around them. There's loads of info on all those factors on my Baking
I did not make the first rolls tall enough and I could not find the right cutting tool once I got everything mashed together. Once I did find the right cutting tool I discovered that it made all of the difference.
I also had a lot of problems with the design blending and blurring when I put two pieces together.
Not sure what you mean about the rolls (canes?) being "tall" enough. Do you mean that you just didn't make enough
of the cane, or reduce it enough, or what?
You can find loads of info on cane-making
in general on this page, including Cutting Canes and putting things together, etc:http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/Canes--general.htm
And info on reducing canes (making them smaller), especially to reduce distortion, etc:http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/canes--reducing.htm
And even more on the types of blades that are best for various uses:http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/cutters-blades.htm
(click on Types
Love the face btw! (if you didn't use a mold for that, then you'll really be enjoying more sculpting too
). And like the way you've handled it.
If you want to check out some other faces that have been used alone then embellished (lotsa possibilities!), check out some of the links on this page too:http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/heads_masks.htm
(...click on Faces Used Alone
P.S. You may want to check out some of the suggestions I wrote recently for "drawing" lines without unevenness, etc.:http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=262391.msg2942918#msg2942918
I think you'll find they can work well without creating the same problems.
Can't wait to see what you do next!!