it's been a hard clay's night

31 January 2009

Every Little Thing

This is a post about the importance of good tools. I'm going to get into what I use, but there are plenty of alternatives out there as well. The quality of your tools is going to directly affect the state of your finished work.
- A good mix is an assortment of NuBlades or tissue blades, small single-edged razors, and Exacto knives. Your blades should always be sharp, and you should always remain fully aware of that. Nothing beats a new blade when you need to cut cane slices. I like to keep one strictly for slicing cane, and a couple others in rotation for all other uses.
- For aiding in getting uniform sizes, I've always found the 'Marxit' tool (by Donna Kato) EXTREMELY helpful for obtaining uniform slices.
- The importance of your work surface is second only to the pasta machine. Something like glass, tile or even mirror, nice and smooth, so the blade is unaffected. Even those self-healing cutting mats are pretty good til they eventually do get marked up. You'll find what works best for you.
- There is also a template for measuring out the bricks of clay.
- A metal ruler, perfect in so many ways.
- An acrylic rod/rolling pin, or a hand brayer for rolling and smoothing.
- And of course, the workhorse, the pasta machine. I have yet to upgrade to the motor, but I kind of like cranking. When I think of the palm and pad soreness I'd go through, conditioning REGULAR 1990' era crumbly FIMO in only my hands. But now, with formulas slightly softer, and methods for machinery...ahhhh, faster, less painfully gained, uniform slabs. Without a good pasta machine, the Skinner blend* will most definitely elude you!
- It's also useful to have an assortment of old dental tools, nut picks, toothpicks, skewers and needles to use for texturing or for piercing beads. These are easily found at garage sales as well as the hobby stores.
- Also, strips of plastic to rest lengths of clay that you might be working on. That way you won't have to scrape or cajole it from the work surface(risking rips) if you step away or take a break.
- And my favorite tip, don't ever trash scrap clay unless its dirty or hairy or otherwise unusable. Scrap can always be used as the underlayer or inner layer of something.

Good lighting for the work surface. And comfort. I have yet to achieve this. I've worked standing at the work table, I've sat level with it, I sit with it too low. So I stretch a LOT. And I try to give my hands, eyes, neck and back a rest as often as I can while working. Take natural breaks and and walk around to regain blood flow. I am guilty of just going and going and going and going. Don't do that! According to this photo, I also like to keep the ipod, beverage of choice and phone all within reach. So I'm off to work on some beads from scrap. And then I'm going to take a break :)

*a Skinner Blend is named for Judith Skinner, who developed a pretty much perfect blending technique for two or more colors of clay.

No comments: