Sometimes you get an old, dry, crumbly package of polymer clay. Or sometimes the clay you’re working with is really firm and sensitive to pressure, such as Pardo Art Clay. You want it to retain its inherent firmness, not become soft or sticky.
I was trying to hand-condition some yellow Pardo Art Clay and all it did was crumble. I’d successfully hand-conditioned translucent Pardo Art Clay, but this yellow looked like grated cheese. I was getting frustrated.
So, I reread Ginger Davis Allman’s post on How to Condition Pardo Translucent Art Clay and her phrase, “Pardo doesn’t fully condition until you make it super thin” stuck with me. She also said that polymer clay is thixotropic. “This means that when you apply a sudden stress to the material, it will often fracture rather than yield… If you stretch it really slowly, it will easily stretch and flow.”
This gave me the idea to just use the clay machine and gradually make the clay really thin before conditioning it. The ten minute video below shows the process using translucent Pardo Art Clay.
First, I cut new slices from the block of polymer clay. Without folding or doubling them, I gradually made them 0.5mm thin. Then, I was able to condition the clay. It became supple and I could fold it without breaking and eventually make it the thickness I wanted.
I tried it with other colors of Pardo and some hard Cernit and Kato and it also worked. So this is my new method of conditioning really firm clay. It’s not mess-free, but the clay comes together.
If the clay is stubbornly dry, there are always the products in the photo below to mix into the crumbs. I prefer the soft mixes because they’re less messy than the liquids. Soft translucent clay also works. I’ve also heard of using mineral oil or baby oil, but haven’t tried them.
I try to mix Kato Liquid Polyclay with Kato clay, Fimo Mix Quick with Fimo clay, etc. Not that I’m a purist, it’s that I’m a novice. Each brand of clay is different and don’t want to cause myself problems.