Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Making Molds and a Skeleton Key in Polymer Clay

Inspired by my most recently acquired book, "Vintage Greeting Cards" by MaryJo McGraw (given to me by Jan, head of our card exchange, for helping her with her Cricut--an unnecessary, but much appreciated gesture!), I have set about on a mold making spree today.

The book has a lot of cool cards in it showing several really interesting embellishments attached to the fronts of the pieces. The author discussed picking up a lot of these things in antique shops. I thought to myself that I should make molds to create my own pieces out of polymer clay.

Ever the lazy and reluctant shopper (both because I'm cheap and because I'm toting a 3 year old who understands all too well the meaning of "don't touch" because of how obviously and thoroughly speaking this phrase to him in any store pisses him off), I set about rummaging through my jewelry and came up with a few items that I wanted to mold. Some of the pieces, pictured below, are from a necklace that I bought at a yard sale a long time ago for 75 cents. (At the time, this felt like a lot of money, but I couldn't help how desperately I wanted the delicate, white, airy necklace which is made up of the pictured flower as the center and three pieces on either side, small, large, small... The pieces being the ones pictured alongside... I'm not even sure that this thought is still a sentence, but I'm currently being begged for cookies by both of my children and am in quite a rush and don't feel like editing right now, so you have to forgive the length of this tangent...)

The other piece is a ring that I bought from Avon quite a while ago because I thought it was so pretty!!!! And, one disclaimer that I will get out of the way beforehand is thus: You cannot criticize my nails. I simply can't stop every time I'm hit by the creative genius Bludger to do my nails before I take pictures for my blog, can I?! I don't know if that's a disclaimer, but anyway... I shall proceed.

I began by conditioning a whole lot of white clay. Most people make molds with scrap clay, but because of the apparent porous nature of the white pieces here, I felt nervous pushing anything other than white clay into them.

Begin by brushing the pieces generously with cornstarch. Use a paintbrush. Shake off/brush off excess.

Get a stack of clay that is thicker than the embellishment. It doesn't have to be twice as thick, like most people say. I made mine just about one layer of clay thicker (on the thickest setting of the pasta machine). Brush the stack of clay with corn starch.

If the object is thickish, like mine are here, push the clay (cornstarch side down) onto the object while the object is laying flat on your work surface. Squash the clay on there really well, then flip it over. If you see gaps around the object (which you probably will), put the whole thing back down and squish around the edges of the object. Press down gently to make the clay all even again on the bottom. Switch back and forth between doing the pushing and squishing until you're satisfied with how everything looks.

You can stretch the clay away from the object while it's uncured, so take advantage of that. Gently pull your object out of the clay. Simply push the clay back until the molded image reflects the actual object again size-wise. Look at mine! Isn't it pretty!? (I get really excited because I don't know if things are going to work when I start snapping pictures... I just hope they will! I can't say how often I just delete pics off of my camera without letting all two of you ever see them.)

If your object is more shallow, or you only need a really shallow impression, just get a stack of clay ready that is pretty thick (two layers on the thickest setting of your pasta machine), dust everything with cornstarch again, and press the object into the clay. In this case, I was molding a ring that was the same all around, so I just rolled it across my sheet, pushing firmly, and trying to keep it all straight.

I went back to the beginning and made it so that the mold went all the way to the end on both sides.

I thought I was done, and then I noticed that the edge of the ring was interesting, too. So I made a mold of that. Again, this is two layers of clay, and stuff is dusted, and I'm just pressing.


So, I thought I was done again, but then decided to make a skeleton key to mold so that I didn't have to hunt them down in antique stores. Roll a thinnish snake. You know, as thin as you want. Can you tell I'm rushing now? My husband just got home a bit ago and I want to go see him.

Roll another snake of clay and curl it in an oval shape at one end of your original snake. Trim off ugly ends so that they join together nicely.

Nice join:

Starting with a square of clay on the thickest setting, just draw in a shape for the key. If you swear up and down that you can't draw a stick figure, you may just be blowing smoke so that people say you're better than you think, but in all seriousness... This is just a straight line on the top, two little rectangles on the side, and a larger one in the middle. See that? Now cut off the top. Use your X-Acto knife, keeping it perfectly perpendicular to your work surface, and cut the rest.

Attach the key part to the snake. Push it up against the snake just a bit without distorting anything.

I started playing with texture here. Add a ball at the join in your oval and over the join from your oval to the first snake. Squoosh it down. Texture a bit.

I used this Studio by Sculpey tool to do texturing. You can find some sort of similar roundish thing to do this job, I'm sure. The end of a different tool, for instance. Maybe even your X-Acto knife? If you seriously don't have anything, make a ball of clay, stick it on the end of another snake of clay, bake that, and when you're done, you have a round pouncy tool to do texturing with.

Roll a tiny snake of clay, too...

Lay it over the join between the first snake and the key part. Cut it even with the key part.

Pounce and texture the whole thing, accenting seams, smoothing stuff, whatever you want, until you're happy with what you've made. Use your blade to gently remove the key from your work surface.

Here's all the stuff ready to bake! I made a few extra molds--the ends of a couple of screws, for making fake screw brad tops for cards, and a texture sheet. I bake my molds that are deeper (that are made by squishing the clay on top of the flat object) upside down because that's the flat side. If you bake it the other way, they can distort and that's no fun!

Here are fake little screws I made from my mold. Use water when you're making your molded pieces if you're planning to put pearlEx on them afterwards--if you use cornstarch, the pearlEx doesn't have a place to really adhere.

Here's an entire tray of my baked, molded pieces. I LOVE how the flowers turned out! I coated them all in pearlEx prior to baking, then gave a little coat of liquid polymer to make them all a bit shiny and to make the pearlEx more permanent.

I did end up making a mold of my key and it worked out GREAT. I'll show some more molded keys in the future. Sorry for the rushed post, everyone! Now I'm off to see my husband. I've got to rudely yank him off of the other computer and make him pay attention to me. ^_~


  1. Great tutorial! All two of us--very funny. What was the white clay you used? A hard or soft pc? Other than the two-part silicone, I cannot for the life of me get a good mold. Your's turned out great! Thanks for sharing.-Marlene

  2. Hi - LOVE your results, and I'm inspired to try this now. But I too, would like to know the kind of white clay you refer to.

    Anyways - they look excellent, so much better than relying on hunting down and purchasing stuff! TFS.