Sunday, September 27, 2015

Beginner Basics Kids' Class - Marbled Bead Bracelet

My goal with this homeschool polymer clay class is to expose the kids to the versatility of polymer clay, so we're doing a wide variety of basic projects and techniques.  The second lesson will be marbled beads that can be strung to make a bracelet.

One of the things I had to figure out with this class is how to efficiently hand out the clay.  This is what I came up with:

Each of these balls is one tenth of an ounce.  I used my tiny scale to weigh each one.  (It might have been quicker to do some math and roll out blocks and cut them but for various reasons, that wasn't an option.) The bigger chunks are the scraps from last week that need to be re-weighed.  Each week, I will know exactly how much clay I want the kids to have and I can tell them to "pick 6 balls of any color" or "choose 4 black balls, 2 brown ones, and 1 green" or whatever.  It is a lot of work to prepare the balls but I got my kids to help while we watched TV and that made it go waaay faster.

So, here's this week's project:

This lesson is intended to teach the kids about marbling (and what happens if you go too far), forming basic shapes and bead piercing.

3 balls each of 2 colors of clay (about 1/3 ounce of each color)
stretchy cord
spacer beads
super glue

tissue blade
needle tool

This looks like a long tutorial but it's actually really simple. I just took lots of photos.

So here's the clay:

Mash the matching balls together and roll them into short logs.

Slice up the logs.

Pull the slices apart and pile them randomly on the work surface.

Squash them together into a ball...

... and roll it into a log.

Twist the log...

... and fold it in half.

Twist again...

... and roll again.

Fold in half...

... twist, roll out, fold in half, twist...

and roll into a log one more time.  Roll it to 8 inches long and cut into 16 pieces 1/2 inch long each.

The cut ends are marbled differently than the sides.  You can leave them as is or you can hide the ends.

If you want to hide them, pinch the sides gently toward each other...

... until they touch. Press them together firmly.

Round the points.

Do the ends of all of the pieces.

Roll them all into balls.

Form the beads into shapes. We're going to do four rounds, four cubes, four ovals, and four disks,

Pierce the beads and bake. (I'm using Fimo Soft and baking at 265 degrees for 20 minutes.)

String the beads on elastic cord with spacer beads between.

Tie a tight knot.

Get someone to hold the knot tight and put a drop of superglue on it.  Trim the ends of the elastic and you're done!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Beginner Basics Kids' Class - Name Badge

(Note: This method, while useful for a project that needs to be particularly sturdy and neat on the back, turned out to be too much prep work for my class. I ended up just rolling out the circles of clay and having the kids decorate, and then gluing the pins on after baking.)

It's time for another Tutorial!

So, as you probably already know, I homeschool my kids.  This year, we have joined with 50 or so other families to form a co-op. Every Monday, we get together at a local church to teach each others' kids various subjects of our own choosing. My kids are excited to take choir, ballet, art, robotics, French, and several other classes.  I will be teaching World Cultures, Classic Literature, and... POLYMER CLAY! (Are you surprised? You shouldn't be.)

Anyway, so I decided that I need to blog about each of the projects, mostly so I could keep notes on my classes in case I teach it again, but also so the kids could come here and refresh their memories on what we did.

So, here's the first project:

Note: Most of this tutorial shows the prep work I did before the class.  The kids only decorated the badges.

Cardboard scraps (for baking tray)
Parchment paper (for baking tray)
Glue (for baking tray)
Black clay
Mud clay (optional)
Pin back
Bits of various colored clay
Acrylic letter beads

Craft knife
Pasta machine or roller
Tissue blade
Tiny circle cutter
Smoothing tool
Large circle cutter

These first few steps are instructions for making a tray for baking your badge on that will keep it flat in the oven.

Cut two squares of cardboard a little bigger than your big circle cutter.

Put glue on one...

...and stick them together.

Cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to wrap around the cardboard and glue it on.

Put the pin back on the parchment (relatively near where the top will be) and mark the ends of the pin.

Cut holes for the ends of the pin back.

Cut a slit between the holes and stick the pin in there to test the size and placement of the holes. Make them bigger if needed.

Roll out a thick sheet of black clay and one of mud (or more black if you don't have mud).

Set the black aside and lay the mud on the work surface. Make a cut across the top third of the sheet in a straight line.

Press the pin back into the clay, centered on the cut, to leave an impression, then remove and set aside.

Use a tiny circle cutter to cut holes where the ends of the pin will lie. It's okay if they are a little small.

Remove the top third of the sheet. Slide the base of the pin back under the edge of the larger piece of clay, lining up the ends with the holes.

Replace the first piece of clay, lining up the holes.

Smooth the cut.

Carefully lift the sheet of clay with the pin in it and turn it over on your makeshift tray, lining up the pin with the holes, and pressing it in.

Lay the sheet of black on top of the mud.

Roll over it with the roller to compress, smooth, and force out any air bubbles. You can poke any stubborn bubbles with a needle tool and then smooth.

Cut with the circle cutter.  Make sure that the pin is in the upper part of the circle.

Smooth the cut edge with your fingers.

Press letter beads into the clay.

Make basic shapes out of the colored clays to make a design. Use snakes, strings, balls, teardrops, etc.

Add a border and bake according to your clay manufacturer's directions.  Wait until your badge is cool before you pull the pin out of the holes in the cardboard.


Update: Here's a picture of the kids' finished badges: