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There are many different types of polymer clay projects, and many involve very few supplies. Polymer clay sculptures, beads, and other items can be made entirely by hand out of polymer clay, but there are also projects that involve combining polymer clay with other materials to create picture frames, jewelry, and other objects for which clay alone is insufficient. Common projects include making figurines, pencil toppers, and framed artwork. Generally, polymer clay projects are small, but the subjects represented through clay can be highly diverse. For sculptures, the limits of polymer clay projects are often a matter of skill rather than the medium's potential.
One of the most common types of polymer clay projects involves simply making sculptures out of clay. These small items may be entirely made out of clay or may incorporate other objects, like jewels. It is possible to represent any object with clay, but some types of projects may be more difficult than others.
Another popular type of project involves covering an item with clay. Picture frames, small boxes, and even tables can be covered with this type of clay. When the underlying item cannot withstand the temperatures used to harden the clay, it is often necessary to bake the clay separately and glue it into place. This may require creativity on the part of the artist if the items fit together in a complicated way.
Beads are often made out of polymer clay using a variety of techniques. Millefiori beads using polymer clay are highly popular, but other streaked and textured patterns are also possible. Sometimes, very small sculptures can be used as beads when the appropriate holes are left intact. Bead making often requires a few supplies in order to create clean cuts and even beads.
When making other types of jewelry, polymer clay is often directly combined with small functional items. For example, earring posts can often be attached to polymer clay items with glue. This is useful for projects in which clay alone is insufficient.
In addition to these common projects, there are also highly unique polymer clay projects that artists have designed. For example, shadow boxes can be filled with scenes and hung on walls as art. Functional objects with moving parts can be made out of polymer clay, although the mechanics involved in this type of project are often highly difficult. Thinking about the physical properties of polymer clay can suggest a number of additional projects appropriate to this material.
@browncoat - While the different colors of polymer clay are very versatile, there is also another option if you prefer to paint your work.
Of course, you can just use ordinary paints, like oil or acrylic and many people do. Depending on your skill and the kind of paint, this can work quite well and you'll be able to get a good level of detail, but it can wear off, as you say.
But, there is a kind of paint made of the same stuff as polymer clay which can be used.
It needs to be heated in order to set, but it is more permanent and binds to the clay better than ordinary paints.
And some people like that it
will stay wet until they decide to heat it up.
It's quite expensive though, so it's up to you whether it's worth the extra cost. I know there are quite a few artists who use it on canvas as well, since it is similar to an oil paint, but they can dry it quickly by running it under a heat source rather than having to wait for long periods.
@Iluviaporos - It's true, you can mimic almost anything with polymer clay if you are creative enough, or you find a really good recipe.
I found a good one for faux opals and they turned out really well.
The best thing is, if you are careful and plan the colors properly, you don't need to paint your projects and you know that the colors won't ever wear off or be scratched or anything like that.
If you want to see some really good examples of different professional polymer clay crafts you can have a look on ebay and etsy, as a lot of artists sell their work in those places.
There are also polymer clay associations and clubs which might be able to give you ideas.
There are some amazing resources for polymer clay projects online.
You'd be surprised to see how many different things you can make with polymer clay, actually. It can mimic almost any substance. I've even see a fairly good replica of abalone and mother of pearl shell done in polymer clay.
And I've seen items that you wouldn't believe weren't made out of stone or wood, but were in fact created with polymer clay.
It's quite expensive though, so I'd follow the tutorials of others unless you can afford to experiment with it, as it can quickly become soiled if you aren't careful.
I would pretty much call the sky the limit though when it comes to the different projects you can complete.