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Saturday, August 11, 2012

News Update: Tear Away is Back


Since the phthalates were removed from polymer clay in 2008 I've been testing tear away with different brands and combinations of clay colors.  My stash of the original Sculpey III, which works beautifully for this process, is ever diminishing as I use it and share it with my classes.  As the hoard dwindles, I become more aggressive with my testing.  When I hear a rumor that a particular clay brand works, I try it.  Until now, nothing has yielded anything like the depth of relief I get in the tear away texture I make with the old Sculpey III.  Until now. 

Since removing the phthalates, the makers of polymer clay may have added another ingredient to the formula, and that's now responsible for my recent success. I don't know what's changed but I do know, since the phthalates were removed in '08, there have been occasional "adjustments" made to the formulas, both because I have heard it and because the changes in the clays are hard to mistake.  But it really doesn't matter: The clays stopped working for tear away for a while, now they have begun working just fine and I am ecstatic.

Recently I started a new round of methodical testing on 4 brands of polymer clay: Fimo (Classic and Soft), new Sculpey III (made after '08), CraftSmart (Michael's brand), and Premo.  I tested these 4 against the standard; tear away texture made with pre 2008 Sculpey III. Here are my results.

If the best tear away texture I've ever made with Sculpey III is a 10, tear away made with Premo metallic clay (gold, blue pearl, etc.) is an 7.5.  Tear away made with half and half Premo Gold and White (or half and half Blue Pearl and White) is an 8.5.  That's really, really good news.  It means the process originally developed by Gwen Gibson, the process that I have worked so hard to perfect and make dependable over the last 15 years is not dead (as previously thought) but quite alive!

What's the difference?  It's in the relief.  By that I mean good tear away has a deep enough relief to make good texture.  Part of my testing process is texturing PMC with the tear away because I can't really judge the tear away result without looking at the texture it makes. 
Pre '08 Sculpey III (left) and  Premo Gold (right)
Premo White (left) and pre '08 Sculpey III (right)


So, if you've got old pre '08, Scupley III, use it for tear away.  It's the best.  But if you don't, the news is good: Premo is the best of the clays for tear away.  Start with half and half Gold and White.  White and Pearl Blue are another excellent combination.  The more metallic you use in your blend the smoother the surface of the clay on your texture.  It's smoother but it's also more shallow.  I prefer the rougher texture and deeper relief I get with more white in my blend.


Other colors may work (I haven't tested each and every color) but this is a good start.


The process, briefly..why it's so great, why it's unique and shy we want to keep it alive.

What is tear away?  "Tear away" refers to a process for making textures for use with PMC, polymer clay or roll printing metal.  Briefly, after making a collage of images and printing them on plain paper I make a copy on heavy glossy paper on a canon copier that uses a toner cartridge (an HP Laser printer will give a useable but shallower result), cut out a piece of the image, burnish it onto rolled out polymer clay, wait 40-60 minutes (during which time I burnish at least twice), then tear the paper away.  During the "rest" period the toner on the copy will have bonded to the polymer clay so that when I tear it away everywhere there was toner there is a fine layer of polymer stuck to it creating a relief.  Once this paper is baked in an 275F oven for 20 minutes it is a wonderful texturing tool.  It's virtue over other texturing methods is that it's low relief (so I'm able to use less PMC), it's relatively quick and reflects my own esthetic because I'm either making drawings or cutting and collaging images.  It also has a particular quality to it; as a result of the tearing the surface has a rough-hewn quality that can't really be achieved through other means.  The pictures below show the depth of relief that can be achieved with the tear-away technique.
Lentil textured with tear-away (Polymer side)
Lentil textured with tear-away (PMC side)  Photos by D. Foulke


For more specific directions on this technique see my book, "Keum-Boo on Silver" available in my Etsy Shop:



27 comments:

  1. This is absolutely AWESOME news, Celie! Thank you so much for your extensive testing to find a way to keep tear-away textures a viable option. As you said, there's nothing else quite like them.

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  2. Yes, it's great news! Thanks for writing, Margaret.

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  3. Great news Celie!! Thank you so much for your extensive and continuous research. The metal clay community is in your debt. You're the best!

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  4. Thank you, Katie. I'm delighted to be able to report this news!

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  5. I have been wanting to try the tear away technique for quite some time, ever since I first discovered your work. I have plenty of Premo so I am definitely going for it! Thank You for being so generous with your knowledge and experience.

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  6. Hip Hip Hooray! Thanks Celie for your tireless research!

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  7. Great news, Celie! I've been learning/working more with polymer clay, using Premo, AND I still have almost that entire ream of gloss paper from back in '08(?) when you helped me with learning tear away! Now to find copiers with the right toner! Thanks again.

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  8. Many HP printers (because they use iron based toner) also work for tear away. Good luck!

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  9. I love your textures - thank you for sharing the tear away method!

    Its very encouraging to see the time and research you put into your work and it reminds me to keep going even when something I am working on doesn't turn out right away.

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  10. Thank you Celie, is very generous from you sharing your knowledges with us after you spend so much time and energy!!!

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  11. Thank you for your tireless research and reporting it back to the MC community! But I am a little confused about your tear-away process, which is described differently above than what I know from your past publications. The process I know is to burnish the image on the clay, then hold under a light for 7 - 15 minutes, then repeat, then tear away. Do you no longer do this? Do you achieve better results with "burnish it onto rolled out polymer clay, wait 40-60 minutes (during which time I burnish at least twice), then tear the paper away?"

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    1. Dear Anon,
      The way I do tear away now isn't really a different process; I'm just extending the time a bit and being less regimented about the burnishing intervals. In my keum-boo book I describe a total rest time (with the paper on the clay, under a light) of about 30 minutes, burnishing once during that time. Now I'm simply saying to extend the total rest time to about 45 minutes and to burnish whenever you think about it. That might be every 10 minutes or twice in the 45 minute rest time. The success of tear away (as measured by the depth of the relief) is dependent on many factors; paramount among them are local climactic conditions such as heat and humidity. If you're in Florida, 45 minutes is likely too long a rest time. If you're in Vermont in the winter it's probably too short.
      I hope this clarifies it for you.

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  12. Hi Celie -
    I cannot locate the Hammermill Business gloss paper anywhere, it appears to no longer be available. There is Hammermill 32 lb Color Laser Gloss paper readily available. Do you think this will be a good substitute, or what else are you now using?
    Thanks so much!!
    Shelly

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    1. Hi Shelly,
      It's not important that the paper be Hammermill Business Gloss. It can be another brand (Staples, Office Max) and laser gloss is fine, too. What's important is that it's 32 lb, and " gloss".
      My best,
      Celie

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  13. Hello!
    I am working for some weeks on the tear-away technique as i want an etched look for my work... I have several printed patterns from books i used to test several years ago, and now i return to it but with My idea, but what i discovered was different from your description. My old copies worked fine with new fimo, but new copies don't work at all... I am really happy to imagine maybe with more time and premo i will be more successfull...
    Thank you for sharing this even i think Toner have changed too!
    ;-)))
    Yours
    Eva

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  14. Hi Eva,
    I've bought toner (E-40 for Canon copiers) in the past 2 months and it worked fine for tear away so I don't think that's changed.
    Try Premo with your new copies (if they're made with the correct toner) and let me know how it goes.
    My best,
    Celie

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  15. I'm having trouble with the difference between ink jet and laser copiers. Does the copier you use for best results have one of those giant cartridges? My printer has the small ones. Can you give me a name and model number so I can look it up? Or do places like office Max make copies for a person on that type of copier if I don't want to buy one?

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  16. Hi TanaRenee,
    Yes, it's confusing! The cartridge is toner (not ink) and the name of it is E-40 or E-20. The E-40 is quite large. The E-20 is the smaller size. They are made by Canon but there's also a perfectly fine generic from Staples, or other stores. But you need a copier these will fit into. I hope you have that!
    Best, Celie

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    1. Thank you! I do not have a copier that will take those, can you tell me what brand or model copier works with these? Or are they terribly expensive?

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  17. There are several small copiers that are compatible with tear away. They are Canon brand and use either the E-20 or the E-40 toner cartridges (the difference is size).
    Some of the copier models are: 130, 140, 170 and so forth. Here is a link that will give you a better overview:
    http://www.ebay.com/bhp/canon-pc140-toner

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  18. Small Canon copiers can be found for under $100.

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  19. Hi Celie,

    Any idea if toner cartridges can get "too old" to work, even when not technically used up for toner powder? Is it iron based? I'm just wondering if it oxidizes or something. Since my cartridges seem to no longer be working even though one is fresh from a sealed package (though still 4 years old). I had previously been getting lovely thick deposit of the toner...and now both cartridges produce pale grey uneven images. Just wondering if you had any experience with this?

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  20. Hi Laura,
    Toner cartridges last less than a year; copies, however, last indefinitely. Your cartridge may be empty, though.
    Best, Celie

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  21. Thanks Celie! That indeed seems to have been the problem! I just wish I had relaized that before my new in the box "spare" had gone bad just sitting there. :-P

    At least the premo is working! So I will make sure to use all this cartridge as soon as possible!

    Warm regards from Kuala Lumpur.
    Laura

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  22. Thank you so much for sharing your new discoveries. My favorite ring is one I made in your sterling ring class at the PMC meeting many moons ago........it has already been. " pre-claimed" by one of my daughters! Some of the items I made there I fired at home recently.... my kiln was not working for ages. Even though I followed the charcoal instructions exactly the 2 rings were not fully fired and one broke when lightly bending it. Do you think my kiln is running cooler than the stated temperature? Can I just reattach the 2 pieces and fire again in charcoal or can I use my metalsmithing torch to anneal it? It has such a lovely tear off pattern that I do not want to waste it! Best wishes, Sara McCracken

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    1. Hi Sara, It's very likely that your kiln is under-firing. I suggest you get a pyrometer and try and figure it out. Alternatively you could get firings at higher temperature points but the might get expensive (using metal clay samples). It sounds like it's not fully sintered so soldering it won't help. To reattach, you'll need some lavender oil or Pastemaker to mix into the slip you use to reattach. You might Google "How to reattach fired pieces of silver metal clay in preparation for refiring". Good luck!

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