What was more fun growing up than playing with Playdough?!?! Until it dried out of course. But when you got a brand new fresh cup of the good stuff - the possibilities were endless.
The same is true of Precious Metal Clay (also Art Clay - different brand name with slightly different characteristics). PMC is more fun than a barrel of monkies. . . or some other appropriate phrase. I started playing with PMC nearly two years ago. I was too scared to just try it out by myself so I took a class from Rio Grande when I was in Tucson for the annual bead, gem, and rock show. It was a fabulous class and I enjoyed myself to no end. We made very simple items - a "mask" pin and a pendant. I managed to finish two full pieces. I didn't come to it naturally though - it was hard work for me and there are things that I've learned since that would really have helped me out.
First of all...do NOT be scared of PMC! Yes, it's fairly expensive, but it is actually pretty tough stuff and a little goes a long way. Second, there are three different kinds of PMC - 1) PMC, 2) PMC+, and 3) PMC3. I use PMC+ almost exclusively unless I need something with more strength, in which case I move to PMC3. The difference between the types are too complicated for me to go into here. Feel free to read up on it though. PMC Supply is a great website with lots of information and facts.
They (they who? The experts I guess) say that you should use a new pack of PMC within a month or less of getting it and within days of opening it. Bah! Fooey on the experts. I've managed to keep a pack fresh for more than six months...and that was after being opened.
Keep your clay fresh by sealing it carefully in an air tight (and I do mean AIR TIGHT) container with a wet paper towel. It works wonders. You can also keep syringe PMC fresh - the tip has to be kept wet. That's what zip lock baggies are for! They probably won't show this use on the commercials, but I add some water in one corner of the ziplock baggy and put the syringe tip down into that corner. Then seal up the baggy and put it with the PMC clay in the airtight container. The water shouldn't leak out if you close the baggy properly - all the air should be squeezed out too so that the water stays put.
Have a pack that was once fresh and juicy, but now is kind of lumpy and flaky? In the plastic, add a drop or two of water (I dip my finger in a bowl of water and let the drips come from my finger) and then massage the clay in the plastic. Put it back in the original container and let the water soak in for a few hours up to a day.
Slip is a wonderful form of PMC - it's a liquid that can be painted onto your work or on cork clay. I have never purchased slip...haven't had to. I messed up enough in the beginning to start my own nice supply of slip. Make your own using dry shavings and any dried pieces that are beyond redemption. For larger dry pieces, make sure to crunch them up into the smallest size possible and add a bit more water into your container. Stir together...I actually like having lumpy slip - it is a great way to add texture to my work.
Got a Spare Deck?
Believe it or not, when rolling out clay, the standard for getting accurate thickness is putting together regular ol' playing cards. A lot of project instructions will reference "4 cards thick" or "5 cards thick" ... that literally is how many playing cards you're using for depth. If you want to add some texture, there are these great texture plates that are unique and offer lots of creative uses for your design.
The sources of PMC knowledge out on the world wide web are limitless. These are some that I find the most interesting...
For me, taking a class was the only way I could get my nerve up to use such an amazing and versatile material. But I think if you're braver than me you should have no problem learning to play with PMC on your own.