How To Make These Little Bowls And Deal With Imperfection

Perfection is the enemy of done.
Publish date:
December 29, 2014
perfectionism, goals, imperfection, How-To

It seems like everyone loves Pinterest as a hot source of craft inspiration -- the whole concept of the Pinterest fail just takes it to the next level of honesty. And, I admit, when I remember that Pinterest exists, I can lose a lot of time scrolling and pinning, scrolling and pinning.

But where I really love to find inspiration is Instagram. Sometimes I'll search a specific tag (DIY, crafting, rubber stamps) and sometimes I'll just see what the people I am following have made, because the people I follow make some cool dang stuff.

That's what happened with these little polymer clay bowls -- I saw the ones that borntomakestuff had made, based on the ones abeautifulmessofficial made and did a tutorial for.

I had the stuff on hand in my craft room and the idea of a small, easily completed project was really exciting since I'm in the middle of a bunch of bigger, longer-term projects. So I grabbed my Sculpey and worked my way through the process.

And during the process, I reminded myself that perfection (even in the eye of the beholder) is the enemy of done.

Perfection is also the enemy of trying anything new in the first place. Yet many of us carry that expectation around with us, leading to everything from Imposter Syndrome in perfectly competent people and self-harm when we let ourselves down based on our ridiculously critical standards. This is one reason I feel terrible about giving handmade gifts -- all I see are the flaws in what I've made and I'd never want to send someone a flawed gift.

One of my long-term goals has been to chill out a little bit about that; 2014 was a fair-to-middling year as far as achieving that goal goes. This polymer clay bowl project turned out to be a step in the right direction towards that, too, because there's so much room for creatively interpreting this project.

The thing about marbling clay is that there are so many different methods. It's an organic process and even if you do the exact same thing every time, you're only going to wind up with results that are similar -- you won't get precisely the same patterns and details.

Plus, working the soft Sculpey clay is tactile and satisfying. It's not quite as good as regular clay but I haven't been to the pottery studio in way too long so I'll take what I can get.

My bowls aren't perfect by any means. I don't love all of the results: some of them have too few colors, some of them have colors that don't blend well, some of them are wobbly around the edges and don't sit quite flat. None of them are very heavy, which is a feature I like in bowls because heft means things are less likely to fly off a shelf when a cat walks by. But they're mostly lovely and they'll be useful for holding rings and other bits of small crap that can accumulate in the various rooms of the house. In the end, some of their imperfections are even, dare I say, charming. At least to me, and since I'm the one using them, that's good enough.

And finishing a small project was just as satisfying as I'd hoped it would be -- especially since I got more than one bowl out of the effort. What's really sticking with me is that I tried something new without stressing over the results; maybe I'll make more of these and maybe I won't but I allowed myself to just enjoy a project. If you decide to make these, too, I hope you give yourself the same freedom.

I also learned some stuff that isn't expressed in the tutorial so here is what I did:

Polymer clay comes in these little bricks. I found that, if you're looking to make a small bowl for holding rings and things, one full segment is the right amount of clay to roll out for one thick snake (there is no way to phrase this that doesn't sound dirty) of your dominant color -- and you'll need two of those thick snakes so, yep, that means you'll need two full segments of your dominant color. Then, use half a segment or less to make the other snakes of clay. The color can very quickly overwhelm the white so if you want a predominantly white dish, heed this warning.

Twist it all together but make sure not to overtwist at this beginning stage. If you do, you'll wind up losing colors to the inside of the snake and then it's hard to get them to the surface again.

Use your hands to roll the snake out to about twice the length it originally was. It's kind of like watching someone make candy canes by hand. You can already see how the dark colors are overwhelming the white in this one.

Fold it in half and twist it up again. You'll do this process of rolling it out to twice its length and doubling it back on itself a couple of times. The more you do it, the finer your layers of color will end up.

But at this point, feel free to keep twisting and twisting so that your coils get a little tighter. It'll make things look interesting. You could also roll this up like a snail shell and then smoosh that into a snake again if you wanted to. It's all going to give you different patterns -- but if you overwork the clay, you're going to just get a new color that's kind of muddy.

Smoosh your big master snake into a ball. If, as I have shown you above, you have seam lines in your ball, it will end up showing in your finished product. I think it's cool but if that's going to drive you up the wall, take a minute to roll your ball around into a more coherent shape. Then use whatever to roll out your clay. I used a vodka bottle because that is what I had close at hand. I will make no comment as to why that was close at hand.

I used a bowl to get a round shape. It was sitting on my coffee table and it was small enough to fit on the clay I had already rolled out. The tutorial says to use an X-acto knife but this is polymer clay and you can use just about anything. I used the back side of a fork.

Once you've cut out your circle, it might be stuck to your coffee table if you didn't remember to lift up your clay before cutting it out. If that happens, you'll probably get some little wavy edges where you have pried it up. Smooth them out a little or don't. It's all actually good. You can also really see how little white is showing up because of how much pink I used in this one. That wasn't what I was going for but I decided to consider it a happy accident (thank you for the words of wisdom, Bob Ross).

The next step in the tutorial says to just put this in the bottom-ish of a bowl and that the clay will sag a little as it bakes. This is true but then you won't have a really flat bottom for your dish. So I turned my bowl I was using for baking upside down and draped my polymer clay circle over the bottom of it. As long as you aren't trying to make a really deep dish, your clay will be fine. You can also make a wavy edge dish, if that is your particular style, by opting to use a bowl that is a lot smaller than your polymer clay circle.

You really do have to let these cool before handling. If you try to take them off the bowl you baked them on too early, they will crack and you will spend a few tragic moments mourning all of your effort in the middle of your kitchen. But once they're cool, you can spray paint the backs of them with metallic gold (which I like better than just treating the rim).

I used spray paint for the rims, too -- just sprayed a puddle onto a piece of cardboard. You can use a brush but a fingertip works just as well and is remarkably fun for such a little thing.

Once the spray paint is dry, seal them with some clear acrylic gloss sealer -- also in a spray can and usually right there with the spray paint. It comes in both gloss and matte finishes. It won't make your dishes food safe but it'll help protect their surfaces and you'll at least be able to rinse them out if you need to.

Other than that, make 'em however you want to make them. Decorate them however you want to decorate them. They don't have to be perfect -- they just have to be done. And that's an awfully good feeling.