Submission Guidelines
Join Our
Mailing List

December 2005


Previous Issues

Tutorial Archives

Contact Us

Privacy Policy

Please visit
National Polymer Clay Guild website.

Polymer Clay Polyzine
Copyright 2000-2005
Raleigh, NC
ISSN 1534-1038
All Rights Reserved.

pcPolyzine Logo
Noodly Stuff - Page Two
An Artist Interview
By Marty Woosley

A Tutorial

By Nancy Lotzer and Marty Woosley
Page 1        Page 2        Page 3        Nancy's Gallery

Making Clay Strands With a Garlic Press

Supply List
  • Garlic Press - Buy a cheap metal one that is not self-cleaning.  I bought mine for $1.99 at Big Lots.
  • Polymer Clay
  • Wax paper or deli wrap sheets – cut into 2” squares

Type of clay - You’ll want to use soft, flexible clay.  I’ve used Sculpey III, Premo and Kato clays with success.  Translucent clay can be added to other clays to soften hard or crumbly clay.  I usually mix pearl or soft metallic clay into all of my colors.  This makes the clay softer and gives the final project a soft sheen.   This is important if you are beading your work because you will not be able to sand or buff the finished object.  In addition, the mica particles really help make the beads shine.

How much clay – Use at least a 2 oz. package of clay so that your strands are long enough to have fun with.  My garlic press makes strands about the thickness of #1 on an Atlas pasta machine, so I condition enough clay to cover the object with #1 clay plus a bit extra.  I always make too much on purpose and use the leftover strands to cover a Bottle of Hope or two.

Prepping the Clay for the Garlic Press

Lotzer Clay Prep 1. Single Color – Roll the clay into a log that is a bit smaller than the inside of your garlic press.  Cut the log into chunks that are a bit shorter than the depth of the press.

2. Skinner Blend – Make any type of Skinner Blend.  Roll the blend in the same direction as you folded it so that your pretty colors are across the roll.  Your log needs to be a bit smaller than the inside of the garlic press.  If it is too thick, roll it to make it thinner.  If it is too thin, push in the ends slowly to form a plug of the right diameter.  Cut the roll into chunks that are a bit shorter that the depth of the press.  Be sure to keep the chunks in order if you want to maintain your Skinner Blend.

Lotzer Extruded Clay3. Series of Individual Colors – Form chunks of clay that will fit into the garlic press.  I usually form plugs of the right diameter with my chosen colors and then cut them into chunks.  Play with the order of the color chunks until you find a pleasing pattern of color.  The colors will blend into each other a little when you change color chunks, so consider if you really want purple next to yellow and the resultant brownish-gray transition area.          

Pressing the Clay

Lotzer Clay Prep Multicolors1. Pop the first color in the garlic press.  Place a square of wax paper over the clay  and squeeze completely.  The mid-air technique with two hands works well.  Or you might want to try laying the press “holey” side up and pressing down on the handle.  You can lay the press and strands down sideways at any time but avoid compressing the clay strands.

2. Slowly pry up the handle.  A little sideways jiggle motion works for me.  You may have to fold back any clay that has mooshed up over the press plate.  If  you don’t use the wax paper square and the clay strands want to stick to the press plate when you lift it, slam it shut firmly and try again.  If a strand is determined to pull up then just knock it off the plate back into the press.

3. Push any leftover clay to the bottom of the press and add the next chunk of clay and square of wax paper. 

4. Follow directions for steps 2 and 3 until you’ve pressed all of the clay chunks.

Tips for Working With Clay Strands

Lotzer Extruded Clay Multicolors

1. Never push down on your strands of clay.  Just lay them loosely onto a sheet of wax paper.

2. Although your strands will last forever, it is best to use them soon after making them.

3. If your clay strands have been sitting around a while they may want to break when you bend them.  Try warming them up on a heating pad on low for a while or wake them up by gently rolling the strand with warm hands.  I never have warm hands so sometimes I’ll wrap them around my warm tea mug.

4. If you need longer strands you can easily piece them together.  Overlap the strands about 1/8”, pinch together and then roll that area to smooth and make the same diameter as the rest of the strand.

5. If you ended up with an ugly transition color or too much of one color just cut out the offending bit and rejoin the ends.

Tips for Cleaning the Garlic Press

Lotzer Kaleidoscope Filigree1. Alas, you really can’t completely clean out the garlic press.  Mine came with a little plastic cleaning tool, but it leaves behind a lot of clay.  I use an orange stick with a flat end to scrape out as much as possible and poke in the holes with a needle tool. 

2. My best advice is to do your first color the same as your last color the time before. My second best advice is to press two chunks of your first color so that if you need to cut off any yucky stuff you still have enough of the first color. My third best advice is to press a wad of translucent clay several times to collect any colored bits, then you just have translucent bits on the ends of your next strands.

3. You could buy a new garlic press every time you make clay strands!

4. I tried baking the garlic press with the clay bits.  I thought that this would make it easier to get out the clay.  WRONG!  The cured clay was now harder to get out. I just ended up with cured clay bits mixed into my new clay strands. Not good!

5. I suppose that I could try soaking the garlic press in alcohol and then scrubbing.  Sounds like too much work for me.