Pardo translucent art clay is a wonderful clay that’s remarkably more clear than other brands of translucent polymer clay. It’s also not commonly available in stores, and usually must be ordered through the mail. So it’s pretty frustrating when you’ve spent the money and the time waiting for it to arrive and you find that it’s hard and crumbly and difficult to condition. It’s even more frustrating to find that the usual methods of softening polymer clay don’t work very well with Pardo. It’s easy to assume that your clay has been partially cured or is old. But hold on! There is a trick to it. Pardo is not like other brands of polymer clay. Here’s how to condition Pardo Translucent Art Clay.
What is Conditioning?
All brands of polymer clay must be conditioned before you can create anything with it. Conditioning just means that the clay is moved around enough to make it soft, workable, and so that it will stick to itself so you can make things with it. You can do it with your hands or with a machine, but the basic idea is the same. Just mush it around until it feels right.
Polymer clay is a thixotropic material. Now that’s another one of my beloved science terms, but what it really means is that when it sits for very long, it tends to gel up. Mud is like this. Or salad dressing. Or ketchup. If you turn a bottle of ketchup over, it will sit like a rock in the bottom of the bottle, right? So you whack the end of it and nothing happens. But if you shake it first, the ketchup will then pour properly, correct? All you’re doing when you condition polymer clay is moving it around so that it will be more supple and will stretch and flow properly, just like a really thick block of ketchup.
Take it Easy with Pardo
Another quality of thixotropic materials is that they have low shear strength. This means that when you apply a sudden stress to the material, it will often fracture rather than yield. You’ve seen this with Silly Putty or with the cornstarch and water substance called Oobleck. If you stretch it really slowly, it will easily stretch and flow. But if you try to move the material quickly, it will fracture. Polymer clay is like this. And Pardo is more like this than other brands.
If you try to smash it suddenly, it will crumble into bits. But treat it with kindness, move it slowly, it will respond much better. If your Pardo has crumbles that are truly hard like sand particles and cannot be pressed into a ball, then the clay might have cured in transit or is very old. This is very rare, though. Yes, fresh Pardo is easier to work, but know that Pardo will never be soft like fresh Premo. It will always crumble easily and it does take special care to get the best results from it. (But it’s worth it!)
How to Condition Pardo Translucent Art Clay
- Pardo Art Clay comes in a clamshell box, and inside is a cardboard and foil sleeve. Open that up, remove the block, and set it down on your work surface. Take a clean blade and make slices of clay about 1/8″ (3mm) thick. If you were to boldly push this slice through a thin setting on your pasta machine, you would get a pile of crumbles for your effort.
- Instead, don’t use the pasta machine right away. Take the thin slices (and the pile of crumbles) and gently but firmly apply pressure with your hands. Let the heat of your hands warm the clay and keep pressing until the slices are soft and flat. Being in a warm room does help. Warm hands are a plus.
- Using the largest setting on your pasta machine, run each slice through. If the clay is still crumbling and falling apart, you need to do more hand softening first. Or gently warm the clay by placing in a ziploc bag in hot tap water.
- Combine two slices, then run them through the pasta machine together. Add more slices in the same way if you’re conditioning larger amounts. The sheet will still be pretty crumbly and may even break into parts. That’s okay. Next, reduce the thickness setting on the pasta machine. Yes, you’d think that a thinner setting would be worse, but it actually gets much better. Keep going until you’re putting the sheet through the pasta machine at the #5 setting (3 playing cards thick).
- Pardo Art Clay isn’t very stretchy when raw. So even as you are rolling out a sheet, it can sometimes split and tear. No worries, just push it back together and keep going. Notice how we still have jagged edges and pieces may still crumble off. This is okay.
- Keep rolling thinner, as far as you can go. For some magical reason, the character of the clay changes when it gets really thin like this. It becomes more supple and smooth. It’s almost like Pardo doesn’t fully condition until you make it super thin. Anyway, once it gets thin like this, gently fold it over and continue using the pasta machine on the sheet, but this time at a thicker setting.
- Now, the sheet’s edges are more smooth. But sheets of Pardo will never be completely free from jagged edges like this. And when you make things with this clay, always remember to move the clay slowly. If you use a texture stamp, it will crack if you press too quickly. Just treat it like a cranky toddler and you’ll be fine. No sudden movement, a firm but gentle touch, and warm hands.
Tips for Working With Pardo
- As with any light colored clay, make sure your hands, pasta machine, work surface, and blades are scrupulously clean. Use alcohol and a kleenex or baby wipes to remove all traces of dirt and previous colors of clay you’ve used.
- The little clamshell package works well to keep Pardo polymer clay clean and fresh. I save them and use them for my color mixes, too.
- You can warm Pardo (or any clay) by putting it in a ziploc bag in a large container of hot tap water. This will make it easier to condition. (Thanks to Ed Street for this tip.)
- Always fold sheets of polymer clay gently, making sure that no bubbles are trapped. Never just wad it up in a ball or you will have tiny bubbles everywhere.
- If you’re mixing colors with Pardo Translucent, keep in mind that the cured color will be a lot darker than what you see. Unbaked Pardo Trans appears white, so it artificially lightens colors, just as if you were adding white clay to the mix.
- Pardo is exceptionally strong after baking and can be used to make very thin pieces that are clear enough to read through. These earrings are an example.
- The plasticizers in Pardo can, over time, ooze a bit into the cardboard liner and cause the silver paint on it to become sticky. Watch that you don’t accidentally get this on your work surface or on your clay.
- Pardo Translucent now comes in a range of 7 beautiful colors. Read my review of them here.
- Curious about what you can make with Pardo? My Faux Glass Tutorial uses it, you can read more about it here.