Polymer clay is very easy to shape and smooth into shape and using an extruder allows you to create lengths of consistently shaped clay which can be coiled, pressed together to create complex multi-coloured canes, woven or plaited.
These Christmas Tree decorations were created using extruded polymer clay which has been wrapped around a cone shape and baked in the oven to make the shape permanent.
There are different types of extruders available for use with clay, some have a push plunger while others have a turning handle to force the clay along the barrel and through the die disc. The Makin's Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder, pictured below, has a turning handle. It is supplied with 10 different shaped die discs and can be used to extrude both polymer clay and the precious silver clay.
How to Make the Christmas Trees from Polymer Clay
You will need a cone shaped former to create the Christmas Tree. Cut out a circle with an approximate diameter of 16cm from a sheet of lightweight cardboard. Fold it and cut it in half to make a half circle and twist into a cone. To prevent the clay from sticking on the cone and the cardboard from burning while the clay is baked, cover the cone with tin foil and tuck it inside to secure it.
Softening (or Conditioning) the Polymer Clay
Prepare the polymer clay by working it in your hands until it is soft and malleable. A quick cheat is to put it in a plastic bag in your back pocket while you are making the cone former, the heat from your body will help to soften the clay ready for use. Working the clay by pulling it, folding it and rolling it will help to combine the polymers and pigments evenly throughout the clay. This conditioning technique will give strength and integrity to the baked clay.
Selecting a Die for the Extruder
This first Christmas Tree was created using a green coloured polymer clay which was extruded through the die disc shown right. The clay ribbon was first made into a small loop before wrapping the remainder around the cone in a downwards and evenly spaced spiral.
Making the "Bauble" Decorations
The next stage was to roll out small 'sausages' of different coloured polymer clays. These were sliced in same sized pieces before rolling them into balls. The balls were squashed flat to create the coloured discs which join parts of the spiral together. There are a variety of effect clays which include glitters and metallic pigments.
You could choose to leave the ribbon spiral undecorated which would make the spiral more elongated (and spring like) due to its weight.
Christmas Tree made from Scupey Ultralight
The second Christmas Tree was created using this triangular shaped die disc and the lightweight Sculpey Ultralight. The clay has a very pleasant texture and is softer than traditional polymer clays, it is only available in white and can be painted once cured.
The clay was not conditioned for quite as long as the clay used for the first Christmas Tree and when it was extruded came out with a 'snowy' textured edge.
The triangular shaped extruded polymer clay was wrapped from the top of the cone leaving a small hole at the top. As the clay was wrapped around the former it was gently pushed against the previous coil so that it would adhere to it and become a solid cone shape when baked.
Baking the Polymer Clay
The Christmas Trees were place on a sheet of tin foil on a baking tray in a domestic oven and baked for 30 minutes at 130°C.
When the baked polymer clay had cooled, the Christmas Trees were eased away from their cone shaped former.
To finish off the tree decoration, a length of cotton was tied through the loop on the green Christmas Tree ready for hanging.
The Christmas Tree made from Sculpey Ultralight was decorated with red foil stars and a looped ribbon (knotted at one end) was pushed up from underneath and threaded through the hole at the top.
Please note. Although polymer clays are labelled as non-toxic we do recommend that tools and cookware used for polymer clay should be kept separate from food preparation. There may be fumes from the oven while the clay is baked. Open a window to ventilate the room.