These are the hearts MaryEllenBeads Albuquerque created from another brand of clay after working with Michael's Craftsmart Clay.

Michael’s Craftsmart Clay Misses the Mark

A short polymer clay refresher class left me so enthused I drove to Michael’s and bought a large package of Michael’s Craftsmart Clay in red. In keeping with my theme for the year, I decided to make 100 red hearts with gold metallic embellishment (hearts of gold) for the button exchange at Clay Out West, a four-day polymer clay intensive.

In a happy state I worked with my pasta machine and my clay. I conditioned and rolled my red clay, cut and textured hearts, poked holes in them, added my initials along with a big of glitter and set them aside. It took most of Sunday and Monday to get everything prepped. My plan was to bake on Wednesday after my toaster oven was delivered.

My first batch included the little guys — hearts I’d cut from remnants that wouldn’t be used for the exchange. Imagine my horror when, as I peeked through the oven window, I saw the little guys melting into each other. Nothing to do but wait. Weird too, that the cardboard almost looked wet.

These messy hearts are the result of using Michael's Craftsmart Clay by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, First batch of little hearts using Michael’s Craftsmark Clay

The student in me loves to learn but my inner perfectionist looks on, judging, always judging. It’s no surprise then that I believed the mistake was mine.

I put the next batch on white cardstock, similar to what we’d used in class. I moved the hearts further apart on the sheet and placed an oven thermometer in the toaster oven to check the temperature. Once again, most of my pieces stuck to the cardboard, destroying my smooth, signed button back and creating a horror story fit for Halloween!

This leaching is from Michael's Craftsmart Clay in a project from Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Craftsmark clay leaches, leaves residue

Frantic, I called the instructor who asked a series of questions. She admitted she’d never encountered anything like this.

The cards shown here are from Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque and show her red Michael's Craftsmark Clay experiments.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Craftsmark Clay experiment in red

Still, product failure didn’t seem like the overriding concern.  After all, I was/am a newbie to polymer.

Michael’s Craftsmark Clay is Disappointing

So, I reviewed my conditioning process, googled best practices, and tried a few different things: new cardboard as I put each batch in the oven, longer cooling period, different oven temperature. Nothing worked.

Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque took this photo to show several cards with with the problems caused from using Michael's Craftsmark Clay.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Craftsmark mess

Defeated, I decided to “try” another color and brand of clay. I used some FIMO clay left from Saturday’s class and completed another dozen hearts. They came out perfectly.

At that point I knew my Michael’s Craftsmart clay was the culprit. Frustrated by the amount of time I’d devoted to a failed project I stopped at Michael’s. The cashier informed me the store manager wasn’t in. She said there had been a lot of complaints about the clay and suggested I call corporate.

My immersion into polymer had me reading and absorbing a lot of information. I found other reviews of Michael’s Craftsmark Clay that indicated problems. As I began to evaluate my work in this project, I felt cheated by the time and effort that went into dealing with an inferior product. The red mess was in every crevice of the pasta machine. If nothing else, the red mess provided a definitive red flag for me in every arena: designing, detailing and completing a process.

It also provided a way for me to get our of my comfort zone, something I wrote about earlier: “Choosing creativity through discomfort.” It’s not my way to protest in public. Writing this post pushes me out of the comfort zone.

Ultimately, the lesson I choose to garner from this episode is this: Enthusiasm + knowledge = unbounded creativity. (Or, as my good friend Evelyn says, “Everything is a lesson or a blessin'”.

What has been your experience with a product that did not match your expectations?

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