Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 5: Classy Magnets

If your refrigerator is like mine, the fridge magnet situation is pretty lame. Magnetized advertisements for nail salons and defunct banks hold up a mess of grocery lists, kid classroom projects, and recipes. This week, let's toss the tacky magnets and glamorize our refrigerators with some classier replacements.
Mermaid magnets!
What You Need:
  • polymer clay (Sculpey)
  • t-shirt transfer paper for inkjet printers (Avery)
  • digital images
  • sticky-backed magnets (ProMag)
  • rolling pin
  • freezer paper and parchment paper
  • two disposable metal pie pans, metal clamps
  • clay tool or Xacto knife
  • bone folder or spoon
  • gloss varnish (Liquitex)
  • Liquid Sculpey
  • pigment powder (Ranger Perfect Pearls)
  • embellishments, glitter markers
What you need, clockwise from left: Sculpey, Liquid Sculpey, image printed on t-shirt transfer paper, rolling pin, magnets, brush, clay tool, pigment powder
Polymer clay is amazingly versatile. You can roll it, stamp it, cut it out into any shape you want, then bake it in the oven to harden it. Once it's baked, you can paint it and embellish it.

For this project, we're going to combine the versatility of polymer clay with an inkjet image transfer technique. For Week 2, we made an image transfer gel skin using a laser printed image. Trouble is, most of us don't own laser printers. There aren't many options for image transfer with an inkjet printer - but one surprisingly successful trick is to use t-shirt transfer paper. Baked on top of the clay in the oven, the inkjet image transfers beautifully.

Let's get started.

Step 1: Prep the clay
Condition your clay by rolling it around in your hands until it's soft and pliable. I used plain white Sculpey that was old and hardened, so I squeezed on some Liquid Sculpey to help soften it up.

Then put your clay on a nonstick surface (freezer paper works well) and roll it with a rolling pin until it's a uniform 1/4 inch thickness. If you have a pasta machine, you can extrude it that way too.
Rolling the clay

Step 2: Add your images
You can use any digital images you have stored on your computer. I used a digital collage sheet with mermaid images from ARTchix Studio here - the images were already created and perfectly magnet-sized.

Cut out the images to the size you want. Optionally, you can rub some Liquid Sculpey onto the clay surface, which helps the images adhere to the clay. Position your images face down on the clay. Remember that your images will be reversed when transferred to the clay, so for words or numbers, reverse the image before printing it out.

Cut the clay to the image size with an Xacto knife or a pointed clay tool.
Cutting out the clay

Then rub over the image with the bone folder or spoon to make sure it's completely adhered to the clay.
Burnishing the image

You can optionally add some color and shine at this point by brushing pigment powder on the back and sides of your clay piece.
Adding pigment powder (optional)
Step 3: Bake
Polymer clay releases fumes when it bakes, which you don't want mucking up your oven. A nice trick I learned from A Work of Heart studio is to bake your clay in a pie pan with another pie pan clamped to the top, keeping the fumes inside the pans rather than your oven.

Place your clay pieces on a piece of parchment paper in the pie pan, then follow the clay baking instructions on the Sculpey package.

Step 4: Reveal and embellish
When the clay is cool to the touch, now comes the fun part: peeling off the transfer paper to reveal your image, now baked into the clay.

You can add little embellishments, paint, or some shine from a glitter pen at this point. The image doesn't always transfer perfectly, so you can hide imperfections by rubbing a similar-colored pigment ink stamp pad (such as Palette ink) over the bare areas.

Once your embellishments or inks have dried, brush a coat of acrylic varnish over the front, back, and sides of your piece (let the back dry before varnishing the front).

Peel the sticky backing off the magnet, adhere to the back of your clay piece, and replace those tacky old magnets with your new colorful creations.


  1. That is really cool! Where did you find those images? They look sort of like old postage stamps...

  2. Thanks Grace! They're faux postage collage sheets from ARTchix Studio: If only there were such a thing as Mermaid Mail!

  3. They're beautiful! I may try this! You've motivated me.

  4. Thanks Jo Ann! They're fun and pretty easy to make -- send along some pics if you make some!

  5. These are darling!
    Would you recommend this for a beginner?
    I need something cute yet easy to inspire me to get started.
    So many times, I feel overwhelmed by creating "art", so that I find myself giving up before I really try.
    I am wanting to attempt new things, so if you could recommend an easy project to get things off the ground, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

  6. Hi Benldgirl! I would definitely recommend these for a beginner. The image transfer never comes out exactly perfect, so don't be alarmed. Just have some stamp pads with colored ink, glitter glue, or sparkly pens handy. You can use those to cover up any imperfections in the final image. You can also use little sequins or shiny embellishments like I did to cover up any mess-ups. It's a very forgiving type of project! If you run into any issues feel free to email me at s_pfalzer (at) Have fun!

  7. Do you use hot glue to add the embellishments?

  8. Hi cosmoekitty! The embellishments I used are small and lightweight, so you can just use a few dabs of a craft glue, like Aleene's tacky glue, Mod Podge, or whatever your favorite craft glue is. If you're using heavyweight embellishments you might need a stronger adhesive, though.