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The Clay Artist's Biggest Enemy: The Lint - Part 1.


As polymer clay artists, we’re all too aware that lint is our primary nemesis. Over the past few years, I’ve seen a significant increase in lint on my workspace. When we lived in a London flat with wooden floors, it wasn’t much of a problem.

However, our move to the North brought about a change. The air crystal clear here, but our home, including my studio, is carpeted throughout. Currently, we are in the process of gradually renovating our house to make it more conducive for a home studio. The ultimate goal is to remove all the carpets. Until then, I have to grapple with the escalating lint issue.



Lint Is Everywhere

Our lives are further complicated by the prevalence of plastic around us. Today, we encounter more lint than ever before, largely due to our predominantly plastic-based clothing. Lint can originate from:

  • Clothing and Fabrics: Synthetic fabrics made from plastic, such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic, shed minuscule fibers during use and laundering. These fibers can lead to lint accumulation on floors and surfaces.

  • Static Electricity: Certain plastics can produce static electricity, which draws dust and lint particles.

  • Ventilation Systems: Plastic parts in ventilation systems, like air ducts or vents, can gather dust and lint over time.

As if these issues weren’t enough, the quality of polymer clays (across all brands!) has recently dropped. Fortunately, my preferred brand, Cernit, is one of the cleanest clays available. However, when I blend different brands, I find more lint and dust in my work than before.



The Battle Against Lint

Cleanliness is a critical factor when working with miniatures or using micro cutters for any project. Neglecting this aspect can significantly impact the final outcome, and this applies not only to miniature work but also to larger-scale creations.


In my next blog post in May, I’ll reveal my personal method for achieving a lint-free environment. It will includes cleaning the workspace, the surface of the clay, and my hands. I’ll guide you through every step, from preparation to the final sealing of the completed piece.

Now, let’s turn our attention to a small adversary that is often overlooked: the lint inside the clay.


If you’re under the impression that lint within the clay isn’t visible and therefore not a problem, I’m afraid I have some disappointing news. Lint can still ruin your work. Clay cutters, regardless of their material or sharpness, are not knives. They are incapable of cutting fibers. This is why if your clay is filled with lint, the cut edge will not be clean.


Allow me to share an insightful discussion I had with a regular customer who specializes in crafting jewelry. She expressed that rough edges post-cut were not a concern for her because she planned to sand them down during the finishing process.


While this approach may be suitable for larger pieces, it raises questions about smaller ones. Consider sanding a tiny fluted biscuit or a snowflake cut with a PAC-PEN. You might argue that imperfections are less noticeable due to their size, and you’d be correct. However, the distinction between high-quality craftsmanship and mass-produced items often lies in these seemingly minute details. Not to mention that as miniaturists, we’re all too familiar with the frustrating moment when we only spot the lint on our artwork through the monitor screen, as the final photo shoot reveals the harsh reality.



Miniature food cut with micro cutter
1:12 scale miniature biscuits made with PAC-PEN

Now, let’s address a common habit: cutting multiple pieces and removing them from the surface using a blade. This is a visually impressive move, perfect for Instagram-worthy content. However, it’s also one of the worst habits when working with micro cutters. Why? The two main reasons are:

1. This method can ruin the shape of clay in this tiny size more easily.

2. Even factory-sealed clay can harbor hidden dirt and lint particles and blade will take them off too from the surface.

To illustrate the impact of different lift techniques, let’s perform an experiment:


The "Lift Test"

I cut three hearts from the same clay using the same cutter. This clay has been used before, so it’s not brand new. It contains more lint than a new piece of clay that is why is perfect for demonstrate the impact of lint in cutting micro size.

  • The first heart, I lifted with a needle.

  • The second heart, I lifted with my blade.

  • The third heart, I baked directly on the tile without lifting it. I left it where it was.



And after baking, you can see the results.


Nice, clean cut with PAC-PEN micro cutter
Lifted with needle


Small heart cut with micro cutter
Removed from the tile with blade


Polymer clay baked on tile
Removed from thetile after baking


Can you see the difference?


You can see what left on the tile after I lifted the first heart with the needle.

This heart shaped ring is the clay that the cutter pressing down, while cutting the clay. When the clay is dirty, the lint on the edge will stay on the tile or stays in the cutted shape but won't collect clay when I lift the cutted piece with needle.

The other two have this ring on their edges. There is an almost individual tiny piece of clay circled on second photo, which shows you how the lint bring some cutted clay with itself.


Polymer clay cutting
Dirt left on the tile after needle lift.



In my first video, I showcased a method using a tile and needle, which effectively brings any residual debris to light.

In my routine work, I also use a different technique depending on the final result I’m aiming for.

When the top of the piece I’ve cut is finished (i.e., I won’t be adding any more texture and will bake it as is), I use the needle to lift it from the tile, as you’ve seen.

On the other hand, when I plan to cut something that will need additional texturing or painting on the surface, I use cling film and my hand to get the job done.

I make the cut on the cling film and remove the cut piece by peeling the cling film off its back, which you’ll see in the forthcoming video.






This way, the shape of the cut piece remains intact, and the ring of leftover clay adheres to the cling film.


PAC-PEN micro cutter
Cutting on cling film

Both techniques can be executed swiftly and yield a cleaner edge on the cut piece. Remember, precision and attention to detail are crucial, even in the smallest aspects of your craft. So, the next time you pick up your micro cutters, think about using the lift technique—it could elevate your work from ordinary to extraordinary.


If you find the information shared in my posts useful, a simple ‘like’ would be a wonderful way to acknowledge the time and effort put into creating it.


Take Care & Keep Creating!

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