Be Kind to Your Hands…

closehands.jpgAdmittedly this  picture is a grand example of skipping a manicure, but you need to be aware of how you use your hands when working with polymer clay.

  • Whenever possible use your entire body as leverage. For example: If you need to roll a large rope of clay, stand up and use your upper back muscles and body weight to roll
  • Avoid small pinching motions with your thumbs- this puts an enormous amount of strain on  the ligaments in your thumbs and your elbows
  • Avoid becoming engaged in long periods of repetitive motions. Drilling holes in two hundred beads in  one session may seem like a productive plan?
  • Switch activities from small to large movements
  • Take frequent breaks to stretch, refocus your eyes and stretch your hands

Three additional cautionary notes:

  • Resist “working through the pain” and don’t ignore symptoms of discomfort. Is their a better tool or power assist that you can use to make a task easier? Is there something that you can physically change about the height, angle or orientation of your work-surface? For example: If you frequently use a small pin vise, would making a larger gripped handle out of polymer clay make using it easier? Think Good grips.
  • Remember to replenish the moisture in your hands often with a good hand cream, aloe or lavender oil
  • Skip the gloves- there is no need to sensitize yourself and possibly develop a latex allergy or reaction to the powders used inside these gloves
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5 Responses to “Be Kind to Your Hands…”


  1. 1 Maureen Carlson November 21, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Lindly. I wish I would have heeded those warnings about using my thumbs when I first heard them some 15 years ago. I can still remember being at a conference and hearing someone (I think Tory Hughes) say, “Watch how you use your thumbs!”.

    Being young (or younger!),body problems seemed a long way off. So I just dismissed the comment – though not the memory of it.

    Now, after 20 plus years of squishing and blending clay with my thumbs, I can feel – and see – the effects on my thumbs. For some things, like blending clay up around little clay noses and cheeks, there is no tool like a smooth thumb, so why, oh why, did I waste the use of that marvelous tool by using it to squish clay. Right on, Lindly!

  2. 2 riveroflifelisajoy November 22, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    I play the cello. It is a great instrument. But when I have not practiced in a long while, I have substantial pain in my wrist that leads up my left arm. The left hand and fingers play individual strings. The right hand plays draws the bow across the strings. My right arm aches too. Who thought that playing an instrument could be so painful. My right thumb is used to stablize the bow. This is a techniue that is centuries old! Wow! I never thought of the possible damamge if not holding the bow properly! I also play the piano. I cannot wear a nail tip if I am in my musical mode! Nail tips interfere with proper placement of the hand on the keyboard or the cello.
    Thanks for the helpful information!

  3. 3 dragonsglass November 22, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this Lindly. I sit here 6 days post op from having a calcified cyst removed from my wrist….caused by (I am pretty sure) my intensive cane making and repetitive wrist/thumb movements while reducing. I use the whole body for compacting larges blocks of chopped clay, but when it came to reducing the bigger canes…*sigh*

    Now I will be way more careful with how much I twist and compress using my hands. Maybe not make 10 pound canes any more *g*

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    Kathi

  4. 4 lindly November 24, 2007 at 12:10 am

    … and what I enjoy so much about watching Maureen’s hands in action (aside from the decades of sensitivity and skill) is the incredible resemblance that her hands have to the hands in her characters and sculptures.

  5. 5 Sherry Bailey December 6, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    I guess a lot of us can benefit from this advice, now — my physical is coming up and I plan to address the arthritis I definitely have in my right hand and sem to be developing elsewhere… It’s hell getting old!


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