Gen. info.
Groups (online) & Articles
Muscle-hand-arm (& allover) problems, suggestions
....carpal tunnel.... other hand/arm/shoulder problems
....after physical 'injury'.... heat therapies, etc.
Tools areas & tables,chairs...(heavily) assistive devices
(SPECIAL groups:)
...low vision... blindness
.......clay brands, working w/ colors,
.......project ideas
Kids with special needs (ideas for)
Fun ideas
Seniors & assisted living & Stroke,etc..
Emotional issues & disabilities
...using clay for personal exploration, mental focusing,
.......and stress, emotional trauma, pain relief, depression, conflicts
...death, loss & grieving
Some polymer activities ...for all disabilities & needs
Misc (for all topics)

Disabilities (claying with)

Gen. info.

I have found the more creative I am, the better I feel. So don't stop being creative! ... it is what will distract you from whatever is bugging your nerve endings, and there are usually ways to help you get around things you can not do right off the bat... patsy

other helpful pages here at GlassAttic

(much of the info in Kids/Beginners also could helpful with disabilities ...esp.the'Teaching & Working with Kids' sub-category)

(for info on health and safety issues regarding polymer clay, look in Safety/Health/Cleaning)
(for possible safety issues re being left-handed, see Safety/Health/Cleaning)

(also see more groups and info on disabilities under Miscellaneous below)

clay disability GROUPS & articles

(for more info on how to use online groups, see Groups--Online)

Clayers With Disabilities: (new July 2002)
Many polymer clay artists have disabilities, and also many others would like to better accommodate clayers with disabilities in their classes and guilds.. . . Many disability professionals would like to incorporate polymer clay into therapeutic activities, but are not quite sure how to do so. This group is for such people.. . . on a professional or hobbyist level. . . and discuss how our disabilities positively and negatively effect clay-related activities.
For more information on why I'm starting this list, please visit To subscribe, send an e-mail to:, or join from the list's yahoogroups homepage (listed above).

Jewelery Makers in Pain (new 2001 0r 2002) . . . for those of us who have varying illnesses, pain, etc. 'The focus of this group is to provide a forum for discussion, support and information sources for beaders, jewelers and wire wrappers who have autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid and fibromyalgia.' . Check it out! It's nice to talk to people who understand that we're not just complaining and making it all up. FYI. Krista

Friends with Fibro (non-polymer) ...fibromyalgia and related syndromes...if you want to just vent, seek sympathy or just cry on a shoulder, we are here for you. We also have a live chat for members on Sundays at 8:00pm EST.
. . .They are a good group. Angie

Sue Salvatore's column archives in Polyzine, 'Art in Transition' --which deals with using clay while having a disability, as well as safety, etc., for all.
....('adaptive studio layouts, ergonomics, space organization, inspiration, and ways to dig deep when it seems there is no place left to dig. It is the wish of the staff at Polymer Clay Polyzine that this column becomes an interactive resource for support, technical advice and of course, art through polymer clay.') (Sue's history, & inspiration) (ergomonics & safety) (attending retreats & classes --things for *everyone* to consider)
(further articles suspended because of health)

MUSCLE-HAND-ARM problems .... or all over

Those pins-and-needles sensations in your hand may be from your neck and shoulders (C7, T1, T2), especially if you notice it in one side of your hands and some fingers more than others (different dermotomes).
Pinched or smushed nerves (from muscle tension) shut down the blood supply
So pull those shoulders back and down
. Roll them and see if that alleviates the tingles. Vicki Sergent

(fibromyalgia can make one especially susceptible to repetitive motion injuries and these kinds of long lasting reactions)

Please be careful with your hands though... When you feel them beginning to tingle/deaden, STOP NOW ... or you can have a problem for a long time. Actually, when you feel them deaden like that you should already have stopped...I know it's a lot like trying to stop a fast-moving train, but it's ultimately worth it (unfortunate voice of long experience here). Diane B.
... I second that!!!. You lose much less time from claying if you STOP before pushing too far. Much less than if you have to deal with the inflammation. This is a very tough lesson, but I'm really glad I finally learned its not 'quitting', its 'tool management'. Sarajane

(see Sanding for suggestions on making sanding easier for hands/arms/shoulders)

(see Tools category for info on sanding with a Dremel, etc., especially for people with arm/joint problems)

repetitive strain injuries . . . RSIs encompass a broad range of disorders affecting different parts of the body.. . . carpal tunnel syndrome , tendon-related disorders (tendinitis, tenosynovitis, DeQuervain's disease), thoracic outlet syndrome, epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and ganglion cysts. RSIs are also known as repetitive motion injuries (RMI), musculoskeletal injuries (MSI), etc.
......An RSI occurs when tissue is subjected to thousands of repetitive motions. ..According to one theory, the movements cause microscopic tears in muscles, tendons and ligaments. The tearing leads to inflammation, and the debris left by inflammation forms scar tissue that binds muscles and stiffens tendons. The injured tissue contracts, decreasing its range of motion. Tendons normally glide smoothly inside lubricated sheaths. If the tendons are damaged, the lubricating fluid dries out, causing tendon and sheath to adhere and chafe. Unless the cycle of injury is interrupted, the tissue fails to recover fully, and a long-term, chronic problem results. .......see much more in RSI's here:

. . . about that repetitive strain on your right forefinger, have you tried swapping your mouse? You can switch which button is the primary one in your control panel. The first 15 minutes of using it with your left hand will make you loopy, but if you manage to get past that, it's surprising how quickly you can adjust to it. Judi

homemade, small heated fabric bags of flax seed are flexible and nice to squeeze for those of us with carpel tunnel syndrome…caliopegreen
.... or freeze some rice bags (or use other fillers) then use them for computer wrist rests if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. (make a couple of long tubes)
...patterns for making regular "rice heating bags," plus mitten bags, foot warmer bags, eye bags, neck & shoulder bags, etc.
(see bottom of page for whole text)

I went through ergonomic training via the state of Washington, (used to be my employer). One of the biggest problems creating long term injury is NOT moving around every 20 - 30 minutes or so. The human body needs movement to keep blood circulation at it's optimal rate - the oxygen in the blood relaxes tired muscles and tissues,etc. So actually it's good to move around frequently. Some people change from sitting to standing while they work so that their movements can be more whole body. They do this for about five minutes every half hour or so - that way they don't have to stop working. Meredith

So I set my timer for 2 hours, and even if I just get a cup of coffee or a sandwich, I stretch, wiggle fingers and toes and rotate my neck. I have carpal tunnel and tendonitis. ..also ...Ibuprofen <Advil, Motrin> is not just a pain-reliever, it's an anti-inflammatory, so if it gets bad, take some. Is your work surface at a comfortable height? Do you have an alternate place to work? Sometimes I find that if I move from one table to another, it helps. Not always possible, I know. ..Corinne/Don

(I work for a neurologist and have what is called nerve radiculopathy) ...I get severe pains starting in my wrist and shooting to my pointer finger and swelling my thumb then radiates up my arm to my elbow . . . I only have flare ups about 2 x a year and asked him for something to help when it is bad other than pills.
He told me this.....
--First - stop the crafts for a few days
--Second - it is NOT carpal tunnel (that is a totally different nerve and many peoplethink they have)
--Third - do not wear jewelery or tight sleeves or a watch during the flare up.
--Fourth - he gave me a prescription for Ethyl Chloride. This is a refrigerant spray that sort of freezes the area and relieves the pain immediately and for a couple of hours. This stuff is great! Athletes use it for muscle pulls etc. It doesn't make you loopy and you can use it as often as needed. I would highly suggest asking your doctor if this spray is right for you. Oh, I don't have insurance but my pharmacy only charges all of $13 a bottle! (some pharmacies don't carry it though) Vikki

As for neck and back getting back to pre-accident - I know what you mean. I was in a head-on in 1987 and have never been o.k. since. I discovered recently that Kava Root extract, (from the health food store), has helped me feel the best I have ever felt since my accident. I take it before I go to bed - it acts like a muscle relaxer - amazing stuff. My neck is much improved from this stuff - I can't say enough about it. Meredith

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome --shows where the nerves in the hand travel, and the ligament which can trap the median nerve (also one of several makers of therapeutic gloves)

carpal-tunnel syndrome
. . . .This is the condition where the nerves of the middle of the palm, thumb, index, and middle finger become inflamed. from entrapment of the median nerve. . . can cause pain and damage (similar to above, but different nerves)

"The carpal "tunnel" is where the median nerve and some of the tendons to your fingers pass through the wrist. This "tunnel" lies just beneath the creases on the middle of the inside of your wrist. . . There's not a lot of extra room here and if things get tight, there's extra pressure on the nerve.
...To feel where this is...."straighten out your wrist and fingers so your hand's straight in line with your forearm as if it were resting flat on a table. Now feel the inside of your wrist where the creases are ...Then, bend your hand and wrist back. You'll notice that the inside of your wrist in that area gets harder...this is putting pressure on those structures in the carpal tunnel. . . .
.... Activities that stress the tendons in your wrist over and over are a type of repetitive trauma, and are a major cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
......When you use muscles or tendons a lot, they tend to get bigger and stronger. That's OK for your bicep since it's not in a confined space. However, when the tendons in your carpal tunnel get bigger from overuse, they put more pressure on the median nerve which also is in the carpal tunnel. This pressure causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. . . ." (so best to keep wrist in neutral, straight position as much as possible)

Julie Wisecraft's article on her carpal tunnel experience (& surgery)

I actually asked all the therapists when I was having therapy who they recommended, and they all liked my doctor so that was who I called. he also was the only surgeon in town doing the endoscopic surgery which is much less invasive, and you heal quicker, and supposedly have less pain from the surgery, cuz they don't open up your whole wrist. just two little incisions. one in the wrist, and one in the palm of the hand. can't even see the scars now unless you look very closely. the surgery is painfull, still. but from what I understand, not near as painful as the regular release surgery. Kellie

...I'm the woman who wrote the letter to Sep 2002, PCPolyzine about Active Release Therapy. I did so to suggest to people like yourself that they try it BEFORE having surgery. Compared to surgery it's inexpensive, non-invasive and has no side effects. . . . To find a therapist in your area log on to . . . Read all about it at, Letters to the Editor, Sep 02. Pat D.
....Try and find a Chiropractor who knows Applied kinesiology, especially the course designed by Dr. George Goodheart. The chiropractor should test your wrist, arm, shoulder and neck muscles. Correct any misalignment in those areas. Work on the muscles and probably advise you on nutrition. A strap or tape around the wrist is a temporary strenghting technique. Surgery can often be avoided if Carpal Tunnel is caught early. Re-think how you work the clay and use an ice pack when you are sore. We have a lot of people in the office with this, including me, and most of them respond very well. The treatment shouldn't require tons of visits or a lot of cost. Call first and ask questions to get the best DC for your problem. Madam Rini

....What the doctor told him to do was to take very hot steamy towels and drape them over his forearms for 20-30 minutes before working. Then he does some stretches, and he's ready to go. This has worked very well for him and finally solved his problem. . . . two motions that were particularly bad. One was the act of pinch-reducing triangular-shaped canes. The other was when he rolled down a round cane, he would push on it starting with his fingers and roll it down to his wrists. The doctor said that he should never use his wrists to roll the canes, ONLY USE YOUR HANDS.
Also avoid mixing colors with your fingers –it’s very hard on the thumbs.

There are various kinds of 'carpal tunnel gloves', which are supposed to help prevent or stop carpal tunnel irritation
...those available at quilt shops (spandex?)
...SoftFlex Computer Gloves: These gloves have a soft pad on either side of the median nerve to prevent its compression while typing: (this website feels that some carpal tunnel syndrome is misdiagnosed and is simply the result of resting the wrist on the keyboard);
.... other companies offer similar gloves

. . .exercises to prevent carpal tunnel. She told me to pull, or bend, my fingers and thumb (with other hand pulling them) to a 90-degree angle toward my shoulder for 30 seconds about three times per day. I have done this and have actually been able to pull my hand to less than a 90-degree angle after some months of doing the exercise. Has it helped??? I notice that my hands don't feel as fatigued. mamadude
Another great thing to avoid carpal tunnel is to put your hands together, fingertips to fingertips and push your hands together without palms touching. This stretches your fingers and hands and takes the pressure off the tunnels that all the tendons run through. Meredith
...I found this on line check it out it has some great caple tunnel prevention stretches. . .if I can avoid surgery. . .WHOOPEEE! Dawn might try an excercise our massage therapist taught us. Stand in a doorway and put your hands on the inside of the door frame (flat on it) about waist high, then lean forward, stretching your wrists. Try that again about a foot up, and so on until your hands are above you on the door frame. It gives the DH and I tremendous relief when we do it regularly. Tess

there are many small pieces of equipment which will exercise various parts of the hands/arms for prevention, treatment to be found online;
there are also free exercises online

(causes of carpal tunnel, etc.)
Yes, that's it exactly. It's repeated stress that does it--not the activity itself, but the repetition. There are certain things that are worse than others--for instance...
do NOT put pressure on a bent wrist, ie smashing clay onto a table with wrist bent and straight arm.
Don't support weight on bent wrists--no push ups. No carrying trays like a waiter in the movies. Don't even spend a long time with your hands on your hips.
Keep your feet on the floor as you sit and work, not crossed, and sit up stright (mom knew some stuff, didn't she?)
Avoid hard gripping/squeezing work if possible Wire cutters, pliers, hole punches through leather--limit how much time you do these things,
Also avoid vibrational work--give up that jackhammer hobby-- and watch wrist positions when clutching the steering wheel or bike handles. One of the WORST offenders for me was pushing a baby carriage several miles a day going back and forth to school to drop off and pick up my older son. Bent wrists, pushing weight, and vibrating down the sidewalk as the pains shot up my arm to the elbow....I don't do this anymore, haven't in years, and won't again soon! It was amazing how much this ONE activity would set off CTS.
.......VARY your activites--if I have a 8 hours on the computer day, I make sure to stop ever once in a while and do something some piano, wash dishes, or stand and stretch--something that uses your hands in different ways, uses different muscles and such.
B vitamins were very helpful for me as well--I can't take anti-inflammatories due to allergies, so I have learned to NOT set it off in the first place, and to
STOP RIGHT NOW when I get twingy/buzzy feelings. Then I can do more later, as opposed to the old 'I'll just finish this in spite of pain, its almost close to done' thing which inevitably caused me to spend two weeks in wrist braces. Life is very hard when you have to brush your teeth by sticking the brush into your brace and moving your head back and forth... Sarajane

....unfortunately, I've heard from a number of people that carpal tunnel surgery didn't really work for them...

OTHER hand-arm-shoulder problems
+ ulnar neuropathy

(a 'neuropathy' is an abnormal and usually degenerative state of the nervous system or nerves...pain, loss of feeling,etc.)

ulnar 'neuropathy'.....a condition where the nerves of the little finger and outside of the palm beneath it, and the inside of the ring finger become inflamed.
It's usually caused by a motion repeated under 'stress', or by frequent and lengthy compression on the ulnar nerve --which travels to the hand by way of the outside of the elbow, from the neck (so this problem can also be coming from the neck; if so, consider changing the way you sit for long periods...avoid the head-stuck-out posture and try to keep the neck relatively straight)
I got mine from sitting at the keyboard performing two keystrokes over and over again which required my fingers to be somewhat split apart under tension (changing text to hyperlinks in Dreamweaver right here at GlassAttic..ugh).

...Changing my chair also helped whatever part of it may have been coming from my neck, and was vitally important.
...I also now always allow my arms to 'hang' from my shoulders as much as possible rather than resting them on the keyboard, chair arms, etc., especially when this caused my elbows to be away from my body).
...I also make sure my arms and (straight) wrists form a 90 degree angle while at the computer for long periods.
...Also, avoid carrying heavy things with bent elbows.

The things above have all helped tremendously, but I still have only partial feeling in my little finger. The beginning six months were as close to hell as I ever want to go though (irritated-nerve pain is like nothing else!), but now I don't have the pain part.
It's important to have this checked out by a neurologist as soon as possible if you notice numbness like this, because once the nerve is injured it often gets worse and worse (particularly the older you are . . . ), and the effects can easily take several years to go away (even if you do the right things from then on...that only stops the damage from progressing even further) (see the part about STOPPING immediaitely if you feel anything similar, above). Diane B.

my neurologist also suggested avoiding anything similar (to carrying the 4x8 plywood sheets) like carrying grocery bags with bent arms (now I use only plastic grocery bags, carry them at the end of straight arms, and swing them onto the counter with straight arms if they're heavy . . .it seems to work!) Diane B.

... we got to change our position, stretch the hands fully extended and fingers splayed if we've been typing or clutching small items a lot..
....Vary the activities also will help during healing. We need to stand up and stretch our spines after hunching over doing our clay work. Nora Jean

computer set ups:
-the keyboard should be lower than most people have it; to measure where that should be, here are the guidelines:
---upper arms should be hanging loosely from their sockets (and should be kept fairly close to the body when typing...elbows not out)
---forearms/wrists/hands should be straight, with the fingers curving a bit down; and they should be parallel to the floor;
---(wrists or forearms should not be resting heavily on anything, especially while typing --which would keep all the parts of the arm from moving around as much as possible, preventing tensed muscles);
---the monitor should be centered in front of the keyboard letters,
--and it should be raised or lowered to make your eye level is at least even with, or higher than, the center of the screen (most screens tilt also if that should help)... you don't want to be looking up at the screen (creating a turtle neck), or left or right at it.
...OSHA's photo of correct body positions when seated at a computer:

(for sitting at a sewing machine or work table correctly, see below in Work Tables, etc.)

(My dr.) suggested moving my computer mouse to the other hand than I normally use. Nora-Jean
....also the buttons on the mouse can be set to do each other's jobs. DB

Rearranging the pasta machine so I either crank it with both hands or with the non-usually-used hand. Nora Jean

shoulder pain. . . 'Pasta Crank Shoulder' is what my Orthopedic/Sport's Injury Doctor teased me with this last Tuesday ...bursitis is what he told me I have. The bursa are the sacks around your joints (bunions on the toe are the swelling of the bursa sacks). I was given a prescription for an anti-inflamatory and anaelgesic for the pain. .... If the pain is just below your collar bone and travels down the forearm and ends up at the back of the elbow...then you're my pain twin and that's what I am experiencing.... But if you've been having pain in your shoulder for a couple of months I'd plead with you to go see your Doctor and get referred to a Sport's Injury Orthopedic group if you have one in your area.
(Glucosamine and Condroitin are for rebuilding the ligaments and will not prevent repeative stress on the bursa sacks, and will not help tendonitis because that's an inflamation of the tendons)

We hurt our thumbs by pressing with them repeatedly as when mixing colors by hand ...and also by choking canes.

We hurt our wrists by clutching small items tightly..

(see more on shoulders, necks, etc., below in Work Tables and Surfaces)

After Physical 'Injury'

One of the things I now realize (after a number of injuries to various limbs) is that when I injure something, I have to go through a period of *training* myself to remember I have it! Otherwise, my habits will take over and I'll use that arm/leg/finger/etc. before I even realize I'm doing it .. and ouch! So now when I injure myself anew (sigh), I've learned to wrap the area lightly with a colored ace bandage or put a brightly colored band-aid on it right in the beginning, to help alert me that the injury is even there ... only then (gradually) do I begin to realize NOT to use that part of my anatomy before I actually do (there's definite mental exercise involved in figuring out different ways to perform every relevant action too!). After that retraining though, the area can begin to get the needed rest and heal. (One little problem with this is that by the time I've healed whatever it is, I've got brand new habits I have to get rid of later .)
Another thing you might want to consider is wrapping your wrist lightly while you're sleeping to avoid twisting, bending, or lying on it. I am currently using a pharmacy-bought wrist splint on my wrist at night, with the metal reinforcing bar removed, for just that reason. It's not really tight, just enough to keep it from bending too much. (Helpful hint: if you try this, get the ExtraLarge size.) Good luck and take care of yourself! Remember, it's hard for a self-sufficient person to tolerate feeling like wimp, but the longer you irritate an injury the longer it takes to get back up to speed. Just keep repeating that to yourself <g>. Diane B.
....When our kids were growing up and we were in the Philipines it was discovered that the younger daughter had a weak wrist. I built her a bowling brace. By the time the kids quit bowling some 8 years later I had made over 20 of them for their friends. I was told that they offered more support then the comercial ones. I was using 1/8' aluminanum sheet in part of it. The alluminum was stitched between two layers of leather. I then put medical 'mole skin' on the areas that touched the skin.Once fitted correctly and put on your wrist did NOT move. but they did not cut off the circulation either. You could wear it for six games stright without even having to loosen it. I don't even have one left laying around the house. each kid kept theirs. Lysle
....If I ever break (or sprain, etc.) a finger again, I think I'll try making my own splint for it, to prevent movement...when I broke them before, the dr. had me use some flat aluminum rod (under a layer of cushiony foam) to hold them in a slightly tilted-up-at-the-end position while they healed, wrapped on each side of the joint with a strip of fabric tape. She never bent them correctly/comfortably though!! so I began bending my own. I can see that making one's own split, exactly fit to the conformation of *one's own* finger along the whole length, would have been much more comfortable though, not to say more waterproof, than the ones she made! . . .
.this should also work for hurt, infected, or painful areas to prevent their being bumped...ouch! Diane B.
....I recently bruised the tendon in my right thumb (badly) bending heavy wire with an unsuitable tool.. . . So I made a polymer clay splint out of scrap clay. Wow! Much better than those popsicle stick ones we used when I was a kid! Custom color, and fit, too. melanie
....imagine if you'd lined your splint with a deliciously soft fabric, soaking the ends in TLS and securing them on the outside, bake, then decorate to hide the raw seams and bake again. start a whole new fashion trend in hand jewelry! Sunni

Heat therapies

rice heating bag... take a LONG sock (mens tube sock is the best) fill it about 1/2 to 3/4 with rice & tie knot or stitch the top & put in microwave 2-3 min... til nice & warm. . . . provides lots of heat & helps w/ joints or cold toes ... or across the neck/back area. Patsy
... muslin filled tubes with a cotton slip (or sock, or 'pillow case' of fleece, etc.) work well, and the outer covering can be washed over and over. Polly
...a cousin to my fa-vorite bed buddy! I have a U-shaped rice bag thingie I bought years ago which nestles around my feet when I go to sleep. It's so soothing and comfy that it can take my mind off other things, as well as just warm up feet that don't seem to be able to throw off their chill for several hours without it. (Even when I can't go back to sleep after waking up, I have to trot down the hall to the microwave and give it a fresh charge! ). My son started using one as an all-purpose teddy bear years ago after he discovered how calming it could be when he was really feeling sick. Now I sometimes use his technique when I'm feeling lousy and just want a little spot of comfort.... 2 minutes in the microwave, then just snug it my abdomen (usually while sitting), and it really seems to help. Diane B.
add more filler ingredients and tips from Word files

I tend to use my cup of coffee as a hand warmer (china cups are designed to tell you when the coffee is too hot to drink--if you can't comfortably hold the cup...) I tend to keep some kind of drink going all day, and I tend to keep coffee on if my hands are especially stiff, just so I can hold it. . . . I also wear those Thermacares a lot, and if wearing a back wrap, can hold my hands on it to warm them up too. . . . And finally, there are those 'hot packs' they sell for hunters, sports addicts, campers, etc. to use as hand/pocket warmers. Laurel

That's my other real helper too --hot-water therapy...ah-h-h. A long tub soak works wonders preferably accompanied by a good mystery, or I'll just stand in the shower till I turn into a prune ... used to do that sometimes for my migraines too if they were awful and let the water just run all down my head. Brief but appreciated respite.

Wish there were a quicker and longer-lasting way of keeping hands warm though. When I want to do some clay stuff but have popscicle-fingers, I just stand at the sink letting almost-hot water run over them for about 30 seconds; they really warm up to the bone that way, and that gets me comfortable enough to get started. Diane B.

My cousin gave my mother one of those home hot wax bath machines and she says it does wonders. She has just about the worst arthritis you can imagine in both hands, severe pain and stiffness that is severely limiting for her in every way. She says the heat from the wax lasts for some time and is very soothing for the pain and stiffness. You can use it on your feet too ! To the best of my knowledge the wax can be reused, and it's not absolutely necessary to buy the expensive scented or herbal waxes. You can use plain parrafin which is a lot cheaper. Ke



What's your favorite 'assistive device' that makes your claying life easier? The one simple tool you couldn't live without?
.... Hands down, mine is the motor for my pasta machine I broke down and bought last year . . . now I can't believe I ever lived without it! Laurel
... a feeding tray for the pasta machine could be good too... it's an upright, metal sheet which attaches to slots at top back of an Amoco pasta machine (or Atlas 150?) (or other? pasta machines) so that one won''t have to hold a long sheet or strip of clay with the left hand while cranking or motoring it through the rollers

'Magni-Clips' which clip onto glasses giving a 1.00-4.00 magnification for working on small items whether you have a disability or not!. . . doesn't cover whole field of vision like reading glasses. . . flip-up-able

see also Eyesight below for low-vision or blindness aides and ideas

(I put about 1/2 of a small pkg of Fimo in the microwave on the Defrost setting (very low power) for about 30 secs. This warms it up just enough to be slightly pliable.) . . . . Then I use a straight-sided glass bottle with a tight-fitting cap (from ketchup, soy sauce or the like), filled with hot tap water, as a rolling pin. This will quickly make it ready to go through the pasta machine without requiring too much muscle. Suzanne

I condition my polymer (particulary Fimo) with a heavy wooden mallet. Hitting it and turning over and over. Has worked like a charm for me for a long time. You don't have to hit too hard either.
While mechanisation is fine (food processors etc - if you can afford it) - hard Fimo can be beaten into submission with an old rolling pin. Chop it into inch size lumps, stand up so you can have good pressure onto your work table and go for it with the rolling pin! Sue
Try driving over it (I think I posted this from my friend - she doesn't want to be identified!). Wrap with plastic, wrap with newspaper and drive over it! She swears by this method. Donna

lesson on conditioning clay with one's feet ....fold and mash, roll & twist? (clean feet with wipes), at NoraJean's site:
(see much more on help with conditioning clay in Conditioning)

The oven is almost perfect for clay. (It is a Toastmaster Model TTOB4.) The best part, though, is that the toaster oven has a 30 minute timer. I can set it for 20 minutes and a bell rings to tell me it has preheated to the desired temperature. Then, when I bake, I can set it for as long as I need (up to 30 minutes) and it will turn itself off after that time. This is a great help to me, since sometimes my back strength and my baking times don't coincide. I can just leave my items in the oven until I am able to get up to get them. Dottie Hobbs

Brayers for flattening small and large pieces of clay... depends on what you'd most often be using it for... small things like pads of clay or squaring up canes, or for larger things like sheets of clay.
..For small or long things, there is a less expensive small brayer I use sometimes which is actually a wallpaper seam roller (the one with a plastic roller, not wood). Sometimes you can run across something similar from kids' toys. Another bet would be a straight-sided drinking glass or jar. Rather than a brayer, often an acrylic block or small piece of glass can be used for flattening smaller things (it will keep the design more even also).
...The very best thing, of course, and which you'll undoubtedly need if you want to do much one-handed clay, would be a pasta machine. The cheapest you can usually buy a new one is around $30, but if you check garage sales and thrift stores, they are sometimes found pretty cheap ($5 or so)!
....If you want to make larger sheets, you can use taped-down guide rails and roll over the clay with a roller or brayer of any type. (see Tools > Brayers and Pasta Machines for more info)

You can always use an acrylic, glass or marble work surface, as a stabilizer for your clay too, since raw clay will stick to very smooth surfaces pretty well while you cut or manipulate it, if there's enough surface contact anyway .... thinner acrylic or glass can be held in place by placing rubberized drawer liner underneath it)

see the Scumbuster and the Mouse Sander in Sanding > Power Tools, for help with sanding (especially for long sessions of sanding and for for wrist/hand/arm/strength problems) . . . also see 'Other Ways to Sand' (and pre-smooth) on that page

I can not use sandpaper. It aggravates my arthritis in my hands too much. I had not heard of the flex tool. I may look at it as it might be helpful for me if I don't have to hold it too tightly with my fingers. I wouldn't give up on the Dremel. It just takes time to learn how to use it. As with anything, even the clay itself, you just have to be cautious. connie
(If you buy) the flexible shaft, it is so much easier to hold; you don't have to control so much weight as you do with holding the actual Dremel tool itself. And for the same reason, it's easier to control than holding the actual tool. If you have problems with your arms or hands, the flex shaft is wonderful! Barb
...I have found a couple of things that have made it easier for me (with my joint problems)...I use a dremel for just about everything.I have a flexi grip. If you don't have one you might want to try one.Its a long atachment that is snake like. It s what you hold onto instead of the dremel.It's real easy to maneuver...I just got a foot speed control. I think it like a sewing machine pedal.It slows down the wheel to as slow as you want it.Or as fast.I always use the cloth polishing wheels.I soften them by sniping some of the stiches out around the wheel.Not to many or it will fall apart. On my good days I sand w/ 600-then-1500 grit always w/water.Then i go to town w/my dremel.I prob.just told you what ya already know.But if i can help a fellow sufferer even a little i don't mind looking a little foolish.. Dawnie
(for more on pedals, see Tools > Foot Pedals)

For buffing, you could get a drill stand for the Dremel. Then set up the Dremel with buffing wheel in the stand and treat it like a table buffer. Judi
..(for Dremel, but would work for a drill?) I clamp it into a vise and move the clay onto it unstead of it onto the clay. Marty (maybe wrapping it with rubbery drawer liner for stability?
...I have a small vise that I lay my dremel in (putting the on/off switch on top where I can get to it easily). This holds the dremel in place and steady and I can use it like a foredom buffer or bench grinder depending on what wheel I have on it. Elise
...Yes, and if you want more power or to work with a larger wheel... you can clamp a regular drill to a table & use it like a table buffer as well. It's easier and safer to have both hands free. . . . (just make sure it's stable. You can still hurt yourself... always be VERY aware of your movements when working with power tools...and put them away if you find yourself having a 'clumsy day'or feeling very tired). Joanie
(see more on using a Dremel for sanding or buffing, plus interesting techniques and modifications) in Tools > Dremels)

Pat, I love the idea of clients making their own adaptive tools I think it could be both helpful and empowering. Lori

see Celia's lesson on making your own small sanding tools with handles to help avoid pain in hands, in Sanding > Other Materials & Tools

handles: I covered my paring knife handles with Premo sometime ago.... Sure helps when you have arthritis in your hands. Flo
... flexible-clay handles, made from one of the stretchy clays like Sculpey's Bend & Flex clay...I found something new to do with the Eraser clay(well new for me) I have arthritis, so I need to do things to my tools to make them fit my crooked hands. Pat

mandalamama's handle tools

bunnyboo covers the back half of her crochet hooks with clay... creating a wider area with a depression halfway up the hook, at the top of the clayed area, for a thumb to rest in
(see more on covering crochet hooks, etc., with clay in
Tools > Handles)

increasing the size of a handle could be good for some people, and there are lots of materials that can be used to cover them, polymer or not
.... what's best would depend on what exactly's needed for a particular person and task
.... some people might want something cushiony, but some may want something firmer (like clay)
........there are various kinds of foamy stuff in various shapes at hardware and craft stores that might be usable.... I once taped a length of large-diameter black foam tubing (used for something or other) around my broom handle, e.g.... there's also 'foam rubber' and mattress pad foam.... as well as sheets of craft foam (Foamies?), etc.
the 2-part silicone molding materials could be good (and quick to make), but the material can be somewhat expensive for large handles... perhaps a layer of silicone could be laid over a basic polymer or other built-up handle?
........there are also other kinds of silicone type stuff that could work, like caulking? (see Molds > Silicone for much more on all these)

handles could have finger depressions, or even finger holders, to actually hold-strap fingers in place or give more automatic grip

(for info on making various handles.. see Tools > Handles)

finger grips: I also saw this adapter for pencils or pens that slips over the pen to make it fatter so I can grip things I tried to make one of these things with the eraser clay and low and works.... I made two grippers out of 1oz. is sort of triangular in shape....After working the clay I took my lead pencil..put some talc on it made to triangle shapes pushed them on to the pencil then made a shape with the preassure of my thumb, forefinger and next finger....baked ...and it fits like a is soft ..not squishy..and I did my crossword puzzle with it this AM and boy what a difference...Pat
...This sounds great . . .I made something similar for my son when he was learning to write (he kept holding his fingers a really bad way), but of course the clay I used was hard after baking. Diane B.
make pencil grips in special shapes to go around the ends of pen and allow easier holding and writing/drawing
...for children who are learning to write, or for older people with arthritis, etc., or for some disabilities...
...could be make with regular clay, or softer with Bend & Flex clay, or even with 2-part silicone molding material (see Molds>Silicone) (various shapes... not nec. clay)
...or could we make something from clay like these unusual ergonomic-shaped pens... or cover or just embellish them?

I use a special tape to cushion the handles of my crochet hooks's puckery and stretchy and sticks to itself ... mine is blue nail technician wraps it around her finger when she is filing, so look at beauty supply places.
.........the nail tech tape sounds suspiciously like vet wrap (used on animals to keep them from licking/chewing off their bandages). Cost about $4 a roll at the feed store. (It's a bit TOO sticky for my taste so I wrap a second layer of cloth tape on top so my hands don't end up all blue & gummy.) Lauren...
......that might be the same stuff that carvers use to protect their fingers
.... I'm thinking it also might be like the fiberglass cast material that is used for setting broken bones
.....and maybe check quilting shops too, for those who don't like thimbles but need to protect the finger tips. Helen P.
.....I'd bet that floral tape might work too even though it's not the same stuff! Margaret D.

You might need to tape or glue a partial cover to top and/or sides of some things,
.....and/or add a clay handle or a bought knob to the clay
... and/or, if the tool can't be baked, you'll need to form anything polymer first, remove to bake it, then glue it back in place.

The weight of hand tools could also be a factor
........ for some people with tremors, etc., having a bit of extra weight in the right spot can help keep them steady
........ but for others with strength problems, the lighter the better.
.... it also might be good for some people to have something which would hold or strap a tool to the forearm (Velcro?) so different muscles could be used
....position could help too, physics-wise .....more force can be exerted more of the body is being used, for example (using the whole upper body by standing up, or by standing over the task).
.... angle of arms, etc. could make things easier or harder (perhaps motions could be done in the lap, or even bending from the waist). Diane B.

SCULPTING...Especially for those with tremors, NoraJean advocates filing faces (and other sculpts) after an initial baking of the rough shape (she may begin with a mold). . .she feels that one has greater control using a jeweler's file (rather than sandpaper which removes too much) and one can go slower, etc., .. and that there's no chance of messing up the head by mishandling or dinging it (takes about an hour). This also removes fingerprints and discolored clay.
Nora Jean also may add clay and reshape it if the nose is too small, etc (with brushing of TLS first?).... then rebakes
... she files the last time in small circles sure to remove the dust before baking and
She then fills in all the file marks, and coats the whole skin, with skin colored clay mixed with a drop of TLS
various people have suggested making a second clay skin to cover the baked face in order to cover discolorations and fingerprints
sequential molds... NoraJean advocates making a number of molds as you get closer and closer to the face you want to sculpt sculpt-mold-make new head from that mold. . . sculpt-mold-make new head....etc . . . . then file
...Jay Dearborn makes customized stands to hold sculpts (whole figures or just heads) while making (also baking) for artists who are suffering from disabilities (Enter, then click on Sculpting Stands)
......or see Sculpting-Body > Tools > Support Stands for these at e-Bay store

for making a device to make extruding with a clay gun very easy on the hands and arms, see Clay Guns > Pushers > Bellow
...My husband Kris already made the (bellows pusher), and it works like a charm. . . .In fact, I don't have to use foot or hand pressure (either works fairly easily) if I don't wish; he just picked up a ten pound hand weight, placed it on the end of the board, and voila! Nice, steady pressure, no blow out of the disks, no bending. It's great! Pat O.

Something that helps a lot with Balinese Filigree is using a lazy susan bearing with a small ceramic tile or acrylic block, etc., placed on top. These help create spirals quickly and easily and keep the action close at hand.
(--near the bottom of the photo of the small plastic turntable bearing I use; it's on the left side of the photo, and has a square acrylic block on top of it and a couple of small strips of rubberized drawer liner beneath for traction.)
(for more info on this and similar aides, look at ClayGuns > Balinese Filigree)
....I use my small turntable for all sorts of things... sculpture, alignment checking,spiral bowls etc, etc - I got the idea from cake decorator and pottery makers wheels. ...the heart of my turntable is the low-friction bearing motor from a cannibalised hard drive. I fixed plates of acrylic (a later version had punched metal plates) to the base and spindle with epoxy. When you spin the thing - it doesn't seem to want to stop! In these days of wall to wall computers, there's a very good chance that anyone can get hold of a broken drive. Alan V.

for paper punches . . . Came across a helpful tool found among the paper punches in local craft stores, called Strong Arm .. . it facilitates repetitive punching of polymer as well as paper --and beats using a hammer or standing on the punch! The manufacturer is McGill, costs around $20, and is featured on their web page: Carol in Meadville

BLADES & CUTTERS: ...details on all these things plus more ideas are on the Cutters-Blades page
...especially in Long Blades and Short Blades and Kids & Blades

the top edge of long blades can have clay (or other materials) added (...often at one or both ends)
...this gives a better place to grip, as well as helping one remember which is the sharp side! (the side without the clay)

there are ways to make blades less-sharp than real blades (dull them a bit)
...and also ways to make blades and cutters in the first place which aren't as sharp, for those who need them
........items from around the house can also be used as less-sharp blades or cutters

Garie Sim makes a tool from an aluminum sheet? (like a small dough scraper) which could also function like a long blade ...he curls one end of the aluminum over to act as a handle (especially good for very young or disabled children)
(the first, and perhaps the second, could also be used to cut cane slices as long as the canes aren't too old and hard or too soft)
....he also makes various other cutting tools with handles

some 'stand' cutters (or similar things that can be made yourself) can be helpful in various ways for those with tremors, weak grip, blindness, etc., and various (sharp or not-so-sharp) blades could be used in them or with some kind of upright guide poles
... could be used to help cut thick slabs for feeding into the pasta machine, or to make any kinds of cuts
(see Cutters-Blades > Stand Cutters for more details)

Y-peelers... There is a kitchen tool I've acquired that's been extremely helpful to my somewhat-weak-finger-grip hands. This sucker makes peeling potatoes and even other fruits/veggies so-o much easier for me. . . trying to hold onto potatoes/yams/etc. while peeling was becoming a significant problem. ...the 'micro-finely serrated' Y-peeler. ... (look at number 5602)
...just love it. It's got a big, soft, grip and cuts/peels almost like butter. (BTW, for anyone who doesn't know, Y-peelers are the type most used in Europe I think, and are pulled toward the body rather than pushed out away from it like the straight peelers.) Maybe I can even think of a way to use it with clay . . . LOL . . .hmmmmm . . . .actually . . . I just tried it with clay too and it worked fine! I cut a very thin slice from the top of a brick of Premo (like using a cheese plane) and it came away easily and evenly. It did leave tiny little lines in the clay from the serrations but they wouldn't matter if you wanted to use the slices for putting through the pasta machine to condition or mix clay, e.g. Of course, the tiny ridges could be highlighted with metallic powders or used to make funky little stacks of colors too...Actually maybe the cheapie? Y peelers without the serrations would work well for making those thin stacks and not leave ridges; will try it and see. May need to make the handle of it bigger though for a better grip (cheese planes don't work...not sharp enough). Diane B.

a Dove Cutter (a Y-shaped holder which grabs and holds long blades taut) would help with cutting slabs from bricks, chopping off hunks clay, and making lengthwise cuts in logs)... easier on fingers and hands, and could be used one-handed ( aware that the blade is even sharper than a regular long blade though because it's held taut....also the blade tips stick out on at least the older model and poses a risk too ( )

NOT NECESSARILY FOR POLYMER: (Yahoo's links for assistive devices)
...subcategories: Building Modifications (60) Communication Aids (33) Computer Access (84) Daily Living (184) Education and Learning (21) Electric Scooters (68) Environmental Controls (10) Ergonomic Equipment (3) Fitness Aids (4) Hearing (98) Low Vision Aids (58) Mobility and Transportation (256) Prosthetics and Orthotics (106) Recreation (21) Seating and Positioning (17) (various kitchen helpers)

Work Areas, Tables, Chairs

The items which have helped me most are things like knee trays (sometimes I'm unable to sit at a desk/table for any length of time)
.... A rotating work board can be a great help to someone who is manually- impaired but it obviously shouldn't be too freely moving like a decorating turntable for cakes - just enough, for bringing items into hand range. Alan V.

How do you folks get a work surface that is high enough without having to have your back bent way over to work? I hope this make sense. ....I use a roll-around office chair. ...Brenda Lea
...If it's a roll around office chair similar to mine, it's adjustable as to height. If you LOWER it, you can roll right up under the table so your face is practically on it. Barbe
This bent-over problem is something I struggle with too because any kind of hunched-over tensing of my chest muscles seems to trigger fibromyalgia chest pain (this first appeared suddenly, years ago, when I spent several hours doing one of my first applique projects --a flower wreath with a hummingbird, appliqued onto the front of a sweatshirt, for my mother-in-law . . . it was a very time-consuming xmas gift and I was trying to get it finished while DH and DS were away for the afternoon). (I had also noticed a deadening of my outer hand(s?) when I'd been learning to do quilting stitches the year before ...which I finally had to give up.)
Anyway!. . . many things involving polymer tend to put me in this physical position unfortunately :-( . My doc suggested forgetting about polymer, but that wasn't acceptable, so then she told me to at least raise my working surface so that I could keep my back really straight while working on those close small items and avoid the 'tensed hunch.'
Well, I tried lots of configurations (and I'm still experimenting) but one thing that did help was to raise my work off the table itself. I have a number of small items like jars, coasters/trivets/tiles/, etc., that I can stack on top of each other to get a height which allows my back to be as straight as possible for whatever I'm working on (and close to eye level whenever possible). I may also vary my height slightly while working on an piece simply to avoid using the same muscles continuously, or I might change the height of my office chair a bit. Depending on the size of the piece I'm working on (seldom are they very large), I usually try to find some stackable items that are round or square and not over 6' wide to use, so that I don't take up too much of that precious real estate in the middle of my work surface . . . also so I don't inadvertently knock the stack down as I reach past to retrieve a new tool/powder, etc.. I also try to remember the golden rule for me . . . keep moving, keep looking up and around, walk around or move whatever muscles I've been using in some *different* way. Really hard to do sometimes, but better than paying for it later.
. . . . Another thing I've actually considered is some sort of support like a massage table or weight-training bench which I can lie face-down on, at an angle diagonal to the work surface. I could then hang my arms freely, sort of under me, and work with a really straight neck and back! . . . especially for things that take a lot of small manipulations. I haven't done that yet, but it's in the back of my mind for if-I-really-need-it eventually. Diane B.

...I am only 5 feet tall, but I was having a lot of trouble through my shoulders and neck from hunching over my work all day. My solution should help you, too. I use a drafting table. It is fully adjustable as to height and angle. author?
...One of the things that really helps w/ my neck is my counter-height work area and tall stool. I tend to get up and down more often (and w/ less effort), and that leads to not hunching over to work, straining my neck. When I sit and work at a table, I tend to sit, hunch, stretch in a bad way, etc.... I can sit on my stool and roll sheets to my heart's content without straining my back or neck. The counter-height stool and bar-height work table make going from sitting to standing MUCH easier, and I can clay for longer without needing a hot bath.
I also have a fabric (or sock) tube filled w/ raw rice that I heat in the microwave and use to help alleviate neck strain. Laurel (see below under 'Heat Therapies')

...raise the table. Use some 8x8 blocks to put under the table legs to whatever elevation you'd like. Barbe
...We raised our tables w/ both bricks & 4x4 boards at a center I used to work in.
...We found it best to attach the original table legs to the new 'risers' (rather than just setting the legs on the risers), so that you would not 'push' the table off it's risers if you pushed against the table. Laurel

I really do like my work area set-up. . .
...I have a high table 'breakfast bar' that is bar height and a high stool.... I can work for a LOT longer since I elevated my work area.
..........a lazy susan on top of a small set of Sterlite drawer units can help elevate a work area as well.
...My work area has storage cabinets underneath.
...On either side of the bar, I have those plastic wheelie carts w/ drawers (or anything one could add wheels to. DB) --it's great to be able to move a cart beside me when I need to, rather than having to get up and go over to it.
...Above the work area, I have those tri-level hanging baskets they sell for storing tomatoes and onions. Laurel
For seating, I have a tall, swivel stool with a back....this makes going from sitting to standing easier on the back & legs.
There is a reason why drafting tables are high--folks who push papers or keys all day seem to be the only ones that work at low-height surfaces. Think about it--most 'active' type jobs utilize higher work surfaces!
(......However... having worked at a drafting table as a environmentalist at an engineering firm, I can tell you that isn't so comfy. ... My stools do double-duty in the kitchen, as I use them while I'm cooking. I find you have to invest the $ to get a GOOD stool. A back is imperative, and the swiveling also helps a lot.
(.....However...we had top of the line padded stools with backs but it was murder on my back all the same. For anyone with back problems or arthritis that sitting exacerbates, I think it would not be an ideal seating. Barbe)
...I have a plexi-glass sheet laid across the front half of the counter surface.
...Behind that, I have stacks of cardboard soda cases, separated w/ sheets of heavy cardboard, which holds stuff in process, canes, etc.
... I have my pasta machine on the right.
....I have various tiles that fit nicely in the space between the pasta machine area & the plexi-glass.
....My tools, etc. stand at the back of the counter, along the wall.
...It took me a LONG TIME to perfect my little work area, but it is very efficient. Laurel Nevans

small portable 'table' or easel made from a tripod and sheet of plywood,etc. (size desired), held together with a steel 'mounting plate' (one 5/16' hole in ctr, 4 outer holes, 4 screws) (...this item would normally be attached to underside of a table so one could screw in a wood table leg), and a nut to fit tripod's bolt (which would normally screw into camera's bottom)
lesson on making one, by Marty W:
...I've also used an old slide projector platform (also has a tripod bottom)

I made a portable work surface from a large, thick butcher block cutting board... can put this on my lap or move it to any horizontal surface pasta machine is clamped onto it...I've also drawn a ruler on the side with a marker... my clay is in a Sterlite container. Carrie

I also find myself going from sitting to standing a lot. Laurel

sewing or worktable work ... do's & don'ts

(for sitting at a computer, see above under Other Hand-Arm Problems)

When working with clay in bed, the first thing to do is cover all around with a sheet (not only to keep the raw clay off the bed but to keep all the blanket lint off the clay...learned that one the hard way).
...I normally work on a large smooth tile which I put up on my knees. (I must lay almost down in bed)...
.. I use a large tray beside me for my clay and tools. does take longer to do anything in bed, and only small projects that aren't complicated, but at least it is working with clay
...make sure you have all you need together so you don't have to get up and down. Poly

Could put a pasta machine on a stool beside the bed (or even on the bed ) as long as it has a motor attached so no cranking is necessary

We stack two dog crates between our beds ... which block the light on my side of the room so I don't disturb my husband's sleep if I wake up at 3 am unable to go back to sleep, then sit up and do some work. . .
...He also set up a small desk for my clay next to the bed so in the morning if I wake up early, I can just sit up and work on something I might have been thinking about doing....
...He brought home an old drafting board clamp-on light for my clay desk..It is great. It has a circle fluorescent light with a blue light in the center. You can angle the lamp so it faces downward towards the work area and the light doesn't go far from that. Great solutions for us! Barbe

Sue Salvatore's article on ergomonics & safety (adaptive studio layouts, ergonomics, space organization)

Have you tried using an 'egg crate' foam mattress on top of your standard mattress? I never realized how much the egg crate helps, until I stayed at my parents' house w/o one. The next day, we went to the Health Care Equipment store and bought one. Now, I can sleep better when I visit the folks too. Laurel

floor easel..... custom-molded reclining wheelchair with headrest, coupled with an adjustable lap tray.
. ...from a prone position, maybe a motorized, remote control floor desk?
...A good orthopedist can write a prescription and refer to a good shop.
.... a Rehabilitation Engineering team can come out and assess situations then build equipment to allow best function (a local university or vocational rehab agency can help find Rehabilitation Engineering teams in any area).
.... also contact Job Accommodation Network to find professionals in the area who can meet with the person to assess the particular situation, and hopefully, help get the equipment needed (even for those employed at home).....also a font of info about how to modify a work station.. Laurel

floor and lap stands, ergonomic desks units, book holders on flexible arms, etc.
.....simpler ones (various floor and lap stands ...for needlework, but good ideas?)

interesting chairs, stools, foot rests, cushions, etc. (look in many of the categories in the left hand navigation bar)

(heavily) Assistive Devices

I am a clayer and an occupational therapist. I have used polymer clay as a therapy medium for folks with decreased fine motor coordination and decreased pinch and grasp:
--Working the clay to get it ready to use is good for strengthening the grasp and pinch. Becky
.....Do you think the process of conditioning the clay helps increase the strength of your hands and fingers, Annie? I think your idea of carrying around a lump of clay and kneading while you do chores, is a great hand therapy intervention. ....I think a pinch pot projects would be fun and therapeutic as well. Lori
.......I know the conditioning of clay has helped my hands. There was a time when my fingers just wouldn't cooperate with me and that is so frustrating. ...My hands are much better now, I have days when it's difficult but for the most part they are stronger Pat
--You can make the tools for working clay with larger handles for easier grip, and add a texture for a surer grip. Toothpicks, pins, nails, small metal files, etc. can all be made into tools that allow you to better grip your tool and to cheaply make yourself lots of helpers. If you have done any wood sculpting, you can use some of your wood tools for polymer clay.
--Also look at all those wood scraps that could be sanded to make stands or plaques to put your creations on as well as using your wood stains on the wood or polymer clay.
--You can also use cookie cutters and cookie stamps.
--You didn't say how long since your stroke, but probably at least a year since you say you're on disability. Keep working on your coordination, and your ability to use your hands and arms at every opportunity, because you can continue to get better even after the optimal window of the first six months or year.
.....If I can help you in any way with some problem solving with adaptations, please contact me through Polyzine. ...Beckie

I was an art therapy assistant when I was 15, and that's when I started learning how to adapt any art project so that any individual would be able to complete at least a piece of it.
. . .The great thing about clay is that SO MANY common items can be used/adapted as clay tools, and such beautiful objects can be created using such simple techniques. The key is finding the right project to do w/ physically and/or mentally disabled folks.
--The idea is to examine the functional limitations and how they impact on the project at hand.
--Then, figure out with which steps of the project the individual is likely to have difficulty.
--Once these steps have been identified, the next thing is to figure out if some sort of assistive device would help mitigate the impact of the disability, or if it is possible to modify the step so it can be done with or without an assistive device. . .
...if it can't be done with an assistive device, what type of physical assistance would be required so the step can be done
...if the step must be completed for the individual. If so, we try to ensure it is a minor step, so the project still is 'theirs'. (For example, a person may be able to string beads, but not apply a clasp to the ends or to tie a knot. In this case, the instructor would 'finish' the necklace, but the necklace would still have been 'created' by the individual, as clasping is a minor step.) . . Laurel.

I rigged up an artichoke heart jar w/ one of those useless small brushes that come in blush. I used e-6000 to glue the brush to the lid of the jar. Now, not only do I have a jar that will keep the brush suspended in the Future (or other sealer) , meaning I don't have to clean the brush in between glazing sessions, but I have a brush that is much easier on the hands to use. I can grasp the whole lid, making for less pain in my hands. Laurel

tremors . . . . I saw a book lately which suggested buying weighted silverware to folks with Parkinsons. The extra weight was supposed to moderate the tremoring a bit, I guess. So you might want to experiment with making permanent or temporary weighted handles for some of your tools (like a needle tool, e.g.) just to see if that helps.
The other thing I do to steady myself when I'm taking photos or sometimes when making some tiny motion when claying is to press my arm or body against something (in the case of claying, it's usuallly the table or my other hand/arm ...for photography it's the nearst post or wall, or just breathing all the way *out* and then locking my arms to my torso as best I can).
... Have you tried listening to music when you're working and tremoring? It's a far out idea, I know, but I found that music I liked and could really get into, to be a great ally when I had the most pain and tried to walk for exercise. With my headphones on, the music was really a full sensory experience and I found that it kind of took over some of my brain and overrode many of the signals I was getting..maybe your brain would kind of go with the flow of the rhythm and you could sort of time your movements? Sounds really weird, I know, but I'm willing to get it wherever I can when trying to compensate <g>. Diane B.
....I'm wondering if clamp-on arm rests might help. They're designed to clamp on to a computer desk to provide arm support for carpal tunnel syndrome... Laurel
...essestial tremor ... In spite of it, I have been able to do quite a few delicate artistic projects. The most important thing I have found is not to try too hard. Extreme muscle tension makes it worse. Relax and be patient. It sometimes takes several false starts before I finally make a motion. I have found that the extreme muscle weakness I have now with my fibromyalgia has made it more difficult. The suggestion of steadying your arm on something is also helpful. Hang in there! Marilyn
...I did try bracing my arm on a rolled towel,and it does help steady me a lot. Peggy
...tension does make essential tremors worse. Ironically a little discussed fact is that a popular home remedy for tension works ---alcohol. Do not overdo!!! ...An occasional, single, SMALL glass of wine might be beneficial. docluci

--We always paired folks with different limitations, so that between the 2 (or 3 or 4) of them, they could complete the project.
--For folks ...with limited hand function, we often used velcro or home made splints to 'attach' tools to a wrist, and we made great use of things like mouth sticks.
--I give someone with (Cerebral Palsy)-curled hands a pencil wrapped with rubber bands to use as a simple assistive device.
-- Pre-made canes (can be bought or made)...
--One does not necessarily NEED to be able to roll flat sheets to make clay projects. Beads are actually a great project for groups with physical limitations. You can use Sculpey (or FimoSoft which is now also very soft plus it's stronger after baking), which works great for folks with limited hand strength, and most folks can roll shapes, or string beads rolled by others (although it helps to keep the beads large-holed and use something like 2 mm leather for stringing). Laurel Nevans
....Yesterday I found out about a group of mentally challenged adults that has a creativity meeting every Wednesday. They're always looking for supplies to make things with. So, my formerly unloved beads are going there. Kim K.

doing SHOWS

(see more on ideas for doing shows & making displays, etc, in Shows)

. . . I had started out the season with one of my closest friend's pledge to be there every Saturday to help me pack/unpack the car, set up and break down. Well, that lasted exactly 2 Saturdays.. . . at the beginning, I never thought it was something I was going to be able to do by myself. I am sharing this anecdote for all the other folks on this list who are experiencing the same self-doubt.

.....Now, I do have (doing a show by myself) down to a science. I can even handle setting up/taking down my tent by myself.
. . . Granted, I 'rest up' for two days before, spend Saturday night in the bathtub, and Sunday on the couch watching videos...but I've now made it through a Summer of Saturdays doing it on my own...and better than some of those who have 'partners'. I've learned a lot in getting it down to a science, though:

---Those small stackable storage containers are fantastic, and now I try to go to Target and pick up a few 6-quart ones whenever they run a sale. You can carry a few stacked when they're full of lightweight stuff, but one at a time if they're heavy. . . . At the show, you can use them as 'risers' on your display. . . .Those large, plastic containers that everyone else has can get heavy awfully quickly. I use my big containers only to hold display items such as easels, table covers, and baskets (which aren't as heavy, just large and bulky).
---I once made the mistake of packing my switchplates in a large container, and then couldn't get it from the house to the car! (more than a dozen switchplates at a time gets really heavy. I save my old Omaha steaks cardboard boxes for them, w/ layers of tissue between the layers of plates. About as many plates as one box will hold is about as heavy as I want to get.
---Bricks wrapped in foil make great weights, and one at a time are not too hard to lift. Using weights on lightweight display shelves can be less taxing than trying to use heavy display shelves.

---Whenever possible, pack the car the night before, and do not unpack until the next day.
---Clear a corner of the garage not too far from the car, and store your inventory there in between closely scheduled shows.
......If the car must be packed in a certain way (with boxes, etc.), keep those items that must go in first in a separate corner from those that need to go in later. It makes it easier to unpack the car. (For example, my tables must go in 1st, then my tent, then the box of shelves, then the inventory boxes. Coming home, the inventory comes out 1st. Therefore, I keep my boxes of inventory in one corner, and the tables in another, so I can pack/unpack the car easier.)
---Designate 1 box your 'admin' box, so it's easier to find sales receipts, etc. after the show. My price labels, business cards, receipt books, tax licenses, bug spray, scissors, tape, cards, shower curtain hooks, sharpie, ball point, blue tack and tools all go in my 'admin box'. It's only one thing to grab then, and easy to find.)
---Pack inventory according to how it will be displayed. I put the things that go on the 'left shelves, left side' in similar boxes, 'right shelves left side' in similar boxes, etc. Makes for less hauling stuff around. Laurel

The way I have of getting around the craft show challenges is to have a holiday open house at my home instead. Relatives are often with me to help out.. . . I don't do just polymer clay though (homemade soaps and herbal products, jewelry, candles, etc... also my sister has some hand painted vases and butterflies so it's like a mini craft show). . . . I save on craft show fees, and my main expense is printing up flyers to put around town and mail to past customers. option would be to group with a couple friends to add to the variety if you just do clay (and more important to share the work load). Jan


voice recognition software is very helpful for using a computer with vision disabilities
...these programs (like Via Voice) will create text from your spoken speech, and well as perform other 'commands' like opening programs, etc.
....this type of software can allow the person to use a computer for everyday living things, to get stimulation from browsing the web and learning new things, and especially to have social interactions
....there are many online groups (message boards-forums, mailing lists, etc.) for just about any topic imaginable;.for example:
......any hobby or art-craft (including polymer clay)
..... any interest (politics, health, kids, philosophy, religion, recycling, professions, etc., etc.)

Low Vision especially

links to crafts for those with low-vision (low vision)

see above in Assistive Tools for 'magni-clips' which clip onto glasses giving a 1.00-4.00 magnification for working on small items . . . doesn't cover whole field of vision like reading glasses. . . flip-up-able

If you have trouble reading the temp on the oven thermometer, you could use a large, *glass* magnifying glass; it could be set into a little stand of polymer clay for holding in front of the thermometer--the farther apart they are, the greater the magnification.
...Using just one lens from strong (3.0 or higher) drug store reading glasses also works.
...You might also want to add a polymer clay marker to the thermometer next to the exactly correct baking temp. so that you wouldn't actually have to read the numbers (to avoid using glue which might degrade in the oven, it could probably be attached over the edge of the face).
Diane B

(probe thermometers, for knowing when item is fully cured)
.... I just bought a new oven thermometer. It's digital, with a probe that goes in the oven and the readout part that you keep outside. It's really meant for roasts & turkeys,... the thermometer has an alarm that goes off when it reaches a set temp (ie: 275 degrees), and, voila, no more burning!! It also had a timer on it. I love it. It was expensive ($24), but if it means I won't burn stuff, its well worth it. I wrapped the probe in tin foil and then a layer of clay. When it reaches 275, I know my actual pieces have cooked all the way through. Claire
....probe thermometer, Radio Shack, $19.95 …. has a stand and a magnet so you can see the temperature and time display where ever it is convenient. Patty
...(probes, for preheating) I found out how long it was taking my oven to reach the required temperature (30 minutes) and the degree of fluctuation during the heating cycles. +/- 10 degrees. Patty
... probes are costly, and I find not reliable. The probe needs to sit INSIDE the item while baking. Does not do a good job on the ambient air temp. . Valerie


There are actually a quite a number of things that the blind can do with polymer clay because so much involves touching and manipulating, and can involve texture, etc.... see the many ideas below.

also see more on this topic at Sculpey's page on 'special needs' children (sensory disabilities)

also see more below also in other categories like Seniors, Stroke & other impairments, etc.

links to crafts and activities for the blind
American Foundation for the Blind
...message boards (Arts & Leisure ...Seniors, etc), and other info: ...
...senior site

clay brands to consider

SculpeyIII and FimoSoft are the the softest clay brands and may not be best for the blind to work with because the heat from one's hands while working with the clay can make those even softer and goopier (however, they can be set aside periodically or refrigerated, etc, to cool; for other ways to avoid the problem see Characteristics > Sculpey III).... they also don't tend to hold detail as well (if detail is what you want)
...Sculpey III is the softest polymer clay on the market and therefore needs little or no conditioning... but it's also the weak clay because it will be very brittle after baking --especially in any thin or extending areas--and can break or chip with stress.
...FimoSoft may have several problems... first, its formula may be changing soon in the U.S. to something similar to Sculpey III (this has already happened in the U.K.)....also I find the different colors of FimoSoft to be more inconsistent in firmness than any of the other clay brands (which can be a problem for some techniques)....some of their colors seem to rub off onto one's hands more easily than most of the other brands' colors.
....Premo, which is normally a favorite clay, may not be the best for blind persons either because it's more heat-responsive than the other brands; therefore it's best not to 'overwork' it which could be a problem if touching the clay more than a sighted person
... FimoClassic ... the only real disadvantage to it is that it's the stiffest and most difficult to condition clay brand (although that's improved some since the Eberhard Faber people found themselves losing market to softer clays). FimoClassic has a wonderful 'feel,' and holds crisp detail ...caners love it.
...As for Kato Polyclay, it's still very good and its color trueness holds in baking better than any other brands, but you should also know that it leaves a slightly shiny finish (as opposed to matte), and it comes only in 8 'spectral' colors (colors of the rainbow) plus metallics and translucent, so you'd perhaps be mixing colors more than with other brands --or maybe that would be an advantage?... it also has a slight vinyl odor (strongest out of the package, and that might be a problem or an advantage). read much more about all the characteristics of all clay brands and types, see Characteristics (translucent clays, mica clays, and liquid clays have their own separate pages though)

working with colors

There should be lots of ways to keep clay colors (or canes, cane components, etc.) sorted for identification just by feel
...'markers' for various colors could be stuck into raw clay fairly easily, and that could be one way to go... these could be the same marker for each color for all sorting needs, or different for various occasions careful to make markers only from materials which are non-reactive with raw clay and non-porous if they will be in direct contact with clay for longer than a few minutes .....e.g.,.metal, glass, ceramic, even some plastics (see Covering > Plastics and Storage for more on which plastics are non-reactive)
...........some porous materials may be okay if they're first sealed with non-reactive finishes or paints, or if they're physically separated from the areas which will be in contact with raw clay
...whole blocks or blobs of clay could have more or less permanent 'markers,' but short-term sorting could use something quicker
...for permanent markers in particular, one could perhaps use a metal bottle cap with a color indicator glued onto its top surface ...that way anything could be used for the actual identification (e.g., baked clay with impressed dots or patterns, baked clay shapes, braille tape?, etc.)
...ideas for color identification could also come from indicators like: a certain number or pattern of long or applique sewing pins, metal brads or charms, buttons, wire shapes . . .
....a piece of wire could be bent into various shapes at the projecting end to indicate a color, or the wire could have a marker of some kind attached to it
........the long sewing pins with flat plastic 'flowers' at the end could have a marker glued to them too
....impressed textures could discriminate between colors too, either for attached markers or impressed onto the clay itself ... for example the difference between the impression of sandpaper vs. a row of lines vs. a thickly-nubbled texture, etc., should feel obvvious (see Textures page for texture sheets & more)... or textures made by stamps or stamping 'tools' could be used to (screwdriver tip, nailhead, needle tool, or about anything).
.....clay ropes or dots or other onlays can be used as identifying bits which would protrude rather than be impressed... those could be baked too
.....any of these things could correspond to braille symbols, or be custom

...for putting markers in canes, it might be best to use something very thin (like the thinnest sewing pins) so as not to disturb the pattern inside, or use something which doesn't penetrate the cane at all like a plastic baggie rolled around it with the color or type indicator inside the plastic

Colors could also be sorted by container into various boxes, plates or trays, tube troughs, etc., as long as they non-reactive with raw clay
....containers could be recognizable by their shape or position, or they could have small markers attached to them temporarily or permanently.
....location ...components or colors could be sorted by their position or orientation on the work surface, etc.

.....there are lots of 'recipes' for mixing clay colors, etc., on the Color page
.....there is also another page which covers making gradient sheets of clay (graduating smoothly from one color to the next), the most famous of which is the 'Skinnner Blend.' These blends give a lot more depth and interest to anything they're used for, even when using only a few simple colors
.......these sheets can then be turned into gradient 'plugs' (accordion-folded loafs) and bullseye canes for use in even more situations.

projects & technique ideas

Here are some ideas and techniques that might be easiest and most interesting for the blind.
(...for much more on each one, see it's corresponding page here at GlassAttic):

...sculpting of all kinds sister once had to sculpt her own head in a high school art class while blindfolded by feeling her face and then touching the clay, over and over ... it was amazing how good her head looked!.... although she sculpted her (earth clay) head in one color and it was colored with a glaze while in the kiln, I believe it was also 'antiqued' as well to bring out the detail --which could be a good idea with polymer clay sculpts of one color as well the way, 'sculpting' with polymer clay can be simple or complex...large or small...representational or abstract, etc.
...see info on sculpting dog and cat heads (including feeling their head structures) in Sculpting-gen > Other Items > 'Animals'
(...see also Sculpting--Tools & Bodies, Heads & Masks, Miniatures, Armatures)

...bas relief 'paintings' might be a really usable technique
.... one way to do these is to create a scene or image, etc., on a flat board or other surface, with shaped and/or textured bits of clay
.... large or small areas can be heated briefly with low-temp heat gun (like an embossing gun) to 'set' them so they can't be damaged when working on other parts (see Tools > Heat Guns)
....these could be designs created by the clayer, or designs taken from graphics, coloring books, photos, etc.
(...see loads of details on these in Paints > 'Polymer Pastes & other 'paintings'' ...also in Sculpture > Bas Relief ... also in Kids > Sculpting > Relief Sculpting)

...flat or fairly flat clay shapes can also be puzzle-pieced together in sheets, with the result being abstract or not ....a bit like 'pieced' quilts
.....the component clay pieces for these could be textured or smooth...or have other surface treatments like crackled leaf or metallic powders....and/or be combined with balls, ropes and other shapes of clay
....pieces could also be entirely different from each other, or similar in color or texture to tie them together in certain areas
(....see Sheets of Pattern > Crazy Patch)

...other interesting sheets of clay can be made in various ways (even a simple marbling of colors gives added interest)
.....any sheets created can be used for cutouts as below, for covering things, or for making 'draped' bowls (see Vessels page), and in many more ways

...using cutters (cookie, canape, etc., or make your own cutters) to cut shapes from sheets of clay
......then embellish if wanted (the results could be ornaments, or used for jewelry or plaques, or be glued to greeting cards, or used for onlay or just about anything)

...stamping & texturing ....(see below in 'Suggestions for Polymer Activities' to read more about these 2 techniques)
.....there are many actual 'stamps' you can buy (or make yourself, or have made...see Stamping), as well as many items from around the house which be used to make excellent stamped designs
....(after texturing) one of two steps can be added to bring out the detail, add complexity or richness, etc., both of which give a lot of bang for the buck and aren't hard to do:
1. ....use a bit of mica powder (like Pearl Ex) to 'highlight' just the upper surfaces of the texture ...(tamp a little powder on your middle finger, tap off the excess, then rub lightly in circles around the top part of the impressed surface --once you get the feel for doing it, rub the powder into the surface clay fairly well and you won't need to seal it
2 ...or 'antique' just the lower areas of your textured surface... this can be done with various media after baking (paints, metallic or other powders, even metallic leafing, etc).... as well as a few ways involving steps both before and after baking of the most frequent ways to antique is to rub a dark brown acrylic tube paint (often Burnt Umber) all over the textured and baked piece, working it down into all the crevices (with a toothbrush if necessary)...let it set up for a minute or two... then wipe the paint from the surface with a flat (possibly damp) paper towel leaving color only in the depressions... can be buffed later, or sanded and buffed
3. impressed textures can also be completely covered with powders, paints, leaf, etc.
....for Christmas for example, you could cut these treated sheets into squares or any shape, poke a hole near the top with a coffee or other straw, bake, and make a zillion ornaments for a big or small tree ... or use them as gift bookmarks, on cards, etc.

....molds ....(see below in 'Suggestions for Polymer Activities' to read about making and using molds)
...molds can be made from polymer clay or two-part silicone putties quite easily... then after baking, used to shape more polymer clay
.......many purchased molds with work with clay also
...these molds could extend the range of objects that the blind person could represent (just like we sighted clayers use them)
...raw molded shapes can also serve as a starting point for further manipulation or reshaping
(molded items can also be antiqued, highlighted or completely covered just as above with textured items)
...there are even braille letter molds that can be purchased; but if they're too large or not quite right for what is desired, the braille letter or word molds could easily be made at home with polymer clay or with other mold making materials (....e.g., press a blunt-tip or flat-tip rod like a knitting needle, pencil eraser, baked clay shape you make, or other shape into a sheet of clay in the proper order for the letters or words, perhaps using guidelines and/or a stencil created with a grid of punched out dots for positioning... bake the mold... then use it to press onto other clay sheets or shapes.... or in reverse, make a stamp?)

...lettering can be created for worry stones or name plaques, etc., by stamping or by onlaying ropes of clay, or using braille letter molds (or making your own--see molds just above, etc.)
(see more at Letters,Inks > Lettering)

...beads & bead shapes of all kinds!
(re shapes, there are so many which can be created with human hands only, and it's a fascinating process to experiment with making as many as possible...looking at ancient jewelry, etc., illustrates the breadth of possibilities)

...onlays of all kinds, and even Balinese Filigree (a spiraling of thin clay ropes into patterns)
...... onlays can be cut with small cutters or freehand, and applied to rounded surfaces like beads or flat surfaces

...some fauxs could be fun to make too
... for example, faux turquoise is often made with tiny chunks of clay which are pressed together and later antiqued with brown paint
....faux metal is often a matter of using metallic powders and paints... leather can also be simulated
....some rock or gemstones might be fun too because they often are created by recipe or texturing, etc jade, amber, coral, etc.... lava, granite, sandstone, etc.
....these faux materials can also be used for 'sculpting' objects as well

...mosaics (geometric, pictorial or abstract)
......can be created with clay tiles made from thin sheets of baked clay which are laid into a sheet of raw clay, or the tiles can simply be stuck onto any surface with suitable glue (box, table, plate, etc.)
tiles can be cut or scored in a clay sheet before baking (& snapped apart afterward), or cut with scissors or punches while still warm
......the colors of the clay tiles could be identified by texturing the back side of each color differently before baking, or in some other way
......some kind of temporary or permanent cording, ridges, etc., could be placed on the surface to guide the placement of tiles in shapes or areas
......clay mosaics can be grouted or not... ordinary grouts can be used, or grouts can be made from diluted clay, etc.
(...see Mosaics & Inlay for much more)

...covering all kinds of items with slices, bits or sheets of clay
.....for example, votive candle holders, pencil cups, bowls, boxes, bottles, pens, etc.

...wire ...can be used with polymer clay in various ways (for connectors or decorative elements, coils, etc.) and many shapes can be created by feel alone
(see Wire ....and Jewelry > 'Connectors' especially)

...many vessels (boxes, bowls, containers)
......e.g., bowls made on removable armatures (like the back of a glass custard dish), then popped off after baking
......draped bowls can be made by draping a sheet of clay over a form of some kind (e.g., an upturned custard dish)...edges can be fluted, etc.
(see Vessels and maybe Vessels-Rock)

Think about things you'd like to make for yourself to make your life easier as well...
....or perhaps make games, etc., in a style which allow s you to play with your kids/grandkids or others...or modify an old game in some way

There are various techniques used with polymer clay that involve sanding:
...sanding off
...... the upper surface of a baked piece can be sanded to remove a bit of clay, paint or leafing, etc. that has previously been applied to the entire surface... this yields the same result as 'antiquing' above in that it leaves the material only in the crevices
.....the upper surface may also be sanded off to reveal clay colors or patterns lying inside the clay (see Clay Guns > Braid...or maybe Mokume Gane > Sanded.....or Mica > Ghost Image)...

.....clear liquid sealers like Future (floor polish) or Rustoleum's Varathane (aka 'Flecto' to clayers) --must be the water-washup one---can be applied with the hands as well as with brushes (may even avoid any bubble problems that way....then wash hands with soap and water
....clear solid waxes can be rubbed on applied as well
....sanding and buffing... polymer clay can be sanded with wet-dry sandpaper (water keeps any dust down), usually 400 grit then 600 grit to smooth it in preparation for buffing
....buffing would be best done, I think, with a small 'Dremel' a fluffy wheel or two ....should be safe even for the blind as long as hair is tied back and any other loose things are out of the way (btw, touching the rotating buffing wheel isn't painful)
... or the sanded surface can be rubbed briskly on cloth with a texture (jeans, beadspread, etc.) to bring out a sheen
(see Finishes... Sanding-Tumbling... Buffing)

A low-temp heat gun (like an embossing gun) can be used if needed to 'set' certain areas so they can't be damaged when working on other parts (Tools > Heat Guns)

For more activities and suggestions which may also work for the blind....see below in 'some Suggestions for Polymer Activities,' and all over the rest of this page as well.

The Kids page here also functions in some ways as a beginner's page because I tried to list some of the simpler things can could be done with many of the polymer techniques as well as kid theme things.

If you have a dog, be aware they some of them love to eat raw clay, resulting in technicolor poop. It doesn't seem to hurt them at all, but as with humans it's best not to load up the body with plasticizer. So be sure to keep it covered or otherwise protected if your dog isn't well trained, or happens to like the stuff.

I find that my pieces which are most appreciated by partially-sighted friends and family are, not surprisingly, the most tactile ones. I tend to embellish the clay with things like feathers (owl masks) or threads or I simply impress textures into the clay before baking it. excellent source of very varied and reasonably priced textures are the Clearsnap 'Colorbox' range of 'rubber mats.' They're quite small (about 3x10 ins) but each mat contains about 15 different designs (the mats are meant to be used with heatable stamping wands, but we clayers are well known for co-opting all kinds of non-clay apparatus!) Alan V. (see more in Stamping)

KIDS with disabilities & special needs

please NOTE: ....there's more on kids with special needs below under 'Emotional issues' .....and also below under 'Suggestions for Polymer Activities'
...also more at Sculpey's page (regarding clay and cognitive, communicative, physical, emotional, etc, difficulties)
...also many of the regular items for kids on the Kids page could be useful

"Clay as Art Therapy," by Garie Sim (then click on link there for complete text)

cool videos on "creature discomforts" ...plasticine used (but could use polymer clay) to make "disabled" figures in their wheelchairs, etc., and otherwise encountering difficult situations (for conscious-raising in the general public, or could help emotionally to just express frustration)... by creators of Wallace and Grommit .....

a mother talks about how learning to use polymer clay at Garie Sim's school helped her ADHD child (cognitive, learning difficulties) tremendously (from age 8), and see some of Yijun's clay work

a mother talks about her autistic son and how much his speech and development grew when he discovered polymer clay (at the AWWA Special School Play Clay school) (Kervyn's creations)

(AWWA Special School is an extension of Garie Sim's regular polymer clay school for kids in Singapore)
...'with the Play Clay Programme we hope to create more happy and confident kids, despite their physical and mental problems
...clay art can help reinforce one's sense of identity, idividuality, and self esteem well as being a powerful vehicle for expressing one's inner life and bringing out unconscious material (can manifest aspects of emotional life which may have been 'split off' or repressed')
....Play Clay can also be a useful and playful way to develop social skills, through its inherent co-operative interaction
....(working and playing with clay can also) develop and cultivate in the child's mind a good sense of composition, better visualization of color, a firm basic sense of proportion and allow them to be more focused in what she or he is doing ... and the creative thought process will improves a child's skill of visual observation.'
.....the manipulation of the materials themselves affects physical well-being as well, and is an excellent way to develop small motor skills

especially for my special ed., elem. students, (as an incentive device) I make movable magnet figures on a painted metal whiteboard ... it works like a motivation or progress chart)
...first they make a little clay skater figure (I love the different hairstyles,hats,scarves the kids put on them)... then put a magnet on back
...then they get to move their figure around a ('Skateboard Park' track) --one segment every day that their assignment is done, or that they come to class on time, etc. (also ....when they get to segment #14, they get to choose a prize out of the prize box)
...I painted the Skateboard Park background with straight tempera on a 3x4' metal whiteboard
......actually I painted on the BACK of the white board, since the magnets stick better on the back side (back is metal with a matte finish).
.......oh and thanks for the reminder about the liquid soap helping paint stick on waxed milk cartons, etc. -- I'd forgotten about that one! Will use it for sure when I do any repainting. .. last year I had no problem with chipping, but this year there has been a little. The magnets do not often come in contact with the painted areas (?).....each year I paint a new picture, after washing off the old one. LynnDel (click on 'Skateboard Park'from 2nd page) (gone?) (see more on magnets in Other Materials > Magnets)

(see also Rod Wicks' work with older children, below in Emotional Difficulties)

fine motor skills practice, organizational thinking, cause-effect, etc.
..see Kids > Toys for many possibilities: games, lots of motion toys ... including my magnet bug toy (clay or other 'bug' with a magnet underneath is moved down a path drawn on cardstock by kid, by moving another magnet around underneath)

for a spelling, etc. game for kids Mary Lyons' lesson on creating clay cubes with a pasta alphabet letter impressed into each side,1801,HGTV_3116_1380656,00.html
...also see Letters-Inks for many other ways to create letters with clay, or to incorporate lettering with polymer clay... also at Sculpey's page (above)

(see more on each of these ideas below, under Emotional) help kids identify or express facial expressions and emotions of their own (or of others), make interchangeable Mr. Potato Head type pieces from polymer (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hat, collar, or any other accessory... could be happy/sad/angry).. . .
making figures (or accessories or backgrounds) from polymer clay to use in various ways, or just as is?
sand trays and tabletop Zen gardens (small trays) use many items in shallow trays filled with sand to make scenes

'houses' (created by children from around the world with disabilities) to express their hopes and dreams --non-polymer, but inspirational) (keep clicking NEXT)

I was asked to suggest ways that kids of impaired ability could be made interested in the polymer clay
... I found that lots of colours were the key
.....Pearlex powders are a boon too, but can be messy, so may I suggest putting it into smaller, weighted pots (or even stuck-down containers) and soft paintbrushes (or finger) for application. Alan V.

links for physical and learning disabilities
suggestions for picking out toys
...also Toys 'R' Us Toy Guide For Differently Abled Kids (created through its partnerships with the National Lekotek Center and the National Parent Network on Disabilities, Toys 'R' Us developed and distributed this digest-sized catalog -- the ideal resource for parents, family members and friends who just don't know what to get for a child with special features more than 60 popular toys, and is available now at Toys 'R' Us stores).

Start with the Arts is an instructional program for 4-6 year-olds that uses the arts to assist young children, including those with disabilities, in exploring themes commonly taught in early childhood classrooms.
....The program promotes the development of basic literacy skills and offers engaging arts activities teachers can apply in all curricular areas. Resources are included for parents to continue their children's learning at home.. .


mobility scooter ...dressed up as Henry the Hungarian Horntail "dragon-mobile" (from Harry Potter), by sophieangele
I went along to a midnight launch party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. JKR however most inconsiderately forgot to include any cripples as characters, so as usual, I knew any costume I wore would be spoiled by the big ugly mobility scooter I need to use. My solution: dress up the scooter!
.......The wings and tail are my own pattern, sewn from fake leather. The wings use metal tubing for the veins, in hand-sewn channels. I fixed them to the arms of my scooter using cable ties, having sewn loops of seam binding onto the back
........I built up the head in two separate parts, on two balloons, using paper mache. Once I had 2 solid shapes, I cut down the middle of the 'nose' piece to make 2 jaws, and attched to the head balloon using masking tape. I then covered the lot in another few layers of paper mache. Then, I built up the ridges using scrunched-up newspaper, card, and masking tape. ...The smaller horns are painted polymer clay, the larger horns are paper mache on a carbboard base (rolled to make a cone). ...Now add another few layers of paper mache over the whole thing, to make a smooth, strong surface..... gesso over the whole lot... Then I used acrylic paint, built up in several layers and then put in details. ...Finally painted and varnished with (marine) yacht varnish to make it waterproof in case it rained ...and the eyes are painted polymer clay, fixed on with hot glue.
...... made me very happy... I’m always the dorky one in the big blue machine who gets stuck in doorways and needs lifted over steps and ends up making a fuss by knocking things over or something, it’s not much fun when you are ‘special’. it was nice to be the centre of attention for a different reason for once.
......This took such a very long time . . . I think I might be dressing up as a dragon every Halloween from now on though!
.....I also I once dressed Dervorguilla (my scooter’s name) up as Rudolph for a Christmas bop (Oxford-speak for a fancy-dress disco for students), but it was much less hard-core than this one! I mostly used an assortment of cardboard boxes
.....In some ways I have the advantage in the steering column for attaching a head to the front, but I’ve always thought you coul
d have some wicked fun with a regular wheelchair – someone on craftster was describing how they made a wheelchair into a chariot. I think you could have a lot of fun persuading friends to dress up as horses to ‘pull’ you along in a carriage or something. sophieangele

cool videos on "creature discomforts" ...plasticine used (but could use polymer clay) to make "disabled" figures in their wheelchairs, etc., and otherwise encountering difficult situations (for conscious-raising in the general public, or could help emotionally to just express frustration)... by creators of Wallace and Grommit .....


SENIORS & Assisted Living ...+ STROKE, etc.
(much of the info on the rest of this page also applies to seniors, etc.)

I think learning new things keeps the brain active and keeps us from going sour (as we get older) ... besides, this is so much fun. Jeanne
...We have some bright 80 year olds on this online polymer groups and in our guilds. ....This 'addiction' certainly keeps us all young. Trina
...we have a bright 91 year old in our guild too. Genevieve
........Yep! And she's an inspiration to us all. Diane Villano
...Garie's photos of a senior making items with polymer clay (mostly small whimsical figures and bas relief "pictures")

You never know what the hand/eye/brain coordination of working with clay can do either, for those who are just getting older and weaker, or actually for stroke victims etc. who've lost some function

It's been recently discovered that stroke patients can recover much more function and much quicker if they are forced to use the body part that was damaged a lot... even going so far as to tie one arm up or disable it somehow so the person must use that part a lot
.... I had a good friend who was an excellent basketmaker, then she had a severe stroke, but by continuing to try to keep weaving after she got home slowly things came back for her. She is convinced that her basketweaving was the coordination therapy that helped her recover. Karen in Florida
Keep working on your coordination, and your ability to use your hands and arms at every opportunity, because you can continue to get better even after the optimal window of the first 6-12 months.

one-handed and/or stroke especially
...crafts of all kinds for one hand or for stroke, etc.
......more links to activities (includes'Sculpey')
visual impairment:

sensory stimulation ideas (for Alzheimers or others)...items for sale, but can get lots of ideas
main page:
specifically "arts & crafts"

specifically other things to feel and manipulate, or activities to do (2 pgs)
...(also games/activities for matching/sorting and memory, etc. + "low functioning" and for caregivers

If one has a pasta machine with a motor on it, that makes lots of techniques and items even easier to do with polymer clay too

Polymer clay is as we all know a very versatile artistic medium, but it is also very therapeutic, especially for people who have lost their fine motor skills or have arthritis. Deborah Edery

Almost all of our clients have limitations at the an adult day care center where I work as an Art Therapist.
....but they enjoy working with clay
.......they feel they're creating with their own hands.... and just touching and moulding the clay is also perfect as anti-stress. Mosaic/FL
....Our projects give immediate gratification and boosts self esteem. My students are a few thousand years old collectively but still learning....... :)
...(see more on stress below in 'Emotional Issues')

We have a weekly poly clay group at the wonderful assisted living community where I am the activity director
...actually the interest and energy in the group is astounding! (the average age is 87 with some residents in their late nineties)

I have been working in this media for almost 20 years and have introduced it in nursing homes and schools as well.
.....The results are almost always the same (they love it). The only problem I have now is that my classes have grown so big that I can barely keep up.
...The real reward is sharing the pride the residents have in their work and how excited they get when we 'invent' a new project.
...The residents love to look at my clay books . . .
...If there are any (nearby) polymer clay artisans or guild members who would like to make a guest appearance, the residents would be thrilled.

My group also loves to assemble pins with cane slices and little pearls and rhinestones and such
.......pre-slice a bunch of canes and put the slices on wax paper and then they can do a little applique type thing on pens, votives, just about anything. Lynne

They also really liked making Xmas ornaments. Lynne group has also made pins, pens and salt & pepper shakers.
...they like to cover pens

They love to wear their pins ....and also give their work as gifts (some have shipped their creations all over the country and abroad).

After 9-11, our group donated over $400.00 to the fire fighters from the cane flag pins they made and sold.

I would suggest having helpers with you, since you will probably attract a big group for the activity.... you'll need someone to go around the room and do one-on-one while you continue to teach the class.
....also, you'll usually need to keep any BLADES out of their hands (depending on the kinds of seniors you have)... it will become apparent to you very quickly who can handle them and who can't, but at first just keep them away. Lynne

Yesterday I found out about a group of mentally challenged adults that has a creativity meeting every Wednesday
...they're always looking for supplies to make things with so my formerly unloved beads are going to them. Kim K.

see more ideas for specific projects on the Kids page . . .many would apply to seniors as well.
...see more on this topic at Sculpey's page on 'special needs' children :

for more on making a tabletop themed Christmas tree for the elderly living alone or in a elderly housing ... as a gift (or they could make themselves),
see Christmas > Other Ideas

The VSA arts Legacy Program offers a combination of life review and arts activities to older adults at senior citizen centers, nursing homes, long-term care facilities or other appropriate sites. Involvement in the program helps older adults re-connect with significant times and feelings in their own lives, re-discover a sense of accomplishment and purpose, and build meaningful relationships with other program participants. (contact for more info)

VSA art programs for veterans

also using clay for
......personal exploration, stress, issues, trauma, conflicts, grieving, etc.

Polymer clay can be used in many ways by children and adults (whether they're stressed or not)
....for personal exploration.... to help work through and understand issues, problems, grief, trauma, conflicts, etc.
... reduce stress ...indicate one's mood ...
... to help express emotions

There is something therapeutic about playing with clay relieves stress, gets out aggression, and it feels good to work with .
....most of us are also starved for that 'touching' need, and clay may remind us of that feeling.
I use clay with children in therapy because of abuse... . they can express through clay what they cannot verbalize. Kay Frank

After Flo's cancer surgery, she needed Home Health care afterward...
...'I don't know how I could have coped with my 'House Arrest' without lots of polymer clay
......I created a mask to show my feelings ... right side fear, etc ...left side, hope after surgery and during chemo
......I also made health care figures... heart necklaces for my visiting nurses ... pens ...covered boxes
......cigar box purses with photo transfers of my grandchildren, etc.

To help kids identify or express facial expressions and emotions of their own (or of others)
... make interchangeable Mr. Potato Head type pieces from polymer (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hat, collar, or any other accessory... could be happy/sad/angry)...
......stick each into a baked head you've made with a hole for each of the units
......or stick them into mini-pumpkins, or any other hard squashes, or any suitable vegetable/fruit
...make each unit over a small-nail head, tack, or brad (whatever was used for the features)
....could also take a picture of each completed face to keep for use when relevant things come up later, or make into a book

What about making figures (or accessories or backgrounds) from polymer clay to use in various ways, or just as is?
...just the act of creating these things could be therapeutic (gives control, 'concretizes' abstract uncomfortable ideas or things/people, etc.)
...they could also be used in play 'therapy' in sand, or anywhere ...or
could be freestanding ... or magnetized and used like Colorforms
...the items could be made by kids, or be made by adults for kids or for themselves
........could create figures which relfect a particular circumstance of the child or adult

Rod Wicks' has taught clay in youth detention centers (and prisons), worked with street kids, and in residential care of the psychologically disabled (see photos of one boy's exclamation, his first show of emotion in weeks when visiting Rod's work)
... he currently works at a local primary school with kids having behavioral or social difficulties
... 'We build huge sandcastles and pretend it is a 'Team Building Exercise'...
.... or we construct 'Lizard City'-- a cement/papier mache mix complex of towers and turrets in which we will one day house lizards .....(contemporary guru's in education for boys will tell you that such hands-on activities provide the perfect opportunity for listening to and counselling young males'...)
... (some of Rod's on each!)

(also see Garie's work with kids who have disabilities and special needs, above in Kids with disabilities & special needs
...also things that parents have said about the benefits of their kids' working with clay)

sand tray therapy (large trays) and tabletop Zen gardens (small trays) both use many items in shallow trays filled with sand to make scenes, to explore or play out feelings, or to observe the feelings of a child or emotionally stressed person, etc.
.... examples of trays in use
(outdoors) (adults, indoors)
(see much more on both mini Zen gardens and sand tray therapy, in Misc > Zen gardens ... also sand mandalas and mazes )

I have been working on a large polymer clay mandala for myself
.....making a madala has a meditative sense to it, and I work on mine when I find I am in need of some 'me' time or I am working out an issue within. . . . such expressive journey. ...I have kicked the idea around of how I could implement this as an art project for the abuse shelter for women and children.. Dawniedee
...using personal 'symbols' or things from one's life as the elements of a mandala
....Jan R's simpler mandalas (made with cane slices on a marbled/etc. background, created on a tile)

(for more clay mandalas, and more info on mandalas, see Onlay > Uses > mandalas)

labyrinth... a continuous path of dense walkways (not a maze, no dead ends)... path is always from outside to center
......(could 'walk' around the labyrinth in tabletop Zen garden with rake in the sand?) see Misc > Mini Zen Gardens
......finger labyrinth.... --could even lay down a string or yarn to follow
.........Diane V. made a clay finger labryinth

word stones.... 'touch stones' . . .
...Years ago I bought a piece of glass that had been etched with *words*... the kind that speak to you on many levels. I started a word list of my own way back then... and thought they'd work up real well in polymer, but never did it till now. . .
...They make a good *focus* point also to bring your mind away from your particular trouble & back to something that's positive or important in your life. Joanie are some made with inclusions
(see more on these in Letters-Inks >Stamps,Molds)

Mixed Media Mosaics, book by Laurie Mika (2007)
...includes ideas how to create meaningful or themed mosaics, personalizing with words, personal items, honoring memories, etc.
using traditional mosaic tiles and/or tiles created with polymer clay (textured/stamped, painted, glazed, embedded with beads/buttons/found objects, coloring clay with mica powders/leaf, etc., making molds...various alternatives for grouting)... (to make boxes, tables, jewelry, etc.)

"Engaging in creative projects, such as drawing, painting, (photography, collage, bookmaking, movie making, or just anything one 'makes up oneself), can help people to communicate emotions that are difficult to verbalize. 'When you talk about trauma, you're only accessing those verbal memories,' says Cathy Malchiodi, a licensed art therapist and a director with the American Art Therapy Association. 'But when you start to do something like art, you (engage) the part of the brain that's been traumatized.
...(kids or adults) Different things emerge in a child's story when they're doing art. Art is a safety valve in this way.'
...For many, art therapy may be a way for people to reflect. Malchiodi suggests parents encourage their kids to express themselves in any way they want... Ask the child to show you what a 'worry' or 'safe place' looks like.
...Another productive way to commemorate the past year is making a memory box filled with photographs or mementos of what happened.
...Malchiodi says there are warning signs of trauma parents can look for in their children's artwork. If a child repeats an image or a story over and over; if they create pictures of the disaster but no rescue images; or if they don't feel better after drawing or creating something (most kids are excited to share their artwork), it might be worth consulting a mental health professional. 'After 9/11, for example, children who were more resilient showed the towers being hit in their artwork, but they also showed the fire trucks and police coming. They had this hope that it was really bad but things can get better. But the child in trouble doesn't think things are going to get any better. . . '" Jessica Heasley, Psychology Today

Terry Lee C's cancer art (all polymer) ...working through

A few days ago, I was in bed, very depressed, in lots of discomfort, confused & unable to focus
... so I sat watching HGTV and knitting... as I did that, I forgot (sort-of) the discomfort some, and I also figured out how to solve a problem we've been having with our house, so I jotted down some notes about it (always keep a notebook near you for ideas!
.....just listening had made my brain churn... and churning is what happens when we ARE creative..

Also, doing something repetitive but 'mindless' (like knitting, driving, etc.) frees up part of the brain, allowing it to free associate, which often leads to realizations (about anything) and also can lead to new and creative ideas

Also, by doing something fun (pain-relief occurs when the brain is focused one someting interesting), I can then think about what I want to tackle for the real work, and how best to tackle it (stuff like laundry, putting up shelves, etc)
....and then at some point I was able to get up and do it.. where did that energy come from???? .....the next few hours I just sat & looked thru magazines, but I felt good that the clay work helped me think of how to tackle the WORK... a good trade off.

...just sitting (in bed) & thumbing thru magazines for color combinations ... was a good relaxing thing when I am really low on energy.Patsy

> How do you reconcile using your energy allotment for claying and not on other activities of life that always are on our To Do lists? <
...Ah, that's the question! I wind up pondering that question in just about everything I do . . . My answer, though quite imperfectly applied, is that activities that take me 'out of myself' provide mental refreshment for tackling the rest of life, even though they do sap some of my very limited energy, hand use, etc. I do what I can of the to do list and the rest has to wait-some of it indefinitely. Kim S.

(see also Creativity, Inspiration for more on this topic . . .for example, this one:
. . . I will explain about waste/scrap/junk/mudpile clay and its abiility to be transformed into something beautiful and useful, and compare that to the process of healing for someone who feels like they are trash. . . . Part of my joy in claying is that the results and gratification are instant, pleasant, and somewhat controllable; the world I see daily isn't. Jeannine )

other VSA & affiliated art programs:
'Putting Creativity to Work; Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities', offers a wide range of useful information for visual, literary and performing artists features detailed information on over 100 job titles and mini-biographies of people with disabilities holding these jobs. Career development, vocational rehabilitation, and special education professionals will also find this to be an indispensable resource.
Art, Disability & Expression (plus more)

As for giving all your stuff away because you're not now using it, I say absolutely NOT! (unless you really want to, of course). Part of having physical problems is feeling less 'your real self,' as your previous activities and world get smaller and smaller. It's vitally important IMO to keep things around you that say 'this is me... what I am, what I'm interested in.' (Of course, that doesn't mean you can clean out the clutter occasionally... we all need to do that.)
Depression is a serious battle when one has physical problems, and getting rid of the things that define(d) you only makes it worse, I think. In fact, I would suggest surrounding yourself with some of those things if you can so you can at least have them on the outside for yourself . . . and for others to associate with you. They'll still be going on on the inside of your head... musing and/or planning about something is a worthwhile activity unto itself (so you're not 'doing' it ...lots of people get a great deal from watching a favorite sports team, reading a book about quilting, etc., that's not really doing it either).
When I had to eat zero grams of fat per day (!!!) for awhile, I loved watching the food channel because it kept me sort of 'in the whole game' .. . I could still be involved with food and people who like to think and talk about it.. . . . Also, there's a very old motorcycle that the DH and I have been carting around for about 25 years now which I've always tried to find a place for. He hasn't used it in that time (I don't like them and my father's death was probably related to one), but he still HAS it and can still feel that association with it ...not to mention having that reminder that I respect his feelings enough not to try to persuade him to get rid of it. If that identification of himself as someone who rode a bike to be environmental friendly or who loved the nature he was immersed in, or who had a certain kind of freedom, was important to him . . .
It's easy not to think of things that way though, until they're pointed out. Maybe you could talk to your DH about it in that vein??
P.S. None of this means that you can't *also* move on. With many syndromes these days, we don't really know what we'll be like day to day, much less for the rest of our lives. And as long as we occasionally assess that as honestly as possible, and try to find new things that also feed our spirit, I don't see any problem with retaining other older but important parts of our lives/selves in some kind of way. Of course, some people are packrats and are always tossing things out... I'm not talking to them! LOL...Diane B.

I never thought about it this way. But you sure hit the nail on the head. I mean it really, really made sense. Those crafts supplies are a part of my identify and the 'me'. I am definitely not going to get rid of them. But I do have some hope now and a better understanding of the situation and will no longer feel guilty about keeping my stuff.. . . I just found out that the girl my son is about to marry is into crafts. She was into all different kinds and wants to get together with me . . She told me 'Do not get rid of your craft supplies. I will help you get them organized. And keep your magazines even if you put them in storage . . . It's amazing how people that craft have so much in common and feel like we've known them for years. Angie

No, I can't sew like I used to but to sell my fabric stash, to me, feels like giving up to even think about it. So long as it's there, I can still have hope I'll be able to find a way to use it for something worthwhile. . . . My clay stash sat on a shelf for years, until a chance glance at a post on a knitting list led me first to polyclay buttons, then to an enormous array of polyclay sites, groups, including this one. Now there are machines I can save up for, that will make claying possible again. Had I sold or given away my stash of clay and the tools, etc. I'd gathered so far, chances are I'd not have been able to afford to get back into it. Ke

death, loss & grieving (in particular)

I've found, like you, that making or doing something related to a loss (whether it's a person, pet, or even a thing) can help me feel a sense of closeness to it, can help to sort out and understand my feelings and my ideas about the person/etc.& my history with them, as well as helping give a feeling of closure
…....doing it also puts out there in some concrete way that this meant something to me, and it 'honors' those exact memories too. Diane B.
..Petra found solace and connection to her recently deceased mother when feeling emotionally down by creating flower canes, making them into beads because her mother had so loved gardens
...When I lost (my dog) Fred in 2001, I made a memorial picture frame, as well as a mourning pin (a transfer). Doing that
really helped me with the mourning process. fact, I now do mourning pins whenever a friend or family member passes on, and yes, a pet is a family member.)...the Victorians used to make mourning jewelry, and it is a tradition I like. ....Creativity can really help one with grief. Laurel

I totally understand the clay helping in your recovery. ...I lost my brother and his family in a car accident 4 yrs ago.
... I put all of my grief into pieces I made for the drs and nurses who helped him while he was still with us .... I also made pieces for those who helped at the accident scene
.... the therapy I got from working with the clay was better than anything I could have 'paid' for! Linda H.

I have much more info on things one can make while grieving, as well as words of wisdom on just dealing with loss and death in my private files gathered from various messages and websites, etc. (covers some things about children too).
....I'e be happy to send a copy to anyone who wants it ... if so, use this subject line (so I won't think it's spam): Please send copy of grief file (to, and I'll pop it off to you right away.


some Suggestions for polymer Activities

children and/or adults
(DB, MOVE to its own page:

. . . the kinds of things he might be able to do with polymer clay with his physical limitations may depend on what kinds of things he likes already.
...Does he like sculptural things, or geometrics and engineering, or making functional items, or pattern and color, etc.?
....Would he do best with gross movements or finer details? . . . He can try them all out to see which suits him best.

If he can, he should try not to use Sculpey clay (Sculpey, SuperSculpey, and Sculpey III colors) or FimoSoft (which is less brittle after baking), unless he's making rounded beads or something that won't get stressed, because it's brittle after baking in thin or projecting places, though it is definitely the softest of the clays when raw. Premo (or the new Kato Polyclay) would be my suggestion, and ordering clay online will get you the softest, freshest stuff --but you don't need to do that, and Sculpey/FimoSoft might work best if he has very little strength or if simple exercise is what you want.

Squeezing and rolling motions might be good ways to start. He will need to 'condition' any clay he uses simply to make sure any pigment that's settled is fully mixed into the clay to form an even color (or not, if he doesn't want to!). Conditioning can be done by squeezing a chunk of clay, then rolling it into a ball, then into a snake (in both hands or with both hands on a non-movable surface), then folding over once or twice, and beginning again. The object is to get the clay pliable with warmth and stretching (he could skip the ball stage if necessary). Most clayers will eventually buy a pasta machine to do that work for them (it also will mix colors together and create some nifty blend effects), and maybe turning the crank on a pasta machine would appeal to him anyway (children and most males usually love it, in my experience).
Conditioning ....Pasta Machines ....Tools (work surfaces)

He could practice just forming different shapes of beads by rolling in his hands or on the work surface. He could chop up different colors of clay (with a metal potter's rib if a razorblade would be too sharp --single-edge razorblades can be dulled on sandpaper though) and then roll or otherwise form them into shapes, or he could 'marble' the colors first (which is similar to conditioning).
Beads ....Color (mixing and marbling)

Molded items (or even the molds themselves first) are fun to make with polymer clay... rolling the clay into a round ball with no creases might be a bit difficult (if so roll a bunch for him or use bead rollers (see above, or in Beads). Molded bits can be used alone or pressed onto clay (sheets, already covered items, or just on top of a background sheet for a pendant, etc, cut just a bit larger to act as a frame) or they can be adhered to non-polymer surfaces as well (bake first then glue on)...some possibilties might be glass votives or drinking glasses for pencil holders, wood or papier mache boxes (acrylic painted first), picture frames, just anywhere. They can be made into all kinds of jewelry as well.
... She could make many pretty flowers and leaves right from 'push molds' ...there are a very wide variety of them available to purchase. I think Maureen Carlson has a good selection.... Also the flowers could be glued onto dishes that you purchase from a yard sale etc. Pooky
Molds .... Pendants ....Jewlery ....Covering, etc.

Stamps and textures of all kinds are simple to use with polymer and give a great result quickly (they're generally used without ink, but can be inked)... the resulting impressed images can be left as is, or the pattern can be brought out by 'antiquing' the crevices or 'highlighting' the upper (or lower) areas with paints, metallic powders and waxes (the entire surface can be covered as well)
....Pearlex (metallic powder) is a boon too - but can be messy - may I suggest putting it into smaller - weighted pots (or even stuck-down containers) and soft paintbrushes for application of the powder... Alan V.
...if the powders can't be handled without too much flying around in the air, either use dusts masks or apply only with a finger or rubber tipped 'bush', not a regular paintbrush.
Stamps .... Texturing ....Powders .... Paints

Metallic leaf comes primarily in gold, silver and copper .. the sheets are very thin and hard to manipulate, but if someone else affixed a sheet of leaf to raw clay (shet or pad), it would be fun and easy to press on it all over or here and there to make it crackle which looks really interesting (powders are sometimes added in the crackled areas afterward) ...(plastic-backed 'foils' however would probably be too difficult to apply)

He could make sheets of clay even without a pasta machine by taping two strips of wood or other same-height items to his work surface, laying clay between them, and rolling over it all with some kind of roller or brayer (an acrylic rod would let him use both hands --regular rolling pins with handles don't work too well; even a smooth sided jar or can can work).
Tools again (rollers) .... Pasta Machines again > If you Don't Have a Pasta Machine

He could place onto his base sheet various cut-outs from other clay sheets made with plunger cutters or aspic cutters; he could then leave them in relief, or press & roll them into the base sheet. Or he could use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from marbled sheets, and add a small eye or other details... perhaps creating a hole with the twist of a drinking straw to make a hole for hanging as an ornament. In fact, Christmas ornaments can be practically anything you can hang on a tree, and he could feel free to do glittery or any kind of thing as well.
Cutters ....Christmas

mosiacs ... could use pre-cut polymer tiles, or cut their own tiles before baking with a pizza cutter, xacto, or french fry cutter grid, etc.
...(after baking, tiles can also be cut from thin sheets with punches --and scissors)
...could mix with other bits of things, or real mosiac tiles or smashed ceramic dishware, etc.
...could apply their own 'grout' and wipe off too

Another thing he could do with his embellished sheets is to make bowls, using a glass custard cup (or other form) as a temporary armature . These are made by draping whole sheets (or bits of clay in a collage manner) over upturned custard cups or other removable forms while baking. These can also be trays, or even very small bowls (to put earrings in overnight, etc.) (don't use these for food though).
Vessels > Draped Bowls, or other

The sheets could also be used for many other things, e.g., as veneers for spiral notebooks, as whole postcards (can actually be sent through the mail), or as pieces to put onto handmade cards perhaps with other collage items.
Books-Mini,NotebookCovers ....Cards

He could do some simple caning too. For example, he needs only to roll up small stacked sheets to make spiral canes (aka jellyrolls). He could cut slices from those to put onto his sheets or use in other ways if he's able to do more detailed physical movement, or you could cut th slices for him and then he'd have a pallette of slices which he could pick up and place where he wanted. (Actually, making 'mandalas' with cane slices might be a good idea too.)
'Reducing' canes, or rolling and stretching them until they become longer and thinner and the pattern becomes smaller, is another gee-whiz thing he might enjoy doing.
Perhaps also making mosaics would be fun for him (the onlay kind), first creating the chips, then laying them in a pattern on a base of clay.
(spiral, etc) (also Mandalas under Kaleidoscope>Other Shapes & Logs), Canes-Gen.Info ....Canes-Reducing ....Mosaics

Polymer clay can be made to look like many natural materials as well, including granite, leather, wood, and also many stones like jade, turquoise. These are often made by mixing translucent clay with other clay colors or with inclusions like spices/herbs, colored sands, crayon bits, even lint from the dryer and more.
These can be formed into beads or simple fetish shapes, or they can be textured, stamped or molded to make other shapes, or they can be used to make vessels or in caning, etc., etc.
Sometimes these simulations involve 'antiquing' or otherwise coloring with paints, etc., before wiping off the upper areas, leaving the color in any depressions). Or metallic powders or waxes can be brushed across the upper areas.
Faux-Many ....Faux-Turquoise/Wood ....Faux-Ivory ....Inclusions
....Translucents & Glow-in-the-Dark clays ....Molds ....Texturing ....Stamping ....Powders

Most 'mokume gane' techniques and also 'ghost image' mica effects can be done with the sanding method rather than the shaving method--- you should be able to find something to hold your clay in place while you sand it... polymer clay requires wet sanding, but occasionally dipping the sandpaper or clay in water is sufficient
Mokume Gane ....Mica > Ghost Image

There are many books and videos he might enjoy . . . you can buy them, borrow them from a local polymer clay guild if you belong to one, or rent them from the National Polymer Clay Guild library if you're a member
Books-Videos .... Groups-Guilds .... Groups-Online

Lots of ideas from my page here at GlassAttic on kids and beginners will have ideas that could translate
Kids-Beginners . . . Diane B.

What about figures (or backgrounds) for 'play therapy' for kids to use?
...could be made by the kids, or clay could be used to create figures which relfect a particular circumstance of the child?
...(see all info on these ideas above in 'Emotional Issues')

Sculpey's website now has a long page on various kids' 'disabilities' ....though many of the ideas could pertain to any children
....List of things which can be helped by working with clay:
.........Patience Problem Solving Position Visual Processing Matching Finger Exploration Precision Tactile Exploration Creativity Attention to Detail Imagination Memory and Recall Self Esteem Sequential Thought Pincer Grasp Bilateral Coordination Early Literacy Eye-Hand Coordination Wrist Rotation Part/Whole Relationship Motor Planning Range of Motion, Reaching Visual Attention Functional Finger Movement Manual Dexterity Cooperative Hand Movements Fine Motor Skills Sorting – Colors, Sizes, Shapes Cause and Effect Finger and Hand Strength and Control
General Play Tips.... and Things to do to incorporate therapeutic goals
...the disability categories they address are:
.......cognitive (attention difficulties), communicative (autism, etc.), physical (low strength, coordination, etc.), sensory (low vision, blindness), emotional
...for each 'disability' there are suggestions for tools or tool modifications... various activities... and special tips for working with that child

Working the clay to condition it would encourage mobility and possibly increase hand strength.
. . . She could use a pasta machine to roll out the clay, and small forms like cookie cutters to cut out and fashion brooches and pendants. The brightly colored clay would be easy to see and work with. I hope she can find something she likes to do. Good luck. Dr. Mom

Hi, I am an occupational therapist. You don't specify whether your mom shakes while her hands are idle (resting tremor) or working (intention tremor). What exactly has she tried to do recently?
...Two tips: try having her rest her elbows firmly against a solid surface, such as a table top or lap desk, while working; try putting weights on her wrists. Not enough to exhaust her, just enough to 'dampen' her tremors.
Also ask her doctor if he/she can prescribe occupational therapy. While insurance and medicare are usually unwilling to pay for what is called avocational activities (hobbies) the therapist might be able to use an ADL (activity of daily living) task that is close enough to the craft skills to get an idea of what helps. majuntaitai

I LOVE mokume gane, and can usually make a mg block in 45 min or less (vs. at least an hour or two for a cane). And once that block is sitting on my work table, I can't wait to start shaving it, to see how it turned out. I was having a bad day last week and I forced myself to do a MG block using some of the new pearl-ex colors. When I finished, I had to get horizontal for a while. But I couldn't think of anything but getting back to that MG. It really got me into a claying frenzy, in between my horizontal periods. And MG is relatively easy to make, once you've done it once or twice. Sometimes, we need relatively easy projects to take us through our funks.... Laurel
(see more on this technique in Mokume Gane)
.......I think many will agree with me that if you put some clay in her hands she will be addicted. Not to mention the therapy. If she has an electric pasta maker all the better, but you could soften the clay for her. Pooky

We needed to think of things a group of varying age, special needs folks could do with clay among other media. The thing which seemed to appeal most was very simple and easy to arrange (they had no facilities like pasta machines).
...All the kids did was roll flat seven colours (rainbow-ish range), then trim them into sheets of approxiamtely the same size.... then stack them in rainbow order. ...Next, the kids were each given (one block at a time?) of the rainbow 'cane' (about 1inch side) and asked to make it into bead shapes.... Some cut it as it was, and then rolled the beads, others put corkscrew twist down the cane's length then chopped it,or whatever appealed to them. It was amazing how many different shapes and designs were made from such a simple start. A range of bright colours do appeal to new starters ...Alan V.

Every year I make an incentive device for my (special ed) elementary students which has movable magnet figures (see above in Kids for details)

There are more ideas above under the sub-category 'Eyesight > Blindness' ....because there are actually quite a number of things that the blind can do with polymer clay (& so much of it involves touching and manipulating)

non-polymer ideas (for all disabilities)

you might check your local library in the 745.5 section and also ask your librarian to find 'Crafts & the Disabled', B.T. Batsford, London ISBN 0713421819:19.95 . . . GreenworkMamoAZ

Royal National Institute of the Blind's page on arts and crafts that blind and disabled may be able to do:

I just received a brochure from our local Council on Aging and they are offering some great crafts for seniors....painting,creative writing, computers.... October Moon

many crafts and activities for those with emotional and/or physical difficulties ...

You might try something like rug hooking, not the latch hook type, the punch through type. . . . Does she have a condition specifically affecting her hands, such as arthritis in her fingers? If not she has probably lost strength from lack of activity and the crafts can help strengthen her hands. This is actually a good basis to request the therapy. majuntaitai

If your family is like most I know, somewhere you have a box of unlabelled, unidentified photographs. Maybe your mother could go through them, identifying them with numbers or symbols and then using a small tape recorder identify the people in them and give a short story of what was going on when the photo was taken. If her arthritis is not too bad, maybe she could type it into the computer. If that is not possible, then get someone else in the family to transcribe from the tape. Then you would be in the position my siblings and I are in, with all grandparents gone, both parents, all but one uncle, and most of the great uncles/aunts. And we have that self same large box of photos of unidentified people. . J. Smith

I also have a disability; I cannot crochet with small hooks anymore; but I use large ones with big wool. I used to like making doilies, but now I make blankets.
I also like to cross-stitch, but instead of using the fine threads, I use wool and cross-stitch simple designs in the rug-type canvas with the big holes. Some days I can still do the finer things, but on the days that I can't - I just do my crafts in a 'bigger' way.
I also like to paint ceramic pots and trays, glue them together to make candle holders, small bird baths, little candy dishes and such. My painting is very simple or complex depending on the day I am having. Ebygin

Maybe decoupage is something she could try. I have decorated all kinds of boxes, jars, trash cans, and other containers with decoupage. Instead of using scissors to cut out pictures, she could use wrapping paper and tear it out, which is a technique used by some decoupagers. Carolee
...or use images from magazines, catalogs, etc.
…That sparks some ideas and I think they sell pre-cut pieces. If they are not pre-cut I could cut some for her. The torn napkins, wrapping paper and hand made papers all look nice. I cannot see her doing a lot of it but you never know, and it is worth a try. I saw a cool table once with decoupage under the glass and then they used craft paints to sponge. The same thing could be done with decorative plates etc. Dad paints and has the craft paints. I could get her some sea sponges. Hacrafter

Since she has enjoyed working with fabric, thread, and such, maybe she would enjoy (and be able to do) simple weaving. You could make her different size looms with just wood and nails, or inset dowels. Rag weaving is simple, and yet has such a nice texture and design when finished. She could weave anything from hot pads to rugs. Also, basket liners, pillow forms, and anything else her creativity affords. This is very inexpensive, and is easy to match any decor, using strips of fabric in various colors and prints. Cddesigns

I worked as an activity directer, certified, in 2 different nursing homes before I retired and it is a very rewarding position..... A lot of women never did crafts so it's important to find what their interest is....often elderly ladies in a nursing home don't want to learn how to crochet, quilt, or a lot of things...and some don't want to do anything learn what they used to do, and try to get them re-involved with something similar. fact, one of the most popular things in my years was the morning paper. A whole group would sit around and I would serve coffee, tea, etc. and I would read the paper and we would discuss the issues. They also want to know about the obituaries. I was overheard conducting one of our coffee clatches by a surveyor and was written up as being the best activity he had seen in in a nursing home.
.... Also, we had a kitchen and once a week we cooked lunch and the ladies decided on one employee that they wanted to invite, it could be the administrator, an RN, LPN, or anyone....we made up and sent an invitation and this went over biggg. The recipient felt it an honor to be invited.
....We also baked cookies once a week and sold them (they were Otis Spunkmeyer that only required baking). We sold them to anyone there and used the money for a trip to a restaurant, or a movie. They made the decision what we would do.
....Now for crafts, I would use some kits designed for young children, or let them decide what we would do. Letting those who can, make the decisions is quite an important activity.
.....I could go on for a long, long time, but if you would like any help from me...please email me at (anyone interested, please write me for this address... my address is on the bottom of the home page here at GlassAttic)....I would feel honored to help you with this very important job.. Punky (alwaysbusy)


I'm beginning home shows soon...I have 2 friends who will be having one for me...decided I'd rather do home shows than jewelry or craft shows. I have Lupus, and CFS along with FMS, and the home shows will take much less effort and energy than shows. Also, it gets me out to socialize ... which I don't get to do much, along with allowing me to take a lot less inventory along... Dee
(see Shows for more info on doing home shows)

doing SHOWS:
(In advance of the show, try to make sure of the accommodations made for those with disabilities re) loading/unloading and setting up. If you are told that there are no provisions for such accommodations, then you might politely suggest that they read up on the requirements for complying with the disabilities act. If they are receiving funds for sponsoring the show, and they will be, to pay for the space, advertising, etc., then they must abide by the law. This makes no difference if it is a non-profit organization or a government sponsored event or a privately owned business. If there is a charge to either you as a vendor or to the public to attend, then the laws must be adhered to or they will be liable for suit. (I don't advocate suing, but they need to be made aware.)
... complaining is the way to do it after the fact, but better yet is educating them before it happens. If we try to do it in a manner that is polite, but determined, we can change their behavior. Patty B.
...if you don't get help from the immediate person you're dealing with, go up the ladder to:
supervisors, show coordinators, authorities for the particular venue, disabilities' groups, atty. general's office?, consumer groups at the newspaper, etc.

Sue Salvatore's article on attending retreats & classes)

voice recognition software is very helpful for using a computer with disabilities ... esp. visual or sensory-motor difficulties
..these programs (like Via Voice) will create text from your spoken speech, and well as perform other 'commands' like opening programs, etc.
....this type of software can allow the person to use a computer for everyday living things, to get stimulation from browsing the web and learning new things, and especially to have social interactions
....there are many online groups (message boards-forums, mailing lists, etc.) for just about any topic imaginable;.for example:
......any hobby or art-craft (including polymer clay)
..... any interest (politics, health, kids, philosophy, religion, recycling, professions, etc., etc.)

The change in seasons wreaks havoc on a lot of us. For me, winter is the worse, which kind of bites, as the Holidays are probably the biggest sales season for most of us. Yet, in my case, this is the time of year that my energy is lowest. (I understand a lot of folks with mental health disabilities have similar periods of exacerbation during the change from fall to winter as well . ..
...I also make A LOT of my inventory during my 'good seasons' and pack it all away for when I cannot do as much. I can sometimes work 12-hour days, and I try to utilize my energy when I have it, and conserve my energy when it is low. . . I also tend to do my caning during 'good times', so I have drawers of prepared canes for when my pain levels are higher and my claying time is more limited. . . ...I tend to read/reread my clay books when I have to be 'down' to try to inspire me when I have a 'good period'. I also 'save' my glazing for my real bad days. . . . The key for me is capitalizing on the 'good periods', and trying not to beat myself up during the bad ones. Laurel

Also I used to have great discomfort in my hands, due to repetitive moves at work. Again read in RD or P about Vitamin more, only once a day sure eased it for me...

does (selling some of your work) affect your SS Disability?
... It depends on your personal set up, but generally your 'allowed' to work 'X' number of hours per month before you start to jeopardize any benefits, that part has nothing to do with $$. Call your local SS office and ask to be sure. Each person is different, depending on type of disabilty, and such. You'll also want to consider this: if you start to make some sales, Uncle Sam will of course want to get his hand in on the action too. This does have to do wuth $$. Again, call your State Tax office and ask them what is involved. Each state is different. All I had to do was get a tax ID# or resellers certificate (free) and I file a tax form 2 times a year. 99% of the time I zero out all the fields, and pay nothing, because I just don't sell enough for it to matter. But what with selling on line at my web page and auctions, plus a few local stores and salons, it's a lot easier for Uncle Sam to track me, (being on SS, I'm already 'in the system') and I wanted to make sure I had all my 'I's' dotted and my 'T's' crossed correctly. Connie

links to disabilities resources & info

more VSA & affiliated art programs: (loads of art to see!!)
'Putting Creativity to Work; Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities', offers a wide range of useful information for visual, literary and performing artists features detailed information on over 100 job titles and mini-biographies of people with disabilities holding these jobs. Career development, vocational rehabilitation, and special education professionals will also find this to be an indispensable resource.
Art, Disability & Expression (plus more

United People With Disabilities wanted re any 'artists' with disabilities ...any kind of artist (including comedian, writer, artist/crafter) with any kind of disability
...on other pages there, more info on equipment (buy used scooters, etc.), vacations, caregivers, humor, 'friendship,' chat, etc.

.... info, articles, and forums re various disabilities and illnesses, focusing on getting on with life and coping
... also for families, friends, caregivers, employers, etc., of those with disabilities-illnesses
". . . founded by Dr. J. Glen House, a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation who is also a quadriplegic.
His firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and those whose lives they touch has driven the mission: to create the first comprehensive, evolving source of information, insight, and personal engagement for the disability community."

fibromyalgia, and other similar syndromes .... lots of links and info
....other e-mail list groups for fibro:

links for physical and learning disabilities ...
...(see more, especially for children, at the Sculpey page on disabilities:

For more information about cruises offered by Royal Caribbean, their disability programs, or to request an Accessible Seas brochure, contact the Access Desk at 800-722-5472, extension 4492. For additional information about the cruise line, please visit the company's Web site at, or call 800-327-6700.

There is a radio interview with Les Paul (the inventor of the electric guitar), who is a very inventive soul who has had physical limitations in later life but keeps using his creativity to deal with them, that's well worth worth listening to. He was interviewed by Terry Gross on her public radio program 'Fresh Air.' Just like Elizabeth's reaction to the Itzah Perlman in concert story, hearing some of the things said in that short interview left a real impression on me. I recommend taking a listen to it when you have an extra 25 minutes or so.
To listen to the program, this direct link should work:
. . . then click on 'Listen to Monday, Oct. 18, 1999.'
... (for those unfamiliar with listening to audio on computers:
Clicking on the 'Listen to Monday, Oct. 18, 1999' on that page will bring up the Real One Player for listening to audio via your computer if you've downloaded it (for free), or the Windows Media Player if you've gotten a new computer within the last few years. Either of those should automatically play the show after buffering for about 30 seconds. . . be sure your the dial on your speakers is turned up, and Mute isn't clicked on the Volume Control of the computer's Control Panel).