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Have you ever looked at a tool or product and said to yourself "Now why didn't I think of that??" At Polymer Clay Express, not only do Wilma and Rob see solutions to problems, they make them happen! We asked Rob if they would give us some of the background of how they developed their line of Professional Polymer Clay Tools, and now we share his story with our members...

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Wilma and an Assortment of PCE Tools
"I met Wilma during our undergraduate years in college. I watched as she would create projects that her instructors would say couldn't be made. I traveled with her to craft shows and she would stress about the quantity and variety of products we would create and sell in our booth.

During the 80's, Wilma was a full time mom with 4 young children when she discovered a new medium to express herself. She discovered polymer clay while visiting The Torpedo Factory, a huge gallery and artist studio in Alexandria, Virginia. She came home so enthusiastic about this "new clay" that didn't need a kiln, that I was almost sucked in, even though I knew she had several kilns for ceramic clay in our basement. Wilma was a ceramic clay major in college, and I had no idea how much this "new clay" would change our way of life. I soon discovered that polymer clay is a very addicting medium, and immediately Wilma began sculpting and designing wonderful pieces. In no time, Wilma started selling her finished polymer clay work and then, to my surprise, she wanted to start a polymer clay supply business of tools and embellishing products. This business is known as The ArtWay.

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A.C.E. 1 Inch Extruder
Working with Wilma in our business for the past 14 yrs has been an amazing experience, I could witness someone I know and love realize her dreams. Her enthusiasm is contagious and exhausting as she wakes up daily with another design idea to solve a problem I didn't even realize existed. Wilma's polymer clay addiction wasn't satisfied with just making pieces or selling supplies. Her precision and production concerns with her own projects were her motivation to create an extruding tool. We researched and discovered an American Company with a history of producing dispensing tools for 3 generations. We met with the owner and he was immediately impressed with Wilma's vision and worked with her in the development of the A.C.E. Extruder.

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A.C.E. 2 Inch Extruder
This extruder became her custom designed tool. With 900 lbs of pressure, 5 times the force of the typical dispensing tool, it has been well received by the polymer clay community. In the recent year, the extruder has become a "must have tool" in the cake and food decorating community.

Mass production of the dies used in the extruder was not a simple project, even though she had started designing the dies long before the extruding tool was completed. It all came together with the discovery of a laser cutting machine and computer software which gave her the ability to easily perfect new shapes.

Each die became a Design Shape Disk that was a solution to a problem in her polymer creations. Simple sculptural shapes evolved into design disks available in 2 sizes for the extruder. She created disk designs to assemble cane patterns to decorate the surfaces of bracelet extrusions. Wilma's desire to extrude a bracelet shape with holes or a placement for stringing elastic or cording started with a simple bracelet disk she named the Double Hole Disk.

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A.C.E. Cordless Extruder
Naturally, though, for her that wasn't enough. She then wanted to extrude a shape with a hole, so she designed the Coring Tools. They are now available in 6 sizes and even with twin and quad hole placement to make clay button extrusions.

The Angle Jig tool was a way to cut extrusions into a bracelet to fit more comfortably around the wrist. This tool helped to cut and create nesting wedge shaped beads out of any of her extruded bracelet profiles. Soon to follow was the EZ Jig tool, giving her the ability to make a straight and precise cut of a disk extrusion for a necklace or bracelet.

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D.R.E.A.M. Machine
The most ambitious tool thus far is the development of the D.R.E.A.M. Machine. For many years, polymer clay enthusiasts have used a pasta machine to condition and sheet polymer clay. Some pasta machines have survived the polymer clay experience for many years, and some for less than one year. The pasta machine motors have a very noisy motor and over heat or are over tasked by the polymer clay. Wilma wanted to design a sheeting machine that could handle polymer clay with ease. A machine that would have the strength and durability for conditioning polymer clay. A clean simple construction that would be easily maintained with a few unique features.

This machine proudly offers scraper blades that are easily removed and reinstalled for easy cleaning. This was an issue that was always a challenge with a pasta machine. By taking a pasta machine apart and using clay in it violated the warranty. This is NOT so with Wilma's D.R.E.A.M. Machine. Ten thickness settings, more than other machines, thicker and thinner settings than what were previously available, and an optional strong sturdy motor, not stressed by the viscosity of the polymer clay. These were seemingly simple considerations, but we learned the pleasure and the pain of manufacturing a new tool.

Wilma stands by her machine and will make it right with the help of many engineers.

Those of you who have a D.R.E.A.M. Machine have made a significant investment with a quality professional grade tool. Congratulations and thank you for your patience and support in the beginning and now as we continue to improve. As I've had the pleasure to travel this road with Wilma, there is one thing I know I have learned from Wilma: If you have a dream, go with it and don't be deterred. Be true to your convictions and sometimes the experience of the process is your reward."

by Rob Yost
©2011 Text and Photos
Polymer Clay Express

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