Archive of ‘Tips’ category

Recipe for Cream

Cream was essential for this pendant's romantic Victorian palette.

Cream was essential for this pendant’s romantic Victorian palette.

I’m passionate about cream. Cream on oatmeal, creamed peas, whipped cream, peaches and cream, cream of whatever soup. And the color of cream.

If there’s a polymer clay manufacturer making cream colored clay, I have yet to hear about it. And I haven’t seen any polymer clay mixing recipes for cream. So I embarked on my own experiment. Mixing white with ecru or white with yellow gave me light ecru and light yellow. After several such failures, it occurred to me to google to find out what colors painters mix to get cream. I never would have guessed the answer: tiny amounts of yellow and purple added to white.

Here’s my recipe:

Clockwise from left: cream clay blend; white, pearl, purple pearl and cadmium yellow clay; Coffee-mate

Clockwise from left: cream clay blend; white, pearl, purple pearl and cadmium yellow clay; Coffee-mate

Premo white, 1 oz., (1/2 pkg.); Premo pearl, 1/2 oz. (1/4 pkg.); Premo purple pearl, cut 1/4 oz. (1/8 pkg.) into 8 pieces & add just 1 piece to the white/pearl blend; Premo cadmium yellow, cut 1/4 oz. (1/8 pkg.) into 8 pieces & add just 1.5 to 2 pieces to the white pearl blend.

Don’t add all the color at once as it’s easy to go too far.

 

Yes, I do love my Coffee-mate.

Yes, I do love my Coffee-mate.

No, I didn’t blend Coffee-mate into the clay. I wanted to check my blend to get a rich, creamy look when serendipity struck as I spooned Coffee-mate into my coffee. I figured Nestle paid a color consultant good money to get the look of cream. I also enlisted my husband who has a better color sense than I do. It took a bit of tweaking, but I love the result.

 

Afterhought: Serendipity has a second cousin–coincidence. Last week, two days after writing this post, I sat in my car mechanic’s waiting room and idled my way through the June issue of Better Homes and Gardens. There on page 62 was a feature on–you guessed it–cream colored paint. Even more to the point, it was about the foods, such as brie and apple cores, that inspired the various cream tints.

 

Work Powder Magic on Polymer Clay

You'll fetch compliments galore when you make these Lustrous Beads.

You’ll fetch compliments galore when you make these Lustrous Beads.

Powders such as Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments or Perfect Pearls not only add shimmering color and highlights, they even work Cinderella-like magic on humble scrap clay.

Scoop, don’t pour, powder onto scrap paper. Dip your finger in the powder, tap off loose particles, and lightly swab the clay. Use a paintbrush if you want to work powder into stamped crevices. This will send tiny particles afloat, so wear a dust mask. Also stay away from fans, air conditioners, and heat registers.

Apply one or two coats of varnish to seal Pearl-Ex embellished pieces after curing. Perfect Pearls powders do not require a seal, but the surface will feel gritty. A bit of ArmorAll will correct that.

See the Lustrous Beads tutorial on Etsy to make the fetching beads pictured above. Suitable for a beginner. No pasta machine required.

Seamless Seams and Inlays

Tip Seamless Seams Lead Photo
When I set out to write this tip, my intent was to show how to make seams disappear when you join two pieces of clay. Like a lot of things, it took on a life of its own. Why not show how this technique works with inlays, too? And why not see if it can work with an ancient piece of mokume gane?

What you’re seeing is (clockwise from bottom left), pendant assembled and cut out, mokume gane flower and Kemper flower cutter cutting it out from scrap-backed mokume gane sheet, teardrop cutter, lavender clay with opening made by Kemper flower cutter, wavy blade, and black clay for backing pendant.

Now to the vanishing seams. Cuts with the wavy blade and Kemper cutter are made from the back of the clay,. That’s to avoid the slight bevel a cut makes on the clay’s surface. Beveled edges are hard to join seamlessly.

Tip Seamless Seams Cutting

 

 

 

The cut pieces are then assembled on black clay and the pendant is cut out.Tip Seamless Seams G Clay Warming

Because the mokume gane clay was several years old and stiff, I warmed it for about a minute on a bag filled with hot water. Warming didn’t perfectly restore the old clay, and a little surface cracking occurred, but it actually adds interest.

 

Finally, I placed a sheet of clear deli paper on the clay and burnished all the seams with my finger. You could substitute plastic wrap for deli paper. Just don’t wrinkle it as you burnish. Burnishing takes some patience, and you may need to warm stubborn clay several times, but eventually you’ll have a seamless pendant.

Tip Seamless Seams Burnishing

A word about the mokume gane pattern. I never liked it much, probably because I originally intended to make pillow beads with it, and it was way too busy. Now seeing it used sparingly with the solid lavender clay, I rather like it. I doubt that I’ll finish this piece, though, as my muse has other ideas.

What Could Be Easier Than a Skinner Blend?

Don’t know how we’d get along without Judith Skinner’s amazing blend, which she came up with back in 1996. (More on that in a future blog.) But thanks to my friend Zan, a.k.a. the encyclopedia of polymer clay, I rarely bother to measure and piece together flat triangular sheets of clay to start a blend. Zan showed me the quick and easy “teardrop” method innovated  by Cindy Lietz, the Polymer Clay Tutor. I’ve adapted it here:

You can even blend clay without a pasta machine. Cindy Lietz shows you how in this video.

 

Shrink a Skinner Blend

So your Skinner blend crept across your pasta machine rollers making the color gradient too wide for your project. It can be saved. Wish I knew who to credit for this idea, but I don’t.

To rescue an out-of-control Skinner blend, roll it into a tight log. Keep color-on-color as you roll, & try not to trap air.

Then grip the log with both hands & push to compress the colors. Yes, this will mess up your blend, but not to worry.

Flatten the log & place it in your pasta machine. Blend it as you did originally, but this time set a stopper on your rollers to corral the blend. Clay packages make great stoppers as they won’t scratch your rollers.

Stretch a Skinner Blend

Say you’ve made a nice Skinner blend, but it’s only 5″ from the blue edge to the lavender & you need 6″. There’s a fix for that.

Sheet the clay in the direction of the blend to stretch it.
Sheet the clay in the direction of the blend to stretch it.

Step down one setting on your pasta machine lower than the setting on which you made the blend. So, on my machine if I were folding & blending the clay on #2, I’d step down to #3. Give the clay a quarter turn & without folding, sheet it in the direction of the blend. If it’s still not long enough, step down one more setting, etc.

If I want to keep the original thickness of the blend as I stretch it, I’d back it with a thin sheet of clay, probably scrap, & sheet it on #2.

Yes, You Can Make Bead Holes

Make pilot holes in raw clay without distorting the bead. Enlarge the hole after the bead is cured. This method works for round beads as well. (Practice helps, too. As my friend Nancy says, “I guess you have to make more than one.)

Use a drilling motion to insert a straight pin halfway into the bead.

Use a drilling motion to insert a straight pin halfway into the bead.

Turn the bead over, Insert another pin from the opposite side, aiming for the first pin.

Turn the bead over, Insert another pin from the opposite side, aiming for the first pin.

 

 

 

Handles With Ease

Use scrap polymer clay to adapt any number of polymer clay tools. Cure the polymer clay on the tool. After it cools, pop it off, add a bit of super glue, & pop it back on.

Clockwise from left: needle tool, burnisher, blade, impression tool, drills (2), X-acto blade

Clockwise from left: needle tool, burnisher, blade, impression tool, drills (2), X-acto blade

With the addition of a polymer clay handle, an ordinary needle or yarn needle becomes a needle tool, useful for starting bead holes.

Fold a small scrap of clay over the dull edge of your blade. You’ll be more likely to keep the sharp edge down.

Add a handle, & a square, bead becomes a cool impression tool. The square impression with the hole in the center has a retro feel. Imagine all the other bead shapes that could make great impressions.

Save money on drills when you buy just the drill bits & add your own handles. Make a starter hole in your raw bead with the needle tool, then enlarge the hole with a drill after the bead is cured..

If you do nothing else, take a few minutes to make handles for your X-acto blades. Custom handles make them much easier to work with than store-bought handles.

One of these things is not like the others. The burnisher is actually all polymer clay—the smooth, flat bottom is great for healing seams in raw polymer clay. Place a sheet of deli wrap (don’t let it wrinkle) or 200-grit sandpaper on the seam & rub gently. Just takes patience.

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