My polymer clay steampunk elf, from Maria Maestri’s Ebook, Steampunk Ornaments.
This will be a quick post as I’m pretty much consumed with our move. Speaking of moving, I’m glad we did it before bubble wrap is taken off the market. (If you didn’t know that, I’m sorry to be the messenger.) Did you know if you have a bunch of bubble wrap on the floor and stomp on it, it sounds like fireworks?
Anyway, back to polymer clay. My Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class will include a polymer clay steampunk Christmas ornament project. Participants can choose from among the patterns in Maria Maestri’s Ebook, Steampunk Ornaments. Go to this blog post for a link to the book in her Etsy shop. In the same blog post you’ll see the light/fan pulls that we’ll also make in class.
Mica shift pins exhibit the essence of polymer clay.
As much as I like to play with the many embellishments that can be added to polymer clay, I love what humble, basic clay can do. Polymer clay, after all, is plastic, and let’s face it, plastic still has an image problem.
I think these polymer clay mica shift pins exhibit a beauty all their own. There’s no embellishment, just polymer clay manipulated to take advantage of the light reflecting properties inherent in metallic and pearl clays. After curing, the pins are sanded and buffed to a high shine.
The pins will be one of the projects I’ll teach in my Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class. We’ll use the soda bottle method when shaving the clay to reveal the magic of mica shift. This method is described in my post “Polymer Clay Mica Shift Tamed.”
Gilded polymer clay napkin rings could double as scarf rings.
I like using cloth napkins. Mine are humble western bandanas to go with Fiestaware and southwestern decor.
For several months, Tim and I have been “test driving” the napkin rings in the photo to make sure the appliqued leaves and vines don’t fall off. I can’t report total success. One leaf fell off mine, but I’ll live with that.
The napkin rings will be the first project for my Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class, “Polymer Clay Explorations.” I’ve borrowed from the approach Zan Caperton brought to a class several years ago when we co-taught. The base clay gets wrapped around a short section cut from a 1 3/8″ diameter cardboard tube. This time I’m covering the tube with a light texture sheet, the same type I use to texture the back of the clay. It will keep the clay from sticking to the tube and preserve the texture.
We’ll make the vines and leaves by hand–no fancy tools, except needle tools for adding veins to the leaves. Which reminds me, I need to get busy making needle tools for participants. (It simply involves making polymer clay handles for crewel needles. See “Handles With Ease.”)
The clay stays on the cardboard tube for curing. The tube is placed cut end down on a ceramic curing tile.
I’m taking the easy way out for the next couple of posts, using material from my upcoming class. The reason is that Tim and I are moving. It will be a fun move as moves go, as we’re going to a renovated apartment with the same floor plan we have now. But it’s really putting a cramp in my polymer clay activities. Can’t wait to get back in the saddle.
Capture the exotic beauty of batik on polymer clay.
You can achieve a batik look on round as well as flat surfaces.
I’ve been immersed for a while in developing techniques for imitating batik on polymer clay. It involved lots of trial and error, but I’m thrilled with the results. If I weren’t such a generalist–it’s the fault of Sara, my muse, who tantalizes me with a smorgasbord of techniques and projects–I’d specialize in batik.
I’ve just added a downloadable PDF tutorial for Faux Batik on Polymer Clay to my Etsy store. Bring the exotic beauty of batik to any number of polymer clay creations. This downloadable PDF tutorial, with 19 photos, teaches two approaches to batik which you can adapt to pendants, beads, journal covers or any smooth, white or light colored, cured polymer clay piece.
Patterns are provided for the flower, dragonfly, and hummingbird with flower. In addition, you’ll learn how to make spirals and other designs featured on the beads pictured here. Directions for finishing the pendant are included.
Important note: you’ll need cured, smooth polymer clay in white or a light color. While the surface technique and patterns presented in this tutorial are designed for embellishing a cured polymer clay pendant and oval beads, they can be adapted to any smooth.polymer clay surface. The tutorial is not designed to teach basic polymer clay skills.
Batik designs can be applied to any smooth, cured, white or light colored polymer clay surface.
Patterns are provided in the tutorial.
Speed up varnishing your polymer clay beads
Who wants to spend time varnishing beads when you could be having fun playing with polymer clay? Not me.
Here’s how I speed up the process. I stick half a toothpick securely in the bead hole, then plant the toothpick on a hunk of scrap clay. That frees my left hand and allows me to get at all parts of the bead. That’s it.
Amaco Tri-Bead Roller
Maybe you’ve thought about buying the Amaco Tri-Bead Roller. Then again, maybe like me you have one gathering dust on a shelf.
It’s a nifty tool for making beads of uniform size. It has three channels for round, oval, and bicone beads. The reason these things gather dust on a shelf is that it’s tricky to measure clay so you get consistently good results.
Well, I recently decided to make peace with my bead roller. That meant spending time figuring out just how much clay to use. It involved quite a bit of trial and error. What works for me is to sheet clay on the #2 setting (next to thickest) on my Makins clay machine, then cutting out pieces with a 5/8″ square cutter.
Then I roll each piece into a ball, place it in the bead roller channel, put the top on the bead roller, and glide it back and forth five or six times.
Making beads of uniform size requires starting with uniform pieces of polymer clay.
Place the top of the bead roller on the bottom and glide it back and forth.
As you experiment with various thicknesses of clay and/or various cutters, you’ll find that using too much clay will result in a bead that looks chewed, and too little will produce flat spots on the bead.
If you don’t have a pasta machine, use craft stick guides to roll a uniformly thick sheet of polymer clay.
Here’s what I love most about these two polymer clay beads. See the subtle crackled silver leaf with splashes of lavender? Usually in making a mokume gane stack, I would sandwich leaf between layers of super-thin translucent clay. What I did differently with this stack was tint the translucent with Pinata Passion Purple ink. The faces of the beads in the photos came from a couple of serendipitous slices from the stack.
Polymer clay often invites serendipity. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten results that are happy accidents–enough to make up for the times I get totally frustrated.
I made this bracelet about a year ago. So far, I’ve been content to enjoy it for what it is. But one of these days I’ll have to try re-creating the effect with different translucent tints, leaf, and polymer clay colors.
“You have to make more than one” has become a mantra with me and my clay buddies. A few years ago at a gathering of clay buddies, Nancy Snead got frustrated trying to sculpt a doll head. She planned to enter the Doll of the Year competition held by the Austin Doll Guild. She looked at her disappointing effort and said, “I don’t know how anyone gets good at this. I guess you have to make more than one.”
It’s a lesson I must frequently relearn. I’m always trying new techniques and often the result falls far short of my vision.
As for Nancy, you can see what she’s gotten really good at. She makes appliqued pendants that bring compliments to the wearer. How many has she made? Probably 75-100.
She likes to hang the pendant on a ready-made necklace with a magnetic clasp. For bails large enough to go over the clasp, she buys packages of play wedding rings at the dollar store. The rings are a bit large so she cuts them down a bit.
Nancy credits Randee Ketzel who taught the technique several years ago for Austin Polymer Clay Guild. You can see Randee’s PDF tutorial for “Lilliiput Gardens” on her Etsy site.
Flickering light from a colorful stained glass votive will bring summer’s enchantment to your patio or picnic table. I’d want a dozen or more on my patio if I had a patio. (I’m not complaining. My apartment complex offers a choice of patios or sunrooms, and the sunroom space makes an ideal polymer clay studio.)
All you need is a glass votive, a smidgen of black clay, Elmer’s glue, and alcohol inks. You don’t need a pasta machine. An extruder is nice but not necessary.
So check out this free Tropical Night “Stained Glass” Votive tutorial and have fun.
Polymer clay mica shift eggs
This pendant was made with scraps of Premo 18K Gold polymer clay.
How do you achieve organic looking mica shift in polymer clay in five minutes? With little scraps of metallic or pearl clay that you squish together, flatten, and roll out.
The gold egg and pendant were made with clay left over from projects I can’t remember. In general the metallic clays work in mica shift straight from the package (after conditioning, of course).
Pearl clays need a boost. Adding translucent clay as much as 1:1 enhances the dark/light contrast. (Thank you, Zan.)
Here are the simple steps:
Chop clay into irregular pieces about the size of dried split peas.
Squish the pieces together, flatten the mound, & roll it out.
See more on the mica shift technique in two previous posts: “Polymer Clay Mica Shift Tamed” and “Polymer Clay Mica Shift Magic for Beginners.”