Polymer clay mica shift made easy
“Wow, how’d you do that?” Don’t you love those words? Well, even a beginner can bask in glory with this simplified approach to polymer clay mica shift. Mica shift is a magical technique that produces a 3D illusion with a silky smooth surface.
A bit of explanation: synthetic mica particles create the special effect found in pearl and metallic clays. You’ll see streaks in the clay when you first open a package. That’s because the mica particles lie every which way. A few passes of the clay through the pasta machine and the particles will align for a streak-free surface. This surface reflects light. Cut the clay, and you’ll see that the edge is a bit darker. That’s because it absorbs light Manipulating the clay to capture this quality is the magic of mica shift.
When I first thought about sharing this easy technique, I was making tiles for a bracelet. But it occurred to me that someone new to clay might not have acquired basic jewelry making skills (yet). So here’s how to make a bookmark.
I’m using Premo Peacock Pearl & Premo Pearl, 1/8 package (1/4 oz.) each. (Metallic clays, such as Gold and Silver, can be used straight from the package without adding pearl. The exception is 18K Gold.) Combine the Peacock Pearl and Pearl clay and roll it with your acrylic roller to a thickness that will fit in your pasta machine without straining the rollers at the second-thickest setting. Sheet the clay, fold it and sheet it again with the folded edge entering the rollers. Continue folding and sheeting until the streaks disappear.
Sheet the clay on the pasta machine’s medium-thick setting. (On my Makins, that’s a 3.)
Make the bookmark base with clay cut about 1″ x 4″ (It will get bigger in the process.)
From the leftover piece of clay, cut very skinny strips, about the thickness of uncooked spaghetti. They don’t have to be uniform.
Twist each strip. Now you can start to see the difference between the clay’s surface and cut edge.
I’m placing a strip in a long serpentine line down the middle of the base. I’m not going all the way to the sides with it as I’ll be trimming the bookmark later. Then I add short, straight pieces.
The design is made by applying twisted strips to the base.
This is the piece just before sheeting it in the pasta machine. Press the design lightly with your hand to adhere it to the base.
After the design is added, press it with your hand or acrylic roller to adhere it to the base.
In the next few steps the idea is to gradually reduce the thickness of the clay and make the twisted strips one with the base. This process will cause the design to spread, so to ensure that it spreads evenly in all directions you’ll turn the clay before each of four passes on the pasta machine.
Without changing the setting on your pasta machine (mine is 3), sheet the clay.
Set the clay horizontally for the 1st. & 3rd. passes
Set the clay vertically for the 2nd & 4th passes.
Give the clay a one-quarter turn clockwise, step down the pasta machine one setting (mine is 4), and sheet the clay again.
Give the clay another one-quarter turn clockwise, step down the pasta machine one setting, and sheet the clay again.
Give the clay a final one-quarter turn clockwise, step down the pasta machine one setting, and sheet the clay again.
Trim the clay to bookmark size.
Place it on a paper-covered curing tile or on a piece of cardboard.
Cure it in a pre-heated oven according to directions on the clay package.
The bookmark looks great straight out of the oven. For greater depth, you can sand and buff it.