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Five-Minute Polymer Clay Mica Shift

Polymer clay mica shift eggs

Polymer clay mica shift eggs

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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 sized pieces.

Chop clay into irregular pieces about the size of dried split peas.

Squish the pieces together, flatten the mound, & roll it out.

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.”

Polymer Clay Mica Shift Tamed

Mica shift items 6722Whether you’re new to polymer clay or have been around the block, here’s a great tip for simplifying traditional polymer clay mica shift technique. I’m talking about the technique that involves stamping a sheet of clay and shaving off the raised surfaces.

The orthodox approach is to adhere the stamped clay securely to a ceramic tile and draw a slightly bowed flexible blade across the surface. The trick is to do it without gouging the clay and without depositing little clay particles in the “wells” as you go. Both of these mishaps can ruin the finished look.

Try this easy approach to traditional polymer clay mica shift.

Try this easy approach to traditional polymer clay mica shift.

This tip comes from Cindy Lietz, the PolymerClayTutor. Just stick your stamped clay on a full 2-liter plastic bottle. The bottle’s curvature makes it easy to shave just a portion at a time, and gravity pretty much takes care of the pesky particles unless your clay is very sticky. I have just one minor quibble with Cindy’s video: she shows stamping clay by rolling the acrylic roller back and forth over the clay. For a really crisp impression I prefer to roll over the clay just once as clay likes to move when it’s rolled. If I feel the impression isn’t deep enough, I’ll press straight down with my fingertips.

Thanks to Cindy, I’m on a mica shift binge.

Polymer Clay Mica Shift Magic for Beginners

Polymer clay mica shift made easy

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.

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.

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.

The bookmark looks great straight out of the oven. For greater depth, you can sand and buff it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polymer Clay: Plastic With Class

Mica shift pins exhibit the essence of polymer clay.

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.”

Why Finish Polymer Clay With Micro-Mesh?

Notice the bracelet's gold tile reflects light much like the coins do.

Sanded & buffed, the gold tile reflects light much like the coins do.

I own varnishes that include Studio by Sculpey Glossy Glaze, Delta Ceramcoat Glossy, Varathane, and of course Pledge With Future Floor Wax. For a natural finish, I own wet/dry sandpaper from 320 to 2000 grit. And my buffing supplies include denim, a carpet square, and pieces of fleece from old jammies.

When I want a natural high-gloss finish, my favorite method begins with sandpaper, moves on to the Micro-Mesh Polishing Kit by Revell and finally to a Dremel tool with buffing pads that are made especially for polymer clay..I should mention there’s an investment of time that becomes significant if you’re working with a bunch of beads.

At a little over $25, Micro-Mesh isn’t cheap. My set is the introductory wood kit which contains nine 3″ x 4″ sheets of sandpaper ranging from 1500 to 12000 grit.

I always wet sand–don’t want to inhale polymer clay dust–and add a drop of dish detergent to the water to keep the sandpaper from getting clogged. I start with ordinary wet/dry sandpaper. How long I sand and the grit I start with depend on how smooth the surface of my clay is. For the bracelet pictured here, I started with my coarsest paper–320 grit–because the process of shaving the clay for the mica shift effect left the surface slightly rough, It might take a couple of minutes, then I move on to 400 and 600 grit paper.

Micro-Mesh is one way to achieve a high-gloss finish on polymer clay.

Micro-Mesh is one way to achieve a high-gloss finish on polymer clay.

At this point the polishing begins with 1500-grit Micro-Mesh. I sand for about a minute, then move to 1800 grit, and continue all the way without skipping any grits to 12000. With the higher grits, I might spend only 15 to 20 seconds on each.

Then I finish the piece with the Dremel buffing pads.

I could achieve the same results with ordinary wet/dry sandpaper. One thing that appealed to me about Micro-Mesh was that it’s said to be very durable. I’d like it better if I could replace the one or two pieces of paper that get the most use, namely the 1500 and 1800 grit, instead of replacing the whole set.

And I have to confess that the other thing that appealed to me was, oh,boy, another product to feed my polymer clay addiction.