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Category Archives: How To Make Jewellery

Free Tutorial – Angled Frame Pendant

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I figured it was time for another free wire wrapping tutorial! This tutorial will make you capable of quickly building a complex-looking pendant using just two wires! The result is lightweight and colourful, a combination of geometric and organic that sparkles in the light. With your choice of beads it can easily coordinate with any outfit!

These instructions include how to create this exact pendant including an incorporated bail. With this technique you should also be able to create different shaped frames for variations on the look, although those instructions are not included.

Free Angled Frame Pendant Tutorial »

How to Make a Copper Hook & Eye Clasp

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I’ve been burned on pre-made chains so many times I decided recently to make my own. I bought ball chain and jump rings and then spent some time figuring out the best kind of clasp – turns out it’s not only cheaper, but also looks better, if you make your own! Here’s a free tutorial (including a quick video) showing two versions of how to make this hook-and-eye clasp. It includes fire!

You’ll need solid copper wire in 20ga, a ruler, flush cutters, bailmaking pliers, a hammer and anvil, and probably also a metal file (which I forgot to photograph).

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Making the Hook

Cut 6cm of wire.

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[Not pictured: hammer the end of the wire]

File the end round.

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Create a tiny bend in the flattened end of the wire using your round-nose pliers.

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Use the fat side of bailmaking pliers to create a loop in the wire.

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Oh wait, you only need 5cm of wire – cut off a cm!

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Hammer this end of the wire as well, and file it round.

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Create a bend in this wire, angled towards the clasp loop.

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Use the small side of bailmaking pliers to bend the wire end backwards until it touches the back of the clasp.

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Hammer the two loops very carefully.

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Variation

So hey if you want to make a balled end, keep the original 6m and complete the steps above up to just before cutting it down; and create a balled wire end as in this video:

Pile of balled end clasps!

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Continue making the clasp hook with the balled end instead of the flattened end.

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The two variations!

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Making the Eye

Uhoh. I don’t remember how long the eye wire is supposed to be. I think maybe 8cm? Flatten one end, file it, and create the tiny P at the end with your round nose pliers.

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Use the medium bailmaking plier size (3mm) and make a small hook. Make sure the p touches the wire.

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Loosen your grip on the pliers and swing the smaller side of the pliers back around in the loop you just made, and create a “neck” bend in the wire.

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Move the pliers out so the smaller plier side is in the neck you just made; and make a 90 degree bend backwards.

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You should have this shape!

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Switch to the larger bailmaking pliers (5mm) and make a large loop in the wire end.

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Create a wrapped loop with the wire end around the straight section you created.

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Cut and tamp down the end.

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Hammer both loops.

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Finished! I dumped these into liver of sulfur and then tumbled them overnight with some soap to make them shiny, antiqued, and hardened!

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Use jump rings to attach the clasps to the end of your chain!

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Metal & Patinas

Did you know that salt and vinegar can be used as a jewelry soldering “pickle” to clean off residue? Did you also know that salt and vinegar creates a killer metal patina mixture? And did you know that you shouldn’t mix the two because one ruins the other? Ha! I don’t even care, I just mixed up a new batch of pickle when I was done because check it OUT.

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OK, so some of the orange and all of the purple in that top photo were faked with paints and inks. But the blues and the rust – that’s real, and adding this layer of chemical reaction over artificial color gave me such a rush of satisfaction. Here’s how I did it a couple of weeks ago!

First, I dredged a big pile of shiny brass metal bits & bobs in my poor sad pickle pot (which needed serious cleaning after this!). I dragged it all out (wishing I had used a strainer or something… those tiny pieces were a nuisance) – and laid it out on a paper towel. Some of the pieces I spritzed with alcohol, having heard it can increase reactions. I then just…. walked away.

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The next day, it looked like this:

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Mostly blues with a few greens! All that nasty garish shine is gone, and that was REALLY what I was looking for.

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But I’ll sure take those gorgeous teals while we’re at it. The colours deepened the longer they sat, of course. Not sure if you can really see what’s going on but these are the buckets of pieces I ended up with for my steampunk jewellery.

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I had done a bit of metal colouring before this using patina paints and alcohol inks, and it was rather unsatisfactory – figuring what the hell, I can’t make them any worse, I dumped them all in too, and it made for a fantastic array of colours and textures. I’ll definitely be doing this again!

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I was using a patina product on my clay and some other metal pieces; I actually think I might like the cheap-o version better!

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On the larger, rougher pieces of course I’ll need a sealant; but for the tiny bits I’ll let them be. They’re pretty safe.

I do love it when something unexpectedly becomes beautiful!

Book Project Examples

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I spent some time this weekend making pieces that follow the techniques from my new book, Freeform Wire Art Jewelry. This one was made using a series of beads I pulled for a Color example in the Design portion of the book. A traditional complementary colour scheme of blue and orange makes up this colorway, inspired by the artisan-made lampworked focal bead:

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I did pull out a few more and I ended up ditching the larger beads, but it’s essentially the same colorway nonetheless:

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See more examples over on the book blog!

Steampunk Inspiration

I’ve always felt a little squeamish putting the label “steampunk” on my work. Like putting watch bits in there doesn’t REALLY make it steampunk, you know? But someone else started calling it that when I made these:

Locks & Gears

 

And I looked it up and I thought… OK… cool! In fact I think at one point one of my retailers was calling these Steampunkersiseries or some such silliness. And since I’m the worst at naming things, “steampunk” is sort of what they remained. Which is fine maybe for something like this: 

Gears of Time

Steampunk

When I started doing these enormous pieces on belts, it felt better:
Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

But it still never felt quite right. I will wrap just about anything old and vintage-y, including driftwood, calipers, watch bits, and metal flowers; and I CALL it steampunk; but it’s still never felt… authentic.

That’s the word I’m missing. Authentic.

What makes it authentic?

Last week I started digging around looking for what the real steampunkers do – someone who does steampunk cosplay wears WHAT kind of jewellery now? – and it turns out the answer is, not very much.

Quick Google Images search for "Steampunk Cosplay"
Quick Google Images search for “Steampunk Cosplay”

But I really want to do something that these AMAZING PEOPLE would like to buy – even just to wear with their regular clothes! I wanted to dig deeper. And that’s when it hit me: What does Victorian jewellery look like, anyway?

Pinterest to the rescue! I started digging up Pinterest images on victorian and even art nouveau jewellery and I was amazed, delighted, and surprised by what I found.

What surprised me the most was how CREEPY it was! It’s all snakes and bees and spiders! Nobody I have ever met at a craft show would go anywhere NEAR a spider necklace (no matter how cool they are).
Various photos, original posters available at my pinterest board (link above)
Various photos, original posters available at my pinterest board (link above)

So what does this mean? I’m not sure, but it’s powerfully intriguing. I am drawn to the insects and reptiles in a way I wouldn’t have expected. The intricate filigree delights me, as well.

I feel something new brewing, just under the surface. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like but I am sure it’s going to be fun trying to get there! And I won’t stop until it feels right. Until it feels authentic.

Steampunk Polymer Clay Gears

Last weekend was my birthday weekend (yay me! and my mom, too, we shared the weekend) so I didn’t get into the studio. But I DID manage to play some more with moldmaking the weekend before. I had SUCH fun and I can’t wait to make more of these steampunk polymer clay gears. You know by now that colour is one of my driving forces, and just LOOK at these! The antique gold finish just makes it, for me.

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I rolled up and slightly flattened balls of clay and made impressions in the balls using actual gears my husband had torn out of a clock for me. I baked them and bam! Molds. So for these delicious pendants (which are waiting for wire), I rolled up more clay and used the new mold to flatten them out. Brushed-on clay gave the pieces their colour. I poked holes in the top of each and inset a grommet (really just a little rivet for scrapbooking) and baked. When they came out, they got a light fingertip brushing with gilder’s paste – I used “african bronze” for these – and after it set, I burnished the paste. Finally, two coats of varnish to seal and protect the finish.

Tomorrow is my last day of work before I get a 9-day vacation. You can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be wiring up these suckers – and the tentacles, and the flowers I don’t even know if I showed you…. and and and!

Oooh, bonus pic: Some more rustic/organic beads made from my texture molds – this time coloured with paint!

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How to Make Polymer Clay Tentacles

I’ve found a super great use for these Sculpey ball tools and the Etch N Pearl tools: tentacles! Everyone keeps asking me WHY tentacles but basically it’s a steampunk thing – like Jules Verne and such. Also… COOL. And they’re SO much fun to make I thought I’d put together a little DIY instructions for you.

At first, I rolled balls and poked them onto a snake with a tiny ball tool:

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But it didn’t seem right. After some actual research, wherein I discovered that octopuses have TWO rows of tentacles, and some trial and error, I found a better way!

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So check out this wee tutorial:

Roll out a snake of any size and any type of polymer clay, thicker at one end. Don’t make the thin end TOO thin!

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Use the smallest inverted ball end of the Etch n Pearl stick to make a row of circles down one side of the snake:tentacles-2 tentacles-3 tentacles-4

The deeper you indent, the better it will look at the end!

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Do a second row of circles down the other side of the snake, which will be getting flattened and kind of pointy in the middle!
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OK here’s the magic part. Take the medium ball end of the sculpey tool:tentacles-8

And push it into the middle of the hole. tentacles-9

It will splay out the center like a sucker! OK this one isn’t so great and I messed up the second one… but you’ll see.tentacles-10

Continue down the row of suckers with the ball tool. Be sure to push it as straight down into the hole as you can – don’t angle it or you won’t like the results as much.tentacles-11

Look at how sucker-y the ones near the tip are!!tentacles-12

And of course – do the other side!tentacles-13 tentacles-14

Let the clay rest for a bit.tentacles-16

Curve the tentacles any which way you like – either flat on the baking surface, or wrapped around something like these soldered circles:
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Now there are options for colouring – paint or mica powders – but my fave is chalk! I like doing it darkest at the back of tentacle and lighter to the sides; brush it lightly down the suckers but keep it mostly white. tentacles-24  tentacles-27 tentacles-26 tentacles-25tentacles-22

Bake according to the package directions (use paper underneath to avoid shiny spots):tentacles-23

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And then finish with 2 coats of satin finish diamond-hard varathane. You’ll love it!

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Using Silicone Mold Putty for Polymer Clay

Earlier I showed you the beads I made from The Blue Bottle Tree’s tutorials (Rustic Beads and Organic Beads). Today I want to show you how these tutorials sparked me to go around putting purple goo all over my house!

Again, I can’t show you the exact details from someone else’s tutorial, but making your own silicone molds isn’t a big secret so check it out! I got the two-part putty from Michael’s in the clay section and have been going NUTS with it ever since!

My first few – concrete wall, bit of driftwood, and some manmade textures on the bench:

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Turns out that with the right mold, you can make pretty convincing driftwood! Oh and a sand dollar… hang on..

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The sand dollar is the neatest!Original on the left, mold in the center, my baked version on the right. It’s a little dirtier than I intended and I should have poked the hole all the way through, but still… that’s some seriously fine detail. 2015-02-15 10.40.44

The tiny driftwood piece worked so well I did a bigger one; but I am not sure I care for the final results. I haven’t done much with it yet. Below you can see how the silicone molding putty works. You literally just smush the two parts together, shove it into some texture, and walk away for a bit. Come back, peel it off, and BAM! Original texture. Oh man. So good.2015-02-15 10.48.12 2015-02-15 10.48.42

All those little bits of wood totally came right out – the silicone is completely non-stick. This was a very fragile piece of wood so I just tossed it after I got the texture.

I started digging through my beachcombed box and found an oyster shell and moonsnail shell too:2015-02-15 10.49.04 2015-02-15 10.50.40

Look at the HUGE pile of texture sheets I got out of maybe 1/3 of the package, just by poking around the studio and the basement! I CAN’T WAIT until spring so I can do leaves and organic bits. I’m happy to my face :)

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Making Rustic / Organic Polymer Clay Beads

I promise, there’s a wire explosion on the way. I’ve been spending the winter making components for some new wire-based jewellery, though, so today you get more clay!

The other day I bought these two amazing polymer clay tutorials (Rustic Beads and Organic Beads). They seemed a little expensive but the final photos looked great so I went for it. I read them Friday night and could barely wait until Saturday morning to go out and get a few new supplies! I tell you, after what I did yesterday and today, I would have paid TWICE as much for these tutorials. I learned not only big techniques but little tricks (like having rubbing alcohol nearby to get the clay off your hands).

Because this project was from a tutorial I can’t give you the details of how I got to the end – you should truly, truly, buy these for yourself. They’re mini books more than anything and have SO much information. It’s 8pm on a Sunday and honestly, I just wanna get back to the studio and do some more!

But here are a couple shots of what I made using the tutorial. I LOVE these beads.

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Rubber Stamp Carving for Polymer Clay

Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I feel like I’m getting sucked in DEEP to something new and delightful :)

I first played with carving designs into some erasers, and of course immediately shoved them onto some scrap clay:

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At the first slice, I was intrigued; at the first impression, I was HOOKED. I think I carved a dozen eraser sides. And then I pulled out the real stamp-carving material, which is some sort of rubber thingy.

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Ohhhh it was fun. So fun. Partway through I stopped even bothering to draw and just did it freehand, until the entire 4×6″ sheet was covered.

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Isn’t it amazing? And I’m not kidding, I was sucked IN – I forgot to eat lunch and I cancelled plans and I spent thirteen hours in the studio last Saturday.

I immediately rolled out some thin, strong, Kato polymer clay and textured it with my new stamp, and cut out some circles (because, simple).

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The feeling of accomplishment at having MY DESIGNS on this clay was visceral. Amazing, amazing feeling.

But oh no, I wasn’t done. I’d come across this “Swellegant” metal/clay patina series and it showed up at my house just in time. I baked the discs plain (new for me!), covered them in the metal-base clay, and began playing with the patinas – which are actual reactions, not paint – and dyes, and even alcohol inks.

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I wasn’t sure when to stop, but I think I got the hang of it eventually. I definitely have a lot of layers on here but I think they came out just fine:

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Good lord but that’s exciting.

I couldn’t help myself. I carved the other one, too. This time I went with a floral/victorian feel, freehand drawn based on a book of designs.

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I already have a third vision in mind, of very thin, fine lines covering the whole sheet. But I’m out of rubber! Back to Michael’s :)

Meanwhile, back to the discs.

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Could you die? The patterns.. the patinas! Here are some of the beautiful patterns I got next to the place on the stamp they came from:

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Finally today, I combined the completed, varnished discs – which are now essentially metal! – with my hand-soldered copper circles, some other hand-patinaed metal, and a lot of wire, and made some actual pendants:

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An amazing weekend. I can now essentially make metal in any shape or size or color I could possibly want. It’s wonderful!

Art Date!

I’m super excited to play with my friend Whitney tomorrow… as a visual/doodle artist, she’s just started with polymer clay by carving her own stamps.

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Polymer Clay pendants from original stamps by Whitney Fawn

Meanwhile, I’d love to create my own stamps for my clay – I’m currently using another lady’s zentangle stamps, which I love but they’re not MINE, you know? – but getting MY doodles professionally made is prohibitively expensive!

Some of my zentangles - here's hoping I can figure out how to carve some of this!
Some of my zentangles – here’s hoping I can figure out how to carve some of this!

So Whitney’s gonna show me how to carve…

Speedball stamp carving sheets and cutters
Speedball stamp carving sheets and cutters

…and I’m going to let her play with my clay tools and toys – including a brand new set of patinas…

Swellegant metal patinas and dyes – including metal coatings to turn clay INTO metal!

…and it shall be glorious!

Clay & Beach Glass – Whoops?

Ever do anything super boneheaded? I’ve been sick this week but determined to make jewellery anyway. I didn’t have the brainpower for steampunk assemblage, so I figured I’d re-try my beach glass in polymer clay experiment. The earlier design won an award but didn’t sell much; I think because I used rare beach glass and the price was a bit high. So, I decided to make a bunch of common-colors – punching up the look with mica powders – and sell them at a lower price to offset the rare pieces.

First I used silver clay; I rolled it out and textured it, cutting out shapes to fit each piece of beach glass and adding clay bezels with individualized texture to each. I only had to take apart a couple to put the aluminum foil in!2014-11-15 09.11.37

Oops, then I realized they were supposed to be bendy – baked on spoons – or else the sheer flat backs stick to your skin and the silly things never sit right on your neck. So then I had to painstakingly move each piece onto the back of a spoon, fixing the breakage that inevitably happened when I moved them; and then I colored each piece with various mica powders, blending the colours right on the clay.2014-11-15 11.36.26

OK, baking time!2014-11-15 11.43.59

Wait. WAIT. I forgot to put the rivets in the holes! Aw, man. They’re less finished but I’ll figure something out. 2014-11-15 12.25.56

I even managed to shove rivets into some of the holes.

Second batch:2014-11-16 12.03.29

Pretty! I love the colours I managed to make… and I realized that the silver clay wasn’t the best choice – this batch is on black clay and the colours show up far better.2014-11-16 13.17.21

The middle columns are the silver clay – they’re just lacking in contrast and the texture is lost.2014-11-16 13.08.29

So, another unnecessary step due to being a bonehead: I put the first layer of varnish on, let it dry, brushed on some black acrylic paint, and wiped it off leaving it in the crevices. Left it to dry, then did the second layer of varnish to seal it in. Much improved, despite the blurry photo (also shown are some flat squares from earlier in the month that I varnished at the same time, destined for wire wrapping later).20141116_135329

OK, OK, they’re looking great. Time for another batch on black clay!20141122_111208

Fabulous! I baked them and I think they’re gorgeous…

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But… wait a second…

… awww man!! I forgot to put any holes in them AT ALL!! *facepalm*

What a knucklehead!

I’m not allowed to bake ANYTHING while sick ever again, especially not before noon.

I’m debating drilling them or possibly coming up with a wire-wrap solution.. the 4-strand braid might work… it wasn’t what I’d planned for them but hey, ya gotta roll with the punches, right?

Even when you’re a bonehead.

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Announcement: Freeform Wire Art Jewelry

So, I’ve been sitting on some really big news for oh… say, a year. It’s been taking up a lot of my time and it’s been KILLING ME that I couldn’t announce it. But now – I can!

You guys. I wrote a book.

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Last fall, FW Media found my tutorials online and came knocking at my door, asking me to write a step-by-step jewelry book. I gathered my thoughts, took a jillion photos, had the wonderful Jayme Burns take beauty shots for me (that’s her gorgeous shot on the cover), and wrote and edited and wrote and edited all year.

And now, you can pre-order it on Amazon!!

I’m so, so, pleased and nervous and excited and terrified to share this with you all. Without you I wouldn’t be here.

Keep an eye out for more news as publishing unfolds.

Colouring Clay

A friend took a trip into Artisans in the Attic this week and she pleasantly took some pics for me, which showed me that my clay pendants were getting low. Which means it’s time to make some more. She mentioned she’d like to see more colourful ones so I obliged! Normally I am random with the colours but this time I worked more systematically AND took note of my colour combinations so I’d have recipes for the next time. And then I realized that you probably haven’t seen how this works! Lots of people don’t realize that I colour my polymer clay with mica-based powders.

First, here is the raw clay. I condition the clay, roll it out, cut it with shape cutters, then texture each piece by hand using various texture tools I’ve collected and made.

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Now it’s time to start adding colour! I like the PearlEx powders personally. I have two sets which I’ve re-sorted into Metallics and Brights. 2014-03-23 12.44.11

 

Using the world’s tiniest brush, I start adding miniscule amounts of colour to the clay, one at a time. It’s easy to add too much and saturate the clay, so I have to take my time and pay attention to how much I’m adding and where I let the powder go. It can have a mind of its own!2014-03-23 12.34.07

 

I’ve found that blending colours on the clay adds much more depth and interest than just solid colour. Here I’ve built up several colours, overlaying them and creating new colours in the process.

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Next I came up with a peacock-inspired colour set.

(This is on the same blue background as above, the colour is all washed out… you’ll see the true colour when I take the final photos later on :)

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And a metallic set:

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Which one is your favourite?