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Category Archives: Polymer Clay

Faux Roman Glass (Review)

The Blue Bottle Tree is an utterly irreplaceable source of knowledge about polymer clay. With wire, anything I see I can pretty much figure out how to do – but polymer clay is a mystery to me that I’m still unraveling, so I read as much as I can, and I buy tutorials every now and then as well.

I’ve actually shown you a few things from Ms. Ginger Davis Allman’s Blue Bottle Tree tutorials before – and she’s used my book to wire wrap her own faux beach glass and write a review of the experience – so you can sort of expect me to rave a bit about this tutorial.

Some of my rustic beads from a Blue Bottle Tree tutorial
Some of my rustic/organic beads from a Blue Bottle Tree tutorial

When I saw her Faux Glass Tutorial, I sucked air:

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This is a tutorial for SEVERAL type of faux glass – including carnival glass and beach glass – but what caught my eye was the amazing roman glass on the cover. For those of you who don’t know, recently some enterprising folks have begun digging up glass from the roman period and chipping it into beads. It is stunning in its aged glory.

Check out the real thing at this eBay auction:

REAL Roman Glass

 

So very stunning. And often, extremely expensive. So this tutorial made me REALLY excited. I jumped at it and, like the other tutorials Ginger has put out, it was worth every penny. I again learned new things I should have known or might have figured out if left with the clay long enough, but she made it just so simple and obvious.

First of all – the faux glass is a LENGTHY process, with a lot of steps. You… may not have noticed this, but I’m not a fan of things that take a long time or are too fiddly. I may never make another batch (unless they show themselves to be more popular than I expect!). But I am SO GLAD I made this batch! The multiple steps are absolutely essential to create the ancient, layered effect of the millenia-old glass beads.

Ginger’s steps are perfect to follow. I am a cook, not a baker, because I CANNOT follow steps – I have to read and re-read and re-read AGAIN… but this tutorial made it simple even for this poor global brain.

The Pardo clay, as promised, WAS a bit difficult to work with, but she gave me all the information I needed to keep from getting frustrated. And I am REALLY, extremely, so very happy with the end result.

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I’m not a BIG fan of the way I did the grey gunk – it’s too much. When/if I try it again I’ll do far less.  But I love the distressed look, and the iridescence, and it really does look like glass!

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When I was done I was stymied. NOW WHAT?! I had no idea what I wanted to DO with these. I sorted them into sets and then still couldn’t quite figure it out (been doing that a lot, lately). I had a vague idea that they would work well in a steampunk dangle set but I couldn’t really pull the trigger on that one. I ended up putting them away (which is why it’s taken so long to get this review up!).

Recently, they caught my eye again and I just barreled ahead. I picked through my bead stash and found some beads that really picked up the iridescence of the clay, and went to town.

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I think I like these little sets! And I KNOW that I LOVE this faux glass tutorial. I think you will, too!

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Tyrannical Botanical Molds

I have been 1000% obsessed with the organic molds I made last week. But after that first batch, something went horribly, horribly wrong! Let me show you. First, here’s the exciting thing I was doing with chalk on the raw polymer clay impressions:

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Faaaaaabulous, right? I was PUMPED. But it was too hot to turn the oven on, so I covered the raw clay and waited nearly a week for an evening cool enough to bake. Imagine my chagrin when I found that all of that gorgeous colour had FADED!!

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left: before baking. right: after baking. OH NO.

I was heartbroken. I tried a few things but couldn’t fix it. My new crackle medium had arrived, and since I was getting such good results with it:

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Crackling everything I could lay my hands on…

….I thought it might be able to save my faded junk. turns out… only sorta. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I wanted.

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Better but… not quite right, not yet. I had some thoughts about making the crackle different – always learning, you know – but meantime, I thought MAYBE it had faded only because it had sat there for so long and the clay had leached the chalk colour, causing the fading. So, I made up a new batch, baking them immediately, using similar colours as before, to see what would happen.

And it did it AGAIN.

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DAMMIT

Frig. These ones I didn’t want to crackle – I didn’t think I’d learned enough yet to be trusted not to ruin these. But suddenly, I thought – what about alcohol ink?

And… well, let me just show you.

Here’s a set of sad, faded, baked medallions:

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Heartbreakingly pale.

And here are the same pieces with a bit of alcohol ink added and some distressing done to knock it back:

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SAVED!

Can you guess if there was squealing?!

Check out some more:

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Remember that faded hexagon from before? Well, I hadn’t crackled it, so I tried fixing it with ink:

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OMG

Here’s that whole second set, SAVED by alcohol ink!

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squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

My heart is still palpitating with the gorgeosity (it’s a word!) of these. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites, taken in natural light. Needless to say, I’ll be doing these again soooooooon.

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Organic Faux Ceramic (Polymer Clay)

Earlier this week, I found this post on pinterest, linking to Poly Clay Corner’s post on what to do with liquid polymer clay. This led me down the rabbithole to this post about faux ceramic. Such a beautiful result!

At the same time, I was eyeing my molding material out of the corner of my eye – I’d been waiting for summer to get some real live organics out of my silicon molding putty. So being me, I decided to combine the two ideas!

First, a little trip into the back yard for some leaves and tiny flowers and things. It was surprising how many I could find! I thought about it and figured a solid mold would work better for what I was aiming towards, so I pulled out my giant box of white sculpey and went to work.

making molds from flowers in polymer clay
My first attempt at making a mold out of a flower!

Some organic material was left in the clay, but who could be mad when this plant came complete with its own curlicues?!

Check out those curlies!
Check out those curlies!

I did up a few different molds, then shoved them in the oven to bake. (Note: I finally got ceramic tiles! The only size was 3×6 but as it turns out – pretty well perfect for this!).

Ceramic Tiles full of molds to be baked
Ceramic Tiles full of molds to be baked

I figured I could scrub the organic crap out after they baked. Turns out – only sorta, but eventually the stuff pulled out onto fresh clay anyway. After the molds baked and cooled, I pulled out my Kato liquid clay and started to mix colour into it using a few of the only alcohol inks I had on hand (oh, my poor bank account is going to suffer shortly, I can tell). I used one of my new tiles as a mixing surface, which worked great – for a while. After a bit it started running together, so I used it to just mix new colours.

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Alcohol ink. I let it dry as per instructions, then mixed it in with my Kato liquic polyclay
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You should have seen the mess after I started making purple and brown and different greens….

But… it was time to start making shapes to paint. So I rolled out some clay, pressed in my stamps, and with delighted squeals I started cutting out ovals, squares, circles, and rectangles, placing them on my mini tiles and putting them aside (so convenient) until I had enough to start painting.

And then. The painting. Oh, the painting.

My first attempts at faux ceramic with tinted liquid polymer clay
My first attempts at faux ceramic with tinted liquid polymer clay

It was INSTANTLY addictive. I realized I was going to want to do this until my eyes bled (I pretty much did – immediately upon quitting at 9pm last night, I got a silent migraine aura and couldn’t see). And in that case, I was going to need a LOT more tinted clay. I looked around the studio and found these little food cups from the dollar store, and mixed up a chunk for each of my ink colours. Not a perfect colour wheel, but sure dang close!

Mixing up larger batches of liquid polymer clay
Mixing up larger batches of liquid polymer clay

So far as I know, this stuff doesn’t go bad, or even dry out, since it needs to be baked to set. I was able to spend a LOT of time futzing with my colours and even leaving the brushes out most of the day, they never got hard or gross. A wash in alcohol (since alcohol dissolves polymer clay) cleaned them up.

A rainbow of brushes
A rainbow of brushes

But what am I saying! BACK TO THE PRETTY THINGS.

More of my first tries
More of my first tries

These are two of my favorites – I love how the colour has melded together:

By this point I was hopelessly lost. i went back out and got MORE organics and made MORE molds so I could make more different pieces (see, this is why I couldn’t have a tattoo, I’d be a circus freak by the end of the week, covered head to toe in different ones).

Second batch of molds
Second batch of molds

This second batch was even more exciting than the first. I’d learned a few things along the way of course and while these aren’t perfect, they improved. And look at the super up close detail I was getting out of them!

Beautiful impressions
Beautiful impressions out of my next set of molds
Mold on left, impression on right
Mold on left, impression on right
Starting to get the hang of this coloring thing!
Starting to get the hang of this coloring thing!

These all got baked and they have a really beautiful texture – not quite matte, not quite glossy. Soft and lovely under the fingers. On a few of them, I heat set the first layer of colour to avoid bleeding; on others, I WANTED the bleeding.

I’m not sure how many trips to the oven I made yesterday but this morning, I wanted MORE. This time I hit the front yard, and I feel like this was the jackpot set of molds.

Organics for molds - batch three!
Organics for molds – batch three!
I mean really. Look at this!
I mean really. Look at this!

Such detail out of these ones.

Last night I found my brushes were all rolling into each other and they kept contaminating the colours. So I quickly rolled up a log and used a brush to make impressions along it, baking it with my last batch of the evening. This morning when I got set up, it was PERFECT.

Brush holder
Brush holder

I tried some orange today – it’s not bad, but I can do better.

Orange?
Orange?

My final pile is exciting and summery. I wish I had another week’s vacation to get these ready to sell! I think I’ll do a 4-strand braid in silver on these. Might make some brooches, definitely some earrings.

But without further ado: the final pieces! See how soft and not-quite-matte they are?

Faux Ceramic Final
Faux Ceramic Final
So many!
So many!
So colourful!
So colourful!
SO HAPPY.
SO HAPPY.

Rustic Gear Pendant Sets

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Super fabulous sets of necklaces and earrings! I had the most fun making these… molds made from actual clock gears used to create polymer clay medallions, hand coloured with chalk and gilded, or painted with metal paint and patinaed with chemicals, then sealed with a diamond-hard finish. I strung these on bead chain with hand-forged clasps and hand-made earwires.

Enjoy!

Production Update

No time for writing today! Just some photos from the weekend. Back to silver – gotta make lots of things FROM the book to go along with SELLING the book. Yippee!

Beach glass bib necklaces:

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Polymer clay bib necklace:

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Steampunk assemblage pendants:

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Lampwork simple bead pendants:

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That’s it for now! Told you there’d be a wire explosion soon :D

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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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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Concepts & Clay

I purchased a small fistful of these tiny watch parts one time because I couldn’t help but think they’d make perfect bird heads. Today the muse hit to give it a go!

I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted it to go, but first, I traced the watch part – doesn’t it look just like a head with a beak and an eye?! – and tried a couple of sizes and angles of body before I found one I was satisfied with. Next, I textured some clay and started cutting it out!

birds and eyes

After placing the heads and wings, adding a few more genuine watch parts, and doing a bit more texturing, I came up with two separate colourways and did half the birds in each using pearlex powders and a teeny weeny brush. One set is sorta peacock-ish and one is rather rustic and cosy:

birds and eyes

Loving it so far! I wasn’t sure what to do next, though – I had only thought through as far as the bird shape itself! Now what? Well, I knew I wanted some matching beads in there so I found a few that worked and, using some heavy gauge wire I built these bail-type things:

birds and eyes

But there’s an inherent flaw here! Can you see it? Well, basically, the big hole at the top is facing out but a chain would have to go side to side. D’oh! what to do, what to do…. I could turn the big loop but I liked the hammered look – plus, a single loop isn’t very stable for a bail. I dug around the studio to see what I could find and came up with a couple of ideas:

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Nope. Not working. That black cord with the lark’s head knot is almost right but the cord itself is too slippery and won’t stay. Doing the same thing with a chain just looks messy. Finally I realized I can CUT the chain and use jump rings to attach – then we get a Y-shape with a fun drop pendant, and everything lies nice and flat! After that I was able to quickly finish up my workday and get back to Deep Space Nine :D

birds and eyes

Another weekend, another project. And aren’t those colours to die for?!

Steampunk Clay Pendants

I’ve been sculpting in polymer clay for a long, long time – before there was much online to help folks out. Recently I’ve been digging into it again and loving it! I even signed up for the Metal Clay class at Craftsy.com just today… can’t wait to find some time for it. But meanwhile, here’s something I’ve been doing recently: Steampunk Clay Pendants When I first got back into clay in terms of jewellery last year, I started sculpting little hearts and nautilus shells. I had all these leftover teeny watch parts that were too small to wrap, so I started jamming them into the clay. I was in love with them! But then my husband said, “That’s great Gayle. But how many of those can you make in an hour?” I feebly said, “um, two?” That was clearly not fast enough for my limited production time, so I took the lid off a watchmaker’s case and started cutting out circles. Voila! Steampunk Clay Pendants It didn’t get super fast though until I finally broke down and bought a pasta/clay machine. For the sake of 30 bucks I have no idea what I was waiting for! This thing is genius. It conditions and flattens the clay in literal seconds, with absolutely no hand pain. The last piece of the puzzle was PearlEx powders. I’d been seeing them around and finally I bought a case… and then another. And now I’m completely addicted! I made two dozen of these last weekend, and another two dozen throughout the evenings this week! Steampunk Clay Pendants All I need to do now is get ’em all wire-wrapped to make them ready for sale. My next batch, I’m thinking of doing a tutorial for it. SO pleased. So, so pleased. Steampunk Clay Pendants Also, am I the only one who just stares at her own work?! Especially photos where you can really see the details!

Polymer Clay

Clay!

I’ve been itching to get back into polymer clay for quite some time, and this past week I finally pulled it out and had the most fun with it! I had all these teeny tiny watch parts from when Laird tore apart a bunch of watches for me and there were just so many that I really couldn’t use… they’re so small they either can’t be attached or they get lost within the design. So I’ve been collecting them in little watchmaker’s cases for a while now.

However, they’re perfect for pushing into clay! I wasn’t sure what kind of shape to make – I knew I wanted to create some kind of animal look like it had been made out of metal in Victorian times but it took a while to hit on the nautilus/snail shape. They were super fun to work on.

I made a bunch and then tried some hearts, which worked out OK but Laird pointed out that they were taking me forever to make, so I thought for a few minutes and figured out that the watchmaker’s cases made perfect circular cutters, so I made a bunch of those quickly to try and even out the time I’d spent on the more sculptural pieces :)

Clay!

I varnished them after baking and will wrap them after. So there’s more to come!