Friday, September 8, 2017

PJ057 Holloween! mold tutorial

After many requests through the years we have completed our 57th design, Halloween! which is available now on our Website.

The insert that comes with the mold is black and white but you can enjoy the insert with colored images in this color tutorial.

Above Left: Parts from the mold formed using colored polymer clay.

Below Left, scan of our newest mold PJ057 Halloween! 

Size 4" by 3.25" by 1/2" thick

Sizes of all parts at the bottom of this blog.

Instructions to make the Jack-O-Lantern
1. Thoroughly condition all of the desired colors of polymer clay for your project. Mix equal amounts of Metallic Gold and Orange. (Or, if desired, to prevent mica shift lines mix two parts of yellow to one part orange to soften the orange color to a more natural pumpkin color.)

For larger, close up views click on the pictures.

2. Lightly mist the Jack-O-Lantern mold and tap out any excess moisture from the mold. Dry the solid top of the mold leaving moisture only in the details.

3. Mold the stem first. Roll some of the green (or brown, gray, etc color) clay into a 3/16th inch ball. Press the ball firmly into the stem area only using the Peej shaper or knitting needle to fill the tiny scalloped edges of the stem.  

4. Roll the mixed orange clay into a ball and flatten until it is a round shaped disk, similar to the shape of the pumpkin. Press the clay very firmly into the center part of the mold. While holding the clay firmly begin to press the clay into the mold from several directions from the center out.

5. To pick up all the facial details you will need to press the clay in several places and in more than one direction. Begin by pressing first the clay firmly into the center of the mold. Next, while holding the clay in position with one hand use the fingers of your other hand to press the clay toward the center and then outwards. Move your free hand to the outside edge and begin pressing down and toward the center all the way around while turning the mold around. 

 6. When you have pressed the clay firmly in all directions, drag any excess clay from the solid part of the mold back into the design until a line of separation begins to show. 

7. If there is too much clay and it 'humps' up remove the excess clay by laying a blade parallel to the mold surface near the center of the mold and, using gentle see-sawing movements, remove any excess. Be careful to push the blade gently as it can slip and perhaps cut your fingers. Always cut away from yourself. Continue to turn the mold around remove from the excess from center out until the back is flat and flush with the mold. 

8. If desired you may texture the back of the molded part before de-molding at this time using any texture sheet or tools.
9. Pick up the mold, flex first one way and then the other and de-mold. Place the de-molded part onto your baking surface.

De-molded Jack-0-Lantern with green stem
10. If vine tendrils are to be added, either mold them or use a thin rope of green, brown etc. to make the tendrils at this time. Press them gently into place.  If they are not sticking well, add a tiny bit of Bake N Bond or similar material to create a strong bond.
11. Bake following the manufacturer's instructions.  Allow cooling.

12.  If differently colored features are desired you may do it here. When the clay is cool: use an old, small brush to brush a light bit of Bonding Clay Helpers such as Bake N Bond or Poly Paste or a tiny bit of liquid clay into the feature openings. Press additional clays into the openings from the center out.  Bonding Clay Helpers form a bond that bonds unbaked clay to  baked clay. When completed, bake as described on the clay package.
  • 1. Glow in the dark features: an approximately 1/16” thick layer of glow in the dark clay to fill the features. Bake following the instructions on the Glow in the Dark clay package. Left, finished design; right shown in the dark.

  • 2. Black features in orange pumpkin: roll a thin layer of black clay add bonding clay and cover the textured areas with black. Optional, use black acrylic paint to paint the features.
  • 3. Flaming, red & bright, light yellow eyes in an orange or black pumpkin. Put a layer of yellow clay into the features. Lay a thread of red clay along the bottom edge. Press it in place. Use a pointy tool to drag some of the red up into the yellow in wavy lines to mimic flames. 
  • 4. Black night pumpkin with Yellow, Flames, or Glow in the Dark features: see above instructions. Optional: use yellow acrylic paint and a thin tool to 'paint' the inside of the openings. 
13. Bake again if you have added unbaked clay modifications. Allow cooling.

14.  Add pin back or a bail and cord if making pendant. Decorate a frame with your little one in costume, etc. Otherwise, finish as desired!

15. Have some spooky fun!!!!!!!!

This new mold is available on our website now! 
Thanks for visiting!
Penni Jo Couch
Designer & Sculptor of Best Flexible Molds

Sizes of parts

Jack-O-Lantern 1 11/16 x 1 5/8” (41 x 42 m m)

Hissing Kitty 2 1/8 x 1 9/16” (55 x 41 mm)

Witche's Hat 15/16 x 1“ (24 x 25 mm)

Ghost 15/16” x 1 1/4“ (24 x 34 mm)

Boo! Tag 1 1/6 x 5/8” (27 x 15.5 mm)

Bat 1 9/16 x 7/8” (41 x 22 mm)

Larger Candy Corn 13/16 x 1/2” (20 x 12.5 mm)

Smaller Candy Corn 9/16 x 3/16” (14 x 9 mm)
Vine Tendrils ¼” by various lengths (6 mm by a variety of lengths)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Scorpions anyone? Check our our newest Mold

 No need for fear!!

 This is not a real scorpion, it was molded of scrap clay using our newest mold, PJ056 Scorpions, mold. 

After the members of the Ok Polyclay guild had an opportunity to make some tiny scorpions at a function where I had brought some unusual molds there were requests for a scorpion mold, the idea was researched and sketched out. But before I could get very far with it, I had to undergo open heart surgery to replace two valves and repair a third.

The last three months have been both recovery time and the beginning of some time and energy to work on the parts for the mold. 

After weeks of working on and off of the large sculpture it was finally finished. Next the tiny one was sculpted then the medium sized one was begun. However, at this time it became clear that another scorpion with a curled tail would not fit into the mold.

All of the reference photos showed the insect with a straight tail so.... if the molded tail were straight the user could choose which way the tail would curl. Right, left or over the center.

 Here are the steps to curl the tail over the back of the insect whilst retaining the details.

  • Cut off the tail after molding.
  • Put a dot of Bake N Bond or Poly Paste on the body where the tail was removed.
  • Turn the tail over so that the details face up. 
  • Press the tail onto the body. Hold a few seconds to be sure it is secured.
  • Curve the tail up and over the body.
  • Add a tiny dot of Bake N Bond or Poly Paste to the underside of the 'stinger'. 
  • Press the 'stinger' down to the body. 

Left: mold showing molded, trimmed medium scorpion, ready to de-mold. 

Just for fun I added, to the mold, a swirly pattern, a wildflower and a very, very tiny turtle (between the pincers of the big scorpion).

Thanks for stopping by!

Above: PJ056 Scorpions Flexible Art Mold
All designs by Penni Jo Couch
This mold will soon be available on our website:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Metal Etching Using Flexible Texture Mats from Best Flexible Molds

Recently I received a question from a metal artist, Debbie Bobby of Bronze Bullet Design,  about using our mats as artwork for etching sheet metal. Graciously, after doing a number of experiments, she has written out how she used our mats in this process.  

Metal etching using Flexible Texture Mats from BestFlexible Molds.

If you’re a clay artist using flexible texture mats and wondering what else you can do with them, or if you’re into etching metal, but looking for cool new textures and wondering if these flexible mats will work for you, the answer to both questions is a resounding YES!

I love making patterned bead caps, charms for earrings, pendants, and other findings to integrate into my jewelry pieces. I frequently use copper, but occasionally sterling or fine silver, bronze, nu gold, and brass, too. 

Gingko leaves earring dangles and bead caps.
There are a number of ways to transfer a pattern onto sheet metal. You can etch, use rolling mills with texture plates, or good old elbow grease with a hammer, just to name a few. If you choose to etch, you can use rubber stamps, texture mats, or even freehand a pattern or image onto your metal using a “resist”. All that means is using some sort of ink or other material to mask portions of your piece. The sections that are masked with your “resist” will be the high points on your piece. The areas not masked with your resist will be etched – literally, eaten away by the etchant method you choose – creating interesting textures and patterns.

There are many ways to etch metal, each with their own distinct results. The two I commonly use are electric etching using a saturated salt water solution and current, or using Ferric chloride etchant. Ferric chloride is the faster of the two solutions and the one I’ve used for the experiment I’m about to cover.

I was in search of some new designs for some bead caps I wanted to make, and as I frequently do, I searched Etsy. I’d seen most of the patterns before, but I came across some flexible texture mats designed specifically for clay products on the Best Flexible Molds shop. A few really caught my eye. But I wanted to etch copper. Would it work? I sent Penni Jo, the shop owner, a note asking if she knew. She quickly replied that she really didn’t know, but added she was now curious and asked if I would be willing to experiment and share the results. I agreed and within a day or two, four sample mats arrived.

When I opened the package, I felt pretty comfortable that these would work out. I set out to do some testing using all four of the samples mats I received. I was delighted with the results! Here’s how the testing went:

First just a little disclaimer – There are a ton of excellent and very detailed, step by step tutorials on etching with Ferric chloride, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I recommend the one I learned with on the Rings & Things website.

What I’ll cover here are the specifics around my experience and results using PenniJo’s flexible texture mats, generously provided! 

Step 1 – Clean, buff and dry. Get your copper squeaky clean. 
I use a commercial copper cleaner called Penny Brite® and a Scotchbrite® sponge, but you can also just sand it with a fine grit sanding block followed, by some alcohol. You want the water to sheet off – no beading up! Dry it thoroughly using paper towels. Once it’s washed, handle with gloves to avoid the transfer of any oils from your fingers.

Step 2 – Apply a resist to the pattern on your flexible texture mat.
I used a StazOn® Ink pad, pressing multiple times to get good coverage. Because the mat is so flexible, I placed the copper on top of it, then placed a large wooden block on top of the back side of the copper to apply even pressure.

Berber texture resist results:

This is the first texture I used and apparently, I didn’t press too well! Coverage is pretty uneven on the left side. This is easy to fix, just using a Sharpie as you’ll see later.

Faux Tooled Leather resist results:

Once again, not enough ink or insufficient pressure, but corrected later.

Center Cut Log resist results:

My goof here for not capturing the ink applied to the texture mat, but you can see, I’m getting more practiced at both the amount of resist and pressure to ensure a good transfer. This looks pretty good.

Ginko Leaf resist results:

Getting consistently good transfer of the resist achieving a high degree of coverage.

On the Berber and Tooled patterns, remember that I was missing ink in quite a few places? Just using a medium tip Sharpie, I filled in those missing areas.

Step 3 – Etching.

SAFETY IS A MUST!!! Ferric chloride is a chemical and needs to be used and disposed of properly. It is toxic and harmful to the environment, so it needs to be disposed of according to your local laws. I drop it off to my city’s hazardous material department for proper disposal

Act responsibly. Always thoroughly read about and understand any chemicals you are working with to ensure your personal safety and no harm to the environment. You can easily find the MSDS sheets on the internet.

Make sure your resist is dry. For the Ferric Chloride process I used, you need to “float” your etch piece on top of the ferric chloride solution. 

I secured two of mine using double-sided carpet tape and two using the Rings & Things approach. Both methods have pros and cons –experiment to see what works best for you.

Step 4 – Place your pieces, design side down, into your etchant. 
 Gently agitate your container by jiggling it on the table every 10 minutes or so. Pull your pieces out once you achieve the desired etch and clean them well, referring to #8 in the Rings & Things tutorial.

After cleaning, here are my results. I have to say, I’m very happy with the level of detail and depth of etch I achieved using Penni Jo’s flexible texture mats.

I’m providing a side by side view of the resist and the resulting etch after 60 minutes in the ferric chloride bath.

Tx04 Nubby Berber texture Mat used

Tx01 Faux Tooled Leather texture mat used
Tx08 Center Cut texture mat used

Tx10 Gingko Leaves Texture mat used

Step 5 is simply to shape and/or finish your etched material for your particular application. 
 I’ll be making a variety of jewelry components with these including bead caps, pendants and earring charms. Here are a couple of examples:

Bead caps made using the Faux Tooled Leather texture mat with a liver of sulfur patina.

Bead caps made using the Center Cut Oak texture mat with a various patina treatments (like Furubi®, fuming, and flame patina).

I'm really very pleased with the results using these flexible mats. I think they are definitely on par with stamps and mats designed specifically for metal etching.

Have fun!

Debbie Bobby
Owner/maker, Bronze Bullet Design

A note from Penni Jo
Thank you so very much Debbie! The work you've done with these mats is amazing. The items you've created are beautiful and super functional. Joe and I are very  pleased with the beautiful metal pieces that she has created. 
Because our mats are hand poured, they might not be perfectly flat like commercially made mats or stamps. But it's my thought that if the material pressing the mats to the metal is rather flexible also, then more of the design could be imprinted on first try.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tiny Polymer Clay Bowl with Gold Fish

Tiny Coiled Bowl with Gold Fish

List of Materials Used:
•Small, oven safe bowl.  The bowl used in this tutorial is a glass bowl from Dollar Tree. They were 4 for a dollar. Size of Bowl: diameter 3 1/2" (88mm) - height 1 9/16" (40mm)
•Strong Polymer clay in your choice of colors - about 3 to 4 ounces depending on size of bowl. •• For this bowl I used polymer clay scraps from white and translucent to a blue-gray to turquoise and a tiny bit of Peacock. All the scrap colors were in the turquoise family and were conditioned separately before beginning the project. 
•Polymer clay safe work surface. NOTE: be very careful with polymer clay as it can damage fine furniture and painted surfaces. A good choice is a ceramic tile, wax paper, aluminum foil, metal cooking sheet etc.  
•Pasta Machine dedicated to polymer clay, Brayer or Acrylic Rolling rod
•Knitting needle or Penni Jo’s Clay Tools•Blade
•Tiny fish mold - I used PJ030 Fun with Dolphins mold but any tiny fish mold would work.
•Mica Powder to color gold fish. I used Copper.
•Your favorite clay tools
•Optional: •Extruder to make ropes of clay, •Chalks •Rubber gloves,  •Paper towels    •Glitter  •Mold 

Basic Polymer Clay Bowl Instructions:
This design was created on the of the bowl.
1.  Collect about 3 to 4 ounces of scrap clay colors that will go together well. Condition each color well before the next step. (see color page)

2.  Chop up all of the colors using a rigid blade. Mix the colors and chop again until the pieces are about 1/3 to ¼ inch bits.

3.  Roll the chopped clay bits into a ball and compress it with your hand.

4.  Using a roller press the ball flat, turning it several times. When the ball is flat enough to go through a pasta machine, put it through, only one time, on the second thickest setting to make a multi-color slab of clay. (Five to Six playing cards thick)

5.  Cut a number of slices from the slab, about 1/8 to ¼ inch deep as shown

6. Roll several pieces of rope, some longer and some shorter. The longer ones will make  larger coils, the shorter ones will be used to make smaller coils to fit around the larger ones.

7.  To make the coils: Roll a slice from the slab into a rope about 1/8 inch thick.

  A.  Begin the coil by curling one end to begin the coil with a tiny curled end. 

  B.  Lay the tiny curl on a surface and, while keeping the coil flay, very gently pull the loose end of the coil around the coil until reaching the end of the rope. 

  C.  By keeping your finger very gently on the coil while wrapping it you will prevent the coil from forming a cone.

D.  Tuck the end up against the coil to finish it.

E. Make a bunch of coils of various sizes.

8.  To pick up a coil, do not use your fingers as the coil can distort upon lifting. Instead, use a scraper or other blade to lift it from the work surface.

9. Beginning with the larger coils press them into (or outside) the bowl.

10.  Cover the inside (or outside) of the bowl with ropes beginning with the largest ones to smaller ones.

11.  Do not overlap the coils but put them next to each other so that they just touch. Don't worry about the little spaces between the coils at this time.

12.  As you place the coils and they begin to touch each other, you can strengthen the contact by adding tiny bits of Bake 'n Bond® or Poly Paste® on a pointy stick or Peej Pick.

13.  Using smaller and smaller coils, fill between the larger coils taking care not to overlap the larger coils. Press gently to your baking form.

14. Fill tiny areas using small slices of rope or tiny balls of clay. Secure with Bake ‘n Bond as needed. Images: top- bowl with coils being added, bottom- bowl ready to bake.

15.  Optional finishing: I molded 5 tiny fish using translucent clay and the PJ030 Fun with Dolphins mold. The fish were molded then dusted with Perfect Pearls® bronze powder. The excess powder was dusted from the fish and then the fish were lifted into place in the bowl of coils. Several dots of Bake 'n Bond® or Poly Paste® were added to hold the tiny fish in place.

16.  Bake following the manufacturer's instructions. The polymer clay bowl can be removed when cool.  Shown below is the bowl in sunlight. It is 3 1/4" (81mm) in diameter.

Finishing. If you have secured the coils where they come together, nothing more should be needed.

Enjoy this tiny treasure. It can hold your favorite earrings, your rings while you lotion your hands, etc. At the office or at work you could hold paper clips, a staple puller, finger covers, a glue stick, thumb tacks, an eraser, etc.

If you want to reinforce some areas or add to the bowl, put the bowl back into the glass bowl in which it was created to support it during successive bakings.

The tiny fish were molded in translucent clay using the PJ030 Fun With Dolphins Mold, available on our website Best Flexible Molds.   I've discovered that, when using most mica powders, they go onto translucent clay beautifully and keep a rich color.

Thanks for stopping by!
Penni Jo Couch 
Designer & sculptor of