Monday, December 22, 2014

Claying with Jane

A while back my friend Jane and I began talking about getting together to play in clay sometime before Christmas.We occasionally share websites that have projects on them and I ran across this particular project on a Polymer Clay Blog in France and sent the link to her.

The instructions to make this shimmering ribbon jewelry starts about one third of the way down the page. The page is in French and there are some notes that can be translated to English. However, the images are very good and Jane and I were able to figure out how to make the basic ribbon clay.

Like so many other projects I figured it would take two or three tries to get something I liked so I only used half of my clay to make the ribbon and I was glad I did.

After figuring out what colors of clay we needed etc., we began in earnest to create our own ribbons of clay. Oh my goodness what a lot of blending we did! There are six separate colors each made of a Pearl color and white Skinner blends. For the lesson in France according to the pictures they had either a metallic color or added either Pearl or gold to a non-metallic color to make it either Pearl-ly or gold-y.

We had one metallic color and therefore had to mix a lot of Pearl into the other five colors. Thank goodness for food processors! The two of us worked hard all afternoon and when Jane left to go home we each had six rods of Skinner blends rolls the with the white inside to the color outside. Jane had already added the layer of black to the outsides of hers. That evening I added the black layer to mine and made the ribbon of clay shown left.

To the left you can see the first ribbon I created. A note here, in some places we couldn't guess what the French words were so I started typing any embedded words we did not understand into a translator. The last sentence says, and here I will paraphrase, there will be a lot of material and you can make lots of things. They weren't kidding! The ribbon you see in the second picture is about 40 inches long that's a lot of material and a chance to make a lot of projects and a lot of the mistakes. LOL

 I liked the way her pendants seem to have a border around them and I'm used to making a domed pendant or domed cabochon. So obviously my first choice was to use some scrap clay and make a domed oval and wrap it and a black border.

That caused a lot of problems. I figured that to reveal the Skinner blended ribbons of clay that sanding would have to happen.

 No amount of sanding could make this pendant have a smooth finish from side to side for a few good reasons.
 1. I should have started with a very flat background to begin with. Lumps show up.
2. A border on a curved side will prevent sanding the entire surface resulting in a *dirty* look to the side edges of the pendant as the sandpaper cannot send smoothly in the crack between the dome and the border.
3. When making the pendant or other design it's important to keep the clay flat and use care putting the ribbon layer on a scrap background. Every bump or flaw shows up.
4. Put your favorite colors in the middle. I'm not a big yellow fan but love turquoise (it's on the edge). Also, purple is not pretty next to orange. Will re-order the colors on the next one. (I'm so glad that I only used part of the clay to make the first ribbon, and now I can rearrange the colors for more personally satisfying design next time)

 5. As you can imagine the more you sand, the brighter the colors get so be prepared to sand! The sanding it will remove the thin layer of black which each single ribbon of Skinner blend is wrapped to reveal the underlying colors. The more you sand the more the light setters begin to show through. But, the layer of color is thin so sand a lot but sand gently and watch the color changes closely.

After watching the colors change during the sanding it occurred to me that an image imprinted into the soft clay might leave a cool pattern with stripes. 

Now fast forward a couple weeks....

Tonight I took the idea of imprinting the soft clay with a rubber stamp pattern.

this time I made a sheet of scrap clay on number two setting on my pasta machine and rolled it flat onto a ceramic tile taking care not to catch any air bubbles. Next I rolled the ribbon of clay onto the scrap clay again, taking care not to catch air pockets.

The piece of clay was then imprinted all over with some little rubber stamp swirls.

The piece of clay shown in this picture to the left is not applied yet to the firm background so it is still very flexible.

This time I did not dome the clay but left it flat and randomly stamped it all over.

Then using the new Polyform®oval cutters cut one large, two medium and two small ovals from the sheet of clay.

The excess clay was removed, the cut pieces were left undisturbed and were then placed in the oven for about 30 minutes.

To the left is the tile in the oven. Note that you can see all the colors of the layers of clay.

  • The bottom layer is some scrap blue clay.
  • The top layer is what you can see on the ribbon.
  • The middle layer shows the white of the Skinner blends.

After baking and standing it will be easy enough to add a black border to these designs if desired.
 Above are the baked designs cooling. The colors are very interesting that I really like the brighter ones that are. Like so many things it's really a matter of taste.

Now that they're cool the sanding can begin.

This larger shot of the cooled discs shows even more clearly the cross-sections of the clay.
 I began sanding firstly with a small piece that has turquoise orange and purple almond and was delighted with the way it's turning out. The dotted lines are still dark but a bit messy. I noticed that there are little tan dots and discovered that those dots are actually powdered clay filling the dark designs. I think they will clean up nicely when I've had more of a chance to work on them. In the future I'm thinking to use an imprint design that does not have so many dots but is just made of smooth lines

To the left you see the duller, and un-sanded designs.

The larger oval is turning out very well and I'm pleased with it. It will probably need some more sanding especially in the red and yellow ribbons. I believe that, when varnished, the colors will be more brilliant and the dark lines blacker looking.

Thanks so much for stopping by. It is amazing how we can share with each other globally. If you get a chance to stop by the friendly clayers in France. The link is above.

Penni Jo Couch
designer, sculptor and creator of Best Flexible Molds

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Polymer Clay Holly Earrings and Box

I had a great time claying to make a present for the annual church gift exchange this year.

Using a metal cookie cutter a polymer clay box was created to hold a pair of festive, molded holly earrings.

The same design used to make the earrings graced the interior of the holly box.
Holly Box shown with the holly cookie cutter.
 A thin ribbon of clay was pressed into the cookie cutter and a second ribbon of clay was pressed to the outside of the cutter. The cookie cutter with the clay was baked to harden the shapes.

 Festive earrings made using molded parts from two molds. 
The holly leaves were molded using green clay in the PJ017 Let it Snow!
The bows were molded using red clay in the PJ018 Here Comes Santa Claus mold.
 Final gift. After all the sculpting and controlled highlighting with Pearl Ex powder Apple Green and Scarlet mica powders, a bit of the green mica powder was mixed with a tiny amount of Future® finish and lightly sponged over all the box bottom and top.
 Side view showing how the top covers the bottom, like a candy box.
Holly box with a quarter for scale. 

Molds are found on our website Best Flexible Molds

Design by Penni Jo Couch.

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Play Clay with new friend Jennifer

 At the Wiley Post Festival last month, I demonstrated the fun of playing with polymer clay. Also in my booth were finished projects, blocks of Premo, Polymer Clay magazines and books. One of the ladies who visited with me, and who watched the demo was Jennifer M.

She was delighted with polymer clay and asked questions listening closely. When we were done I sent some clay home with her to try for herself.

A couple of weeks later she gave me a call and came over to show me what she was doing. Having purchased more clay she had started a series of hand cut and hand sculpted ornaments for a church bazaar. She had a couple of questions and a problem that was easily solved. 
A week later she came to show us how far she had gotten and her display of hand made ornaments attached ready for the show. There were wreaths, snowmen with hats, scarves & mittens, a Santa face, Christmas trees in different sizes, and stars!

Each hand made Christmas item is either a pin with a pin back or an ornament with a hanging loop. 

Left is a closer view of the snowmen, wreaths and hand cut Christmas trees

She has proven to be a most excellent designer and a clever sculptor. It is easy to see how quickly she grasped the concept in a very short time. 

Sadly, the photos were shot rather quickly and when they turned out to be a bit blurry but it was too late to re-shoot them.

A Christmas tree pin

She gave Joe and I both our choice of pins. Right is the one I chose. It reminds me of the tree we had with tinsel on it when I was a girl.

Left: Closeup view of her hand cut stars. She used a tiny star cutter for the little stars but cut the larger ones by hand.

It will be great to have another clay lover close by who seems to be as enthusiastic as myself.

Thank you Jennifer for sharing the love of your new hobby with us all. 

Penni Jo Couch
Best Flexible Molds

Maysville, OK

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An Orchid in a Coffee Mug

Recently I spent a Saturday with my 16 year old grandson Tristan. He had an assignment to create a short memoir of someone in his life who is not a parent or sibling. It also required that he create an artwork that would describe the memoir. The artwork could be a poem, a song, an essay, a drawing, a painting or a sculpture. The only requirement was that the "artwork" be able to tell a story of a memory from that person's life.

 Since I am his grandma and an artist I would be perfect for the assignment. As you can imagine the field of art that Tristan and I chose to do together was sculpture.

One of his questions to me was  "What was your life like as a young adult?". Funny, looking back that many years (50 years) sent to me, via the way-back machine, to my last year of high school and how I met his grandpa.
As I remembered out loud he and I sculpted first a simple coffee mug to highlight my time as a waitress and the orchid was a reminder of my life as a teenager living with my father in my grandmother's home in Florida.

The memoir was supposed to, if possible, start with a less than happy event ending with a good event or conclusion. I won't go into all the details here  as Tristan is writing the memoir to go with his artwork so I'll wait until after he has presented the project at school.

We spent the next few hours together talking, laughing, and playing in clay. As you can imagine, remembering back 50 years was not a smooth cohesive telling, but a gathering of my memories whilst speaking with him. While we were talking we began sculpting the two elements that would reflect on my story. Elements needed to be unique enough that, when he would show them in class, he could easily identify and tell about his grandma, Penni Jo's, young adult memoir.

We started by sculpting first the easier of the two projects, the mug. He followed directions very very well and did a great job with his coffee mug. The next item, the orchid, was taught to him in simple steps and, as you can see by the image, he did a most wonderful job with his first sculpted orchid.  He also had a great time with the Mica powders used to give shine and shimmer to the orchid and orchid leaf.

By the time in our coffee mugs with orchids in them were baking in the oven he had a good time line of the events and could tell me the story of the orchid in the mug

Truly it was a most wonderful afternoon making new memoirs with my grandson.
Penni Jo

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Exotic Face Pin Tutorial

When I was a child, my mother had a set of pins, two lady faces with head covers, big earrings and exotic faces.

She called them her "Mojo" pins. 'Cause when she wore them, she had "Mojo".

Not quite sure what "Mojo" might be, I was, none the less, impressed with them and loved to see her wear them on a red satin Periwing style dress. Snug waist, high collar and beautiful fabric. In later years I realized that her "Mojo" was charm and beauty, of which she had both. They worked very well for her.

Not long ago I found one of these little ladies at a garage sale and smiled to see it. Of course, I bought it. The companion piece was never found.

Using parts from two molds, PJ016 Let's Face It mold and the PJ010 Flights of Fancy, an Exotic face pin/pendant was created. Similar in style but larger and a bit showier it may, or may not, have some MoJo. :-)

The  I've posted the three pages of instructions on Pinterest. I wish they could take pdf files as that would allow people to download and print the tutorial.

The Tutorial uses F-4 face ( or, if you like, F-3)

You may make the faces from your choice of flesh tones.

The Swag was used from this mold. By curving the swag, different looks can be achieved.

Left: curved swag that was molded of black clay. 

Holes are made so eye pins etc, can be inserted after baking.

Left: Pair of swag earrings. I made a similar pair to go with the Exotic pin using Silver mica powder instead of gold.

Lightweight, dressy and showy, these earrings are fun to wear.

Thanks for stopping by. Have fun with the tutorial.

Penni Jo Couch
Creator and sculptor of 

Oklahoma USA

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More Beauties by Chris

Chris, right, I, left. Big grins for the fun time we were having.
Chris is a very talented clayer and designer and is the artist who created the "Glammed Turtles". Recently she and friend Karen taught a double class at our guild meeting. One was a Witch pin/pendant the other a Fall Leaves Pin/Pendant.

Left is a photo of Chris and I at the annual Twister Retreat in April. The wonderful scarf is hand made. Chris made her lovely pendant and my pendant is a gift from Janet, a delightful clayer and friend from San Antonio.

Chris did a demo at the retreat, here are a few of her beautiful necklaces.

All are mixed media.

Left, fabric lace panel, beads and polymer. 

Left, my all time Boho favorite, beads, fabric and polymer clay. This truly wonderful necklace is wonderfully bohemian.


This is a mixed media lace and polymer clay rose. Again, beautifully mixed with perfect beads.

We recently brought out a new line of Texture Mats. Using the Tx10 Gingko Leaves mat, Chris pressed the clay into the mat then cut out the leaves.

An oval polymer clay disk was cut and AB flakes pressed into the area where the red glass drop was secured.

Placing the leaves over the red, flat back, glass drop she artfully wove the leaves around the glass drop, to secure it.

Tiny tendrils added more movement and and the bright red tiny beads carried the red background throughout the design. The resulting oval was baked.

A back was created by pressing clay into the Tx10 Gingko Leaves mat, an oval was cut and the two joined to form this beautiful pendant.

She also made a similar pendant in the cool tones of turquoise, soft green and silver over a clear glass drop that sparkles from the AB flakes behind it.

(My apologies for not catching more of the sparkle in the colors as I took the pic with my phone camera.)

She gave me the choice of one of these necklaces. I am proud to say that the lovely turquoise & silver design often graces my neck. 

Many thanks to Chris and an "Atta Girl!!!" for her sharing beautiful designs, fabulous classes and generous spirit.

Left is a pic of the Gingko Leaves mat that Chris used to make the jewelry.

Our mats are approximately 5.5 inches square and are hand poured of Tough Urethane Rubber. I drew the artwork for this mat.

If you are interested in our mats, they are available on our website now. 

Best Flexible Molds

Thanks for stopping by!
Penni Jo Couch
Designer of Best Flexible Molds and Mats

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fall Fun

Guardian Angel Mini Magnet Frame
I've uploaded some oldies but goodies polymer clay tutorials onto my Pinterest page. Scroll down and check out my "How To's" board.

Have Fun!

Penni Jo Couch
(AKA Claylady43)
 Designer and Sculptor

Some of these and other free tutorials can be found here:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Glammed Turtles

This fabulous tutorial is from Chris Crossland a friend, fellow clayer and talented artist. She is one of Best Flexible Molds' biggest supporters.She uses our molds in many very creative ways and this is one of her newest designs.
From Chris: I have been in love with the sea turtle mold (#PJ048) from the moment I saw it.  I have molded lots of turtles in both sizes using clay “cabochons” for the back.  Lately, I have been experimenting with incorporating those inexpensive colored glass “pebbles” that are sold in net bags in the floral department of Walmart, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s into my clay designs.  They are sold to go in vases with floral arrangements.  I found that the glass pieces that are about ¾” across (measured across the flat back of the glass drop), fit the baby turtle bezel very well.  The size of the glass drops will vary some, but they are fairly uniform.  I think the resulting fusion of glass drops and the baby sea turtle are a match made in clay heaven.  So, here is what I did to glam the little babies up!

1. Before de-molding each turtle, I made a hanging loop from 20 ga wire and bent the loop slightly forward.  I embedded it into the clay where the head of the turtle disappears into the mold.  Place it so most of the wire loop extends beyond the edge of the mold cavity.  The loop should angle up toward you and away from the clay in the mold.  This embedded loop will allow you to add a jump ring for stringing the finished piece.  The back of the turtle can also be textured before de-molding.

(note from Penni Jo here)Panel 1, Panel 2 and Panel 3 below show the steps and materials mentioned in step one.

Panel 1

Panel 2
Panel 3
  2. Carefully remove the turtle from the mold and gently “ease” the two sides of the bezel (the turtle’s shell) so it is just large enough for the glass drop to fit snugly in the bezel.  There may be a small triangular space at the base of the tail which will need to be filled with a short snake of clay, but that will be covered by the rest of the embellishments.  
(note from Penni Jo here)panel 4 shows some of the steps mentioned in step two.
Panel 4
    3. After test-fitting the glass, remove it and lay metal leaf or shimmer flakes of glitter directly on the clay in the center of the turtle’s bezel.  I used tweezers for this and still found myself cleaning up run-away pieces of glitter, so be careful!  Try to cover that space pretty evenly without too many spaces where the clay shows through.  This will act as a reflective backing under the glass and create beautiful glittering highlights.  Your color choice for the glitter will be determined by the color of the glass drop, but usually either silver or gold will work nicely.  Even if you are using a frosted glass drop, silver glitter under the glass will still create a really nice shimmer.
       (note from Penni Jo here)Panel 5 shows some of the steps mentioned in step three.

      Panel 5 

      4. Once the glitter is in place, put the glass drop carefully back into the bezel and gently push the edges of the clay as close to the glass as possible on the top and sides without distorting the shape.  If you find that you have that little triangle of empty space at the base of the tail inside the bezel, don’t try to “smoosh” the clay up to the glass, just add a small piece of clay to fill in the space and hide it with something elegant when you complete your design.
       (note from Penni Jo here)Panel 6 shows some of the steps mentioned in step four.
    Panel 6
      5. Because the clay will not adhere to the glass, it is necessary to build up clay around the edges of the glass to hold it into place after the piece is baked.  That is really the only “rule” that must be followed.  I found that small, thin snakes of clay worked really well and looked elegant.  Roll out or extrude some small snakes and artfully arrange them so that the ends curl up over the sides of the glass.  While these won’t actually adhere to the glass, they will harden when they bake and serve the same purpose as the prongs in a stone setting.  So, have fun and keep going until you create a pleasing and balanced design.  The design can be simple or very complex, as long as the clay comes up over the edges of the glass all the way around to form a secure “nest” for the glass.  I finished the designs with small balls of clay, some of which were indented with a ball-tipped tool to add interest to the design.  PJ’s Tiny Embellishments mold also has some really pretty designs which could be used with or instead of snakes.  You can also add hot-fix crystals, if desired.
       (note from Penni Jo here)The fabulous glammed turtles below show some of the techniques mentioned in step five.
      6. Use a very small brush to add metal powders and/or mica powders to the clay.  Try to keep the powder from getting on the glass, but if some does find its way onto the glass (and it often will), don't fret, it can be removed after baking with a Q-tip dipped in a little rubbing alcohol.  For removing excess powder from really small spaces on the glass, I wrapped a tiny piece of bathroom tissue tightly around the end of a toothpick dipped in alcohol.
     (note from Penni Jo here)The fabulous glammed turtles below show some of the techniques mentioned in step six.
    Super Glammed Turtles
     7. Bake the finished turtle at the usual time and temperature (I baked these for 45 minutes).  When they are cooled, add a coat of glaze to protect the metal or mica powders.  I used gloss because it doesn’t dull the shine on the metallic powders.  

    Now I ask you, is this not the most glammed-up herd of turtles you ever saw???
    More beautiful Glammed turtles!
     this original tutorial is by Chris Crossland – all rights reserved.

    For more information about the mold mentioned in this tutorial please feel free to contact us at:

    PJ048 Sea Turtle Bezels and teardrop Caboshapes

    This mold is available at:

    an original design and sculpture by
    Penni Jo Couch
    all rights reserved

    hand cast mold made in Maysville Oklahoma, USA