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