Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Polymer Clay Bead Necklace & Matching Earrings

I love all the possibilities that clay, specifically polymer clay [pc], holds. I've used it for beads, Halloween costume props (I needed a pipe for my Popeye husband), and most recently, a school Halloween project with my son. I'm going to show you some quick pc basics so that you can have fun with this medium too. First you're going to need some polymer clay. I use Sculpey III. It's the only thing I've ever used or tried. (Remember, I am an amatuer) It comes in a lot of colors, blends well and looks great after baking. Second, your clay must be conditioned. This basically means kneading it until it's smooth and pliable. This is an important step and will prevent cracking later. For the flowers I blended clays to achieve the colors I wanted. Graduating colors creates a life-like shading on your work, which makes it look great. When you get the conditioning and colors they way you want them, the third step is to create a cane. A cane is a log of clay with a pattern of color running all the way through. This is a picture of the cane I used for the tiny flower petals. You can see that the center of the cane/log is a light yellow. I then rolled out a sheet of the next color and wrapped it around the yellow core. I did the same with the other two colors. The cane began about as thick as my finger. The Fourth Step is reducing the cane. this allows you to make your piece smaller without changing the pattern of color. You begin my gently squeezing the cane in the center of that log shape and working outward to the edges. If it is a round shape (like these petals) you can also roll it as you continue to reduce. When the cane is the size you want you can cut it into smaller canes. I did this and then clustered the canes around a plain, light green log of clay for the center of my flower. Now we have a flower cane. It can no longer be reduced as a whole or you'll end up with a colorful log, but not a flower. After all this kneading, working and shaping, the clay is often too soft to slice immediately off the cane. 5 minutes in the freezer should help with that.

Fifth step: slicing the cane. I use the Sculpey Super Slicer (a very thin, razor-like strip of metal). Rocking gently helps the slicer go through the clay without distorting the image. Now that we've got this teeny-tiny slice, it can be added to a raw clay surface, layered, etc. I made a plain, smooth, organic-shaped bead of pure black pc and added my slices. For the earrings, I made small cube shapes out of the same black pc. (Don't forget to cut/carve holes into your bead shapes so that you can thread things through later!) Finally, I baked them (before I made them into jewelry) and they were ready to go! Baking instructions are on each pc package. Final tips: you don't have to invest in a pasta maker to blend, condition and work with clay. I use old-fashioned elbow grease and this strong wooden brayer. Does this make my work perfect? No, but it gets it done and I like the results anyway. Any equipment you use should be only used for working with polymer clay. Although it is non-toxic, you wouldn't want this stuff in your food. Also, when baking, the smell of the fumes can be somewhat strong and unpleasant, vent well. I don't want this clinging to my oven, so I bake my clay in sealed foil packets. I put those packets on a cookie sheet and then stick them in my oven. Click here, here and here to see books that taught me a lot about Polymer Clay and the techniques to use it! --C

1 comment:

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