12 Mar 2012

Revisiting Polymer Clay

Some time ago when I first became aware of what was possible with the relatively new precious metal clays on the market, I resisted the temptation to do down that route as I had the very strong feeling that I’d get totally enthralled with it and at the time, only being readily available in silver, it might prove to be an expensive obsession.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
Four rough un-finished pendants made from a simple cane in dark red and gold with small areas of black and crackled gold.
I had some already crackled sheets remaining and decided to use them up on some simple ‘faux dichroic’ pendants, but most of them had dried too much already and were far too fragile, so I made some more as I hadn’t yet used the green pearl ink I had bought some time ago for the task and had plenty of silver leaf left too.  Most of these are baked with a clear glass like layer of embossing resin to further enhance the glass-like look.

Instead, I decided to tinker with the rather less expensive polymer clay – initially, to see if I had the dexterity and necessary skills to potentially work with PMC.  But I soon got hooked on it in its own right, I especially love that you can mimic natural materials like stones and wood and the infinite variety of colour work possible with it.

I made several pieces using a faux speckled turquoise technique, having seen a fabulous [real] stone like this in a piece, but I think I possibly made the brown matrix areas too distinct.  Some of these will be used with some copper clay components I have in mind.

I’ve only ever really scratched the surface of what’s possible as I only have a small area to work in and it’s necessary to work cleanly and I need to clear the area of metalwork clutter for a working session.  If I had a larger working room, I might dedicate an area to it and immerse myself even further into the possibilities.

I did a lot of polymer clay work in the past, but as other work had taken hold, I hadn’t returned to it for a while, but I’ve also now found a copper PMC that can be torch fired, so all the sketches and ideas I have for PMC might finally get the chance to take form as it’s affordable enough to be worth trying and would fit really well with everything else I do and the style of my work.

This faux turquoise technique used a turquoise ‘basalt’ stone textured clay [with fibrous inclusions] which I made a simple cane of with a black edge and formed a sheet that looked like speckled turquoise. 

Before I started on my ideas, I wanted to get out all my polymer clay tools and see if I was suitably equipped and do a little more work with it to get my eye in again and re-hone the skills I had before.  I also wanted to try out a few prototypes in polymer clay before committing ideas to metal.  I realised that I had quite a lot of open packets of clay that I wasn’t sure how well it would age being stored for a while, so thought it was an ideal opportunity to use up the open materials, get my eye in and make some prototypes too.

This batch were a little disappointing, using a natural stone effect clay in agate and basalt finishes.  The little pebbles top right are for a specific design I have in mind with copper clay components, I bought this clay specifically with the design in mind – a copper and turquoise re-working of a design I’ve done in silver and black.

The prototypes will stay under wraps until the metal clay versions are finished and then I’ll blog about them all together, but suffice it to say that I am delighted with the progress so far and can’t wait to get to put them into practice with the metal clay – I just hope it works as well as the prototypes did.

I did manage to make a significant amount of pieces and components for more extensive projects.  The simple ones are now almost finished, but some will be used in conjunction with PMC components later too, especially the larger faux turquoise pieces.

The crackled ‘dichroic’ pendants have been fitted with Aanraku bails intended for genuine dichroic glass pendants and have been sanded and extensively varnished to seal everything in and protect the finishes.  The embossing resin looks very good when first done, but it’s very soft and scratches easily without being varnished, so it needs that additional step.  I’m going to keep a couple of these for myself as I wanted the green specifically to match a shirt I have that colour and a couple are intended for gifts.  But now I have to find the time to photograph and list them all.

I used one of the smaller pieces of faux turquoise on an adjustable ring, a style that I’ve simply not tried before, but I quite liked the result.