Materials focus – polymer clay

Building skills in polymer clay has become a major focus. I have a lot to learn! I first intended to use it to make forms to use in making silicon molds to use in casting resin. That’s on the backburner. Instead…

Previously seen (30-Apr-2021) – used as part of the amour bowl series.

That was fun. I was intrigued.

Much youtube watching and some more clay purchasing followed.

Mum’s breakfast plate and two versions of a cuff (baking mistake on the first). I’m using Kato clay, and am keen on mixing my own colours. Outside design based on tutorial from Clay Zoo

Another cuff, colour and pattern based on a pendant originally owned by my brother-in-law’s mother, then his sister, then mum, now me. The design a heavily modified version of another Clay Zoo pattern.

A jug that has been passed down from family provided colours and motifs for a bowl.

It’s a real plus that the clay stays usable until it’s baked. I often find myself trying out techniques I’ve seen, using up scraps at the end of the day.

The “sketch” above was a demonstration for my son during a visit (pre-lockdown of course). He joined in, and I later made some beads using his left-overs.

Clay leftovers from the bowl seen last post, based on mum’s skirt fabric, can be seen in a series of other work.

Beads and bangle

Leading to another bangle

Another plate of mum’s has led to a colour palette and experimentation with surface design methods, but it hasn’t come together in a finished object (yet?)

Both welcome and difficult, over time my experiments have become more materials focused, independent of my reflections on mum. This dish collects samples made during a zoom “making session” with my creative group. Very low-key, each of us working on our own projects, but a wonderful connection during Sydney’s lockdown. Not that all of us are in Sydney!

I really like this dish, which used a ripple blade makume gane technique from Sam of Jessama Tutorials. But I was unhappy with my blade skills.

The pattern emerging is that leftovers equal more beads.

A tutorial from Debbie Crothers showed a bead made by rolling from the inside. Could that be scaled up to make a bangle?

The initial attempt –

was yes – but more care needed right at the end to get a good shape.

Perhaps extend metal forms using paper or cardboard?

On the right above, the starting cylinder of clay was skirt left-overs. That went well and a pretty good circle form. The “draping” attempt at the left was a fail, breaking when I tried to put it on.

There are many, many, many interesting variations of the mokume gane technique out there. Wanting to give myself time and opportunities to improve my blade use, I thought of simplifying with a single but multi-coloured layer as the base (more skirt clay) and a layer of black on top.

I tried varying the thickness of the top layer.

Then wondered if I could use lino-cutting tools rather than the ripple blade.

Almost the last piece of skirt clay was covered top and bottom with purple and rolled from the inside.

Yet another supporting form was made, this time entirely from cardboard and sticky tape, giving ultimate flexibility in size and shape.

The outside was covered in more purple, then carved.

The design began from a little vessel souvenir of mum’s.

… heavily modified in the process

Feeling a bit scattered in all my experimentation, I decided to purchase a series of tutorials by Alice Stroppel

I was very happy with initial results. The triangular cane is approximated on a technique from Fiona Abel-Smith, but I did it from memory so let’s call it an adaptation.

Also from Alice Stroppel, although I don’t have an extruder device so improvised in parts.

Fiona Abel-Smith has a interesting use of cane leftovers

and having leftover left-overs, … I was back to beads.

The next Alice Stroppel tutorial I want to do also uses an extruder as part of making dotted lines. I decided to give dots and stripes some attention, trying alternative methods. Starting small –

then going further, using colours developed from a cornish-ware bowl of mum’s.

A dish combining the attempts will I hope prove a useful memory jog, if not a thing of beauty in itself.

I’ve already mentioned end-of-day scrap experiments. A few more:

As well as scraps, this next one used an improvised cutting strip, made from a roll of thin metal that was lurking on the shelves.

A sheet of scraps went through the cutting part of the pasta machine, and then woven.

Fresh clay (!) went through the cutters, and was rolled, smeared, and generally mis-handled.

I keep trying to get an extruder-effect without buying an extruder, and while it’s all good experience I keep missing the mark.

Off-cuts from colour-mixing exercises became a spiral galaxy

All together it seems a fair bit – but there is so, so, so much more to learn.

1 Response to “Materials focus – polymer clay”



  1. 1 Continuation | Fibres of Being Trackback on October 28, 2021 at 3:36 pm

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