More Mokume-Gane

Continuing with my trials and experiments, I thought of givingย mokume-gane another go, making sure I don’t accidentally use Sculpey III like last time. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also thought I’d work in some foil with the clay.

I layered sheets of green and black Premo clay, interspersed with a couple of sheets of silver foil, and pressed down a grid stamp on them. This is one of the deeper-etching stamps we own, but I still didn’t find it deep enough to produce a viable ‘mokume look’ after a slice or two. However, trying to stamp more after slicing only results in the layers getting smooshed and thinned down more and more, so after a while, the effect is dominated by busy layers, and the pattern is barely visible. Well, this is definitely not what I want!

Hollow Pendant in Polymer Clay using Mokume-gane

I made a hollow pendant from the ‘more effect-showing’ slices, and a hollow cabochon from the slices that looked busier. I covered both pieces with translucent clay to aid in sanding and buffing. The pendant accidentally got flung during my sanding efforts, and its bail shattered, but no worries, I can use it as a cabochon now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hollow Cabochon in Polymer Clay using Mokume-gane

As you can see, there is a whole lot of plaquing — those pesky bubble-like entities — on both pieces, so much that it obscures the mokume-gane pattern. From my research of this plaquing effect, these are not air bubbles, and they mostly occur in translucent clay. (Or maybe they can just be seen better in the translucent clay…) And unfortunately, no one really knows what causes this. This unintentional effect is fine for the items that I made this time, but what about times when I don’t want the bubbly look? There are baking processes that people have suggested to reduce the plaquing effect — like increasing the temperature gradually — and yet, they’re apparently not foolproof. I have a feeling it’s got something to do with the age of the translucent clay, andย  sadly, only old clay stock is available in my country. ๐Ÿ˜›

Back to mokume-gane — I’d want to work more on the technique to get better at it, but each practice session results in many mokume gane veneers, and I don’t really think I can keep coming up with uses for them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Any ideas to help me out?


Embossing Experiments

It’s been ages since my sis has been using embossing in her cardmaking, and I only recently decided to try it out on clay.

For this trial, I placed a stencil over my clay and sprinkled embossing powder over the stencil. The basic premise — applying some heat melts the powder, and when it cools, it turns into a solid, embossed layer. While baking, I placed the pieces over a glass bulb to dome them a bit, to see how the embossing powder holds while melting. I didn’t realize my foil tent ended up touching the glass bulb’s top, removing some powder from two of my layers! Good thing these are test pieces, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Embossing experiments#1: Apply embossing powder, wave a heat gun over it until it sets. Bake the piece later. (I didn’t realize this much powder was too much powder, hehe…) This pre-embossing seems superfluous, since the baking would emboss it anyway. However, I wanted to see if it affects the pattern when it melts again, and makes it look different from the other pieces. It doesn’t, which is good. (So re-baking an embossed piece is a go!)

#2: Apply embossing powder, bake the piece. Heat from the oven sets the clay. There was still too much embossing powder there, but barring that fact, it turned out fairly okay.

#3: Same as #2, but before removing the stencil, use a roller to further set the powder in the clay. Again, I don’t know if I started getting better, or if the rolling really helped define the amount and shape of the powdered parts so they end up containing just enough powder. Some individual powder grains must still have dispersed over the surface, though — they are seen as tiny dots over the surface. I need to figure out how they got there.

#4: Apply embossing powder post-bake, after heating the clay a bit with a heat gun. (Or maybe immediately after the bake while the clay is still hot.) Then use a heat gun to set it. I kinda knew this wouldn’t really fly — the powder just blew away from the force of the heat gun blast. ๐Ÿ˜€ A better way to do this would be to use sticky ink over the clay surface to ‘hold on’ to the embossing powder, like my sis does for her cards.

Soon after I tested this out, I came across a recent video by Ludmila Bakulina, where she’s demonstrated one way of using embossing powders on clay! (I totally love her videos and have learned a lot from her.) She’s used the powder in the recesses of a textured clay sheet, and it’s easier to just use sticky tape to remove those unwanted particles dispersed over the surface. That’s not the case in my stencil-based method, so it looks like tinkering with method #3 and improving it is the way forward for me. Maybe I’ll use a brush to further minimize the amount of powder on the surface before I remove the stencil.

Being able to use embossing with my clay opens up so many possibilities! I’m looking at our stencil stash with renewed interest now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Textures and Molds

Now that I have new clay, I went through my paltry stash of textures and molds, and wondered if the items in it work for the techniques that I see in jewelry tutorials and courses. I’ll not be ordering internationally any time soon because of the recent tax restructuring we’ve had here, and it looks like my orders will become more expensive than they already are right now, and burn larger holes in my non-existent women’s jeans pockets. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The texture sheets with me are mostly the flowers-and-leaves variety — not really meant for jewelry. There are one or two patterned ones too, which I thought I could use. These are good for applying post-texture surface treatments like Perfect Pearls, but since they’re not that deep, they’re not really suited for much else. I used one of them for making earrings (picture below), and that was as deep a texture as I could get. I couldn’t do much else with it, so ended up adding a border and some Perfect Pearls. As for the other texture sheet, I’d used it to try out my first Sutton Slice recently, and it was hard, hard work — I’d wanted texture sheets with more depth even then. ๐Ÿ™‚

Earrings - texture tryout

Earrings – texture tryout

As for the molds, again, most are flowers and such, and a few gear ones that I can probably use for Steampunk jewelry. There were a couple of small ones that I used a while ago to make button beads, which I then used for some beaded jewelry. No larger ones that I could use, though. I finally used a vintage art decor mold to see if it’d work as a pendant, and made a hollow pendant (picture below.) Not too bad, but not too good either. Also, this too depends on the shiny stuff, because trying to use a patterned sheet etc. with this mold will distort the design. I reused a Perfect Pearls bedecked flower that I’d created from a mold for an earlier notebook cover project. This flower can make some nice tiny stud earrings, right?

Pendant - mold tryout

Pendant – mold tryout

Well, at least while I tried these experiments, I realized that I’ve now gotten pretty good with Skinner blends. ๐Ÿ˜€ I like the green-to-yellow gradient here. I’m also getting the hang of making hollow beads / pendants, so that’s good.

Later, my sister mentioned that the mold I used was one of her purchases, and then we ended up going through her card-making stash of stamps, which I’d somehow thought was only comprised of flowers and critters. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some of the stamps might work for a few polymer clay techniques (hopefully.) There’s also some foils that we bought recently, so I’m looking forward to more experiments!

Wire weaving experiment

I ordered new wire-wrapping wire recently, and with this wire and an 18 gauge one I already have with me, I attempted my first wire weaving.Wire weaving pendant

The weaving was fun while I was coiling it near the pearl, but got pretty difficult as I neared the top. I’ll probably need to go a gauge or two thinner in the future, but I’ll reserve that judgment until I finish another weaving test run. Maybe I just need practice, and this will not be an issue.

With this weave, it was also difficult to keep the coils pinched together — they just kept loosening up, just a little though. Another indicator to practice more. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was in a different headspace while cutting the wire, and ended up cutting a really small length of wire, hehe… Since I was just practicing and didn’t know how the piece would turn out, I decided to go ahead with that length. When it ran out, I continued with new wire added in. You can see that ugliness near the weave beside the pearl. I’ll need to snip it and adjust it so it won’t be visible much, but I’ll leave it for another day. (Laziness wins today! ๐Ÿ˜› )

I had hammered the ends of the thicker wire before I started, and after finishing the weaving, I hammered the top a bit too. I like the texture it creates.

Overall, for my first attempt at wrapping wire, I consider this a success! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll try out a different weave next time to see how I fare.


Ever since I discovered that Sculpey III is brittle and not really suited for most of the polymer clay work I’m interested in, I’d thought of buying sampler packs of other clays. I finally ordered some of Premo!, Premo! Accents and Soufflรฉ.

The package arrived, and I eagerly sat down to play with the clay.ย To my disappointment, I found that it was ancient stock, and I just couldn’t condition the clay at all. When my hands finally started aching from all the pressing and rolling (I haven’t bought a conditioning machine yet), I began looking for what other people do to make old clay ‘like new.’ Apparently, most people throw away the clay if it’s this bad. Well, I spent a lot of money on mine, and throwing it away isn’t an option. What else you got, The Internet? Some suggestions popped up about adding mineral oil or baby oil to the clay. Okay, I could do that.

It worked! Really well, in fact. I still don’t know how the oil-conditioned clay will behave over months (or years), but for now, it’s made me happy I decided to try out these new clays. I was apprehensive about the post-bake quality, but the finished products are sooo sturdy. I made two earrings and a buckle.

The earrings

To start with, I twirled two snakes of silver and black around each other, folded the new rope to and fro into a roughly rectangular shape and rolled it flat. I wanted to test making two sets of earrings, one thinner than the other.

Premo! experiment - Thick earrings

Premo! experiment – Thick earrings

For the thicker earrings, I used a rectangular cutter and cut out two pieces. I continued to roll the remaining clay into a thinner sheet, and then cut out a circle using another cutter. (I haven’t used this circle yet.) I used a larger circular cutter on the remaining clay, and then cut the resulting shape into two equal earring pieces.

Premo! experiment - Thin, curved earrings

Premo! experiment – Thin, curved earrings

There was still some clay left, and I rolled it up into a snake, and used it for lining the edges of all four pieces. I then poked holes in the pieces for inserting jump rings later.

While baking, I kept the thinner piece bent over some folded card, so its surface is curved.

Results: The thicker one is sturdy, and the thinner one is slightly rubbery when I try to bend it, but pretty sturdy too. It didn’t chip or break when I tested it. (Reminded me of the time my experimental Sculpey III piece snapped.) Of course, I didn’t try my hardest to break it — after all, what earring goes through such hardships? ๐Ÿ˜›

The buckle

Premo! experiment - Buckle

Premo! experiment – Buckle

I used a mold for the torus base. Then, I decided to mix things up, and cut out uneven strips from an old Sculpey III sheet of brown (from the dragonfly project.) I first laid out thicker strips on the base, and then I rolled thinner strips around it. Finally, I firmly attached a decent-sized solid cylinder, made from the same clay as the base, for the buckle’s support.

Result: This piece is born to be a buckle — look at how it’s holding a belt in place! โค

So overall, I like Premo!, as long as I find newer stock. (Because conditioning old clay is not fun.)

Disaster day discoveries

An alliterative title to commemorate my crossing some interesting milestones in my polymer clay journey over the past few days. They’re disastrous events (obviously)… But. What’s experience but mistakes that one learns from? I wrote this long post because a few months from now, I think I’ll find it extremely funny to relive these moments. (It’s already a bit smile-inducing.) So here goes.

It’s festival season here in India, which means shopping discounts galore. I had a list of things to buy (not jewelry related) if the post-discount prices fit my budget. In the days before the shopping madness would descend on the nation, I debated long and hard about also buying polymer clay related items if I find good deals on them. (I don’t usually buy tools like crazy when I’m just starting out with a new pastime.) I finally decided that I would buy something if it’s a good deal and can be used for other purposes if I decide this craft is not for me.

I bought a nice little toaster oven at almost 50% discount, because a lot of people online recommend a dedicated oven for clay baking, and a lot of people say it’s absolutely safe to use home ovens, and I decided to side with the different-ovens people for various reasons. I was happy when the oven arrived, and promptly went through the instruction manual. (Yes, I do that, but only if it’s a couple of pages thick.) After some recommended pre-use heating, I set about making some sample pieces from the clay I had, so I could bake in my new oven.

My clay practicing has gotten to the stage of rolling manageable clay sheets, and cutting with manageable precision, so I took it one step further and tried to attach two sheets of different colors side-by-side with as minimal distortion as possible. I made a cool-looking piece, with not two but three sheets, and I added additional texture with a blade and a cross-stitch canvas mat. No pictures clicked, but you’re gonna love what comes next. ๐Ÿ˜›

I set the temperature and the time in the oven, and put the piece in. I watched it for less than a minute, and it seemed to be fine. I was going to come back after a couple of minutes, but after barely a minute, I smelled this burning stench. I turned around to see smoke rising from the oven. I ran to it, switched it off, opened all windows and doors and ran back away. During all this, I saw that the heating rod was grayish red, which means it had gone full blast while my back was turned. @$#%!@#!! Argh!

I came back a long time later to discover a blistered slab of dark chocolate in place of my light-colored piece. It didn’t taste like dark chocolate, obviously — it smelt of soot and smoke. It looked good, though. Fabulous, in fact. That bubbly texture — if I could only recreate it without burning my piece! ๐Ÿ˜€ So after keeping it outside to air, and discovering that it would stop smelling eventually, I borrowed some paints from my sister and applied it to the burnt piece. Looks better, doesn’t it?

Polymer clay pendant, burnt

Burnt piece before and after applying paint

Is it salvaged? I don’t think so. I don’t know if I’m going to wear this; maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but the important thing is that I learned to always, always, always cover my items while I bake, to protect them from sudden temperature fluctuations.

I made a paper box with card stock, and a lid for it, and covered each on the outside with foil.

That’s one milestone reached. (I’m keeping the pendant, by the way. At least as a memento.)

I made another piece with two different colors. I was in a hurry this time, and the join wasn’t neat, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to try out something else. I brought out some shaping tools that I’ve borrowed looonnng-term ๐Ÿ˜‰ from my sis. I sculpted the gray with them, and used an old toothbrush to texture the pink. (Picture clicked this time.) Loved how the textures felt, put the pendant in paper box, placed the box in oven, set to recommended temperature and duration, watched the oven like a hawk until it was done. (And what do you know, there were no heating rod flare-ups after the pre-bake. Life is just so weird, isn’t it?) With bated breath, I removed the piece from the cooled box.

Applause! A total take-a-bow moment! The piece had baked soo well. The textures, so good. I ran my fingers over the pendant again and again, savoring my success. Finally, I opened up my jewelry kit, took out a jump ring and tried to insert it through the hole.

Snap! [Crumbles fall to the floor…]

Polymer clay pendant, chipped

Brittle piece before and after chipping

Apparently, Sculpey III, the clay I used, is very brittle. People recommend that it not be used for thinner items.

Okay then. I quickly did some research on various brands and types of clays. Of the Sculpey types available in Bangalore, I now know which ones will handle whatever I throw at them — Soufflรฉ. Or Premo!.

Not that I’ll never buy Sculpey III ever. I’ll just not use it for thin pieces. And I’ll continue to use it for my initial learning.

That’s the other milestone. (This pendant, I snapped into smaller pieces and threw away. It was like breaking a nacho.)

Such events make me (re-)realize that there’s only so much one can read up on; sometimes, experience works much better to prepare one for next time.