Image Transfer: Coasters

I’ve not participated in challenges lately due to my creativity having become sluggish, but this month’s theme at Art Elements – Stars by Laney Mead, brought forth some tiny sparks in my right brain. 🙂 By the time I thought of joining, I’d already created some Diwali gel prints using the only stencil in our stash that has some star shapes in it, so I hoped other ideas would appear soon.

I considered various ideas involving beading, wire-weaving, faux soutache with polymer clay, and gel printing, but none clicked. Then, I came across some old printouts of star shaped patterns that I’d thought I’d use for image transfer jewelry using polymer clay. Since I was still woefully short of jewelry ideas, I settled on making a set of coasters instead.

Polymer Clay Coasters using Image Transfer

Don’t see too many stars? That’s because I ran out of prints…

 

The ‘sure’ idea

I wanted colorful bases for my coasters, and instead of spending time and the little energy I had on Skinner blends, I brushed a variety of chalks on plain, unbaked circular clay sheets. (Now that was fun. :)) I transferred the star pattern image onto a sheet of translucent clay, intending to adhere it face-down on a coaster base so I could bake the whole setup and then sand+buff the translucent surface. However, before I could place the translucent sheet on the circle, the sheet just tore apart. Argh, the horror!

Since I’d transferred images onto clay before, I’d been pretty sure that this would work, and now I didn’t have enough copies of the star prints left to form a ‘proper set’ of 4, so I opted to just use a different pattern for each coaster instead.

An alternative

The translucent clay just didn’t want to work with image transfers, so I started looking for alternatives. Liquid polymer clay can be used as a medium for the transfer – but surprisingly, it didn’t produce great results on my unbaked sample bases or baked ones. Then my sis suggested transparent matte gel, and it worked brilliantly! So I applied the gel on my baked coaster bases and stuck the paper on it pattern-side down, and waited for the gel to set completely. I then got the paper soaking wet and gently rubbed it away from the base, leaving the pattern behind.

Finally!

As usual, things just had to work a bit differently on the final pieces than on the samples. 🙂 The ‘gently’ part turned out to be difficult, and I rubbed away the pattern at a few places on two of the coasters. By the time I was on my second piece, I noticed that the pattern would appear pretty vibrant and clear while wet, even if traces of paper showed up everywhere while dry. So for my last two pieces, I decided to just leave all of that stubborn trace paper be, and waited for the pieces to dry fully. Then I poured some resin over the coasters, and voila! Vibrant, patterned coasters, just the way I want. They’re still curing as I write this post, so I haven’t tested them yet; I hope they work well and last a long time.


I was pretty sure I won’t have anything done for this challenge, and even though only one of the patterns has any resemblance to stars, I hope this little something is still better than nothing. Thank you, Laney, for the heavenly theme! I’m looking forward to seeing what the other guests and the Art Elements team have come up with; let’s go blog hopping!

Guests:  Jill Divya Alysen Kathy Tammy Cat Samantha Anita (you’re here) Karin Sarajo Rozantia Kimberly

AE Team: Jen Jenny Niky Laney Claire Cathy Marsha Caroline Susan Lesley

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Something New…

I’ve been seeing a dip in my creative mojo as far as my usual pursuits are concerned. Instead of trying to channel energy into forced jewelry making, I tried out random new things – not really jewelry-related – for a creativity lift. One was some basic weaving, and the other, gel printing (or mono printing with gel plates.)

Gel printing is a lot of fun, and I think it’ll be super-addictive if I keep at it. Acrylics are a staple in our arsenal anyway, and my sister already owns a Gelli Plate, so it was a no-brainer to get it all together on my work table and have some unplanned fun.

Gel Printing Trial

Gel printing itself is very simple – the most basic process involves applying an even coat of one or more colors of acrylic paint on the gel plate, placing a paper sheet face down onto the plate, lightly burnishing the paper to transfer the paint onto it, peeling back the paper and admiring your print. Stencils or stamps can be used to add visual texture and definition to the print, and layering your prints makes complex prints possible. Even the leftover pattern on the gel plate can be used to get a ghost print, which in itself could turn out interesting. So many possibilities!

For this session, my very first, I played with just one texture – a mesh bag. It took me a few tries to use the brayer/roller right. (The brayer is used to spread and mix colors as a thin layer.) Very soon, I ended up with some hardened paint on a part of the brayer, which I spent an afternoon removing – if left as is, that uneven paint layer would make future brayer applications uneven.

I’ll need practice if I want the prints to turn out better, but right now, the idea is to not think much and just enjoy a creative break, and this is the perfect activity for that. Each print turns out different, and the slightly unpredictable nature of the results make it easy to let go. I’ll definitely do more gel printing, though I have no idea what I’ll do with the prints! 🙂

More Mokume-Gane

Continuing with my trials and experiments, I thought of giving mokume-gane another go, making sure I don’t accidentally use Sculpey III like last time. 🙂 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. 😉

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, and  sadly, only old clay stock is available in my country. 😛

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. 🙂 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? 😉

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. 😀 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. 😉

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. 😉

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. 🙂

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. 😀 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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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! 😛 )

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! 🙂 I’ll try out a different weave next time to see how I fare.

Premo!

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 Soufflé.

The package arrived, and I eagerly sat down to play with the clay. 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? 😛

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! ❤

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