EBSQ Live Studio: Polymer Clay Basics

This demonstration was originally presented by Lauren Abrams on 22 June 2009

I’m going to show you how I make one of my split pendants. It involves using a Skinner Blend, a simple cane, and a “gem” I make out of alcohol inks and silver leaf.

The first thing you have to do when working with polymer clay is to condition it. You can do this by rolling it out with a rolling pin, kneading it with your hands, or any number of ways…but the best and easiest for me is my pasta maker…and with a motor on it it’s even easier! You just push the clay through the top and it comes out underneath at whatever thickness you’ve set it on…there are between seven and ten usually on a pasta maker. Once you’ve put it through a number of times, it’s conditioned and ready to use.

The first thing I want to demonstrate is the Skinner Blend, so called because of the person who figured it out…Judith Skinner. She made it easy to do a beautiful graduation of colors with just a few easy steps. The first one is deciding which colors you want to use, and conditioning them…I’ve done my blue, now I’m doing a white clay.

I’ve decided I don’t want a chalky white, so I’m adding a bit of translucent clay and a tiny bit of yellow..then conditioning it while mixing the colors together at the same time, using the pasta machine.

Once you’ve mixed the colors you want and have them the same thickness…you put one on top of the other, and using your tissue blade(very sharp)cut a triangle through both, so they are the same size.

Take them apart and put the longest sides together…

Squish them together a bit so they don’t come apart the first time you put them through the pasta machine…sometimes you need to overlap a bit..

Now, just fold it in half like in the picture, and put it into the pasta machine.

Catch it, fold it again THE SAME WAY… and put it through again and again…it’s most important that you always fold it the same way.

Keep doing this until you start to see a blending begin, then do it until you are happy with the blend…sometimes you can do it in five or six times, others it might take you twenty.

I’m pretty happy with this graduation so I stop.

I place the graduated color on top of another sheet of clay and trim it

I set the pasta maker thickness at number one..which is it’s thickest setting

Putting it through the pasta machine, I now have a nice big piece of graduated clay, with a solid base

Using a circle cutter, I cut out a circle on an area of the graduation that I like.

Using my tissue blade, I cut it in half

Setting that aside, I start making my cane.

Canes using polymer clay are generally made by stacking different colors and shapes of clay, then slicing it to reveal it’s pattern…once you make a cane, you can slice many pieces of it to use. This striped cane is one of the simplest to make. If you are interested, just do some research on the variety of canes people have designed in the thirty odd years since polymer clay hit the art scene. These were modelled after the millifiori (many flowers)that glass makers have been making for centuries…

I”ve decided to use three complimentary colors and different thicknesses for this cane.

I start stacking the different colors and thicknesses of clay, rubbing them down a bit in between to get rid of air bubbles.

I keep stacking until I get what I want as a pattern(you can slice the end and see how it’s going)

On this particular cane I want a repeat, so I just cut the can in half and put one half onto the other.

Slicing the end, I decide it’s what I’m looking for…and stop.

On a this backing piece of clay, I lay down a sliced and spliced together piece of cane

I line Up my two parts of the graduated blend I’ve already done and snug them up on either side of the cane slice.

Using a number 11 xacto knife, I cut out carefully around the oval that is formed by doing this and remove excess clay

I step back from the piece and decide what to do next

I’m going to make a coil of clay to border the pendant, and I want to use some of the cane in it…so I cut a couple of thin slices

I take a deep rust color clay(one of the ones I’ve used in the cane)and roll out a thing coil

Laying two of the thin slices on the coil, I roll some more to make the coil thinner and by doing that it also incorporates the cane slices into the coil

I arrange this around the pendant and press it into place

I add another sliced cane piece at the top, and start to add some small balls of the blue clay…here I’m using a brush to apply some liquid polymer clay, which will act as a glue to adhere the delicate pieces in place.

Here I am taking a ball of green clay and pressing it into a silicone rubber mold I have made

I press it into place at the bottom…

I step back and look at what I’ve done so far and decide that this is the time for my “gem”

Using a commercial cabochon mold I have, I press a piece of Premo Pearl into a round one of the right size

Then I prepare the covering, the super duper shiney thing we all love!

I lay a piece of silver leaf(aluminum) on top of a piece of pearl clay…rub it down

Using alcohol based inks, I paint some on top of the silver leaf until I like the look

Then I take some Premo translucent clay and put it through the pasta machine, making it thinner each time I put it through until it is at the thinnest setting possible….

Sorry it’s kind of hard to see but in this photo I am putting the sandwhiched clay, leaf, inks and translucent top through the pasta machine…just once or twice, depending on how much crackle you want.

Cover the piece you made with the cabochon mold with this sheet of clay…trim the excess and stretch it carefully over it and underneath a bit too.

For this one I want a bit of a base that’s a little larger than the “gem”..so I use an appropriately sized circle cutter as shown

Using a bit of liquid clay for glue, I put them together

I smush down a piece of green clay to support the “gem” and paint it with liquid clay

I press the “gem” in place

I start adding different little pieces to complete it

Into the oven it goes…at 275 for about thirty minutes. Some people like to use a dedicated toaster oven for their polymer clay. I will get around to that eventually lol..

After the piece has cooled, I coat the top of the “gem” with Futura floor covering…it gives it a great shine
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I make a drop using the same clay and cane and add some annodized jump rings for findings

Once that is done and fired again, I add a multistrand steel necklace and voila, my split pendant!

Just wanted to show you a few different pieces so you could see what the “gems” can look like with different colored inks…

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5 thoughts on “EBSQ Live Studio: Polymer Clay Basics

  1. WOW LAUREN, Your Demonstration was fantastic!! I am so glad that they put it in the blog. Love all of the new pieces that you have on your ETSY store!!

    Theodora

  2. That is so cool lauren,i never dreamed that would be how you made them,a pasta maker!who knew,now I WANT ONE,soon as i get some money,i like the earth tone ones.those would make very nice xmas gifts,good for ETSY.

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