Category Archives: Polymer Clay Tutorials

Experiments With Pardo – Part II

As I hinted in my last post, I am back with more notes on my experiences with Pardo translucent clay. There are people doing some amazing things with this – check out Ginger Davis Allman’s website, The Blue Bottle Tree, for instance. She has done beautiful work with this clay and has posted her own very useful observances on the different brands of translucent clay. I am still in the process of experimenting with the Pardo translucent, so what better way to blog than to share my results?

As you can see, I was able to achieve much greater translucency in this second trial (see this post for the first run). Here’s another flower, in purple:

Purple trans flower

purple trans flower 2

It really amazes me that you can actually see the green stamen through the outside layer, and in the top photo you can see the ball of the head pin I was using to hold it with. Here’s a blue flower I did in that same batch:

blue flower 1

It was really fun and exciting to get these results. What did I do differently? First, I upped the temperature, to 275°F. I baked for 30 minutes, as before. When I pulled the pieces from the oven, they were still white. I plunged them into an ICE water bath, not just cold water as before, and waited awhile. This is the result.

I do have to say, I am not sure I like the pieces at this level of translucency. They are very clear, it’s true, but they are also very shiny. They really look like shiny plastic to me, rather than something made from art clay which happens to be plastic. I know, it’s a weird distinction. I just kind of like the first set of results better.

I like the cone shape, so I’m practicing making them. It is really hard to get the pieces thin enough using this method, but I’m working on it. I decided to work as well at getting results somewhere between my first set, which were more translucent, and the second set that is transparent but shiny. I just like the matte look better for these. Here are a few that I made last night. I haven’t gotten the translucency/transparency thing down right yet, but I still like my results:

Purple flower 1


Yellow Flowers

Green Flowers

That’s it for today… see you next time around.


Experiments With Pardo Translucent Clay

As you may have read in my last post, I recently bought some Pardo translucent clay from Lynda Gilcher at Lynda’s Artistic Haven. I have been intrigued by the photos I have come across on the web of work that people have done with the clay. People are getting some really amazing results with this clay, making objects that are quite nearly transparent. Here are my observations after working a couple of days with the clay.

When I got home from my shopping excursion, I sat down in my studio and opened the package of Pardo clay. The clay is very white and milky, unexpected when you are used to working with Premo! translucent. It seems pretty opaque when you work with it before it’s baked, and for a few minutes I thought maybe I had picked up white instead of translucent. I double checked the package and it did indeed say “translucent”.

pardo pre baking

The Premo package is in there to show perspective.

I started conditioning the clay by hand. I am impressed that the clay is easy to condition without crumbling, yet is not too soft to hold up to extensive working. I decided that I wanted to use the pinch pot method to make some cone-like forms that I could use to make flower earrings.

Now, the cones that I wanted to make are very small, which meant that I would not be able to rely on only my fingers to do the pinching. Instead, I used the very useful tool pictured above on the right. Shown are the beginnings of the cones that I made on the first try. I added some green to the clay on the left just for the effect. I continued to work them after I took the photo. I didn’t have anyone available to take photos for me, otherwise I would show the method I used to make the cones.

I found that the clay was pretty easy to work, but not particularly stretchy – if I worked too fast or wasn’t paying attention, I would tear the clay and have to start over. I made a cone from Premo! translucent too, just to be able to make comparisons. The Premo! was very easy to work with as well, and it was less susceptible to tearing, which is a plus in my book. I also mixed some pink clay into some Pardo at one point, mixing it completely instead of just  a little bit. I made the clay as thin as I possibly could, to maximize the translucent effect.

After making several pieces, it was off to the oven. You are supposed to bake this clay at 248°F, much lower than other clays I have worked with. I fudged and baked it at 250°, since my oven has a digital readout that only allows temperature gradations in 5° increments. I baked the objects for 30 minutes. When I pulled the items from the oven, they were white still – which upset me, but I plunged them into cold (but not icy cold – I was out of ice) water, and waited a few minutes. Here are the pieces from that baking:

Not transparent, but pretty translucent.

Not transparent, but pretty translucent.

A white cone. I didn’t stretch this one out as much as the others.

green cone 1

This is a the green cone. I stretched it out quite a bit after taking the first photo. Still, the cone is really quite small. It is translucent enough that you can see the pink stamen through the green/translucent.

pink flower

By contrast, this pink flower, in which I thoroughly mixed the pink clay, is pretty opaque. I should emphasize that the walls here are really thin – as thin as rice paper in some areas. They look thick in the photos due to the angle of the flowers and to the fact that I used “magnify” mode on the camera.

premo orange cone

This last photo is the Premo! clay. I made the mistake of mixing in orange, not thinking that it would make it hard to see the color of the translucent clay. Still, it is pretty obvious that the Premo! translucent is not only fairly opaque compared with the Pardo, but also somewhat yellow. I did use the “frost/white/bleached” translucent for this experiment.

I didn’t quite get the results I was hoping for, but don’t give up on this experiment yet, because the best is yet to come! In my next post, I’ll show you what happened in the next batch that I made. I think the results are fantastic. See you next time!

Tutorial: Pearlescent Rainbow Blend


The other day I was playing around with ideas for mokume gane, and I realized I hadn’t done a rainbow pearl blend in awhile. This is a useful way to make up a sheet of clay that can be used for several different techniques at a time, or just use it all at once for a technique that you really love. The advantage of using a blend in mokume gane is that, of course, you have that lovely shading. So here are the steps I followed in making my rainbow pearl blend.


The set-up.

I started out with 5 colors of Premo! clay – gold, peacock pearl, green pearl, navy blue, and purple pearl. I needed to make my navy clay pearlescent, so I added silver pearl. I find the newer Premo! pearlescent colors need a bit more pearliness for this kind of technique, so I added plain pearl to the peacock, green and purple pearl. I ran each color combination through the pasta machine 50 bazillion times, until the colors were completely mixed.

Next, I took each sheet, laid it out on my work surface, and squared up the edges – I actually had rectangles, which worked fine for my needs. Now here’s a trick: I needed to make right triangles in order to make my blend, and I didn’t want to waste any of the clay I had just mixed. After all, the idea is to have a nice large sheet of clay that I can use for several techniques. What I did was cut each sheet of clay on an angle, from a top corner across to a bottom corner (left to right or right to left, your choice). Then I laid these 2 triangles on top of each other so that I had a double layer of clay. You’ll see what I mean in the next section.

I set up each doubled triangle color section like this:


Feeling a bit out of balance.

If you look at the edges, you can see how I doubled the triangles of color. Now, I set up my triangles different from some other clayers. You have heard me say here before that I am not a stickler for accuracy. It is not my style to be perfect. I just like to get the job done. Other folks might have a diagram of how to cut and set out the clay in triangles that will give you a perfect blend. But doing it my way gave me a beautiful blend that I’m really happy with, as you can see with the first photo. At any rate, the photo above shows how I set up the triangles, but as you can see, there is something missing. I got everything set up and realized that I could probably use another color, plus it would balance out my sheet. So I mixed some alizaron crimson with some gold clay, followed the triangle making steps, and here’s my set-up:


Now isn’t that pretty.

Don’t worry about those little dots of peacock that are on the gold, because they are going to get mixed into the blend anyway.

Next step: It is very important to run your sheet through the pasta machine thusly:


Please ignore the junk in the background.

Think of your triangles as stripes, which is what they will become. You always want your stripes to run top to bottom, never side to side. It will really mess up your blend and make you cry if you do not heed this advice. Here’s the sheet after the first pass through the machine:


That red clay really spreads out.

It’s a bit wopple-joggled (never heard that one before?), but I’ll just trim it up and all will be well. Now, fold this sheet in half across the triangles, so that the colors match up (stripes run top to bottom, remember?).


Match colors to colors, please?

Here is the sheet folded:


Scary to make that fold, isn’t it?

At this point it’s so hard to know if you’re folding the sheet correctly, but here’s another hint: you always want your fold to be across all of the colors. If the red had touched the blue in this picture, I would be doing it wrong.

Now run the blend through the pasta machine again, fold first. Remove it from your machine, fold as before, roll it through the machine. Repeat approximately 15 times.  Here is my blend after 6 runs through the machine:


Getting there.

As you can see, the colors aren’t really mixed together yet, they’re just laying on top of each other. Here’s the sheet after 15 runs through the machine:


All blended up!

And there you have it. This sheet is about 5.5 inches wide by 12 inches long. I’ll be able to cut it into at least 3 sections and experiment with techniques. I’ll be sure to share when I do!

Experiment: Lumiere Paint and Polymer Clay

ImageI’ve been thinking about trying a mokume gane stack with Lumiere paint. Jacquard makes these thick, metallic, and highly opaque paints, and I am addicted to them. I’m pretty sure I have every color they make, and even 2 bottles of some colors. I have tried them before in mokume gane with limited success, because the paint never seemed to dry on the unbaked clay. But why should that stop me? I figured I might as well try it again. Here’s what I ended up with, so I’m not too discouraged:

Polished egg lumiere

I started with translucent clay rolled to a medium thickness on the pasta machine. I wish I had had some bleached/white/frost translucent (go here for Patti Stoll’s great comparison of the vast range of translucent clays), but all I had was regular old Premo translucent, so that’s what I used. I cut the rectangular sheet into three sections. The colors I chose to use were Metallic Russet, True Gold, and Halo Blue-Gold. In retrospect I didn’t make a good color choice. The Halo Blue-Gold reads like green, and the True Gold like yellow, so putting the three colors together gave me red + green + yellow = brown. It wasn’t totally terrible, just not what I was going for.

My next step was to apply the paint to the clay. I used a soft round brush and went for a thin coat:

ImageHere’s what the sheets looked like after being painted:

026I left them out to dry for a day, and to my surprise, they actually did dry to the touch in that period of time.

My next step involved adding metallic leaf to the clay. I used composition gold leaf:


The process is as simple as laying the sheet on top of the painted side of the clay, and tearing the extra away:

037I covered each rectangle with the leaf, then stacked them and laid another rectangle of unpainted translucent clay on top of the uncovered sheet of leafing (on the bottom of the stack). I think that placing the leaf on the painted side of the clay was a mistake in hindsight. If I had placed it on the unpainted side, an extra sheet of translucent would have been unnecessary, increasing the visibility of both the paint and the leaf in the final mokume gane. Still, it worked out okay, just not as well as I had hoped. At any rate, here’s my completed stack, from the side:


The next step was to manipulate my stack to make the hills and valleys that produce the mokume gane effect. I started this by using tools that Polyform produces and are great for this type of thing:

043Using the large round tool, I impressed the top of the stack over and over, placing my markings very close together. When doing this, you want to make a deep mark, but don’t go all the way through the clay (as I accidentally did here a few times).


I then took the small tool, and made impressions between the big ones. After that, I trimmed my stack up a bit, then I turned it over and made some impressions on the back of the stack with the big tool. I filled those holes with bits of the leftovers from trimming the stack:

055As I alluded to earlier, obtaining the look of mokume gane requires adding hills and valleys to your stack. At this point, I have lots of valleys, but I don’t really have any hills. I’ll change that by manipulating the stack. I started by pushing in on all sides.

058I continued to do that, slowly, until my stack looked like this:


This is my completed mokume gane loaf/stack/whatever name they’re calling it these days. I let it cool for a couple of hours, then I began slicing it across the top (not from the top of the stack to the bottom of the stack), and I laid the slices on a sheet of gold clay.

062And there you have it. I applied the clay to an egg, sanded and polished it. I like the final product enough to sell it, but there are some things I will definitely change the next time I try it, as I indicated above.

If anyone has ideas about how I could have done this better, or if you try it based on what is in this post, let me know in the comments. Thanks for looking!

Simple Blend with Inclusions: The Saga Continues


Completed Blend at setting 1

Well, I left you hanging the other day with the first part of this tutorial. Writing these things is work! Here’s part two. Please keep in mind that I am the queen of imperfect canes. I really never did get the hang of being neat in my work, and honestly I kind of like an object that is less than perfect.

Here’s a recap of the first part of this tutorial: We started with a sheet of translucent clay, and spread a thin layer of inclusions (spices in my case) on it. We ran it through the pasta machine until the spices were evenly blended throughout. Then we laid thin sections of 2 opaque colors of clay halfway up the sheet of translucent, and ran this sheet through the pasta machine so that we ended up with the blend in the photo above.

Now, I wanted to make beads out of my cane, but I had a sheet of clay that was way too large and going in the wrong direction for a simple reduction. So here’s what I did:

Step Six: Run your sheet of clay through the machine again, starting with your stripes perpendicular to the rollers. In other words, the stripes should be up and down, not side to side. You will start at the thickest setting on your machine, and roll the sheet through each level for six levels. Here is the sheet I ended up with:


Rolled out to a six

Step Seven: Now cut your sheet into even sections across the stripes, with each section being approximately an inch and 1/2 deep. Stack these sections so they look like this:


Cut and stacked

Section 8: I like to call this technique “increasing” the cane, instead of “reducing” it. Some people call this plugging, which will make sense shortly. Take your stack of clay and start pushing in from the ends: yes, this is hard and probably won’t make sense until you’re done. It looks like this when I do it:


Ugly, ain’t it?

Here’s the direction you should be pushing, only do it on both ends (I had to use one hand to hold the camera).


Push it baby.

Remember to pick up the “plug” from time to time, since you want all the clay to move in towards the center, not just the sides. Eventually the plug will get thicker:


Getting there

Now you’re getting the idea. You want to end up with a nice square block like this:


I told you I was no good at precise.

Now you can reduce this just as you would a regular square/rectangular cane. Reduce it so the stripes run lengthwise and you have the width you would like for whatever project you have in mind. In my case, I wanted to make some log shaped beads. My cane ended up being about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch wide:


I mean it, I’m really bad at perfect.

My beads ended up like this:


Look at all those little specks – nice way to do inclusions Ann!

And there you have it. I would love to hear from folks about this. If you try the tutorial, let me know if it makes sense. Leave comments or questions below, or you can email me at Hope you have fun!


Tutorial: Polymer Clay Blend With Inclusions

17. some beadsI was playing around with my clay last night and remembered that there was something I’ve been wanting to try. I’ve seen beads on sites around the net that use a simple blend with inclusions. At first I thought that it was done by mixing the inclusions into each color of clay in the blend, but it occurred to me that there might be an easier way. I decided to take photos of each step so I could share the process with you. So here is my impromptu tutorial, with the occasional mistake!

Ingredients: 1 block of transclucent clay, and 2 opaque colors of your choice. I used Premo! Spanish Olive and Rhino Gray. You will only need small amounts of the 2 opaque colors.


Oh yeah! This is a blend with inclusions, so you will need the inclusions. I decided to use spices – black pepper, paprika, and oregano. Other inclusions you might try are different colors of embossing powders, mica powders, glitter, or even dried flowers like lavender or rose petals. You would probably want to grind those up fairly fine.

3. Spices

You will also need a blade, a pasta machine, and a work surface that’s okay to get messy. I often find a sheet of paper works for the messy phase.

Step One: Roll out your translucent clay on the thickest setting until it is well conditioned. Kick the level up two notches on the pasta machine (level 3 on an Atlas or most craft machines), and roll the clay into a nice sheet. Lay the sheet on your work surface – there is no need to square up the clay, since you are not done rolling it through the machine yet.

Step Two: Spread some of the inclusions in a thin smear onto the translucent clay sheet. Keep the inclusions towards the center of the clay sheet. Leave the edges plain.

4. spices spread out

Now fold the sheet over, making a sandwich with the inclusions inside:

5. Spice sandwich

I had just a little bit of spice on my finger, so I rubbed it on top. Probably not a good idea usually. Now run this sandwich thru the machine, just as you would if you were conditioning it. Once the spices appear fully included in the sheet, lay it out on your work surface and repeat the process. This will give you a nice ratio of inclusions to clay. If you are satisfied with doing it once, that’s fine, or you may want to repeat the process more than once. Roll the clay out to the 3rd level of thickness again.

Step Three: Condition small amounts of the other two colors of clay. Roll these out to one level thinner than that of the translucent sheet. Lay your translucent sheet out on your work surface, square it up with your blade, and then cut rectangles from your other two sheets that are half the depth of the translucent sheet. Lay them out on top of the translucent sheet like this:

6. The layout

Notice that I have a much larger section of the gray than I do of the green. I wanted my blend to look like it had a thin green middle, and I wanted the gray section to be smaller than the translucent. I have my own reasons for doing it this way, which I’ll show you in a different post. You only want the opaque sheets to be half the depth of the translucent because making the colors more translucent makes the inclusions more noticeable.

Step Four: Fold the sheet in half so that the green and gray sheets are on top. It should look like this:

7. first fold

Note that the fold in this photo is toward the bottom of the screen. The clay cracked at the fold and that is why it looks wonky. Put the folded edge down into your pasta machine, set at the thickest setting. Make sure the folded edge is at the bottom. This is similar to the process followed in a Skinner blend, but you are just doing a simple blend. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo at this point, but do a search for Skinner Blend if you have never done one before. It’s very important to get this right!

WHOOPS! This is where I made a mistake. I forgot that adding the opaque clays to the sheet would make that area thicker, affecting the blend. Here is how I fixed it, after having run it through the machine a couple of times:

8. whoops I forgot something

Step Five: Fold and run the blend through the machine 6 or so times, with the stripes perpendicular to the rollers each time, until the inclusions are nicely mixed into all three colors of the clay, and there is a nice delineation of the colors but they are fuzzy at the edges. It should look like this:

1. full blend with inclusions

Isn’t it nice how the spices got nicely mixed throughout all the colors? I’m pretty happy with it. I look forward to trying it with other colors and inclusions. Next time I’ll show you how I reduced it to a size that I could make beads with.