Tile Bracelet

Every once in awhile, I put down my knitting needles and pick-up a block of polymer clay. A dear friend of mine, Debbie Anderson, teaches interesting classes using the medium. Debbie and I, about 21 years ago, were two of the founding members of the South Bay Polymer Clay Guild in San Jose, California.

Here are a few photos highlighting the tile bracelet technique:

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Both sides of a fabric strip were treated with fabric stiffener, and left to dry for a couple of days.
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Once a channel for elastic cord was constructed and a backing sheet of polymer clay was applied, the tiles were cut apart and liquid polymer was applied to the fabric surface of the tile.
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After the tiles were processed in the oven, gloss was added to the surface of each tile.
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The tiles were strung with seed beads and a hand sculpted toggle using polymer clay.
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Texture was added to the back of the tiles using an unmounted rubber stamp.
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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

Yesterday, while revisiting familiar territory, I began to reflect on my various artistic experiences with polymer clay and my own artistic growth.

Over Under Over Under

Before I begin my blog post about my latest happenings with polymer clay, I am so excited to share some fantastic news.  Today, I made reservations to attend Vogue Knitting Destination getaway in September at The Falls Inn and Spa in Ontario, Canada. “Vogue Knitters will get an inside look at the famous Koigu dye house to explore and experience all things Koigu.”  Moving on…

Falls Inn and Spa

In a February 1995 issue of Bead & Button, Lindly Haunani demonstrated her version of Mokume Gane.  In my polymer clay past life, this article was one of the first examples of combining layers of silver leaf with translucent clay along with very small amounts of colored clay mixed in to enable the cracking of the silver leaf to show through.  Thin slices were used to make collages on a base of transparent clay.

polymer clay buttons

Here are a few of my vintage polymer clay buttons using Lindly Haunani’s technique.

The realm of possibilities has grown by leaps and bounds in the world of polymer clay, alcohol inks are being used in conjunction with metal leaf and translucent clay. The discussion below briefly describes my experience with leaf and ink dye.

Metal Leaf and Alcholic Dyes

After the alcohol ink dried, the variegated copper leaf was sandwiched between layers of translucent clay and incorporated into sheets of colored polymer clay.  Tools were used to imprint the stack.

Metal Leaf and Alcohol Dyes 2_1

Slices of structural elements were applied to a piece of polymer clay before curing.

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On a textured backing piece of polymer clay, elements were woven and processed.

Foil and Alcohol Inks 2_1

Slicing elements from the Mokume Gane block reveals an interesting  pattern. Building with additional structural elements constructs a unique piece of architecture illuminating the subtle effect created by the use of metallic leaf and ink dye.

Layer Upon Layer

Before I blog about my latest polymer clay project, I’d like to mention three inspiring polymer clay books added to my collection.  Polymer Clay Surface Design Recipes, by Ellen Marshall, explores 100 mixed-media techniques plus project ideas.  Julie Picarello’s, Patterns in Polymer Imprint & Accent Bead Techniques, provides recipes for successful color palettes, her polymer imprint technique based on the art of mokume gane and jewelry construction.  Polymer Clay Global Perspectives compiled by Cynthia Tinapple, discusses emerging ideas and techniques from 125 international artists. I find all three books inspiring, exciting and educational.

Layer Upon Layer visually documents the use of alcohol inks, translucent and opaque clay.

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The top left image shows ink applied to the translucent clay.  The lower left and right images are examples of the inked translucent clay after drying placed on top of a sheet of opaque clay.

Layer Upon Layer #2

The movement of the dye and cracking of the translucent clay, presented an opportunity for design.  By taking advantage of the design on the surface, I added a dimension of interest by building a picture.

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Through the use of cutouts and a backing piece of clay, another dimension of mystery unfolds as the eye looks into the piece.

Are these two pieces destined to become utilitarian objects?  Perhaps I’ll admire them for awhile.

On The Grid

Today’s polymer clay post explores surface design.  In previous posts, I’ve discussed the ability to make impressions on a layered block of polymer clay using a variety of tools and rubber stamps.  The imprinted layers of a  block of clay is an attempt to adapt Mokume Gane or “wood grain metal” a Japanese metalworking technique.

Yesterday, I had a discussion with Andrea Chebeleu,  the owner of A Work of Heart about the experimentation process vs. producing an end product.  I believe, it’s necessary to gather a wide variety of process driven experiences, in order to develop a subconscious database of knowledge. Taking Myself To Camp (blog posts 1, 2 and 3), did just that. My plans were to adopt and adapt the various surface design techniques to polymer clay.

On The Grid #2

Instead of imprinting the polymer clay with tools or rubber stamps, I manipulated the clay replicating wood grain.  Sliced portions were applied to a conditioned piece of clay.

Off The Grid_1

After using a texture sheet, Lumiere metallic acrylic and opaque acrylic paints an interesting textural surface appeared.  After the paint dries, something amazing will happen.

Making An Impression

Sifting through articles from my archives, I found an interesting  article written by Nan Roche.  The article from the December 1998 issue of Bead & Button, Impressed Mokume Gane, discusses making an impression in polymer clay using rubber stamps and patinas for ancient effects.  Nan Roche mentions, “I like the predictable unpredictability of the technique.”

I’ve kept the article for a time when I had the free time to explore Nan’s approach.  So, here’s my first attempt.

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I turned the rubber stamp upside down and placed a block of clay on top of the stamp and rolled a brayer over the block to make an impression.

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When carving away the polymer, it’s important to make shallow slices to reveal the patterns from the stamp.  Two types of impressions can be made revealing different results.  The typical rubber stamp has a raised pattern that will create valleys in the clay when pressed into it.  The negative image of the stamp has valleys which produces a raised image. In order to make your own negative image, press the rubber stamp in conditioned scrap clay and cure it.  Make your negative image plate from one of the strongest polymer clay, e.g. Fimo or Premo.

Making and Impression #3_1

I found the characters on the rubber stamp did not translate as well as I had hoped. Though instead of actual characters, a wood grain pattern emerged. By embellishing the   surface with additional elements, a sculptural quality to the piece emerged.

Faux Enamel

Recently, I re-connected with polymer clay artist, Debbie Anderson.  Debbie and I met in 1993, by chance through our shared interest in polymer clay.  We were two of the original members of the South Bay Polymer Clay Guild.  Debbie remained active in the guild, while I pursued my interest in Art History and knitting.

While listening to ADELE on my daily five mile hike, my mind began to wander…I wondered if the South Bay Polymer Clay Guild still existed.   I decided to give Debbie a call and indeed the guild still exists.  Much to my surprise, Debbie was teaching a class entitled, “Faux Enamel.”

On July 9, 2012, I returned to my polymer clay roots, as I cranked my pasta machine for the first time in twelve years.  Polymer clay sheets, Chiyogami Paper and resin were layered in a specific order, baked in a convection oven, which resulted in one-of-a-kind art pieces resembling the process of enameling.

The class was expertly taught, and I look forward to my next class with Debbie Anderson.

The pieces shown in these two photographs are backed by felt I created using the wet-felting technique.