When I last posted we were discussing Part 1 of the Mokume Gane technique using Vintaj Patina inks. You can read that post here.
By the end of Part 1, I had showed you the conditioned clay sheets, painted and stacked the sheets. You learned how to texture the clay stack, called a “billet,” and saw what happened when a release isn’t used with rubber stamps.
After the billet was textured, we let it rest. Letting the stack rest means setting it aside for 30 minutes or so. If you don’t want to wait that long, put the stack in your freezer for several minutes to firm up the clay.
Here is the textured stack of clay.
After you have textured the stack of clay and let it rest, it is time to reveal the layers underneath. To reveal the layers, you need a sharp cutting blade. Why? Because you’re going to start slicing off the top layer of clay.
Yep, after all that work poking and pushing and tickling that stack of clay, you’re going to remove layers in what might feel like the destruction of hard work. Removing the layers is how you’re going to see just what all that poking and prodding did to each successive layer.
This is an exciting and sometimes nerve wracking process. I love it because of the element of surprise. You really never know what patterns are going to emerge each time you slice off a layer of clay.
Okay, I’ll stop my yammering and show you the patterns that were revealed in my stack of clay.
Word of warning! As I said, you need to use a sharp blade to make it easier to remove the layers. You also want to make sure the billet is secured to your work surface (either a ceramic tile or acrylic work surface) before you start slicing. If the stack of clay isn’t secured to your work surface, it will start sliding around when you make your slices. Not fun.
To take a slice and reveal the layer, hold your blade with both hands. Place the sharp edge of your blade at the top edge of the billet. Bow the blade slightly and start to pull the blade TOWARD you.
Don’t press down too hard or deeply. You’ll end up with a crater in your clay and a thick slice.
Don’t worry if you pull through and only get a small piece of the clay. Put that slice to the side and keep going.
This is what appeared after removing most of the top layer of Vintaj Patina onyx ink. I like how the onyx ink pull into the circular holes. The ink is a little crackled as well. Often, for me, when I remove the top layer, I get lots of little bits of clay coming off. Never can seem to get a nice completely intact layer.
After taking off a bit more, here is layer two poking through the clay. This second layer is the ochre ink.
I like this subtle color shift as the ochre ink is revealed. But remember that word of warning earlier about applying too much pressure when you slice through the stack? I did just that on layer 2.
Now don’t fret when this happens. The simplest solution is to take small slices off the lumpy side until you even out the surface of the billet. Easy peasy and you’re back in business.
Here are some of those smaller slices that came off the first two layers.
These slices are what I’ll use to create my final piece. You can see that as you slice through the layers, you start to reveal the colors of paint. The textures you applied way back in the beginning help compress the stack and drag the colors through it.
Your texture tools createt these very organic patterns in the clay. What’s neat is you often have two very different patterns on each slice. A front side (the top layer you see as you slice through the clay) and a back side (the pattern on the back of the layer.) Now you can choose which side to use in your finished piece. Inevitably, one side is going to be more interesting than the other side.
This is where I stopped slicing through the billet. I loved how the ochre ink circles surrounded the black dots. I like this pattern and haven’t decided what to do with it yet.
So What Did I Make?
About a year ago, I became quite fascinated with circular shapes. I’ve always liked circles. But this time I started making a variety of circle or disk shaped pieces. Some had patterns, some had faces. I haven’t done much with them, just tossed them into a box for future inspiration.
And that is what I decided to do with the layers of patterned clay that I sliced off my clay stack. I applied the slices to white clay, cut out circles and oblongs, and then formed the clay over domes.
You can see how taking your slices and re-arranging them onto a sheet of clay once again changes the original pattern.
The oblong piece was created with a shaplet template. The slices were put on textured black clay. The gold is Rhine Gold mica powder.
And this is as far as I’ve gotten with these pieces. I would like to mount them onto a board. Wood? Cradle board? Something with encaustic? Not sure yet.
Well, I did have one idea of incorporating wire, maybe copper, into the design. But that is just a spark of an idea in my head. I haven’t sketched out the full design yet.
So there may be a Part 3 still to come in this adventure.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about one approach to using the Mokume Gane technique. Now it’s your turn to give it a go.
If you do make something with the Mokume Gane, please leave a comment on this post and include a link to your blog post, Flickr page, or website. I’ll post your links in a separate post so we can see what you created with this fun technique.