Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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How To Sharpen Polymer Clay Slicing Blades

If you work with polymer clay on a regular basis, you may find that your slicing blades get dull over time. In the video below, I share an easy way to keep your slicing blades sharp. So stop throwing out those dull blades! Sharpen them and keep on slicing that polymer clay.

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A Special Request

How do you spark the creative muse? When you’ve run out of ideas, hit the wall, or are just BORED, how do you find your mojo again?

I am writing a new blog post on sparking the creative muse and I want your help.

Specifically, I’m collecting tips from my friends and colleagues on how they spark the creative muse. You don’t have to an artist to participate either. We all use various techniques to keep ourselves moving forward in our endeavors.

In the comments section below, please share 1-3 tips that you use to spark the creative muse. Also include a link to your work, if you want. (A website, blog, Pinterest, Etsy, or ArtFire page, etc. One link only please.)

Your tip(s) and link will be included in the upcoming blog post. You have my deep gratitude and thanks for participating.


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Using Vintaj Patina Inks with the Mokume Gane Technique-Part 2

Welcome Back!

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.

Fully textured clay stack

Fully textured clay stack

Revealing Layers

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.

Layer One

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.

Layer one revealed

Layer one revealed

Layer Two

After taking off a bit more, here is layer two poking through the clay. This second layer is the ochre ink.

Layer two revealed

Layer two revealed

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.

MokumeGaneLayer_Crater

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.

MokumeGaneLayers_BlogPost

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.

Final Layer

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.

Final layer (for now)

Final layer (for now)

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.

Five Disks

Five Disks

You can see how taking your slices and re-arranging them onto a sheet of clay once again changes the original pattern.

Convex, Concave, and Oblong

Convex, Concave, and Oblong

The oblong piece was created with a shaplet template. The slices were put on textured black clay. The gold is Rhine Gold mica powder.

More circle love

More circle love

VintajInks_Test2_MG_4Disks

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.

Disks on Green

Disks on Green

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.


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Using Vintaj Patina Inks with the Mokume Gane Technique-Part 1

A couple weeks ago I wrote about my first experiment with Vintaj Patina Inks on polymer clay. You can read my initial impressions here.

This time around I wanted to try the inks in a popular polymer clay technique called Mokume Gane (moe-koo-may gah-nay). Mokume Gane is a Japanese metal work technique where thin sheets of metal are stacked (called a “billet”) and fused by heat and pressure. The metal is forged and carved to produce unique patterns.

In polymer clay, we use a similar approach using thin layers of polymer, stacked one upon the other, and then textured with a variety of tools that are pressed into the layers of clay. This is one variation of the mokume gane technique applied to polymer. Other variations include using texture plates to impress the clay and placing small balls of clay under the billet to create a bumpy surface.

So let’s see how all this worked with the Vintaj Patina Inks.

Materials

For this test, I decided to use

  • white Premo
  • onyx and ochre Vintaj Patina ink
  • an umounted rubber stamp
  • assorted texture tools

I also had on hand a cup for water, paintbrushes, gloves, paper towel, and wore an apron.

Inks, stamp, clay, paintbrush. Ready to Start!

Inks, stamp, clay, paintbrush. Ready to Start!

Creating the Billet or Stack of Polymer Clay

I conditioned the white clay using a Atlas pasta machine and rolled it to a #4 on the machine. Then I cut the sheet into 4 equivalent squares.

VintajInks_Test2_MG_4SqsWhite

I painted two of the squares with the onyx ink and two squares with the ochre ink. I used separate paintbrushes for each color. Be sure to rinse your paintbrushes in water as soon as your done with the inks. Then I let the inks dry for 10 minutes. I didn’t pick up any residue when I touched my finger to the ink. The finish is shiny and not tacky.

Painted clay

Painted clay

I mentioned in my first test with the inks that they are rather messy. Here’s proof. The ochre is the worst of this three pack.

Messy bottle

Messy bottle

Once the inky squares were dry, I stacked them. I put one ochre sheet on the bottom then the onyx sheet on top. Alternating the remaining sheets, I ended with the onyx sheet on top of the billet.

Billet

Billet

At this point if your billet gets a little distorted, you can trim the edges to square the stack. You can also use a straight edge to even the sides by gently pressing the clay with the straight edge. A ruler or old plastic card works well.

Now, before you put texture to the clay, it is important to have your stack of clay firmly secured to a surface. I use either a ceramic tile or an acrylic work surface. Securing the stack to a surface reduces distortion and helps when you start to slice off the layers of clay.

Adding Texture to the Billet or Stack of Clay

Putting texture to the clay is one of my favorite parts of this technique. It’s easy to go a little crazy with all the tools. I had one polymer clay teacher tell me she spent a half-hour adding texture to a stack of clay!

I made the first impression in the clay with an unmounted rubber stamp. Here’s a trick for getting a good impression with a rubber stamp: stand on the stamp.

Yes, stand on the stamp. Put a ceramic tile on the floor with your stack of clay on the tile. Then put the stamp on the clay and stand on the whole thing. Give it a good press with your foot. If you practice yoga, you can use this time to practice your best flying ballerina pose.

Standing on the stamp to put texture in the clay.

Standing on the stamp to put texture in the clay.

When I removed the stamp, I realized I had made a mistake. I should have put a release on the stamp. A release is used to prevent the stamp from tearing away the clay or paint. You can use a light spritz of water, a mix of baby powder & corn starch, or a spritz of Amour-all as a release. Apply the release to the surface of the stamp then press the stamp into the clay.

Here is what happened when I pulled the stamp away from the top of the clay stack.

MGStack_PaintPeeledOff_Text

See that white clay peeking through about 1/4 of the way down? That is where the onyx Vintaj Patina ink peeled off and onto the rubber stamp. It’s possible the ink was not completely dry in that particular spot.

Onward….

Then I added more texture with a few favorite texture tools.

Texture tools

Texture tools

Here is the stack of clay with pokey holes, squiggly lines, and other fun stuff pushed into the clay.

Fully textured clay stack

Fully textured clay stack

Word of warning! If you use a cookie cutter or straight edge to texture the clay, don’t press the tool right into the middle of the stack. Odds are when you pull the tool out of the clay, the clay might come right out with it. This can happen with circular tools, like a cookie cutter.

To avoid this, lightly dust the cutter and press it closer to the edge of the clay stack. If the section of cut clay separates from the stack, gently press it back into the stack with your fingers. Let the entire stack of clay rest for a few minutes before adding more texture or before you start to remove the layers of clay.

Removing Layers and Revealing Patterns

Now that you’ve pressed tools into the clay stack and made a groovy pattern on the top of the clay, you’re going to start removing layers of clay to reveal patterns underneath.

But first we’re going to let the billet rest. It’s all warm and soft at this stage from all the pushing and prodding with the texture tools. If you start removing layers now, you’ll smear and smush the clay.

So take a break. Grab something to drink or eat. In the next post I’ll show you the patterns that emerged when I removed a few layers of the impressed clay. I’ll also share what I made with the slices.


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Teaching Polymer Clay Boot Camp in January, 2013

I’m happy to announce that I am teaching my Polymer Clay Boot Camp at Emerson Umbrella in Concord, MA. Class begins on Thursday, January 10, 6-9pm, and runs for a full 10 weeks!

Four fundamental canes

Four fundamental canes

Here is the full class description:

Do you have some packages of polymer clay sitting on your craft table but you aren’t sure what to do with them? Are you a fan of polymer clay art or jewelry and would love to learn the secrets to make high quality pieces yourself? Or maybe you’ve played with polymer clay but need more direction on how to use it?

If you’re ready to explore this fun and versatile medium then Polymer Clay Boot Camp is just for you. In Polymer Clay Boot Camp, you’ll become familiar with polymer clay from the ground up. We start with a discussion of polymer clay basics, including brands, handling, safety, and basic tools. You’ll learn several foundation techniques including

  • easy fundamental canes that are the foundation for more complex canes
  • an ancient metal work technique applied to polymer clay for creating fascinating, one-of-a-kind patterns
  • how to make faux gemstones and imitation natural materials with polymer clay
  • professional quality finishing techniques

As you learn these techniques, you’ll use your newfound skills to create a variety of polymer art including home décor items and jewelry.

Ancient metal work technique

Ancient metal work technique

At the end of this class, you will have learned how to

  • Prepare, condition, and safely cure polymer clay
  • Build simple and complex canes
  • Create fascinating patterns from multiple thin layers of clay
  • Design a polymer clay “fabric”
  • Use polymer clay to imitate a variety of natural materials
  • Create a variety of polymer clay art from home décor to jewelry
  • Professionally finish your work
Faux gemstones & imitative materials

Faux gemstones & imitative materials

You can register directly through Emerson Umbrellla. All materials are included for a nominal fee.

This is a fun, interactive class, perfect whether you’re new to polymer clay or looking to sharpen your skills.

Still not sure? Check out this video on YouTube where I give you an overview of the class


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New Art Friday: Teaching Found Poetry Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)

I’m happy to announce that I am teaching my new class, Found Poetry Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) on Saturday, August 25, 2012, from 10:00am to 3:00pm at Ink About It in Westford.

What are Found Poetry ATCs?

Found Poetry ATCs are the artistic blending of artist trading cards and the random expression of found poetry. When combined, these two art forms result in funny, imaginative, and quirky ATCs.

Found Poetry Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)
Amy Crawley (2012)

In this class, we will

  • create inspired phrases from randomly chosen words
  • create polymer “paper” using liquid polymer clay
  • embed the phrases, add color and images to the polymer “paper”
  • attach the polymer “paper” to a substrate
  • add additional embellishments for a truly inspired ATC, and
  • swap ATCs at the end of class.

The Gentle Class
Found Poetry ATC
Amy Crawley (2012)

In class, you will receive a materials kit that includes polymer clay faces, napkins, ATC cards, paper beads, alcohol pads, a small palette, & white paper.

Your Hardwired Eyes
Found Poetry ATC
Amy Crawley (2012)

In this class, you get to play and experiment with liquid polymer clay, alcohol inks, rubbing alcohol, paintbrushes, colored pencils, water soluble oil pastels, black paint, rubber stamps, and ink pads.

Small Stories For Her
Found Poetry ATC
Amy Crawley (2012)

For an overview of the class, watch the YouTube video below.

I hope you can join me on Saturday, August 25 at Ink About It for my Found Poetry ATC class.

Have a great weekend.


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The Daily Head: 4/8/11

This little guy, I’ll call him Fob, was inspired by a networking discussion and how sculpting heads might transform into a polymer clay class.

On the one hand, it may be too early to even think about something like that because this self-challenge is supposed to be fun. On the other hand, the whole idea of doing this self-challenge was to wake up the creative muse and maybe she wants me to develop new classes to teach.

Fob is made from a Skinner blend, rolled into a log and shaped. Simple face construction, texture, baked, sanded, acrylic wash, and buffed. Fob is almost 3″ long.


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Polymer Clay Boot Camp One: Introduction to Polymer Clay

This fall I offered my first studio based class, Polymer Clay Boot Camp One: Introduction to Polymer Clay. The class was held over four consecutive Saturdays. In this class, we discuss brands of clay, how to use a pasta machine, basic tools, and safety; how to condition clay, how to cure the clay, and finishing: sanding, patina, and buffing the clay. We dive into several topics: the Four Fundamental Canes, Exotic Wood Grain Metal (Mokume Gane), and the Fantastic Faux.

Each class topic includes several samples, handouts, and visual demonstrations of several techniques. The classes can be fast paced and packed with information.

My first studio class included three lovely students, Eleanor, Naomi, and Chris. Each had some familiarity with polymer clay, however, these sessions gave them the opportunity to explore and play with polymer clay in a safe, supportive, encouraging environment. We problem solved, experimented, laughed, and challenged ourselves.

The final class is an open studio class where students are able to complete a project of their choice using any of the techniques learned in the previous sessions.

Here are the results:

Eleanor's Bangle Bracelets

Chris's Magnets

Naomi's Switchplate & Beads

And here we all are together:

Polymer Clay Boot Camp One 2010 Class

Thank you Naomi, Eleanor, and Chris for a great teaching experience. Your enthusiasm was contagious.

Coming next spring: Polymer Clay Boot Camp Two: Advanced Techniques in Polymer Clay.

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