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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then I added more texture with a few favorite texture tools.
Here is the stack of clay with pokey holes, squiggly lines, and other fun stuff pushed into the clay.
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.