Tag Archives: polymer clay experiments

Holly visits Maine and we extrude some polymer



Holly Kellogg and I met on the airport shuttle that carried us to the 2006 PMC  Conference at Purdue University. Over the years we have become good friends who like to learn new creative techniques together. Sometimes we attend workshops, and other times we just try to figure out what we want to try next when we visit each other’s studio. Hmm…what would it be this year when she had 5 days to come to the island with her son Evan and daughter Maia?

When in doubt, we get out the polymer clay. I planned ahead for her visit because I was fascinated with the idea of using an extruder to make thin canes of varying color that I think are called rainbow canes. (I’m confused about the terms “pixilated cane” and “retro cane.” I think they apply to larger canes of polymer clay made from combining these small thin extrusions.) All I know was that we wanted to extrude clay using the technique described by Cynthia Tinnapple in her Polymer Clay Daily blog. We wanted to see for ourselves how the stacks of color keep pushing through each other and changing as they are extruded through a smaller opening, but we didn’t want to wear out our wrists cranking the tiny handle of an extruder. I ordered the stainless steel extruder, adapter, and vise suggested by Cynthia, before Holly arrived.

It helps to read the directions when you’re doing something you’ve never done before.



We conditioned lots of polymer clay by running it through our pasta machines, then cut out circles of color the size of the extruder barrel and stacked them up. We thought we needed a different size hole for the end of the extruder,  so I quickly made a copper version using my disc cutter.

IMGP5260  Holly extruded the fist cane….




It works! (Though the cane in the photo below is actually one from our second day of experiments.)



We experimented with waxed linen between slices of polymer clay to see how it would handle curing. That way our test slices might be able to be used as jewelry components if they worked out.

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My cane slices could be made to slide quite easily on the waxed linen. Not what I had hoped would happen. Holly’s pieces did not slide quite as easily. She had used liquid polymer between her slices to see if it made a difference in holding the waxed linen.

On day two I used all translucent Pardo clay, tinted with alcohol ink, with silver leaf between each disc. I extruded through a small square shape.

IMGP5272 IMGP5275  A cured test slice of one cane I had wrapped with more of the blue translucent Pardo:

IMGP5285   Holly tinted Premo translucent clay with alcohol ink and alternated her translucent slices with light and dark solids. She used gold leaf between her slices.

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I love how the gold leaf seems to glow through the peach translucent clay in the upper left teardrop.

The time went all too quickly. Two morning sessions were just enough to whet our appetite for more polymer clay exploration. We were having too much fun to stop and take photos of it all. Here are two more test pieces, with beads added to the waxed linen before squeezing the two sides of polymer together. In my mind they would be earring components.

IMGP5288  The translucent segments show up a little bit in the finished earrings. What looks like a black stripe in the second segment from the top is actually the linen thread showing through the translucent part of the cane.

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As part of my translucent clay experiments, I embedded bits of hammered wire and opaque clay between rolled layers of translucent clay. The layers were rolled to #3 on my pasta machine.

Discovery: Unless using the wire in a mechanical part of the design, it seems a waste of metal to embed it.  Especially when using silver.

I was much happier with the look of pearlized white clay beneath a translucent layer, as in the round beads at the top of the photo below. To me the dots and lines show  up well, and the pearlized white clay resembles silver, or what I hoped the silver would look beneath the translucent clay.

The beads in the lower part of the photo are copper beads covered with a layer of translucent clay  tinted with “Salmon” colored alcohol ink. I was surprised at how the salmon color seemed to disappear when layered over the copper. In the mid-left of the photo are more copper beads covered with a layer of blue tinted translucent clay. It looks more purple than I thought it would.

Earring components from a random mix of green and blue alcohol inks. I’m not sure what this color would be called, but I used it as a base for the earring pieces. I made a design with black and white and added a very thin layer of the grayish green translucent clay on top. (I’m pretty sure this was Premo clay because I could bend these pieces almost in half without then breaking or cracking. The Pardo pieces were firmer after firing.)

As an experiment, I liked the way they came out. By chance, I think the smokey greenish color will mix well with silver findings. But, I really am at a loss when thinking about mixing color. I have no art background, so a color wheel memory is not readily available to me. (I think a little color wheel on the wall of my studio would be a good aid to my polymer clay experiments.)

Below, I placed a white unglazed ceramic disc between two layers of Pardo translucent clay. With the milky aspect of the clay before firing, I had no confidence about this turning into an interesting bead. So, I only made one. (duh, not thinking)

The disc bead, after firing, was a pleasant surprise. I plan to make more of these in a variety of translucent colors.

Imbedding? Embedding? As a “wordsmith wannabe” I had to determine which word is the correct one to use. Like Pardo and Premo translucent clay, either one can be used.  Both are correct. The choice is up to the user!



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