Tag Archives: translucent polymer clay

Clay play

I’m getting ready for my last show of the year in Bar Harbor, Maine on Dec. 6 and 7. For me this means: Get out the clay! No, not ceramic clay, but polymer clay, fine silver clay and the base metal clays of copper and bronze. I make many of my own components for necklaces, earrings, and bracelets so there is a lot to be done before I actually sit down and put these components together. I’ve made a few mistakes and learned some new things in the last two weeks and I’m ready to tell all.  More about the metals in a following post. Today I’m talking about polymer.

My personal discovery of polymer clay goes back to the late ’70’s when I picked up a few packages at the Kimball Shop in Northeast Harbor. I sculpted little lobsterman Christmas tree ornaments for my family and friends and baked them up in my oven. I was only just getting started in making simple earrings with sheet silver and a jeweler’s saw. It never occurred to me to mix the Fimo colors and make my own beads. I put the Fimo away for 10 years or so as I was concentrating on working with silver and mothering two babies.

Fast forward to the early 90’s when I started seeing some incredibly intricate patterns on beads made with Fimo. How in the world did they make such tiny patterns on such tiny beads?  Nan Roche’s book, The New Clay, opened up a whole new world to me and I was off and running making my own beads. They were simple slices of canes, drilled after curing, but they were beads I made, in colors I wanted. And they were a whole lot of fun to make.

IMGP8830 When Precious Metal Clay was introduced in the mid 1990’s I would abandon the polymer clay for many years. Besides, I had a ton of beads already made if I needed them.IMGP8826

Currently,the amazing things people are doing with polymer clay has drawn me back to this medium. I’m looking forward to spending whole days or weeks pushing my own polymer boundaries  this winter. Presently I’m  making components from translucent Pardo clay tinted with alcohol ink.

IMGP2745 I’m usually in such a hurry for instant gratification that I haven’t bothered to record what amounts and colors of inks I’ve used to get the finished leaf color. And, I’m never quite sure how they will come out because the Pardo clay is pretty opaque before it is cured.

IMGP5825 IMGP5827 The clay becomes even more translucent when it is cooled, straight out of the oven, in ice water.IMGP5830Information from Pinterest, blogs and FB have inspired me and led me in new directions. Ginger Davis Allman has a wealth of information, especially about translucent clays, on her blog Blue Bottle Tree. I’ve purchased two of her tutorials to try out this winter.

Last week I took (online) a CraftCast course on polymer clay extrusions by Cynthia Tinapple who is an amazing polymer clay artists and writes the blog Polymer Clay Daily. I already had a great set up for extruding polymer clay with the help of an electric drill thanks to one of her earlier posts last summer. I hadn’t used the drill or the technique since August, but I would soon be trying it again.

My desire to make more of these bracelets for my shows turned into an unplanned extrusion experiment.IMGP4169            I discovered I did not have the stash of these flexible tubes that I thought I did. Where oh where had I bought those colorful  tubes, on Etsy? I looked through my purchase info and found out they had come from Mary Soucy’s Etsy shop, Bead Me A Story. It’s a very cool shop and if you have been trying to find those amazing rubber o-rings for your designs, look no further than here. She has them! But what she did not have anymore were the “flexible bugle beads” I sought. I looked everywhere with the help of Google, but I couldn’t find them. I contacted Mary to ask if she would be willing to tell me where I could find them.

“No they are not available although I was the person who made them. Those were handmade beads made from Polymer Clay. I had to discontinue making them b/c they became too labor intensive and my hands and back couldn’t do it anymore. Sorry but they are all gone.”

I asked if she would be willing to sell me a tutorial on how they were made. She said that she had used some softer matte finish clays that were no longer available, and “Basically they are just made with a clay extruder “Makin” was the brand of extruder I used and then you can buy tips which make the holes in the tubing as you extrude it. I don’t remember what store I used to use but the hole makers are the same brand as the extruder.
That’s about all I can tell you. That, and that it takes very strong hands to extrude clay.”

Before I even looked for the tip I needed, I sent Mary the link to Cynthia’s post on extruding clay with the help of a drill. “Sweet tip!” was her reply. It is a true hand saver.

Thanks to island living and Amazon Prime, I am a very resourceful internet shopper. I had the extruder tip I needed within two days. And with a  bit of a learning curve that involved a few wisps of smoke coming out of my drill (one needs to have very very soft clay to push it through the two-tip combo for making small tubing) I was making my own slightly flexible tubing. I used cornstarch to keep the tubes from sticking together while fitting as many as I could on the tray to go in the oven. This new-to-me process totally worked!

IMGP5835 IMGP5846Now I need to get back to the studio to make some bracelets.



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Necklaces for West Gardiner

Where can you pull off an interstate highway, get gas for your car, get something to eat, make a comfort stop, AND shop in an amazing gallery of fine crafts?

The service plaza in West Gardiner, Maine of course. It’s where I 295, I 95, and the Maine Turnpike converge. You can be going south or going north and it’s still easily accessible from the highway. Just inside the building, among the usual suspects in the food court, is the Center for Maine Craft featuring juried work from many members of the Maine Crafts Association.

I’ve had some of my jewelry there since the beginning of May and I’m happy to say they need more necklaces. These are from the batch I mailed out today:

All 7 of the flame worked beads below are by Susan Kennedy of SueBeads.

I wondered when I would get around to using these translucent polymer clay discs that I made while fooling around in April with my friend Holly. They just seemed to fit right in with the recycled Indonesian glass and the English sea glass. Old, new, and renewed; linked together by their matte finishes.


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I love my new lights!

And the photo cube.  Before I priced pieces to send off to Red Dot Gallery on Deer Isle, I took the time to experiment some more with my new photo set up. I love having so much light available at the flick of a switch. What a concept.

It was interesting to see how different background colors and prop colors  affected the feel of the photos, especially when the pieces were more colorful. (as opposed to being all silver) Here are just a few of the shots I took today:

Translucent Pardo polymer clay, colored with alcohol ink, embedded silver.

Stick or plexiglass rod? Which do you think works better? I waffle….

More translucent Pardo with embedments.

Same plexiglass rod, but different background colors. Bronze and copper metal clay.

Seaham Beach sea glass, fine silver PMC beads, Sue Kennedy lamp work beads:

Cedar print fine silver PMC beads on silver plated Beadalon™ with sterling silver and nephrite jade:


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Beads took a back seat…

Where to start?  There were so many possibilities, it was hard to decide which direction to take. I really thought I was going to make some hollow  beads, but I lost interest quickly. Fortunately the translucent polymer clay needed to be conditioned and colored, and the mindless task of running it through the pasta machines opened our minds to using some copper wire as a form for the clay.

Holly worked with circles.

I went for leaf shapes.

Holly’s daughter, Maia, joined us and inspired us with some of her own ideas.

Neither of us knew that leaving an edge of clay around the wire was called a “shadow cut,” until Maia told us. Her design of the tiny beads inside the wire, with a shadow of  clay around the outside, was my favorite of the day.

Of course the day ended too soon, even though we worked into the night. We’ve taken workshops together, but this is the first time Holly and I have been together, in one of our studios,  just to bounce ideas off each other. We had a blast. We each ended up with some ideas about translucent polymer clay that we’ll continue to explore. Thank you my friend! I can’t wait to see what you make next. My own explorations will have to wait until after my visit with Susie in N.Y.


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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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A whole day in the studio!

And no photos to show for it.

Yesterday, I combined different brands and colors of polymer clay together, working with a variety of green colors. I  hoped to get a layering effect with some of the translucent clay.  The colors were darker than I expected after firing. Some of the pieces I expected to be translucent were not.  I used mostly Premo yesterday afternoon, and one of the alcohol inks I used was a citrus green. After I fired those beads, the light green clay looked like pee!  I have forgotten a lot of what I used to know about polymer.

Today, I decided to get a little more organized. I kept the Pardo translucent separate from the Premo translucent. I tinted each one with the same color ink. I made similar earrings to see how the two clays differ. I haven’t fired this batch yet, so I’ll wait to do that tomorrow and take more photos then. One thing I do know, I like the feel of the Premo translucent clay  much better than the Pardo. Pardo was dry and crumbly, and took much longer to condition.

In the meantime, I’ll post some photos of lobster bait at the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op.

I know. It’s pretty random.

Redfish racks. Yum.

Some bait gets so old, it can’t even be given away!

And some bait gets left behind, unintentionally.



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