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Posts Tagged ‘polymer clay’

One of the things I liked best about art school was color theory. So when (several years ago) I was sent a link to a video clip showing the process of mixing useful color scales in polymer clay I got interested and starting making a few. As too often happens I got involved with other things and the project got put aside. Then I found that the artist in the video clip had published a book:

polymer clay color inspirations

Wow! If you are at all interested in color and you use polymer clay, you should buy this book. If you’ve never studied the science behind color and it’s use this book will open doors to a new world. If you already know color theory and how/why it works this book will inspire you to push yourself and your work further. There are a number of color mixing exercises which result different types of color palette tools. Here are the results of the tool I made:

polymer clay rainbow beads

A Rainbow hued group of color scale beads.

polymer clay chromatic beads

And a Chromatic gray (or muddy) hued group of color scale beads. My personal favorites.

I used Kato clay to make these beads which are mixed in a geometric progression of one color to another. Using the geometric progression proportional method covered in the book saves a lot of clay and results in very usable color palettes. I used Kato exclusively because it is formulated specifically for mixing colors and doesn’t experience the hue impurity and color shift problems encountered with other brands.

Here’s what I learned while making these scales.

1) A pasta machine is an absolute necessity. I’d already bought mine years ago to save my hands/wrists from the trauma of conditioning clay but personally wouldn’t even attempt this project without one.

2) Get all the really tedious bits done first. Condition, sheet and cut all your clay into measured bits (I used a 3/4″ square cutter at the thickest sheet setting). Stack all the little squares, wrap up and store in zip-lock baggies. Do this in lightest to darkest color order. Then when you’re ready to mix a few strands everything is ready and measured.

3) Pierce the beads as you finish each mixed strand; I left a few strands until the next day and several beads cracked. Place them on the baking sheet in the mixing order and string them directly from the baking sheet. Order must be preserved! Otherwise you won’t know the correct proportion of colors to mix and that is the whole point of making them in the first place.

4) Choose something very strong to string them. I used a doubled strand of black waxed linen thread from the jewelry department of the local craft store with a double jump ring header so I could bunch them on split book rings to keep them organized.

My beads are made using an onlaid color dot of 50/50 white and the color of the base bead instead of the inlaid color dot technique used in the book. Again I conditioned and sheeted (at a thin setting) all the white I needed then stored it between waxed paper on paper plates to be used as needed. I used a section of plastic drinking straw as a cutter for these pastel onlays.

While the initial purpose of making these color scale beads was to end up with a tool for selecting color mixes I have to say that the end product is a very satisfying and aesthetically pleasant handful of science. Beautiful, colorful science.

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A couple of years ago Pat Lillich started encouraging me to try making a ball jointed doll. Pat is an utterly magnificent artist — google her! She sent me some great background and technical information. OK, so the website she directed me to was in Japanese but it really was the most in depth tutorial out there. So being particularly persnickety I used Babelfish to copy and paste and thusly translated the text from Japanese to English and slung the whole thing into a Word document so I wouldn’t have to do this process every time I wanted to refer to the tutorial. Which I am now very glad I did because I can’t find that particular site now, it’s seems to have gone away.

So here I was with all this terrific information and no really compelling reason to use it — until the challenge theme for last year’s NIADA was announced “Make a piece using a medium that is new to you”. Well I do use polymer clay to make the face masks of my work but I don’t do whole figures and this one would be jointed and I wanted to try this different clay mixture to see what it’s properties were like. I figured that was “New Medium” enough. So here is my BJD experiment:

His name is Alexander and he’s about 6 inches tall. He and his pal Happy Duck have steadfastly refused to live in the display cupboard and spend their time chasing each other all over the living room. Which I have to say is far better than them playing tricks like “hide the car keys” or “build a fort out of DVDs (in the middle of the night) in the exact center of the living room”.

The technical low down: I made him out of a super sculpey-primo blend; his head and torso are completely hollow (which lowers his center of gravity enabling him to stand better); his upper arms and legs are made like shaped tube beads with a channel for the elastic down the center; I used brass rod at the joint terminuses (lower arms and feet) and strung him with round elastic from the fabric store. His wig is made from some upholstery trim (which I think has been discontinued). He balances on his feet just fine and has a nice range of movement. All in all, I’m satisfied with the experiment and may make several more.

Happy together!

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