Thursday, June 25, 2009

Golden Swirls - A Quick Tutorial

Hi everyone,
I'm posting a quick tutorial for a very kind lady I met on Flickr. BJ just loved the soft colors of one of my pendants, and is very curious about polymer clay in general. I offered to send her some photos of how I made it, so here is the process I used...
The story starts out a bit sad. I had made a disasterous polymer clay cane of a horse last summer and was trying to make lemons from lemonade. Here is my "Beauty-Gone-Wrong" cane:

This cane actually looked wonderful before I tried to reduce it. It looked like Beauty, a horse whose human friend is my friend too, Debbie. I had constructed a lovely, bubbly sunset as a background. Well, some of the clay was softer (the background) and some was more stiff (most of the face) so the reduction produced this "alien horse" image. On each end of the reduced cane were some beautiful skinner blend sunset blobs, and I'm not one to waste good clay, so I cut some of these off and made lots of swirls like this:

Although swirls are very relaxing and therapudic for me, I eventually tired of them. I wanted to do some pendants with the colorful leftovers.
Here are the steps I used to make BJ's pendant:
1. I rolled out some scrap clay on the thickest setting on my pasta machine. (I ended up with a square of clay about the length of my pasta machine, 5"x5".)
2. I sliced colorful pieces off the ends of the beauty cane and laid them in a layer to cover the top of the sheet of scap clay. I did this randomly putting different colors side by side. I then put the covered sheet back through the pasta machine a couple times to make it all smooth and level.
3. I conditioned some Kato translucent clay, rolled out a square of it, and covered one side with gold leaf and one side with silver leaf and then rolled it into a jelly roll starting from a side with both gold and silver. Tip: It's important to try to avoid trapping air pockets whenever rolling up a jelly roll of clay.
4. I then cut very thin slices off the end of the jelly roll and laid these out on the colorful clay sheets overlapping the slices slightly. This time I didn't want to distort the gold/silver jelly roll slices in my pasta machine, so I chose to roll this layer smooth with my accrylic rod. (You could substitute a round vase if you don't have one.)
5. I cut shield shapes for my pendants out of the smoothed sheets, baked them about 15 minutes at 275 degrees, let them cool, and then sanded (using wet/dry sand paper) and buffed them to a nice shine.
6. After the shields were buffed nicely, I conditioned some black clay and rolled it into sheets larger than my shields. Here's a photo of this step:

7. I used some TLS (transparent Liquid Sculpey) to attach the baked shields to the raw black clay, and I cut around them leaving an extension of about a quarter of an inch and a longer strip of black at the top.

8. I then cut strips to place on top of the protruding black clay to bring it to a level just about as high as shields. I also curved the top strip around a very small knitting needle to form the hole to use to suspend the pendant.

9. I sculpted, smoothed and textured the black frame/casing, inserted two grommets (used in scrapbooking) to finish the pendant holes nicely, and textured the black clay with the end of a knitting needle.
10. I finished off the textured black clay with some silver or gold pearlex powders or some bits of silver leaf or gold leaf. The metalic powders and leaves stick nicely to the raw black clay, but do not atach readily to the baked transparent shields.
11. To some shields I added some flowers from my stash of clay canes, to BJ's favorite I added a loop.
12. I textured the backs of some of my shields with sand paper.
13. Finally, after baking the shield pendants for another 25-30 minutes at 275 degrees, I let them cool, painted on some Transparent Kato Liquid Polyclay, baked them another five minutes and then used a heat gun on them until they were nice and clear and shiny.
Tip: Always keep the heat gun moving while pointing it at the clay to avoid scorching the surface.

14. When the pendants were cooled and shiny, I brushed on some Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Protective Finish to protect any areas that had not been protected already with the Kato Liquid Polyclay.
That's all there is to it. I just played around with scraps and made some pendants. If you have any questions or comments please leave them here, or contact me at
Thanks for reading!


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