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Archive for Polymer Clay

polymer clay shawl pin

A few weeks ago I was browsing the time-suck known as Pinterest and this caught my eye:

faux wood by art-rukodelie
Faux wood grain polymer clay tutorial from art-rukodelie

I loved the wood-grain effect and it gave me an idea: I had a shawl that needed photographing, and I hadn’t played with my polymer clay for months, so it seemed like a good use of my time to see if I could make my own polymer clay shawl pin.

Now, in case you’re expecting a highly-skilled project from me, I should probably preface my results by saying that I like to use polymer clay in a similar way to how I crochet amigurumi: I combine shaped pieces into 3D sculptures. Patterned clay isn’t something I’m good with – you have to get the shape right immediately, because you lose the colour pattern if you try to do much reshaping or add/remove pieces. Okay, now onto my pin…

I made a ring shape from leftover scrap clay, and covered it with a sheet of faux wood clay that I made by (loosely) following the tutorial, which was written in Russian but you can easily get the gist of it from the photos. Here’s the result, on my Rippled Lace shawl:

shawl pin

I’m fairly pleased with how it turned out – it polished up nicely, although it doesn’t have the warmth and depth of real wood. I was a bit disappointed to see that the pattern I ended up with on my ring doesn’t really show any of the concentric ring grain alignment from the tutorial(!), but it’s still an interesting pattern and fairly realistic.

I had to scrap my original idea for the actual pin (I was planning to make it from clay-covered wire) as I couldn’t get the clay to form around the wire without completely smooshing my wood-grain pattern into a murky brown mess. So, before my clay veneer got too brittle to work with, I cut two more small disks from it and baked them at the same time as the main piece so I could try to figure out a solution for a matching pin later.

(I couldn’t wait any longer to release my shawl pattern, so I had to stage the photos without the aid of a shawl pin. So much for my justification for embarking on this project, but at least it’ll be ready for my next shawl design!)

In the end, I figured out what to do to make the pin: I found a single ivory-coloured knitting needle in a thrift shop that complemented the natural look of my ‘wood’ quite well. I cut the needle in half, then carved a groove into the back of each of my baked disks and sandwiched them together around the cut end of the needle with some more clay smoothed into the join. After baking, it made a secure and decorative pinhead, so the pin matches the ring.

shawl pin

I enjoyed making this, and it works exactly as I’d hoped it would – it holds my shawls securely in place without damaging them. Hopefully it’ll look photogenic enough to use in future pattern photography too – if not, I’ll just have to treat myself to a real one ūüėČ

I think my handmade pin looks pretty good for a first attempt, but this project has reminded me why I prefer sculpting to patterning, and I think I’ll stick with what I’m good at for future clay projects. Hopefully I won’t wait so long before I play with the clay again… I wonder what I’ll be inspired to make next time!

Comments (9)

strawberry poison-dart frog sculpture

Over Christmas, we watched David Attenborough’s fantastic Life series, and I’ve had tiny frogs on the brain ever since…

I worked so hard all day yesterday (on the secret project) that I was begging myself to do something relaxing and unrelated to work last night, so I got out the polymer clay and started mixing colours to make a Strawberry Poison-Dart Frog like the one that captured my imagination on Life. While we watched a movie on TV, I played with the FIMO and, 2 hours later, this is what I ended up with:

strawberry poison dart frog polymer clay sculpture by planetjune

Strawberry poison-dart frogs (Dendrobates pumilio) are found in several colour morphs, but the most common (the one I made) is called Blue Jeans for its blue legs – isn’t that adorable?!

I was aiming for a life-sized sculpture – David Attenborough had said that they are only 1 inch long and I’d written that down in my ‘ideas’ notebook along with my sketch – but I didn’t quite manage that. My frog’s body is 1 1/4″ long and including the legs sticking out to front and back, the finished sculpture is 1 3/4″ long (I have small hands, so it’s probably smaller than these photos make it look).

strawberry poison dart frog polymer clay sculpture by planetjune

I’ve surprised myself – I didn’t know I could do this! Yes, it did take me 2 hours, but most of that was spent on the legs. I hadn’t really considered that I’d have to make 16 teeny tiny frog toes until I got to them – not an easy task! I’m happiest with the shaping of the red clay around the eyes – it turned out exactly how I’d hoped.

I think my crafting ‘style’ may be to make things so cleanly that they look like they’d be really easy to make, even though they aren’t. I see it in my crochet designs too – I simplify the shapes and colours to make my patterns easy to follow, but it’s finding a way to simplify them but to keep the most important features of whatever I’m trying to make where this ‘style’ comes into play.

There seems to be a crossover between the different crafts that I do: I don’t think I could have made this frog without my years of examining the shapes of animals for my crochet patterns. I suppose you could call it an “artist’s eye”, although that sounds a bit pretentious so I won’t do that! But it’s definitely interesting how my experience in one medium is indirectly improving my skill and confidence in a completely different medium.

Maybe I should make a matching frog in crochet and compare the two! What do you think?

Comments (18)

‘Worms’ in polymer clay

As I’m a bit of a perfectionist (you may have noticed!) I really struggle with quick crafts, because I want everything to be as good as I can possibly make it. Sometimes that’s not healthy: when even my relaxation time is spent being very careful and striving for excellence, I put a lot of pressure on myself. So one of the things I’d like to do this year is to spend more time making ‘fun’ things without caring as much about how ‘good’ they are. And this is my first attempt at that.

Many years ago, I used to love making teeny tiny things with polymer clay – I once made a complete set of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (and Splinter the rat) that were each about 1cm tall! I thought it would be fun to try something more like that again – something quick and fun and colourful; almost the antithesis of my 3-years-in-the-making R2-D2 sculpture.

A bit of background for the non-gamers: in the late 1990s, there was a series of multiplayer games called Worms (Worms 2, Worms Armageddon, etc etc). Each player controlled a team of cute worms and took turns to try to annihilate each other by arming their own worms with a selection of outlandish and hilarious weapons. Crazy cartoon carnage ensued. Worms has recently made a comeback with new releases for consoles and iPhone, but 1999’s Worms Armageddon on PC is still a great game too.

Okay, enough talk! Here’s the action shot as the Worms go into battle on my computer keyboard:

Worms (polymer clay) by planetjune
Click through for the bigger pic at Flickr!

And because some of the details don’t show up too well against the black keys, here’s a posed shot of all the pieces:

Worms (polymer clay) by planetjune
Click through for the bigger pic at Flickr!

Worms L-R: no weapon, shotgun, dynamite, bazooka, grenade, no weapon
Back: health crate, mystery crate, oil barrel, super sheep (it’s a weapon!), homing missile, bazooka, mine

A couple of hours well-spent, I think – they just crack me up, especially their little expressions, and the super sheep with his billowing cape ūüėÄ

Comments (36)

polymer clay R2-D2 sculpture

…a project 3 years in the making.

Way back in January 2007,¬†I posted a cryptic¬†wip (work-in-progress) of a FIMO sculpture I’d started:

polymer clay stulpture... in progress!
Can you tell what it is yet? ūüėČ

Yes, I’m a lifelong Star Wars geek, and¬†I was making¬†a model R2-D2. I finished and baked the head, and then… nothing. I’d actually intimidated myself – the head was so detailed and so good that I didn’t think I’d be able to make a body to do justice to it! Also, I really wanted the head to be jointed so that it could rotate, and I wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish that. I¬†filled a page in my¬†notebook with sketches and ideas, but¬†I never got any further than that. And the¬† longer I waited, the less likely it¬†became¬†that I’d¬†ever finish my R2 project :(

This Christmas, I decided that¬†after working myself so hard for an entire year (never work for me – I am a demanding boss!) I’d take a week off to spend time with Dave and just relax. And relaxing, for me, involves making stuff, so I got out the FIMO and set to work. A week and many baking sessions in¬†the toaster oven later, here is the finished R2-D2:

polymer clay R2-D2 by planetjune
I strongly suggest you click through to see the larger picture! You can’t really see the detail at this scale.

I am so happy with how he turned out! He is perfectly hand-sized at 8cm (just over 3″) tall, and he comes with a secret special feature: yep, I managed to get that rotating head working! I embedded a rare earth magnet into his body, and stuck a second magnet to the base of his head. This lets the head rotate smoothly and freely. Not sure what I’m talking about? Here’s a shot of the inside:

polymer clay R2-D2 by planetjune - head rotation mechanism

(The purple clay inside the body is just a core I made by smushing all my leftover unbaked scraps from past FIMO projects together.¬†As it doesn’t show in the finished piece, there’s no point in wasting¬†a huge lump of new clay, so I made¬†a cylinder from the scrap clay, baked it, and then covered it in a sheet of white clay to form the torso.)

The head magnet fits perfectly inside the recessed hole. There’s a second magnet just¬†beneath¬†the surface of the clay at the bottom of the hole, so the head doesn’t fall off the body but can swivel freely. The rare earth magnets are so strong that, even when separated by a thin layer of clay, you can safely¬†lift R2 by his head and his body will stay firmly¬†attached.¬†Here’s a little animation of his head moving:

polymer clay R2-D2 by planetjune

This project was a great break from my normal life. I love the enforced calm that comes with my polymer clay work.¬† It’s so detailed and precise that¬†I have to empty¬†my mind and just concentrate on slicing off that sliver of clay, or smoothing out that fingerprint – it’s almost meditative. My batteries are recharged and I’m ready to tackle 2010!

Comments (29)

my crafty Christmas tradition

I just realised that, quite by accident, I seem to have developed a Christmas crafting tradition of making poinsettias.

In 2006, I made a kanzashi poinsettia:

tsumami kanzashi poinsettia

In 2007, I designed the famous crocheted poinsettia:

Who am I to break with tradition, even if it’s one I invented myself? So allow me to present the 2008 PlanetJune Poinsettia. This year I’ve gone for a polymer clay (FIMO) variety! It’s just over 2″ (5cm) in diameter, and would make a lovely pin or fridge magnet, or just a pretty decoration.

polymer clay poinsettia by planetjune

If you’d like to try making one, I’ve put together a tutorial for you so you can give it a go. The good news is that it’s much easier than it looks! There’s no precision involved; in fact, the leaves actually look better if they aren’t all exactly the same size and shape. As the instructions are quite long (I’ve included lots of pictures to make it easy to follow), I’ve given the tutorial a page of its own: Polymer Clay Poinsettia Tutorial.

This is my first polymer clay tutorial, so I hope it’ll all be clear. Please leave me a comment if you like it! And would you like to see more PC tutorials in future? Let me know in the comments!

Comments (7)

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    June Gilbank

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