The Fine Art Air-Dry and Polymer Clay Market Can Be Confusing for the Beginner to Intermediate Artist

What this page is and isn’t about — It’s about fine art air-dry and polymer clays. It’s not about ceramic, cold porcelain, resin clay, epoxy clays, or any kiln-cured products.

This page was written after reading https://www.reviewstream.com/reviews/?p=155083#thoughts-box, which was about Premier clay, which is an artist grade air-dry clay, and the beginner’s needs and understandable confusion.

For jewelry making, Premo!, Fimo Classic, Kato, and Cernit are some of your better choices of oven-cured polymer clays –they’re durable enough and do not have to be sealed unless certain surface treatments (mica powders like Pearl Ex or Perfect Pearls…) require it. See: https://thebluebottletree.com/seal-polymer-clay/

Durability… While people making charms often use various air-dry clays, they usually don’t construct bracelets or rings out of air-dry clays. Jewelry may take much more wear and tear.

Seal it or not? As a rule, air-dry clays generally have to be sealed once dry and finished but oven-cured polymer clays don’t. (Two-part epoxy clays don’t have to be sealed but although they’re often called air-dry, they actually cure by chemical reaction and may even be able to cure under water. They’re not true air-dry clays.)

Cracks in Premier clay.… Cracks don’t mean your air-dry clay is weak. Premier is one of the strongest air-dry clays. Nearly all air-dry clays have some shrinkage and Premier is no exception, although it shrinks less than some air-dry clays. Having a good armature, if armature is necessary, and using minimal amounts of water while sculpting with Premier can decrease the likelihood or severity of cracks. Sometimes cracks happen but they’re easily be repaired with Premier, even if your item dried. See the below video. Cracks may occur if you added too much water while sculpting, used a cardboard armature, used thin clay over a rigid armature (Ostrich legs, for example), let your item dry too quickly, or didn’t support sculpture parts subject to gravity. Don’t dry your Premier clay items under a fan, for example. Do remember to keep unused clay in an air-tight bag and/or container.

For figurative works, Premix, an air-dry clay made by the same company as Premier, is easier to sculpt and blend than Premier. Doll artist Hannie Sarris loved Premix clay. Premier clay may take some different sculpting techniques than what one would be used to with polymer clay and one uses minimal (!) amounts of water are used while sculpting Premier. People working with these air-dry clays might lightly dab their fingers across a wet sponge to keep clay moist enough while sculpting. They may use a mister type of water bottle. Do not use Sculpey Clay Softener or any type of oil to soften, smooth, and blend these air-dry clays — they are hybrid clays and have their own characteristics, sculpting techniques, storage and compatibility considerations. They’re not like the majority of polymer clays that are oven-cured (e.g., Fimo Classic, Fimo Soft, Cernit, Fimo Doll, Premo!). They’re not like most air-dry clays on the market. They are used by a number of very famous art doll artists and others.

So yes, there are indeed air-dry polymer clays — Activa Lumina Translucent Polymer Clay, Staedtler Fimo Air Basic Modeling Clay, and Activa LaDoll Premier clay are examples of air-dry polymer clays. Activa, the company that makes laDoll Premier clay, describes Premier clay as a type of polymer clay on their site. Lumina has long been known to the polymer clay community. Fimo Air Basic is weaker than either of those.

Polymer clays have their own issues — Dirt, lint, hair, compatibility issues, and baking considerations (always monitor your oven with two oven thermometers, not counting the oven’s own temperature reading). If you look at it that way, a few easily repaired cracks in Premier clay items isn’ts a bad deal.

Sculpey Diluent, AKA liquid Sculpey Clay Softener, works with oven-cured polymer clays, specifically, and not with air-dry polymer clays. Here’s the Sculpey Clay Softener Material Safety Data Sheet: https://www.sculpey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Clay-Softener-SDS-10282015.pdf

In contrast, Makin’s, Hearty, Das, “cold porcelain” clays, Creative Paperclay, Celluclay, and epoxy putties are not polymer clays no matter who describes them as such.

For a whole lot of information on all things polymer and air-dry clay, see:

…Or go to clay manufacturers’ sites and hit their FAQs and MSDS pages. I wish there were sculpting, storage, compatibility, MSDS and other information (to seal or not to seal) with each clay package that one takes home, but that’s sadly not the case.

Viva Decor Precious Metal Colour Paint in Gold Was Heat-set on Cured Premo Polymer Clay, by Karen A. Scofield

Viva Decor Precious Metal Colour Heat-Set on Premo Polymer Clay

The Clay

I added crushed, shiny micaceous (meaning it’s loaded with mica) rock, fine gold glitter, and Blank Slate Gold and Silver Flake Mix, in order of volume, to some Premo! polymer clay (a Sculpey product). That’s why it’s sparkly and can appear darker or very light depending on how the light shines on it and it moves, you see sparkles as well as flashes and glints.

Aside: The Backstory on the Micaceous Rockhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/sari0009/19354330223/in/dateposted-..

The Paint (and A Closed US Office)

Spelling

Viva Decor’s US office closed in 2015 and my bottle is labeled “Precious Metal Colour” because that is how the UK spells it. Many sites and blogs still use the US spelling (Precious Metal Color), you may notice.

Viva Decor Closed Their USA Office in 2015. European Offices remain open. 2016.

Viva Decor Closed Their USA Office in 2015. European Offices remain open. 2016.

Inclusions Added to the Paint

Precious Metal Colour gold colored paint, specifically, has larger glitter-like particles while the mica powder has super fine (!) particles.

  • Alone, Pearl-Ex mica powder has a very slight orangish undertone by comparison.
  • Alone, Previous Metal Color is a bit bright and silvery.
  • Combined, the color is amazing and the larger particles of the paint aren’t glaringly evident.

So, I added a decent amount of Pearl Ex mica powder to Viva Decor “Precious Metal Colour.”

Rule: With mica powder, less is more, meaning you start by adding very small amounts and adjust according to your liking. I found my mix pleasing as a 14 karat gold color.

This doctored up Viva Decor “Precious Metal Colour” acrylic/enamel paint was painted in 3 or 4 layers on an already baked Premo polymer clay mix.

The bezels were entirely painted with the paint while the figurative beads only had detail work painted.

Heat-setting

All but one were heat-set at 275°F  for 30 minutes. There was no visual or tactile difference between the baked and unbaked paint.

I couldn’t scratch the paint off with a fingernail once the paint was heat-set. The paint looks the most like real gold. I finally, after years of looking for a rather durable solution, now have a tremendous amount of confidence regarding gold detail work on my beads and pendants.

Although Varathane Gloss sealant is one of the top choices for sealing polymer clay, it’s water-resistant, not waterproof. I’d prefer not to have to seal my beads at all.

Acrylic Paints — Drying Time vs. Cured

Note: There is A difference between drying time in curing time. Drying time might occur within minutes or a few hours for acrylic paints while curing time might take a few days. This difference might help explain some problems with heat-setting acrylic paints a polymer clay.

I say it might help explain some of the problems because, according to Blue Bottle Tree, there was a correlation between painting the paint on raw polymer clay before heat-setting and the paint bubbling. This was dependent upon brand of acrylic paint and/or polymer clay, whether the clay was raw or cured, and other factors. For more information, see that Blue Bottle Tree blog post.

One Minor Problem to Solve

When removing these painted bezels from the glossy tile they were baked on, some of the gold paint stuck to the tile. There was enough paint remaining on the bezels so this wasn’t a problem but I’d would still prefer this not  happen.

Perhaps baking on a silicone mat would improve things.

Micaceous Rock and "Yellow Gold Glitter" Premo Polymer Clay Mix, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Polymer Clay Micaceous Rock Composite Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Polymer Clay Micaceous Rock Composite Goddess Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Polymer Clay Micaceous Rock Composite Goddess Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Rock and

Micaceous Rock and “Yellow Gold Glitter” Premo Polymer Clay Mix, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Polymer Clay Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Polymer Clay Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Appears more glittery and sparkly in person.

Micaceous rock from family land in South Dakota was crushed and added to “Yelllow Gold Glitter” Premo polymer clay — the stronger polymer clay by Sculpey that’s suitable for making thinner beads like this. (Always wear a mask if working with micaceous rock in this manner to avoid permanent lung disease.)

About 2″ long and 1/4 inch thick. Mica powder patterns, a sun or spirals, were stamped into the raw clay before curing. The sun and spiral symbolism can have significance. E.g. http://www.whats-your-sign.com/spiral-meaning.html. Small bead holes are added after curing (now shown), usually after jewelry design is complete. Design may determine hole placement and number.

The finished beads look very much like some of the micaceous earth in South Dakota. The particular rocks used in making this came from family land right by Medicine Mountain, which is sacred land. So these beads have personal significant meaning for me in at least four ways. They are my creative expression, the rock comes from family land, the rock comes from the vicinity of sacred land upon which I attended a ritual, the rock represents time spent with family, and the symbolism is well chosen, of course.

Medicine Mountain Background:www.flickr.com/photos/sari0009/19354330223/in/dateposted-... There are two Medicine Mountains and only one is in South Dakota. The history and backstory for this particular Medicine Mountain is hard to find, hence my link is offered here.

Interesting Factoid: In some areas of South Dakota, the ground glitters like gold due to the earth and rocks’ micaceous (mica-filled) nature and looks magical.

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Ceramic Clay Dare: I Sculpt a Goddess Pendant on Camera

I sculpted with polymer clay before and, in ceramic clay, I sculpted the backside of a bead without a mold. Now I have dared myself to sculpt an entire bead without the use of any of my molds ( I molded my own beads)in earthenware clay, a medium still very new to me. So I did this on camera.

I’ll get better at filming. And sculpting. But for now, at least I know I can do this and I feel a lot better about doing 20, 50, or more figurative pendants like this, in different sizes and styles of course.

The Finished Pendant (Standing)

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware clay figurative pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

July 21, 2017 Note: I’ve ordered ceramic clay sculpting tools!

Earthenware Greenware Handmade Ceramic Goddess Pendant, by Karen A. Scofield

The Evolution of Karen’s Beads

Shorter Video

Longer Video

Good news! I have found out I can fire and glaze my beads locally. Probably do this in batches of a dozen each. Here is one that has finished drying and is ready for bisque firing.

image

Earthenware Greenware Handmade Ceramic Goddess Pendant, by Karen A. Scofield

Why Goddess Pendants or Focal Beads?


Before there were pussy hats, there were Goddess pendants. After pussy hats, there will still be Goddess pendants. 

Earthenware Greenware Handmade Ceramic Goddess Pendant, by Karen A. Scofield

Earthenware Greenware Handmade Ceramic Goddess Pendant, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Why Goddess Pendants? To better answer that, we have to understand the many reasons we make any human figurative art or study female/Goddess figures throughout human history. See http://suppressedhistories.net/

In some languages, the word for history also means storyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History

Micaceous Rock and "Yellow Gold Glitter" Premo Polymer Clay Mix, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Micaceous Rock and “Yellow Gold Glitter” Premo Polymer Clay Mix, by Karen A. Scofield. 2016.

Through my beads, I’m telling my story — I’m a woman, domestic abuse survivor, an artist, I’m on the autism spectrum, and my Goddess pendants help tell my story in the contexts of an interest in equality, as opposed to abuse and sexism.  My beads are about equality and power — it’s abuse vs. equality. Women’s rights and Goddess stuff are considered too minority interest, too fringe despite the fact that half the world is female, and that’s a problem. Goddess/female figures may even be banned or get demonized.

Handmade Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Handmade Goddess Pendants, by Karen A. Scofield

Example 1: I had drawn renditions of the Venus of Willendorf, a world famous archaeological find, on shrink plastic and made pendants of them. fThese shrink plastic beads were banned on Myspace as obscene. Here’s what they looked like.

A Shrink Plastic Representation of the World Famous Venus of Willendorf, by Karen A. Scofield
Example 2: I wore a Goddess necklace to Walmart. The cashier suggested I could make money selling them as rather, tee-hee, lewd little party favors at bachelor or bachelorette parties. She had absolutely no inkling that she shouldn’t simply sexualize and peg them in such a narrow, restrictive manner, as opposed to all that the Goddess concept can potentially encompass on a daily basis. Equality touches all all aspects of life, and this shouldn’t be marginalized, pegged as a lewd/lesbian thing, or treated as a fringe topic. Anyway, my Goddess pendant was profane image to her, but to those that wear them, Goddess art and pendants are more of a spiritual and intellectual thing and, more specifically, symbolize spiritual and social equality. They embody, invoke, and evoke this.

As an artist, I cultivate messages and images that are needed, rather than what people are conditioned to lap up from the pundits, pulpits, and consumerism. It concerns me that the world is full of “sanitized,” corporate-made, mainstream images and messages about women and their bodies, messages that are loaded with sexism both overt and/or insidious.

The pussy hat phenomenon shows us that feminine symbols of equality ARE needed. There is the desire to create our world pluralistically without the reality filters of sexism, cultural triumphalism, racism, or creedism (religious prejudice). I desire more autonomous and honest dialog and equality, and I hope you do too.

We still live in a world in which women often don’t get paid the same amount for doing the same job no matter how well they do it, or even if they do it better. As a US citizen, I live in a country in which a considerable majority of art gallery artists are male. It’s a country in which women’s art generally sells for only a small fraction of the profit that art made by men can fetch. We live in a world in which the majority of religion is really male-centric and male-dominated. We live in a world in which men’s voices are given more weight and are heard more. It’s not Goddess, it’s God with no room for any female divine. Instead, we still have the Madonna-Whore Complex. The feminine divine either is falsely demonized, socially/theologically outlawed (or banned), or turned into a whore.

Anti-intellectual, male dominated paradigms hold feminine equality at odds with more formative power structures, be they economic, religious, artistic, or what have you. How is sexism considered to be the fabric of society? And what does that have to do with domestic violence anyway?

See “The Ascent of Woman”http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0693dsh

Domestic Abuse and the Metaparadigm (Mother World View) of Abuse/War

the most reliable indicator of whether or not there is violence inside a country, or whether it will use military violence against another country, is not poverty or access to natural resources or religion or even degree of democracy. It’s violence against females.” — from “Gloria Steinem’s new show links global instability to violence against women: “For the first time there are fewer females on earth than males

The Power and Control (Abuse) and Equality (Nonviolence) wheels, what they mean, what they look like in current events or everyday situations are sadly only usually discussed, shown, or used during domestic abuse prevention/recovery. They are, in fact, paradigmatic and are applicable on a personal, local, national, and global scale. Here’s what goes on with the Power and Control (Abuse) paradigm.

Methods of abusive power and control have been and continue to be used as social, legal, religious, and financial weapons and they often result in violence, be it domestic or wartime violence. The Power and Control wheel/paradigm is diametrically opposed to Equality because it relies on abusive imbalances of power. This is true whether they pretend to protect us and have our best interests in mind or whether they lay bare their prejudices, sexism, and ambitions.  It takes power and rights away from others in order to feel powerful and it’s a massive failure of imagination.

Here’s a page from my art journal on the Equality (nonviolence) power wheel. Notice the notes on imagination.

image

Art Journal. Equality. Power. Tools of Change.

Art is the Antidote

How is it that society today hasn’t quit its addiction to prejudice, bigotry, sexism and the like? I don’t pretend to understand all that and I hope I never do. I can imagine many other paths to power. I can imagine sharing it. And as a woman and an artist, I shape a more inclusive world in clay, canvas, paper, fiber, cloth, and words. Art is an antidote. Symbols matter. Symbols are powerful and my art beads are ones I can bring into all sorts of every day settings.

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux Opal Test Beads

2 Notes:  These are not finished beads, they are WIPs (works in progress) meant to show the faux opal qualities and not the entire process of creating the pendants. Resources on finishing the beads will come at the end of this article, along with a visual example of a resin faux opal prototype, for comparison.

Attempt #1 — Reveals Both Positives and Mistakes

Polymer Clay Faux Opal Test Piece, by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux Opal Test Piece, by Karen A. Scofield

Notes on First Attempt

  • Pardo Art Clay Translucent Polymer Clay — It’s one of the more translucent clays that lacks any yellow tint that some translucent polymer clays have. I had to order most of mine online. It’s nearly as transparent as glass in thinner, cured layers but very much like milky white, translucent faux opal in a much deeper bead like this. It can be dyed with tiny amounts of translucent alcohol inks for faux opals.
  • Oven Temperature — This bead was baked at 300 – 315 (watch temperature spikes) degrees F for 2 hours because of its thickness.
    • Temperature — While these temperatures are close to the ambering point for this clay, pushing the baking temperature to this clay’s higher limits increases the clay’s transparency.
    • Baking Pans — You need oven you can trust not to spike too hot and an enclosed baking tin/pan with glossy ceramic tile in the bottom of it.  Many polymer clay artists buy two heavy metal pans of the same size that they can clamshell — place one over the other as a lid and use metal bulldog clips to ensure it stays closed, as opposed to the top pan sliding off as you move it. If you do use two pans with one over the other as a lid, then make sure the lips of these pans create a satisfactory seal. You can place the glossy ceramic tile(s) inside the bottom pan as a heat sink that will serve to even out the temperature. You may also wish to cover the opening of the bottom pan with aluminum foil after placing your beads inside. Then place the top pan over that and clip them together if necessary. All this helps avoid ambering (yellowing) or outright burning your beads.
    • Test — Test your oven while empty and note its temperature range as it cycles between lower temperatures and temperature spikes caused as the elements heat up. Know that all toaster and conventional home ovens cycle and that you don’t know your oven’s range if you didn’t monitor it nonstop for at least 30 minutes. It can also help to have not one but two independent (not built in) oven thermometers to read. Monitor at least one 30 minute cycle and do at least one test bake with a sample bead of similar composition, size, and thickness. Monitor the oven’s temperature range periodically over the oven’s lifetime and if there is any question regarding its temperature.
  • Premo White Polymer Clay — It’s a great clay and I used it as a back layer of clay during the molding process. Unfortunately, some of it broke through to the bottom of the mold (the front of the bead) and it’s very opaque and isn’t opal-like. It does give contrast to the far more translucent Pardo Art Clay though.
  • Arnold Grummer Iridescent Flakes — These are translucent yet flash colors at you as the glitter flakes catch the light. You can get white, green, and blue versions. These are ideal for faux opals due to these two characteristics. They can also be dyed with tiny amounts of translucent alcohol inks for faux opals, should you desire to do so (optional for faux opal).
  • Not All Glitter is Equal
    • Darker and/or Opaque Glitter Flakes — I used Iced Enamels Susan Lehart Kazmer “Shattered Fire Opal.” Note: The “Shattered Fire Opal” glitter flakes in this brand are dark and very opaque while the “Shattered Opal ones are not. Darker glitter flakes are not attractive in this type of faux opal because while they glimmer “fire” at you with delightful plays of color when turned one way but appear dark and opaque when turned the other way when not catching the light. The same is true for most holographic glitter.
      • Rule: Dark + Opaque = Contrary to this type of faux opal.
      • The Shattered Opal flakes of the same brand are light, translucent, and very prime for faux opal, however.
  • Aztec Gold Pearl Ex Powder Impregnated Liquid Kato polymer clay — Totally optional. I fact, I don’t think I like it.

Attempt #2 and Notes on This Unfinished Bead

First, some shots of the successful bead to show translucency and opal fire.

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White  (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Polymer Clay Faux White (Crystal) Opal by Karen A. Scofield

Tutorial

I have a background doing lapidary work with opals and still have a few Australian white opals on hand, and that helped.

So, after ambering (yellowing, due to higher heat in this case) one bead from a 2nd batch, I lowered the temperature 5 degrees F on my oven down to 298 degrees Fahrenheit by the dial, which means my oven actually gets up to right around 300 to 315. I baked these for 2.25 hours at that temp since these beads are close to one inch thick at the thickest point. Success!

Watch out for the variations at the end of the steps!

Notes: Wear clean disposable gloves during the entire process and clean your work station first with alcohol wipes and then with light colored scrap clay. Wipe down the mat and the pasta machine this way too. It picks up dust and other fibers or any leftover pigments.

Tutorial Steps

Remember: Avoid layering complementary colors one over the other, green over pink/red/orange for example, as it will muddy colors.

  1. Condition Your Clay — Condition three separate pieces of Pardo Art Clay Translucent.
  2. Color Your Glitter Flakes — Optional! — Color three separate batches of Arnold Grummer Translucent Glitter Flakes in bright yellow, bright green, and blue-violet, using transparent Adirondack alcohol inks. Easy does it. I used those tiny paper dixie cups, probably filled it 1/3 and used one drop of ink to color. Stir right away, rapidly enough and thoroughly. As for brands, you can also use “Iced Enamels Susan Lenart Kazmer Shattered Opal” glitter flakes. The inks: http://rangerink.com/?product=tim-holtz®-adirondack®-alcohol-inks
  3. Color Your ClayOptional! Color bits of the conditioned Pardo Art Clay Translucent with the same alcohol inks, if you colored your glitter flakes. Easy does it, that alcohol ink is strong. For example, I did was not even use a whole drop but I touched what leaked out of the ink nozzle to my gloved finger, almost let it dry, quickly touched it to the clay, let dry 30 seconds and then mixed it into about 2/3 to 3/4s of a Pardo Translucent Art Clay per color.
  4. Mix Clay and Glitter Flakes — Mix like colors of clay and dried flakes together — roll clay in the pasta machine, sprinkled with glitter, pat down, fold clay on itself, roll out, sprinkle with glitter, and do that until you’re satisfied with the amount of glitter. Then roll each color clay into separate long ropes. As you work the clay, you pick up the escaped glitter flakes.
  5. Twist Ropes Together — Twist the three different ropes together tightly, scrunch them up tight getting the air out.
  6. Roll and Twist Once More, Then Half It — Roll the combined clay into a long rope, double it up on itself, twist it again, scrunch it up shorter while squeezing the air out to prevent air bubbles, cut in half lengthwise.
  7. Roll Each Half — Pinch the long end of each half of the cut rope and put it through the pasta machine starting from the 2nd thickest to the thinnest.
  8. Build Up Layers of Clay In Your Bead Mold — With a shallow mold, most cabochon molds for instance, you might run some of the translucent clay through the pasta machine on the very thinnest setting and lay that down in the mold first. This helps prevent glitter from poking through. In my Goddess one, however, the clay tears and breaks as I try to place an initial, thin, translucent sheet of clay into the deeper, more curvy parts of the mold. So for deeper, more complexly shaped bead molds like this, skip the initial very thin layer of plain transluent clay and just lay down bits of the sheets of the rolled out glitter clay. Cut appropriately sized sheets of the opal clay with sharp craft scissors and press into a silicone mold. Press the layers together well. (I made my molds from Amazing Mold putty.)
  9. Color Trick, That Extra Touch — When about half way to 2/3s of the way filling bead in, carefully place bit of interference type of Pearl Ex powder in streaks here and there. Use a clean, dedicated synthetic brush, pick up a slight amount of Pearl Ex Powder from the inside of the Pearl Ex container, as opposed to dipping your brush directly in the jar’s contents, and draw it across the exposed clay in the mold. Less is more — you’re going for a hint of green or violet in a few streaks and they have to be very sheer. Try to lay like color over like rather than green over glitter flakes or clay that have an orange color, for example. Don’t coat all of the exposed clay.  Use one to to four small streaks at the most, and place them in an organic, random manner rather than side by side to each other. Continue filling the bead with your opal clay.
  10. Fill Mold Until Clay is Flush — Press the clay into the mold until the clay is flush with the mold. You really want to smash it in there. This also helps prevent glitter from poking through the front of the bead, to a great degree. Smooth the back side of the bead and make sure the molds is filled properly.
  11. Place the Uncured Beads on a Light Colored Glossy Ceramic Tile — For one-sided beads, pop the bead out, back-side-down, onto a glossy ceramic tile and bake according to manufacturer’s instructions. This step assumes you tested both your oven how it may get close to the 315 F ambering point of the Pardo Art Clay for maximum translucency, without actually ambering your bead. It also assumes you have figured out how not to burn your beads. Again, I have glossy ceramic tiles on the bottom floor of my oven and inside a large covered metal tin. I may additionally cover the bead with polyfil to insulate them from the heat fluctuations during normal oven temperature cycling.
  12. Ice Bath — As soon as your bead is done, dunk it in an ice bath with silicone tipped tongs. Set beads to dry. The ice bath step is optional but many people swear by it.
  13. Trim and Sand if Necessary — Trim off any glitter that might be sticking out around the back periphery of the bead, the only place they might stick out with this method. You can use an X-Acto knife under a magnifying lamp to cut estremely close. Sand lightly with very fine sandpaper in the areas you had to cut away glitter poking out, if you like.
  14. Gloss — If you want more of a glossy look, and most people would, buff the bead a bit or add a couple of thin layers of slightly diluted Varathane Water Based Interior Glossy (must be water based!) Or epoxy resin. Or the most translucent liquid polymer clays. My daughter likes it when I add the glossy Varathane. I always rapidly clean the beads with alcohol before adding Varathane but don’t soak the beads in alcohol — soaking in alcohol  permanently mars the translucency of the bead. The alcohol interacts with the bees wax then. I lightly sand with fine sand paper before applying each layer of Varathane or epoxy resin. I make sure each layer of Varathane dried overnight before adding the next layer. I add up to three layers this way. More on sealers here.

Variations

Opals come in an amazing array of variety. Why shouldn’t your faux opals?

  1. Color One — Color only one of the three portions of clay with the tiniest amount of alcohol ink or other translucent colorant. Adding two different colors can result in gray or muddy looking results
  2. Color None — Color none of the three portions of clay to begin with.
  3. Skinny Colored Rope Addition at Step 3 — When you get to step three and four, have three ropes of clay rolled out but add an additional but very skinny colored rope for one or two of the three main clay ropes.
  4. Skinny Colored Rope Addition at Step 6 — Do the same but add the skinny colored rope(s) at the point of step 6, meaning you’ve already rolled three portions out, twisted them, compacted them to get the air out, and you rolled the clay out into a long rope again. It’s at this point you’d add a skinny rope of colored clay.
  5. Streaks of Interference Color — Don’t color any of your clay with the alcohol inks but when you’re laying your clay in the mold, add a streak or two of very lightly applied interference color of Pearl Ex mica powder. Again, don’t cover the whole layer — just a barely there streak of color. Here’s a tip for loading more lightly loading the brush.
  6. Opal Glitter in Streaks Added at Molding Stage — Add additional Shattered Opal glitter flakes individually to make streaks in subsequent layers but not in the first layer or two of your bead (you don’t want the glitter streak smashed right to the front of the bead).
  7. Opal Glitter Streaks and Interference Pearl Ex Streaks Working Together — Add streaks of like-colored opal glitter flakes directly over where you laid down the barely-there interference mica powder streaks.
  8. And More Interference Pearl Ex in Next Layer to Deepen Effect — Same as above, add some more barely there interference powder in subsequent layer(s).
  9. Stacked Lighter and Darker Streaks of Interference Pearl Ex — Same as option 7 but add the slightest hint of a lighter color, then use darker interference color in the next layer over it. Avoid using colors on opposite sides of the color wheel so you don’t muddy/gray your bead’s color.
  10. Ultrafine Glow-in-the-Dark Glitter Touches — With streaks of barely there interference colors of mica powder, add some light colored, ultrafine glow-in-the-dark glitter toward the back of the bead, just don’t do that in the very last layer in the mold. This layer is best done over green, orange, pink colors rather than purples or violets because glow-in-the-dark is yellowish by nature and that’s on the opposite side of the color wheel as violet or purple.
  11. Fantasy Film and/or Fantasy Fiber Additions — Not while laying down the first layer of clay, but add “streaks” of crinkled fantasy film or snippets of fantasy fibers.  Easy does it.  It’s probably better to add the rare pieces rather than plaster the clay with the stuff — you want to enjoy the layers of translucency and overdoing it can ruin things. Don’t pick the darker, more opaque colors of fantasy film. Think opal. Do a visual search for all the variations of opal out there. Some of the mylar/fantasy films are perfect for this.
  12. Paper Bead Style — Great idea for completing a bracelet or necklace design that uses a focal faux opal bead like the above. Create paper bead template(s). Roll out translucent clay. Cut the paper bead shape from the clay with small, sharp craft scissors. Add Arnold Grummer glitter flakes or only smaller pieces of the Shattered Opal flakes as you roll along with fantasy fiber/film snippets, as you like and as what works. Roll onto skewer or appropriately colored glass tube beads. If the bead is thicker once done, you might stamp it with Pearl Ex Powder designs on both sides. Or not. Just don’t forget that you have to have a bead hole in the end. You may edge the clay with gold mica powder before or after rolling the bead. Trim any pesky glitter flakes if they poke out. Before or after baking, add additional minute finishing touches as you see fit in ways that lend to the overall jewelry design. How about those tiny glass/polymer beads in gold as trim on the tops or edges of the bead? What of bead caps that use tiny glass/polymer clay beads and/or the tiniest AB or other pretty rhinestones? Oh experimenting with this is going to be fun.

Binder of Faux Opal Examples with Notes

I’ll keep examples, with notes, stores in a trading card binder. You can pick up clear trading card binder pages even at Walmart.

They’re best if lightly sanded and coated with resin or other polymer clay friendly sealant to make them gemstone-like. 

Info on Finishing Polymer Clay Beads

Spray or liquid water-based sealants may not stand up to wear and may have to be reapplied. After having one of my successful beads substantially gray, opacify, and amber, all three, after being worn against skin slathered with sunscreen and exposed to a summer of sunshine, I favor either coating sculptural polymer clay beads with resin, a good epoxy resin. ArtResin would be my top choice, as it’s more friendly to the environment and health but yellows the least with any exposure to the elements/light. See https://www.artresin.com/blogs/artresin/17017757-6-month-uv-yellowing-test-results for video.

Resin Faux Opal

Or one can go ahead and make resin faux opals. FYI —There is amazing array of natural opal and resin opens up possibilities.

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