Confessions of a Crystal Hoarder Blog

Confessions of a Crystal Hoarder Blog

Play with Clay Part One

Posted by Elizabeth Hamilton on Oct 15th 2013

I've got a strange relationship with polymer clay… I’m in awe of what some artists are doing with the medium…while others make me shake my head in a very different kind of awe. I never really thought about claywork as part of my beadwork. When I sit down with clay, I play with it, never expecting to make anything that turns out the way I envision. That’s not how I approach beadwork. Beadwork for me is about production. Sure, I enjoy it, but even experimentation is done with an end-game in mind. 

It was time to meet somewhere in the middle, and blend the Hoard with clay. Unlike beadweaving where loads of beads and hours make one small finished item, using lots of clay produces lots of things made of clay. So many things in fact that I am going to subject you to more than one recap of my clay + Hoard adventures.

This summer I took a polymer clay class from Julie Picarello. I've had her book Patterns in Polymer: Imprint and Accent Bead Techniques since August of 2012, but had not really- let me rephrase that- I hadn't managed to make anything other than weird wormy things. I should also admit that my favorite part of polymer clay is running it through the pasta maker over and over (and over). Anyhow, her class was great fun and I learned a lot about blade skills.

Her technique yields quite a few beads (or whatnot) from one session so I blended up some clay colors based on my picks from my Hoard stash. My first round was meant to coordinate with those orange faceted plastic beads I love so much. But I didn't quite get my orange bright enough, so I chose to work with some of our brass beads instead. I have a bag of vintage brass dangles and wanted to make a sort of funky-primitive pendent. I did not expect the beads to collapse in the toaster oven! I suspect that they behaved a bit like a water bottle left in your car on a very cold night. So now they are teardrops instead of globes.

That same clay session yielded this laminated denim colored pendent. And FINALLY something that was just right with Sand Opal. I know, I know, Sand Opal is so versatile, and it’s perfect with everything…I've been told this many a time. I've also been told that no one notices if you mess up the moves in Zumba class, but I don’t believe that either. I used every one of those crystals (most were from my Aunt’s estate, a few from promos at B&B) and now they aren't my problem anymore! My semi-matte silver metallic beads from our boxes kept the whole thing a bit more gritty than if I'd used crystal alone!

After squishing some of the danglers with heat, I decided to keep the rest out of the oven. I wanted to try using clay on a much larger scale, so I used one of my embroidery templates to shape the crescent. To make sure the wire loops wouldn't pull out I made the backing layer of the crescent and formed little eyes- like the ones you get for sewing and pressed them into the back. Then I added another layer of backing clay before putting the Picarello-style veneer slices on top. I have since learned that I could have made the whole assemble thinner by baking it in stages. You can’t tell from my photo, but the beads and clay really do match well in normal daylight. The vintage chain and the bead fringe are all from the Hoard.

I've had these great coral-pink vintage wood beads since this spring, and decided that they would pair well with clay. This time I was spot-on with the color mix. Polymer clay objects are surprisingly light even when they are thick, so at 1/8” thick this necklace of hollow wood beads and clay looks much heavier than it is. Those brass canoes are also from the Hoard, and also hollow.

I used a funky shaped bit of clay to form a toggle. I need to get it more centered in the loop before I’ll be truly happy with the result, but I thought it was a fun way to finish off the necklace. Perhaps I'll go back and build a loop from clay.

These 3 pendants were from that same clay mix, just from layers with less khaki showing. Brown is a shockingly difficult color to blend. It’s easy to get sienna, and easy to over-compensate and end up with plum.

I used a combination of chain bits from the Hoard and our club boxes to form the neck chain. When I realized that one of my circle cutters was an exact match for the chain, it was kismet.

I also made these two pins using Julie’s technique plus items from our club boxes. As you can see, just a little play, can go a long way!

Maybe I should try that reasoning a