Here’s another video tutorial. In this one I’m making polymer clay components with embedded wire. I was on the struggle bus with this one and I had to alter my plans because the cane I was using was too old and brittle. I left some of the disasters in the video because my problem solving might be useful to someone else.
Since doing the original stream I have stumbled across some other techniques which work slightly better to recondition old canes, but I’m still testing these. If you have any good tips for working with old canes, please put them in the comments!
Back in May I wrote a blog about my experiment to see if polymer clay was light fast. After that I wondered how the colours would fare directly in the sun. If you remember, I had cut three strips from the same spectrum gradient blend of Fimo Professional “True Colours”. This time I used the strip that had been on my wall in a North facing room as the colours had not changed much (I wanted to preserve the control strip which had been stored in a drawer, and compare to the strip that had been sitting inside on a South facing windowsill). This time I left the piece on a South facing windowsill outside for the summer.
As you can see, this time there is a definite colour change. The strip has faded overall, but the yellow seems particularly affected. The orange and green (when blending with the yellow) have particularly changed while the others have mostly kept their hue but have become paler.
I am a little disappointed that the colours do fade, although the strip is still nice and colourful when not compared to the original colours. I have seen some lovely garden ornaments made from polymer clay and they withstand the elements very well, but it would probably be best to stick to earthy colours when making something intended to go outside. This way a slight shift in hue would not make a big difference. Perhaps there’s a UV protective varnish that can be used to preserve the bright colours?
Since I’ve only tested one brand of polymer clay here: please let me know in the comments if you’ve had any experience with colours changing (or even better – not changing!).
The short answer is “Probably not and I’m definitely not a scientist!”.
Years ago I did a polymer clay painting that I was really pleased with. I even had it framed and it was on display in an art gallery for several months (possibly over a year). However when I got it back the colours looked strange to me. Sure enough when I took it out of the frame there was a definite colour shift visible where it had been under the mount card. I don’t know if it had been in a window or if it was due to the bright shop lighting, but I was really distressed. I was so distressed that I didn’t take a photograph before trying some remedial actions.
To try and save the picture, I carefully scratched off the surface to blend the hard line where the colour changed. You can still see that the foreground is much more yellow at the bottom. I couldn’t do too much of this as I would have lost all the shadows and details added to the surface. You can see more clearly in the next image where I have layered the front and the back of the picture together (both photos taken in the same lighting right after each other).
Because it takes me days to make these paintings, I decided I didn’t want to do any more of them until I could check that the colours would remain as I intended. I couldn’t find any information about the colour fastness of polymer clay, but I did find an article for checking if water colour paints are colourfast. The suggestion was to paint a swatch and then leave it in a sunny place for a year to see if the colours change.
So I made a sheet with a spectrum of colours and cut it into three strips. I made the line wavy so I could fit the pieces together later. I kept one strip in a drawer, one strip on the wall of a room with north facing window and one strip on a south facing windowsill. I don’t know what brands of clay I used for the painting (especially the browns because I blended several scraps to make the colour), but for the test I used Fimo Professional (which at the time was a new product).
I couldn’t see any change for the strip that was on the wall, but for the strip that was on the windowsill there was some slight fading of the yellow where it mixed with the red (it’s now less orange) and the green seems to have faded overall. The colour change is a lot less that that which was suffered by the painting but it occurs to me that the double glazing of my window may have had some UV protection that the shop window didn’t. I think I need to put the “wall” strip in the garden for a year and see how that goes.
Unfortunately my process was a bit too chaotic to make this a nice (and accurate) scientific test. For a start I didn’t write down the dates for when I started and finished and I think there are several other variations that are worth testing. For example:
Different brands of polymer clay
Colours mixed with white
Black polymer clay
Clay exposed directly to sunlight (outside)
So in conclusion there was definitely some colour fading of the yellow and green. Was it significant enough that I don’t want to make any more paintings? Is it unreasonable to expect no change? Was it less faded than before because it’s a new formula or a different environment or because it’s fully saturated colours?
I don’t know!
I told you I wasn’t a good scientist, but I thought I’d share with you what I have found out so far anyway. Maybe in another year I’ll have some results for how the colour strip fares directly outside. In the meantime please let me know if you’ve done similar tests or if you have better information.
I was tempted to make more shank buttons this week for my indigo colour palette toggle, but then I realised time was running out for me to try some of the more interesting toggle mechanisms I’d planned at the beginning of the year.
Polymer clay clasp by Cate van Alphen
This clasp is formed from two hooks. By aligning the angular cut holes of the two pieces at 90°, they slide together to form a chain link. It’s very satisfying to open and close :D.
Indigo link clasp by Cate van Alphen
The clasp is based on one from a chunky wooden bead necklace that I found in a charity shop, but I’ve made mine from polymer clay instead of wood. It took a few prototypes to get this far, and it is still a work in progress.
The first couple of clasps were a bit too flexible for my liking, but I didn’t really want to make everything a lot bigger and thicker. I put wire inside the third attempt as reinforcement, but you can just see it peeping through on the inside of the hole.
Clasp Doh! by Cate van Alphen
From the photos above it looks like I’ve cracked it, but turn one of the hooks over and there’s wire sticking out. I lost track of which side had the gap in the wire for cutting the hole through, and I chose the wrong place. Doh!
I’ve given the link a good pull apart and although the loops do flex open slightly (the one without the wire noticeably more so) I think a necklace made using the clasp would survive a tug from a toddler. So on the bright side cutting the wrong side helps to prove that the wire does provide some support, but also that I need to think of a way to keep track of where to cut ;).
It was quite a struggle to take photos of my glow-in-the-dark earrings because I had to use the manual settings on my camera. Fumbling around in the dark is not the best time to try to figure out ISO and aperture. So after uploading my photos on Friday I did a bit of research. I have been doing more with the manual settings and I think I’ve seen a huge improvement in my photos!
Earrings by Cate van Alphen
For some reason I had always thought that if the wibbly camera icon showed on the camera screen it meant there wasn’t enough light to take a decent photo. I knew higher ISO was for low lighting, so I’d up the ISO till the icon went away. It turns out this has the side effect of making the picture grainy. In the pictures above they have the same aperture, but the one on the left is ISO 400 and the one on the right (taken in worse light) is ISO 100. I think the second one looks cleaner.
Glow in the dark earrings by Cate van Alphen
It wasn’t completely dark when I started taking the glow-in-the-dark pictures, and although it was too dark for me to see the background, at the slower shutter speeds the camera could. So it turns out that instead of increasing the ISO for lower light, I just needed to use a tripod and a slower shutter speed! Doh!
I took some new pictures of a necklace I made back in 2010 using beads made from the same glow-in-the-dark cane as the earrings.
Woah! You can literally spot the difference. From now on ISO 100 is my friend 🙂
You can find this necklace in my Etsy shop. I thought it might make a nice companion for the earrings.
I finally put the edges on my polymer clay focal bead from a few weeks ago. Unfortunately when it came out from the final bake it had cracked 😦
I did notice a tiny crack after baking the back onto the dome which I thought was due to the air expanding inside the newly sealed dome. Therefore I drilled a vent hole via the threading holes. When I make pieces like this, which I bake several times, I usually to a partial bake for 10 minutes or so, and then a full bake at the end. I suspect the cracks are due to the partially baked clay waiting around for a few days before the full cure.
So from now on I’ll be doing longer cures between and hopefully avoid the cracks.
Almost as soon as I had made my polymer clay retro beads I was itching to swap the colours around.
Retro tile beads by Cate van Alphen
The combination I liked most was the one with the beige background and the big yellow and the small orange dot. It occurred to me that this was because it had a light, a middle and a dark colour. So I did a mockup on the computer to check this in black and white.
See how heavy and dark the green and brown together become when it’s in black and white? Here’s an alternative colour scheme.
I’ve gotten rid of the repeating combinations e.g. big brown dot with small green dot on one tile and big green dot with a small brown dot on another. And see how the pattern still pops even in black and white?
I’m not sure how many different colour combinations there are, but it’s a pretty deep rabbit hole as artists such as Josef Albers have discovered before me.
Will I be remaking these beads? Probably not (or at least not anytime soon since it’s nearly time for green). Although I think I’ve learnt a few lessons that will help if I do decide to make these in the next colour scheme.
Lesson 1: do a mockup on the computer before spending a day making beads!
As I was making my polymer clay buttons, I thought I should test how they cope with being washed. From my research on the internet, polymer clay buttons hold up fine but I do like to check these things myself. I also remembered that a while back I got the materials to make buttons using shrink plastic, so I decided it would be good to test those at the same time. Since the first batch of buttons I made is packed away, I made some new ones.
My shrink plastic is printable, so I made a variety of buttons to test different surfaces. I still need to test washing the buttons, but there are already a number of things I don’t like about the shrink plastic.
The first kind is 100% colour printed, using a pattern derived from my kaleidoscope cane. It was easy to make perfectly aligned kaleidoscope designs using the computer, but the colours are disappointing. The colours get darker (which I accounted for) but they also change when the plastic shrinks. I’ve pictured them next to a polymer clay button for comparison. Somehow the shrink plastic has lost vitality.
I made the next buttons by printing out black lines and colouring them with coloured pencil. Generally I like the colours but the ugly khaki colour in the yellow circles was originally orange pencil which mutated when the plastic shrank. And does one button have a wonky shape? Yes indeed! I used a punch to cut out the shapes so they started off evenly sized and perfectly round.
Some of the buttons are not very flat either. These buttons have simple black lines printed on the white plastic. And the backs…
The backs are slightly discoloured yellow. Perhaps the tile they were on burnt them? I was using my heat gun on the front of the button so I’m a bit confused. Too hot? Too close? Just something that happens?
Shrink plastic buttons by Cate van Alphen
I’m not particularly keen on the white edges of the buttons either. Maybe I’m just too fussy. Oh well, we’ll see what the washing machine makes of them.
When I did my demo for making a Christmas ornament, as I made a mobius shape, instead of stretching, the clay tore (I think because it was cold). So I quickly made up a plain white and gold version using white Kato clay instead of Fimo Classic which I usually use. When I got home I baked the ornament on some polyester batting on a tile in my oven (just as I had done for the others). Sadly it distorted under its own weight and the tip popped open.
Since I never leave a man behind, I thought I would see if I could remedy some of the disaster. First I drilled through the tip so I could squeeze the pieces together and wire it up (I had needed to do this with some of my Fimo ornaments too – I must remember to add a drop of liquid clay!). First the sides cracked, then the tip shattered as I twisted the wire together! To be fair I hadn’t cured the Kato clay at its full temperature since the gold clay was Fimo which is not supposed to go above 130° C.
I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet, so I suspended the ornament on a bead pin over a small glass and cured it again. My idea was to see if the weight of the ornament would pull the shape out when the clay got hot again.
Don’t do this!
Before it even reached curing temperature the other tip snapped off and the ornament plopped to the bottom of the glass! It was just as squashed, and there were now even more cracks. NOW I was ready to give up. 😦
I thought I’d see how the Fimo ornament coped with being cured on a pin, so I dug out the square of uncured clay I had used in the demo (the one that had torn). I healed up the tears using my magic parchment paper and piece of card (the same method I use to smooth a surface sheet).
Sure enough this one also tore through, so the ornament ended up getting cured at the bottom of the glass (and didn’t squish). I cut off the torn point and drilled perpendicular so I could add a wire loop. The other tip also opened up with this one but I was able to wire it together without causing cracks and I added a bead dangle.
There is a small scar visible in the metallic clay, but overall I’d say this one survived.
I wondered if a cardboard egg box would make a good support to cure these ornaments? Otherwise I’m afraid my advice is: stick to Fimo Classic clay.
Finally I make the ornament and… it all goes wrong!
I used a different brand of clay for the second try ornament and I had some issues when I baked it 😦 I’ll try to do another post about that with images, but in the meantime I suggest you do the following:
Put a drop of liquid clay on the tips before you pinch them to make sure they stick together
Don’t rest your ornament on a tile to bake – suspend it from a bead pin or try to support in some way (perhaps with balls of foil).