Color Inspired Natasha Experiments

OK, I admit that I’m brain-dead and dog tired this week, so I decided to post  pictures of one of the polymer side trips I made while I was working my way through the exercises in Polymer Clay Color Inspirations. You’ve heard of Natasha Beads and there are a myriad of tutorials on the Web on how to make them.  I made the pieces below by chopping up bits of clay I used for different color exercises, compacting them into a plug as for a Natasha bead, slicing the plug lengthwise and opening it to reveal the design.  I  rolled the  clay to make the two sections the same thickness but tried to maintain the integrity of the design. Then I cut out shapes with a tissue blade or a clay cutter.  After baking and cooling, I coated the tops with doming epoxy resin. I plan to finish them with bails or pin backs.

Here are the results.

Painterly Polymer Necklace


I had a lot of color swatches and scraps after  I completed the pattern and color sample exercises from Polymer Clay Color Inspirations.


Pattern Samples Bracelet


I layered them onto a 1/8″ sheet of clay and rolled them through the pasta machine to see how they would look as I rolled them thinner and thinner.  The well-leached clay crumbled in interesting patterns.  The fresher clay spread in a manner similar to what you see in Maggie Maggio’s Watercolor Technique.  I continued laminating clay (see the transparent layers),  noted where the most interesting patterns were and cut out  pods.  After baking, I put the pods in polymer clay bezels, baked again, drilled and strung on buna cord with o rings and polymer tube beads.  It’s difficult to see in the photographs, but I put a layer of Envirotex Lite  on top of the colored part of the pods.  The necklace has a matte finish and a bunch of tiny dings that, in this case at least, I think adds to its appearance. 

I plan to play around with this technique and will post any interesting results. 













































































Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: The Final Word

Did you have a Grandmother who could grab a handful of this, add a half glass of that, a pinch of something else, throw in a few more things and come up with something so good that you remember it ten years after her death? How did she do it?

Think of the first time you cooked something. You probably had a general idea of what it was supposed to look like and how it was supposed to smell and taste. If you came close and no one got sick, you had a success. Then, as you became more proficient, you began to know what a dish was supposed to look like at each stage (is the batter supposed to be lumpy? Are the grains supposed to clump?). You began to learn what seasonings worked with one another. You started to know when something was done cooking or baking by the way it looked or the way it smelled or felt. Some of us got to the point where we could throw away our cook books and measuring cups and rely totally on instinct and experience. (Ok, Ok, some of us never learned to cook at all, or gave up cooking after many years. There’s a case to be made for that, too.)

When most of us start to learn a craft or an art form, we are not skilled enough to control the results. We become more proficient by doing. That’s the idea behind Polymer Clay Color Inspirations.

If you were taught to think of color theory as an arcane set of rules rather than as a way to express yourself, working through the exercises in Polymer Clay Color Inspirations will change the way you think. It’s not just another color reference book; the ten chapters of carefully planned exercises will teach you about color if you take the time to do them.   As you progress through the book, you should start to internalize the information, with each chapter’s lesson building on the previous one. The goal is to teach you to make sound color choices with confidence, and to rely on your instincts rather than a rigid set of rules.

This was my experience. I won’t say that I am a color expert-far from it. But I think I am way beyond where I was when I started.  The most important lessons I took away? Every color has a bias. A light color might be more saturated than a darker one. A color combo you hate might look very appealing in a different setting. If you’re not sure how colors will mix,  combine a tiny proportion and see how you like  the result.

I put up a permanent page with links to all the posts I generated in the course of working through the book.  Even though I am technically finished with the book, I plan to keep it handy as a reference along with my color scales and other color tools I made.

She “Puts It All Together”

So, here I am at the last chapter of  Polymer Clay Color Inspirations, “Putting it All Together.”   To put it all together means using  the lessons learned  in the previous chapters to make a final project-in my case a polymer clay collage box that  corresponds to my paper collage and color palette. To make my project, I covered a cigar box with  multi-part Skinner Blends and canes, and used  back filling,  stamping,  inlay, texturing, and pattern sheets.  You might recognize some materials from earlier exercises.  Here is a picture of my collage and  and some of the clay I used.

Before starting, I auditioned and rejected lots  of patterns and canes.  As I was covering my box, I was constantly applying clay and  taking it off  or applying clay  and baking  and then prying it off! And I made even more patterns and canes in the process  because, as every polymer clay artist or beader knows, no matter how many colors and beads you have, you never have enough.  Never.

I had so much fun trying different things that I don’t consider this time wasted at all.  I took my time and tried not to use  something unless I thought it was right.   I must confess that  I did go against my better judgment a couple of times as I was nearing the end.  But they say that finishing  a project like this  is usually more an act of surrender than the certainty  that it’s as good as it can be.

Here are pictures of some of the canes and patterns I considered


Somehow, everything came together in the collage box.  I am still not one hundred percent that I made all the right choices, but I do like the majority of them.    And one of the hardest things in art is knowing when you’re done, isn’t it?

One last time: the top of the box, the collage,  and a sampling of the materials from which I made my selections.

My next post on Polymer Clay Color Explorations will be the  “course evaluation.”

Texture Sampler Pendant

Here is the latest in my foray into Polymer Clay Color Inspirations.  We are on the second half on Chapter Nine, “Exploring Texture and Pattern in Your Colors.”
Texture has an influence on color because it affects the way light interacts with surfaces.   And even the light from different times of day can can affect color (as anyone who’s  been disappointed with a paint color that looked great in the store knows.)     The goal of  making the Texture Sampler Pendant  was to get a hands on view of how texture and pattern affect color.  In this exercise, you are directed to make a tapered pyramid shape and cover each side with a different texture.  I had plenty of left over bits from my color scale mixing, so I had lots of colors to choose from.     I had fun making  lots of different texture samples, but I could only use four on the pendant.

Since  my collage some texture in it, most notably the bumps on the flower pot and the sea horses,  I applied little balls of clay in different collage colors to  one side of the pendant.  I  tried to pick up the oranges and the greens on the second side with the “Dimensional Oval Cutout” technique from the book. I attempted  to mimic the leaves in the collage with overlapping cane slices on the third side, and I  used slices of another cane topped with indented dots on the fourth side.

I decided not to use the option antiquing the textures with paint.   I deviated from the exercises with the “hat” of disk beads at the tip and I used slices from a striped cane to separate the segments rather then twisting two colors together.
With the exception of  faux techniques, I have rarely used textures in my polymer clay work before.  I think that’s about to change.   Here are some pictures.

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Mosaic Leaf Brooch Exercise

We’re still on Chapter Eight of Polymer Clay Color Explorations. looking at contrast and proportion.  The Mosaic Leaf Brooch Exercise is something I would have never tried on my own and the results I got surprised me.  I didn’t like what I thought I would like and background colors that looked blah to me perked up when I incorporated them into the brooch.

I started out making a Skinner Blend with my palette colors, cut out strips, laid them down on a sheet of mud  and  indented the strips to mimic tiles.   After baking, I grouted or back filled the pieces with randomly chosen colors of clay and added clay bezels.

For the “grout”, I chose ecru,  “sunlight” left over from the Log Cabin Pin project, black,  and light blue.  For the “bezel” colors, I chose orange, red, light green, and a darker turquoise green.

Look at the effect the background color has on the “tiles.”

The brooches on the left (see below) have essentially the same color tiles as the brooches on the right.  But they look different simply because the background colors are different.  There’s lots of information in chapter eight explaining this phenomenon and giving examples and illustrations.

The second brooch from the left reminds me of Halloween candy.  What was I thinking?  I’m not sure I like it but when I chose the colors, I was sure I’d love it!  The brooch on the far left reminds me of a fall harvest and I think it’s much more interesting.  The brooch on the far right  makes me think of a summer ear of corn (which I can’t have right now because I just had dental surgery and my mouth is packed with dressing and stitches!)    It’s amazing how altering the background  and bezel color can change feel of the piece.  Not only has this exercise showed me  how colors affect those around them; it has also  given me examples of how  one can use color to communicate.

On another note-

I mistakenly went from Chapter Seven to  Chapter Nine, a few weeks ago.  My next post on my journey through Polymer Clay Color Explorations will be on the second half of Chapter Nine which explores the effect that texture has on color.  I really enjoyed that exercise, so stay tuned.

A Trip Back to Chapter Eight: Contrast Tables

OK, I goofed.  I skipped my posts about the exercise and project in  Chapter Eight of Polymer Clay Color Explorations.  Well, this has been a rough week.  What can I say?

Chapter Eight covers  “Exploring Color Composition: Placement and Proportion.”  It is worth your time to try the proportional and contrast table exercises in this chapter.  Now that I am working on the  collage box in the last chapter in the book, the exercise makes more sense than ever.

First, I mixed eight colors from my collage.

Collage with the colors I mixed on top

Then I sheeted the colors and laid them on a sheet of mud.  The size of the color samples is determined by the proportion of that color in the collage. I eyeballed it.  So, why is the placement of the colors important?   The appearance of a color is affected by the colors around it.  We all know this to some extent, but it helps to mix the colors and study them.  At least it helped me.

You  see how each color contrasts with another by laying out  strips of all the colors across the proportionally-sized color samples.  Take a look  at the picture below with  the balls of color on the left and the baked proportion and contrast tables on the right.    The contrast table allows  you to see how each color works with every other color at a glance.  It’s much harder to do this with the balls of color.   I can see how making the tables would be useful  to audition colors for a project.

I will probably be making more of these contrast tables so I have more control over what my final project looks like, rather than my usual Hail Mary method of color placement.   Of course, a little luck never hurts, either.

My next post on my journey through  Polymer Clay Color Explorations will cover the project from Chapter Eight that puts the principles of the above exercise to work.

Pattern Samples and Bracelet

I’m up to to Chapter Nine in Polymer Clay Color Explorations,  “Exploring Pattern and Texture in Your Colors.”  The first  exercise entails  making 3 x 3 inch polymer clay pattern swatches  based on your collage and using them as veneers in a bracelet.

I made  lots of color washed sheets and ended up not using most of them.  I did use the one you see  above which  is also embellished with  simple canes like the ones you see below.

There aren’t many patterns in my collage except for the hobnail style pottery and the pattern on the seahorses.  I didn’t have much to imitate,   so I spent a lot of time auditioning checkerboard patterns, cut out shapes and randomly applied pattens.  I stuck with the  random patterns and shapes.  When I tried to get too precise, my work ended up looking sloppy.

Simple canes on solid backgrounds

Since I used random patterns, my bracelet is different on each side.  I would not normally make this style bracelet, but I found it an excellent design to use for learning how to combine different patterns and color combinations into a cohesive piece using my color collage as a starting  point.  It was fun to make the swatches and try different combinations.

Color is Relative

Leaves and Berries Collar

I am up to chapter seven in Polymer Clay Color Inspirations, “Playing Games with Color.” Maybe this chapter is really about the games color plays with us.  There is a quote in the book, “all color is relative,”   meaning that color’s appearance changes depending on what other colors surround it.  Remember the Color Me Beautiful craze?  Same reasoning.

The first exercise was to choose three colors from my palette, roll them into thin and think sheets and stack them.   When you slice and arrange them, you see how the colors affect one another.  Reducing the squares gives another perspective (pun?) on the games colors play.  The more contrast, the more you can reduce your canes successfully.

For the next exercise you make squares like the ones above from five colors in your palette.  I chose pink,  cherry, turquoise, orange and a minty green.  Then you recombine the squares to make leaf canes, and  make coordinating bullseye canes for spacer beads.

The necklace you see  in the pictures here is the one I made with the five colors of clay and the bullseye canes.  (The leaf canes are wrapped with neutral colors  as per the instructions.)  The stems in the necklaces are an addition I decided to make after seeing a  picture of a Pier Voulkos necklace included the chapter.

To be honest, I liked my squares better than my necklace.  But then I decided to use the  squares left over from the first (three color) exercise,  to be more judicious when I picked the color to wrap the leaf canes, and to make solid color round spacer beads in the same colors in the canes.  The picture of this necklace is at the top of this post.

I learned something about my color sensibilities:  I like my work better when I use less colors.  I think a  few main colors and some well chosen accents work better for me for now.

Want to read more about color?  Go to the  Color Collective Blog.

Tuning Up My Colors

Are your color combinations flat?

Chapter 6 of Polymer Clay Color Inspirations starts with the observation, “All color combinations are not created equal. Some are more successful than others.”  I’ll second that.    How many canes have I made where I couldn’t see the pattern because the colors did not contrast?  On the other hand, I  have turned out my share of pieces where the color contrast is so great it diminishes the mood I want the piece to convey.  I want to have more control over my work and to develop the ability to compose calmer palettes that are still interesting.

I always thought in terms of hue contrasts, but Lindly and Maggie point out that there are value and saturation contrasts too, and the way one chooses to emphasize them (or not) is key to orchestrating successful color combinations.

The first exercise in this chapter is to mix seven colors from your collage and place them in strips on a sheet of mud to see how they contrast with one another.

Here are the color formulas I came up with using my personal palette. That’s a digital scale I like to use to weigh the clay.

Here are my color recipes:

1.) 5 parts white and one part  my magenta
2.) 1/2 my blue and 1/2 my yellow with a bit of white
3.) 3 parts yellow to one part magenta
4.) 4/5 blue and 1/5 magenta
5.) blue and yellow and white
6.) 7 parts yellow and one part blue
7.) 3 parts magenta to one part white

Here are the colors on the collage. I can’t believe how fast I mixed them.  Now that  color mixing is easier for me and more instinctive,  I need to learn how to use those colors  to convey the mood I want instead of leaving it to chance.

Here are my colors placed on the mud (5 parts black and one part each of my blue, yellow and magenta.)

Here are the colors baked and unbaked side by side.  It’s hard to see, but numbers 3 and 4 darkened in the baking.

On to the next exercise!