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. 













































































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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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.

Bargello Exercise (and Bracelet!)

Here is my take on the Bargello Bead exercise  from Polymer Clay Color Inspirations.     I started the exercise  by picking three three colors from my collage.  Then  I  located them on  a  color scale I’d made to give me some idea of how to mix them.

I made a new batch of my primaries first.  I found I had problems  mixing my magenta,  even though I’ve mixed it countless times!   I had to put in more medium red to get the right color this time.   I think it’s because  I had used my old Premo fuchsia in the batches I’m mixed before,  but the brand spanking new package I used this time came from a different  dye lot.  But I got the color I wanted  by altering the mix a little bit at a time.

Then I   mixed the  orange, green and purple from the collage.  I found I needed more blue to make the purple  in the collage.  I added it bit by bit until my purple resembled the color from the magazine clipping.  The picture below shows the finished purple with a bit of the color I had originally mixed on top of it.

Here are the finished colors.

The object of the exercise is to mix  increasing amounts of mud into your three colors so you can see how it makes the colors shift.  I am leaving out  parts of the exercise, but all the information is in the book.

I got a surprising (to me) result.  Look at the picture below.  The purple in the stripes on the right shows hardly any gradation.  This was a “smack myself on the forehead” moment for me, as I remembered that darker colors shift less that lighter ones.  I added some white to the purple and  made the sheet on the left.  You can see the purple color shift in that one.  Much more interesting.

The next part of the exercise is to slice strips and lay them on a sheet of mud to make patterns.  Here are some examples.

Then I started to make the beads.  You don’t see any here because   my attempts at bargello  beads are now vying for a place in the permanent collection of the Museum of Ugly.  In a moment of inspiration,  however, I grabbed a bracelet blank I bought from Melanie West and made a bargello bracelet instead.

OK, what did I learn?   I got a practical example of the way colors shift and how darker colors shift less.  I also feel a bit empowered because I was able to replicate the colors from the collage and correct color problems.  For me, that is a giant leap forward.

Collages and Color Choices

In my post on Clayathon 2010, I mentioned that I continued to work through Polymer Clay Color Inspirations while I was there.

I went armed with a notebook filled with collages I put together in a collage making frenzy a few weeks before. I’m not going to mention how many I made, but I had so much fun experimenting with different colors and palates that I will probably die with collages.

I read the Ruffle Spiral Brooch project and started making Skinner Blends. Then I decided to diverge from the book and started making twisties and turnies from the colors I mixed to go with the collages. I don’t plan to do anything with them; I was simply trying to stretch beyond my color comfort zone and see if I could mix colors that looked happy on the collages. Here are the results.

Here are a few of the Tasting Tiles I made.    Betcha can’t make just one.

I’ll put up more pictures of the exercises as I work my way through the book.

My Pivot Beads

Here are my pivot beads from the exercise in Polymer Clay Color Inspirations. The top pictures show the pivot color variations mixed according to the directions in the book. You apply thin sheets of the colors over thin sheets of the stripes. One of the purposes of the exercise is to show what effect stripes of black, white and gray have on the  layers of color applied over them. Even though I took a Watercolor Technique class with Maggie Maggio some time ago, what I learned there is starting to make more sense.  On to color collages!

To see some of my interpretations of the Watercolor Technique, press here, here, or here.

This just in!   I was thrilled to see that  Seth Savarick  has an article in the latest issue of  Art Jewelry Magazine on how to make his distinctive, lightweight bangle.  I have taken two classes with Seth and he has taught me so much about craftsmanship-an area where I can aways improve.  He also inspired me to learn how to burn my own screens for printing on polymer clay.  I wrote two articles explaining the process that appear in the Fall 2007 and Winter 2007-2008 issues of  Polymer Cafe.  You can order the back issues to  find out how to do it with a Speedball kit and some inexpensive equipment.   And if you have the chance to take a class with Seth, don’t pass it up!