Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review- The Art of Polymer Clay, Design and Techniques for Creating Jewelry, Pottery, and Decorative Artwork by Donna Kato Part 1

I worked on this book, the first time, in February of 2010. The following is from my journal at the time.
This is not my first try at a Kato book. the other books are more explicit, better step by step photos. this one implies steps and rules of clay that leave room for frustration. the first project is the Clicky Rose Cane (page 54). My first mistake is too much color in my translucent. It really takes very little. The center part is fine although it ended up being too big once reduced. The technique for the petals was neat. Although my pink was too dark it still looked OK. when I look at the example photo, mine turned out like it. I think that her yellow center doesn't stand out so much because her pink is a lighter shade. This technique could be applied to many things. the idea is to sandwich the white between layers of colored translucent and then layering them unevenly. the instructions don't say to layer unevenly, although the photo shows this. The example jewelry shows the flower cane on beads with pearls, very pretty.
The next project was the Milky Opal (page 96) using confetti glitter, silver and blue with translucent. Turned out OK although the blue isn't really an opal color. The idea is that the glitter floats inside the translucent clay. Again, the instructions are minimal. She calls for sheeting than baking. Once baked you cut the shape you want and make a bezel. It needs many layers of sanding to get that opal effect. That should be done before making the bezel.
The Nonpareil Marbled Paper (page101) was easy to make and would be a good thing for making clothes on a doll or shingles.
I made a small bowl using the Balloon Method (page 112). That was harder to pull off. The instructions said to pull gently to make the walls straight, and then to twist the top. The walls collapsed. I kept pulling up on the clay and pushing back together on the horizontal to make the balloon shape. It finally worked but she skipped a step to get from straight walls to twisting the top. I mixed gold alcohol inks (3 drops) and in 1/2 teaspoon of TLS and painted the sides of the bowl. Then wiped it off. It antiqued it quite well. I formed a cover with the remaining clay and added a rope handle. To make the handle stick better I stamped the spot where the handle would go. Adhering the handle was easier that way. I then draped the cover on a cotton ball to make it concave. It worked. It does not fit on the bowl completely but the principle is there. I like the end results and I've used techniques I'd never used before.
Next, I tried the Torn-sheet Turquoise (page 92). Lesson # 1, yellow goes a long way to shade a green. Unless you want a really lime green, never use 1 for 1 measurement when mixing color. Following her mixing directions I had to add another part green and 1/2 part black to come close to the color she shows in the book. This could be because I use Sculpey and Primo and she uses Kato. She wants the black in the back of the sheet. When torn you could not see it enough. I would put tiny shavings of black on a green sheet then the aqua and translucent torn pieces. I made a donut with the clay and covered it. the green still was too 70's for me so I antiqued it with a little gold ink. I had left some crevices when I was smoothing it and put the ink in those. Not bad. Lessons # 2 - When smoothing a piece, spritzing it with water helps. It stops the clay from dragging with the rod. Probably because it cools the clay.
Before I describe what I have done today I want to talk about a couple of discoveries. Getting clay into a manageable paper thin sheet was near impossible for me. The clay would roll up on my roller way before it got thin enough. So I sandwiched it between wet (with a spritzer) parchment paper before putting it through the thinnest on the pasta. Works great! I can add a second layer of paper inside to make it even thinner. I'll try regular paper next, just because it is cheaper than parchment. At that thinness the clay color leaks on the paper and can't be used for another color clay. Kato uses very thin clay to cover and make the simulated finishes. With my way, I can get the results she's talking about. So I did the Patina finish (page 102). Again her color mixing didn't work out but I ended up with a mint/turquoise. Putting it on a sheet of gold is fine but when sandwiched to paper thin it still made one color on top of the other. I thought that is I tear the mint and apply it to the gold in pieces, a little all over, re-pasta that, I wouldn't have so much smoothing to do. I kept the sheet in plastic to try later.
The next thing was the Rose (page 122) using a layered white and translucent. This was easier than it looked. I've already made roses from paper. It's the same principle. The white and translucent stripes gives a nice rose (white rose) look. Adding the leaves (page 125) was trickier. Cutting them is fine but texturing them without tearing them at the ends is not easy. I also made a pink lily (page 125). It said to make the petals thin or thick enough for the brand of clay. Using Sculpey, I probably made them too thick, because they broke at the seams alot. I managed to get it right but I had to repair tears way too much to have called this project mastered. I didn't color the insides but I can do that another time.
The Iris (page 126) was fun although tricky because of it's shape. It's baking right now, we'll see if the petals stay where I put them. The instructions were better, the photos most helpful of all. The petals broke off while baking.
I decided to kill techniques with one project, I made the Box (page 116) using the Marble (page 94). Her technique for marble is easy and gives good results. I block of white Sculpey with a sliver of (1/16) of black and copper (I added gold to the copper for better color) (1 part copper to 3/4 part gold) to make a round box, 2" high and 2" across with lid. Now, her instructions were precise and more step-by-step than some other projects in this book. The walls turned out fine but the bottom and top are amateurish. It was hard to add the wire staples because my wall was not big or as thick as hers. I still managed but it left marks on the clay. I think that if I would bake in between all steps I might bet a better result, at least while I am still learning. the cover was a little harder because it was flimsier and her handle was a little complicated but I managed all right. I will try to sand away the marks and buff and varnish. Marble should shine.

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