Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mica Shift Confetti Tutorial

This tutorial is for a mica shift technique that reminds me of confetti. You can do whatever you want with the patterned sheet, or follow the rest of my instructions to make pendants.

  • pasta machine
  • acrylic rod or brayer
  • blade(s) for cutting
  • needle, straw, and/or other tools for making holes
  • pearl or metallic polymer clay - this technique will not work with regular clay
  • (optional) solid-colored clay for backing pendants

(L - R) Premo Magenta Pearl polymer clay, Premo black polymer clay, acrylic rod, flexible blade, straight blade.

When you first run your pearl or metallic clay through the pasta machine, you can see dark streaks because the mica particles are not aligned yet.

1. Fold the clay sheet in half and run it through the pasta machine, fold first, on the thickest setting.

 Repeat 10 -12 times or until the streaks are gone and the sheet is all one shade.  This will also condition the clay, making it pliable and mixing the plasticizers together for maximum strength.

2. Place the clay sheet on your work surface (I use a large ceramic tile) and cut into a squarish shape. Save the extra pieces!

 3. Take one of the cut-off edges and slice off each side so that it has a defined edge.

4. Make criss-cross cuts, creating irregular shapes.

 5. Lay the little confettis onto the square sheet you made in step 2.

 6. Use a roller or brayer to flatten the pieces into the square sheet. Notice how you can see the dark edges where the mica particles are not facing up.

7. Using another sheet of aligned clay, repeat step 4, making slightly smaller shapes. (If necessary, run your scraps through the pasta machine again until you have an aligned sheet)

8. Place these new confettis randomly onto your square sheet and again flatten them with a roller. Repeat with smaller confettis until you like the way it looks.

 9. Run the sheet through the pasta machine at the thickest setting, then at progressively thinner settings until it is completely smooth.

At this point you have a mica shift confetti sheet, with which you can do whatever you like - cover a tin, make hollow lentil beads, etc. To make pendants, continue to step 10.

10. Using your blade(s), cut the confetti sheet into whatever shapes you'd like.

11. Condition some black clay.

12. Make a sheet of black using the thickest setting of your pasta machine, lay a confetti shape onto it, and cut around the shape leaving a small border.

13. Use a needle, straw, or other tool to make a hole in your shape, if desired. If you want to glue a bail to the back of your shape, like I do with the pentagon in the left corner, it doesn't need a hole.

14. Bake your shapes according to the manufacturer's directions on a blank piece of paper or cardstock (to avoid shiny spots) over a ceramic tile. If you have an oven thermometer and can be sure that the temperature of your oven never goes above the manufacturer's specified temperature, you can bake your pieces for longer than recommended to give them some extra strength.

15. Sand and buff, if desired.  The two shapes on the right have been sanded with wet/dry sandpaper in 400-, 600-, 800-, 1000-, 1200- and 1500-grit, while the shape on the left has not been sanded at all.  I have read that sanding brings out the depth of mica shift, but it seems to have actually done the opposite here and flattened out the effect.  Hmm.  I'd say if you're happy with how smooth your pendants are, leave them unsanded.

That's all there is to it! I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. Please leave suggestions and comments so I know what I can do better in the future.