For Your Wish List

If you’ve ever done any scrapbooking, you may be familiar with the Cricut machine, which cuts out complex shapes loaded into the machine’s little onboard computer. It really saves on the aching hands that comes with trying to make small, intricate cuts in paper. Did you know, though, that you can use it to cut polymer too?  Jenny Barnett Rohrs explored this idea on Craft Test Dummies a couple years ago. I’ve been wanting a machine ever since.


Although this post  made the rounds back when it was posted, I thought it was worth revisiting. Not only can you cut polymer shapes, you can also cut on a variety of other materials to create templates, stencils, and shapes for impressing in your clay. So if the family is complaining that you’re impossible to shop for because you have everything, maybe you can get this on that list. Unless, of course, you do have everything, including this!

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Outside Inspiration: Glass Reveals

I know very little about making glass beads, so I can’t even begin to guess how Harold Williams Cooney made this amazing piece.


So … do you cut into glass to get this? Grind it down? Carve it out while hot some how? Yep, I’m clueless on the technique. The only thing I do know is that this kind of thing could be done beautifully with polymer clay by cutting, carving, or grinding. It reminds me somewhat of Jana Roberts Benzon’s lazer cut technique, just with more form and less cut away. Also, consider Vera’s beads from yesterday’s post. If they were covered by a solid sheet of clay and the cuts were farther apart to allow more surface, the cut-out areas would look something like what we see in these glass beads. But it’s definitely something to think about–especially for all you extrusion-mad clayers.

Harold is a particularly prolific artist with a lofty goal. It’s hard to explain his single-source American Trade Bead collection, but basically he is collecting his own work in order to create the largest collection made by a single bead artist. If you’re interested in his concept, you can read more about it on his blog. But if you are more interested in wonderful glass beauties, go look at his Etsy shop. There are more than just this bead to inspire a polymer artist there!

If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or issue of The Polymer Arts magazine as well as supporting our advertising partners.

Cover 13-P4 web
Just Released! The Winter 2013 issue …
120113 snowflake display ad
Polymer Clay Workshop Tutorials
The Whimsical Bead









Snip, Snip

There is more than one way to cut into polymer! Yesterday we looked at cutting in to reveal many layers in extruded beads, but here we have a simple yet brilliant technique that requires cutting in with scissors, but not actually cutting away and removing clay as the other examples this week have shown. Here is the snipping portion of this technique by Kazakhstan’s Budanceva Marina (also known as Aquamalinka).


And here is an example of one of her finished pieces using the elements it creates. Wonderfully realistic clover flowers, aren’t they?



Although this technique  is specific to creating these flowers, there is no reason why taking scissors to polymer in this manner must stop here. It’s a great texture that can be added as half dome accents, and if you snipped a little longer across the surface you could have small lengths of clay curling back on itself. I wish I had time to do some exploration and show you some possible ideas, but this week, I leave that to those of you who are inspired by this idea.

Go explore more of Budanceva’s predominantly floral work on her Livemaster shop page.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers. I personally am very thankful for having such kind and enthusiastic readers who have allowed me to make publishing and polymer a focus in my life. Now, off to enjoy family while trying not to do myself in with too much turkey and pie.

Cutting In

Cutting and slicing is part of many different polymer techiques, most commonly to reveal the colors and patterns hidden beneath the layers. Germany’s Vera Kleist accomplishes this reveal with her extruded beads, but the cutting in also creates a tactile texture.


Its amazing what a little slicing can do, don’t you think? Are there pieces you usually leave smooth that might benefit from a little cutting in?

Speaking of cutting … there is cooking to be done for the holiday! If you’ve already done your cooking or have been spared the chore through not being in the US or having someone else to supply your bounty tomorrow, look through Vera’s Etsy shop and Flickr pages for more cutting and textural ideas.

Carve and Reveal

As I mentioned yesterday, we’ll look at ways to cut and carve polymer both in a raw and cured state this week. Today we’ll actually look at both from a single artist.

Rebecca Geoffery works in metal, enamel, and semi-precious stones as well polymer, usually mixing them. The possibility of  carved polymer has a lot to do with what it will reveal beneath the surface. I thought that was the case with these pendants, until I read that the contrast is not revealed clay but paint. The paint makes it look like the carved portions were just scooped out, but it seems that they were actually solid black clay that was carved to provide a space for the paint.

RGeoffery Cut Pendants

But what of cutting away clay to reveal a layer below? Rebecca does this as well. With these pieces, shapes are cut out of raw clay and then laid over another layer so the contrasting color peeks out from beneath it. I love that she adds additional hand-tooled accents in the layer below as well as on the top layer.



What I think we can really take away from these examples is the variety of shapes the carved and cut clay can take on. The spaces revealed can also be just patterned or can be stylized or graphic or rough. Cutting and carving can help fulfill any mood, message or aesthetic, and adds instant complexity even when it’s not so complex.

Although this kind of work is not a major part of Rebecca’s posted collections, these pieces are making the rounds. Soon after I found and decided to write on these pieces, I found the same two photos in Cynthia Tinapple’s book Polymer Clay Global Perspectives. They are eye-catching. Most of her work is. You can see more of her polymer as well as her other work on her Flickr photostream and on her website.

Cut and Carved Polymer

Maybe it’s the turkey and ham cutting and carving that will be happening all over the US later this week as we celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday (which seems to be more about eating than anything); but in any case, I thought we’d explore some of the ways polymer is cut and carved this week.

I wanted to start with a page link from Celie Fago, who works with a variety of materials; and even when she works with polymer, she manipulates it in a variety of ways. I don’t think she believes in limitations.

So here is one of her stunning bracelets with carved polymer on the bracelet’s base and on the rings that intermix with metal elements. Lovely texture, don’t you think?


This work is carved after the polymer is cured which gives the carved marks a crisp, clean edge. Celie generously outlines the process and tools used to achieve similar effects in a very detailed blog post here.

We’ll look at cutting and carving both in raw and cured forms this week, but perhaps this little bit will whet your curiosity. It’s something to ponder while cooking up delicious food for Thursday or traveling to see family this week in the US.

In the meantime, take a look at Celie’s many wonderful creations on her website.



DIY Alcohol Ink

So after a week of talking about alcohol inks, have you found yourself diving in and trying a few ideas you saw? And now, are there any alcohol ink colors you wish you had, but haven’t been able to find or don’t want to buy a pack of 3 or 9 just to get them? Do you find them expensive or hard to find? Well, we do have an option–making our own!

The things you need to make your own alcohol inks are a permanent dye color source and rubbing alcohol. There are two primary color sources available to pretty much everyone–home fabric dyes such as Rit, or permanent markers like Sharpies. I haven’t tried either, but I have heard that the ones made with Sharpies are very, well, pungent. That chemical marker smell will fill the air. Not sure that’s a good thing, but if you have  lot of permanent markers you don’t really use, it would be a way to give them a purpose.  However, from the research I’ve done, it seems that the Sharpie colors are more vibrant than those made with the fabric dyes when using them on polymer clay. Which was a little surprising. Not surprising is that the colors are more vibrant on paper than on polymer. But as I haven’t tried it (yet!) myself, I can only offer the online instructions I found that seemed most useful and let you decide.

This video uses the permanent marker method:

7468612_f520Here is a page on creating alcohol inks with markers if you aren’t into watching videos.

As for alcohol inks with fabric dyes, here is the best of them that I found. It’s a short video by Cindy Lietz of Polymer Clay Tutor, so it’s definitely geared towards polymer clay use.

You may also find some instruction about making alcohol ink with food coloring or Kool-aid, but keep in mind that the color needs to adhere to polymer. Most food dyes  cling to proteins but will not stain–certainly not in any permanent fashion–synthetic materials like plastics. So you need permanent dyes that will become permanent on synthetics and non-porous surfaces.

So as far as I know, permanent markers and fabric dyes are your best bet for easy to find alcohol colorants. And they’re cheap. That is always a plus!

Coloring Translucent Clay

Getting back to using alcohol ink as a colorant, the primary use for many polymer clayers, I thought we ought to touch on the proper way to color not just liquid polymer but translucent clay.

To get to the heart of the matter, the main thing you want to remember when using alcohol ink to mix into liquid or solid polymer is to let the alcohol evaporate before mixing it in. That’s the only real rule. Drop a bit of LPC on a ceramic tile, drip a bit of alcohol ink in your chosen color into the LPC, and then leave it be for at least 10 minutes. I’ll usually let it set a bit longer to be sure there’s nothing but the dye left before I start mixing. You do the same with solid polymer. Just drip and drop, wait and mix.

Ginger Davis Allman put together a great in-depth post on mixing the ink into translucent clay earlier this year, including tips, tricks, judging color, and cautions. If the primary goal is to create great, truly translucent colored clay so you can make pieces like this necklace of Ginger’s, then you really should read the post.


Hope you’ve found this week’s ideas about what you can do with your alcohol inks inspiring, and I hope you get some time in to play with your new ideas this weekend!


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Outside Inspiration: Alcohol Ink Paintings

This is a crazy concept, I know, but have you every thought of using alcohol inks to paint imagery with? Historically, ink has had two primary uses: the production of written or printed communications and, yes, imagery in the form of drawings or paintings. In polymer, we primarily use it as a colorant; but alcohol inks, even though they are dyes (you can even make your own with rubbing alcohol and fabric dye), can be used in ways similar to watercolors. So why not paint with them?

Let me back up a bit and mention the difference between alcohol inks and watercolors. Watercolors are pigment that is suspended in water in order to apply it to a porous surface, most commonly paper. Alcohol inks were developed to work on non-porous surfaces, so although they can be and often are applied to paper, they cannot be manipulated on paper the way watercolors are. The alcohol ink will stain the paper immediately so the pick-up, washes, and translucent layering of color that is common in watercolor won’t work well or at all with alcohol inks on paper. In order to have a full array of possible applications and techniques, alcohol ink painting takes a sealed surface such a gloss paper, melamine,  clay board, ceramic, glass, metal, or  … polymer clay.

There is a whole community of alcohol ink painters out there doing gorgeous work. Some of it is realistic imagery, but I find the abstract or impressionistic paintings the most interesting as well as the most likely to inspire work on polymer clay. Trying to choose a piece to share with you today was difficult. So I’m going to share a few and then your assignment is to go look at more!

This piece is by Wendy Videlock, who sells DVDs on alcohol ink painting techniques.


And here is one by self-described dreamscape artist June Rollins, who also has a book out on the subject of alcohol ink painting.


Can you imagine doing this kind of thing on polymer? Sure! Why not? Raw or cured, it’s a perfect substrate for the ink; and with clay, you have options for manipulating the clay surface before or after applying the ink, giving you many more possibilities than working with the less malleable surfaces mentioned above. Does this have you thinking?

If you want to research alcohol ink painting more, I would first suggest going to Google images and typing in “alcohol ink painting” to get a better idea of just what can be done with the ink as far as painting. Then you might hop over to  Monica Moody’s very helpful and rather humorous posts on the subject including posts on materials you might want to gather if you plan on a thorough investigation. I did, and now I have a little shopping to do!

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