I’ve been lining up some ideas for this week’s posts about variation, as requested. In the process, it occurred to me that we actually should write a full length article for the magazine on this subject–it’s really broad and very important to expanding an artist’s repertoire and skill. But I thought we could go over the basics and maybe get you thinking more about how to push what you already enjoy doing until we can put an in-depth article together for you.
I thought we’d used crackling as an example of how to start working out variations. Crackling is one of my favorite techniques because of the varied texture it creates as well as the wide possibilities in color, shimmer and ways it can be applied.
The basic process for working out variations starts with getting a handle on what the core concept is behind the technique, form or approach you want to expand on. In crackle, the core of the technique is based in how crackling works. Polymer is an elastic material that can be moved and stretched without breaking apart. If you adhere something that is not elastic on the clay and then stretch the clay, the non-elastic material has to break to move with it–this is what we call crackling. So any material that is non-elastic, can be laid on and adhered to raw polymer in a continuous sheet and that that will break relatively easily can be used for crackling.
Gold leaf is very common for crackling texture because it meets all the criteria plus its shiny surface contrasting with the non-reflective surface of the clay makes for very pretty effects. Tempura and other non-elastic paints (note: acrylics are quite elastic so they just stretch with the clay) can be laid on raw clay and, once dried, will also meet the non-elastic and easy to break criteria. Paints greatly broaden your options for color and texture as how the paint is applied (thickly, thinly, with gaps, etc.) controls the type and subtlety of the crackling. And additions to the paint including mica powders, alcohol inks, glitter–whatever material can mix into the paint and keep it non-elastic–allows you to change the color and visual impact.
Here are beads by Janice Abarbanel showing several variations on her crackle technique in different shades applied in a variety of ways to lentil beads. Some of the crackling is very subtle while other variations on it are quite bold. In this case, the biggest variation is in the choice of background clay color.
So with just this idea that you can use anything non-elastic, you have a huge treasure trove of possible variations for crackling. Then add in changing how you use it such as going from stripes to wide swathes of it like in the beads above or applying bits as accents, borders or cut up in shapes to create specific imagery, moving from just using crackled clay in jewelry to using it on home decor or even sculpture … the possibilities are really endless.
This same process–figuring out the basic premise of a technique then pushing yourself to think beyond what you usually do–can be applied to any technique or approach. Try it out–play with crackling or any technique you are into. In the meantime, if you like Janice’s subtle crackle technique, she does sell a tutorial in her Etsy shop for it. That could be a fun way to start experimenting with variations on crackle!
Do you have an unusual way of working with crackling? Drop us a comment below (if you’re getting this by email, click on the post’s header and it will take you to the page where you can leave a comment–it won’t be share-able if you just respond to the email.) If you have photos up of your crackle work, leave us a link so we can go check it out. Seeing a wide variation can help us all expand our ideas about what to do with crackling!