Friday, December 17, 2010

Make Polymer Clay Beads With a Flower Pattern

Making polymer beads with flowers is really easy, and between caning and sculpture the options are limitless as to what can be done with them. When most people think of flower beads, the first thing that comes to mind are beads done with a basic five-petal bull's-eye flower cane. This cane takes only three or four colors for the most basic manifestation of it and takes very little time. First, roll your main flower color into an even log. Cut that log into five pieces, then arrange around a like-sized log that is your center color (generally yellow, or a darker shade of the main color). Place wedges of a contrasting color around the arranged logs until the whole thing is roughly cylindrical, then encase the entire thing except the ends in a layer of the contrasting color.
To reduce the log you've just made, let it rest for several hours to let the clay stiffen. Many artists prefer to let it rest overnight or place it in a refrigerator for several hours to make sure all the elements of the cane have set up. Now it's time to reduce. Do not roll the log on a flat surface to reduce it as this will cause the pattern to distort. Instead, gently squeeze the log all the way around and along its length, evenly reducing the diameter and lengthening it. As the ends bulge outward, push the center back in with your thumbs while "pulling up" on the sides with your other fingers. When the log is reduced to the desired size, cut off the ends until both ends show a clear, undistorted picture. The cane is now complete, and can be cut into disk beads or thin slices can be rolled over a plain clay core for any shape of bead imaginable. Bake according to the directions on the clay package.
So there are the instructions for a very basic flower pattern. Some people choose to dress it up a little by covering each flower "petal" segment with a sheet of complimentary color to set off the flowers. Skinner blends are very popular and involve creating a blend that fades from one color to another as it goes toward the center of the log. The easiest way to make this blend is to cut two identical right triangles of clay, one of each color being used (the most common is white with a bold color), place the clay so that the two together form a rectangle, with the 90 degree angles arranged diagonally opposite each other. Fold the clay, then roll it out with either a rolling cylinder or a pasta machine. Continue folding in the same direction and rolling it out until the lines between the colors blend. You should have a sheet of clay that is one of the original colors on each end and gradually changes color over the length of the sheet. This can then be rolled into a log and used for any element of the cane.
Roses are a very popular cane as well, and nearly as easy to make. Once you've managed a skinner blend, a basic rose can be created using several narrow sheets of clay in graduated shades that are layered offset to each other and then rolled, creating the spiral petals of a rose. Veins can be created in individual petals by layering the clay and reducing, making a more realistic-looking flower. Petal shapes are all governed by the shape of the logs used for each individual element and are easy to manipulate to fit into each type of flower.
Leaves are used with most flower canes. In order to make a basic leaf, create a skinner blend using two colors of green (or preferred leaf color). Roll into a log, then cut the log into however many lengthwise sections you desire. Generally, four or five cuts are made. Place an even layer of the color desired for the veins (generally a darker shade of green or a shade of brown) in between each section. Put the sections back together in the order they were cut. Next, make a single cut lengthwise at an angle to the vein layers, halving the cane. Turn one half of the cane around so that the veins on both halves are pointing upward. Place an even sheet of clay between the two halves that is the color you want for the center "stem" vein. Pinch the top of the log to a point, using the center vein as a guide to keep it straight. You should now have a leaf-shaped cane which can be used as an element in your flower canes.
It is important to remember that ANY kind of flower is possible with caning. The only thing you need to remember is that the end of the logs is what makes your picture and that round or square logs are the easiest to reduce without distorting the pattern. Remembering this, you can find simple pictures of any flower and create logs for each individual element in the flower and recreate the flower in clay. Reducing the clay is often the most difficult skill to master, but once you have it down you can make any size of cane that is as complex as you wish.
Sculpted flowers are also very popular for making into beads or button covers and are done on a similar principal, except that now each element becomes a 3-D piece instead of a log. A sculpted rose can be made with four or more small disks of clay layered together and then rolled, cut the roll down the center to form two rose pieces. Carefully pull the clay on the "petal" side outward to create a simple rose. Attention must be given when making sculpted pieces for beads because some types of clay break easily or do not hold up to wear and tear, or some smaller elements can be broken off.
Polymer clay is a really exciting medium that knows no restrictions as to colors, textures and techniques you can use to create one-of-a-kind pieces or special low-cost elements for mixed-media projects. Play around with pearl powders, embossing powder, inclusions and more to make really unique pieces out of these basic canes or sculpted flower.

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