About Polymer Clay and Lareware

    Polymer clay is a non-toxic modeling compound available in many different colours and is fired or "cured" in a home oven at 250-275 degrees. This clay has been around since the 1930's but is recently gaining popularity as a new exciting art medium. There are different brand names such as Sculpey, Premo and Fimo. At the moment I am primarily using premo. It is strong and durable, with a good selection of colours and some metallics. With the gold and silver clay you can achieve incredible effects by aligning the mica particles to reflect light.

    This clay is particularly well-suited to millefiori canework. This technique derives from the ancient Italian method of making glass beads with intricate designs such as flowers or faces. A pattern is built into a "cane" and runs through the centre.  (for example some candies are made this way, and the simple spiral cane resembles a jellyroll or cinnamon bun) These canes can be reduced and sliced to make beads or micro-thin slices can be applied to balls of clay to create "appliqued" beads.

    I make all my canes and beads and continually come up with new designs. I will work with the clay for a week or so and make different sets of beads that I later incorporate into jewellery. From one cane I only make a limited number of beads, usually enough for a necklace, bracelet and earrings.

    Polymer clay does not change in the oven after curing. Although I have noticed a very slight darkening of hue in some colours and a miniscule amount of shrinkage, that appears around the edges of some flatwork. You would not notice on a bead. The clay can be sanded and polished with a buffing machine, but the natural oils in your skin do a good job as well. It does not however react well to bug spray - nothing does, except bugs!

    Most of my clasps and findings are sterling silver or copper, the latter of which I make by hand. The others are nickel. The earring hooks are sterling silver (silver coloured ones) or surgical steel (black coloured ones). The ball and posts are sterling silver and the studs are sterling silver or titanium (larger studs). Titanium is totally nickel free, where as some silver may contain trace nickel, which is often what people react to.)

    I have been experimenting a lot with this medium and expanding from making beads and jewellery to flatwork including landscapes and what I refer to as "quilt-work" using canes to create an intricate pattern that reminds me of a quilt. Recently I have been forming some small vessels using the technique previously mentioned - mica shift or mica aligning. With only one colour of clay, for example gold, you can create a shiny gold and a matte gold. When you move the piece the highlights change within the clay. Again sanding and buffing bring out the reflection even more. Another technique, mokume gane, a traditional Japanese metal working skill is extremely adaptable to polymer clay and I have been using this as a decorative addition to the vessels. The method involves stacking thin layers of clay, punching the surface and slicing it off to reveal a pattern of circles suggesting wood grain.

    There is never a dull day in my studio when polymer clay is involved, and I am continuing to discover how much more it has to teach me.