Table of Contents
- Page 1: Materials and Making the Clay Base
- Page 2: Coloring the Pendant with Mica Powder
- Page 3: Adding a Frame to your Pendant
- Page 4: Making and Gluing your Bail, About Sealers, Inspiration and Variations
Leaves are falling from the trees and I wanted to make a project with their wonderful shapes so I created this free polymer clay tutorial. I will show you how to use the unique properties of mica powders to create a pendant with a striking graphic leaf design and beautiful glowing metallic colors.
First let me tell you that this isn’t my original technique. I first learned how to use leaves, mica powders, and polymer clay from a simple tutorial on Polymer Clay Central many, many years ago. I use the same basic premise as the original author, Mike Buesseler, but I go into more detail to help you avoid some of the pitfalls and give you finishing tips to help you to make a stunning pendant.
The idea behind this technique stems from the fact that mica powder instantly sticks to raw polymer clay. But it doesn’t come off. And you can’t add more mica once the clay has a layer of it. So that means you can use one color of mica and sprinkling a second color of mica over the same area won’t result in both colors. It will hold onto the first color.
This techniques use leaves to create the effect of both a stencil and a mask so that you can create sharp outlines with the mica powder.
Okay, let’s get started.
- Premo polymer clay, in black (you can use any brand or color)
- Coarse sandpaper, I used 60 grit
- Scraps of plain copy paper, larger than your pendant will be
- Acrylic rod or small rolling pin
- Leaves (see below for recommendations)
- An old toothbrush with a flat head, optional
- Mica powder in your desired colors, at least two
- Small paintbrushes for the mica powder
- Cutter in desired shape, optional
- Extruder with small slot die
- Knitting needle or similar smooth metal rod
- Piece of coat hanger, around 5″ (15cm) long (optional, for making bail)
- Glue-on pendant bail (optional, depends on your bail choice)
- Steel wool, a small piece for cleaning the pendant
- Sealer, your choice, (PYM II works wonderfully)
Choosing the Thickness of your Pendant
Because we will be wrapping the finished pendant with an extruded strip of clay, we want the thickness of the pendant to match the width of the extruded strip. In my case, that’s wider than the thickest setting on my pasta machine. So my solution is to use two sheets stacked on top of one another. But what thickness should those sheets be? All pasta machines are different, so take a moment to see what thickness that two sheets will need to be to match the slot on the extruder die. In my case it worked out that I should use a #2 sheet and a #3 sheet, stacked. Yours will likely be different.
What Kind of Leaves?
When choosing leaves for this technique, it works really well to pick ones that have great texture on their undersides. Make sure the leaves aren’t too juicy or too dry and crumbly. Fuzzy leaves aren’t so good either. Small delicate leaves with interesting outlines work well. Check out the weeds in your lawn for interesting shapes. Try using blades of grass. Is there ivy growing on your house? What about houseplants? Or maybe you could use something from the produce department of the supermarket like celery, carrot tops, cilantro, or parsley? Sometimes flowers can be used if they’re not too delicate. Start looking around and you’ll be amazed at what you see.
I’ve illustrated this tutorial with black polymer clay, but you can use other colors. Pearl colored polymer clay works nicely. But to be sure that your chosen mica colors will look good on your clay and also look good together, do a little test by brushing various mica colors onto a scrap sheet of your chosen clay color. It’s better to do a test first than to be disappointed after you’ve created a pendant.
Making the Clay Base
- Condition your clay and make two sheets, each a bit larger than you want your finished pendant to be. As explained above, I rolled out a sheet to a #2 and another to a #3 on my pasta machine. Yours may be different.
- Stack the sheets of clay, making sure you don’t leave bubbles between the layers. Place this sheet on a scrap sheet of copy paper.Tip: I use plain copy paper a lot in my work. It keeps clay from sticking to the work surface. It also keeps the clay from getting a shiny spot during baking. It’s just a good all-around, disposable surface. I also find that I have a steady supply of it by cutting up the paper from the recycling bin. Be careful to avoid areas with printing on them. The ink will transfer to the clay!
- Place sandpaper over the doubled sheet of clay.
- Use an acrylic rod or rolling pin in a back and forth motion (not rolling) to press firmly on the surface of the clay. You want to create an even, deep texture but you don’t want to make the clay any thinner.
- Remove sandpaper from the sheet of clay. Set the sheet down on the table, with the copy paper side down.
- Use the blade to cut your sheet of clay to the approximate size you want for your pendant. Put the excess clay aside with the rest of your clean clay. (This clay does not have mica powder on it.)
- Peel the copy paper from the clay sheet and set it onto the sandpaper, textured side down. Set the copy paper aside for now.
- Choose one or more leaves and arrange them face up in a pleasing pattern on the sheet of clay. Press lightly with your fingers to flatten the leaf or leaves into the clay.
- Cover the leaf and clay with the copy paper. Rub back and forth with the acrylic rod or rolling pin. Again, you are just trying to embed the leaf into the clay but not make the clay sheet any thinner. Note that your clay sheet should be sitting on the sandpaper. If you don’t do this, the pressure from smoothing the leaf down will flatten the texture on the back of your clay sheet.
- Remove the copy paper and set down on the table. Peel the sandpaper off the back of the clay sheet, set it aside. Lay the clay sheet, leaf side up, onto the sheet of copy paper. Carefully check to see that all the edges of the leaf are firmly stuck to the sheet of clay if not, carefully press them back down with your fingers.
- (Optional Step) If you want the background of your pendant to be textured, use the flat face of an old toothbrush to lightly texture the clay surrounding the leaf. Make sure you don’t push down on the leaf with the toothbrush, though, because you only want the leaf’s texture in that area, not the texture from the toothbrush.
Did you know…
…that I have written more polymer clay tutorials? Have a look at these: