Oh, I do love a Skinner blend. A clay sheet with a smooth graduation from one color to the next is pure bliss! Years ago, Judith (Skinner) showed the classic triangular Skinner blend setup to friends at a retreat, and a revolution began. Most of us learn this simple arrangement of neatly placed triangles (demonstrated here by Desiree McCrorey) when we first begin working with polymer clay. But it’s not the only way to do a graduated blend, of course. Cindy Leitz has a teardrop blend, for example. But I have a super easy method that I’m going to call a “Dump Blend”. It won’t work for creating precise blends for complex caning. But it’s a great way to create multicolored blends without having to think or get confused about which way the triangle goes.
Are you familiar with a dump cake? It’s a dessert that’s made from cans and boxes of pantry treats dumped all together and poured into a pan. You’re never quite sure what’s going to come out, but it’s always yummy. Dump blends are the same way. Here’s one made from scraps that were sitting on my tabletop (pieces from recent articles and projects).
Now arrange the blobs in a row, putting colors next to each other that will blend nicely without turning (too) murky. Remember your color theory and avoid mixing colors that are opposite from each other on the color wheel. For example, the purple and the yellow would not make good neighbors. (Unless, of course, that’s what you’re aiming for.)
Now pinch the ends of each blob and overlap them a bit. This will allow for a more gradual shift from one color to the next.
Now stuff them into the pasta machine and start blending as usual. It will be pretty uneven at first, and you’ll probably have to compress some areas of the sheet. In this case, the sunset pearl end needed to be smooshed toward the center. But you can see where this is going.
Also, no, I didn’t condition them first. Making the blend will condition them just fine as we go. And yes, that means some of the colors might be chunky or broken at first. Don’t worry. Just keep going. It’ll all even itself out with enough passes through the pasta machine.
Just keep going, and pretty soon you have a dandy-looking blend. This is Ginger’s easy dump blend! See…I wasn’t kidding. Easy!
Fixing a Stripey Dump Blend
Sometimes your blended sheet comes out with obvious stripes instead of nice smooth blends from color to color. Sometimes this is due to the way the colors are set up, and sometimes it’s because of the properties of the pigment in the colors you used. (Some colors are stronger than others, making uneven gradations.) Here’s how to fix it. Let’s take the blend from above. Now, what if you want it to be more gradual, like a sunset?
Just fold the sheet as usual, like you’re going to run it through the pasta machine for another pass. But this time, don’t line the colors up. Shift the top sheet over a bit, so the colors overlap a bit. See, normally you line up the colors right on top of each other to get clean separation between colors (see here). But if you want to blur it, shift it!
It seems subtle, like it’s not enough to matter, but it is. You only have to shift the colors like this one time. After this, make the sides line up the best you can, making the colors lay on top of each other. Keep folding and doing another pasta machine pass. Here’s what it looks like after a few passes. Notice how the colors have blended quite a bit, even though we only shifted it once.
Keep going, and by the time the layers are all blended, you’ll have a smooth sheet with a much more gradual color shift from one color to the next.
Changing Colors of a Dump Blend
What if you get your blend made and you realize it would be even more perfect with another color added? Add it. Sure, why not? You can do it in several ways. You could slice open the sheet at a certain point (vertically) and add another sheet in there. But then you’ll get stripes where the boundary is. So here’s how I prefer to do it.
See the sheet we just made, above? I like that blue area there (big surprise…I like blue). So how can I make it bigger? Just add a blob of the desired color, making sure to taper the ends like we did above. In this case, I wanted light blue, but I just added white and some blue instead. I knew it would mix as we went along.
I just folded the sheet upward, started blending, and soon it started to take shape. Of course, since there is more mass of clay where I’ve added some, the sheet bulged out at the top. I could have cut it off, but I just keep blending and soon the sheet arranged itself evenly. I did have to keep compressing (smooshing) the width as I went, however. Sheets always expand width-wise when making blends, so you always have to do that. Fold, smoosh-smoosh, then roll.
Soon it came into line, and the final color revealed itself. Nifty! Now keep in mind that you can keep doing this, adding colors to certain areas. You can ALSO remove areas. Let’s say you felt there was too much red. Cut it out! If you make your slice slightly diagonal, you can remove a strip and not have stripes. Here’s the finished sheet.
What did you think? Worth trying? Then please share this post so that others can learn these fun tricks. Long live the dump blend!