Welcome to our B.O.C. blog. Learn about the world of handcrafted ceramic beads, buttons, pendants & components from our talented and knowledgeable Artisans.
Mille fiori rods joined together in a pattern.
Inlaid porcelain slab sheeted for rolling
Though I know we are in the dead middle of winter, summer and all of its trappings need to be on our minds right now as it is time for spring and summer inventory to be in the works. This is especially true of supplies like buttons and beads that might be needed by other artisans to put together their summer lines. So, long story short, I've been working on next summer's inventory by starting with a group of buttons in summer pastels and resort/botanical themes. Since I've been talking a lot about using colored clays to reduce production time on beads and buttons, I would like to continue with some tips to make actually constructing with colored clays faster and easier.
The wonderful thing about colored clays from a bead and button artists standpoint is the amount of detail that can be quickly and easily designed into a very small object. I use three methods to do this: colored clay inlay, marbling and mille fiori.
Marbled colored porcelain tiny oval buttons.

Marbled turquoise and yellow porcelain pendant
When I inlay clay I usually start with a colored slab and drop coils, balls or other shapes of contrasting colored clays on the slab and then roll the clay into the slab to adhere it. First I roll the base slab out on a very clean canvas surface. Then to keep the rolling pin from smearing or smudging the colored clay surface once I have dropped my inlays on there, I place a clean piece of old sheeting on top and then roll on top of the sheeting with the rolling pin. The resulting slab is solid and the design crisp and clean. I can then cut my buttons or pendants out of the slab.
Another way to inlay clay is called mishima and is an oriental technique where a design is scratched or carved into the surface of leather hard clay, contrasting colored clay is pushed into the carvings and later when everything is leather hard or harder the excess is scraped away to reveal the carving filled with colored clays beneath. This technique produces very delicate designs with a high degree of detail but it is also more laborious than the first method.
Inlaid pastel porcelain buttons.
Inlaid colored porcelain pendant with natural holes.
The second method, marbling is very simple. Take two or three contrasting colored clays, slap them together and then begin several wedging turns to start the clay to mixing. Don't wedge for more than a few turns or you will intermingle your colored clays too much and lose the definition of your marbling pattern. If the exterior of your wedged clay looks a little muddy cut the ball down the middle, join the two halves, place a clean piece of sheeting on top, roll out with a rolling pin and voila', a clean marbled slab should emerge once you peel back the sheeting.
Last but not least is the mille fiori technique which is actually a glass bead making term borrowed from the Italians. Mille fiori means a thousand flowers. Various shaped rods and slabs of colored clays are built up and rolled into a log. When a cross section of the log is cut out the design that was being built up from the various long rods and slabs of clay becomes evident. When adhering your slabs and rods together you may find that they have dried out quite a bit during their formation. So I use a bit of clear vinegar in place of slip brushed on between the joins to help it all stick together. The vinegar will not leave an annoying line of color the way that slip of any color will. Though one might be able to play with that tendency of slip to leave fine lines to add to the detailing of ones design.

Mille fiori technique with slabs rather than rods of colored clays.
This is a finished button from a patterned log.

As usual I will be uploading a more complete picture record with descriptions to my facebook page in album form called "Some Colored Clay Techniques". The pictures uploaded here are of a few of the steps in the process plus finished examples of inlaying, marbling and mille fiori techniques. More information about all of the button finished pieces may be found in my Etsy shop, Porcelain Jazz. I'm still playing with the pendants.
Hope this helps, ........Cecily

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Cecily for the post, very informative. I like the oval pendant above, very cute!

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