Monday, May 2, 2016

DIY Polymer Clay Solar System Necklace

For this project, you will need a variety of polymer clay in small quantities of different colours or you can custom blend shades using a smaller variety of basic colours. The beads are made without using any special tools; however, you will need a needle and a toothpick (or similar) for making holes unless you want the fiddly and hazardous task of drilling after baking. The necklace shown was made using semi-soft beading wire, two small bead caps, chain, and a clasp and you will need basic beading tools such as pliers and wire-cutters; however, the beads can also simply be strung onto cord/string for a tool-free alternative.
  • Select your clay colour(s) and work a small quantity of each clay in your hands until conditioned to a soft and pliable state for working.  
  • For clearly marbled planets:  Roll a small thin cane of each colour. Twist the canes together. Fold the twisted cane into a loose ball, roll into a smooth cane, then roll into a smooth ball.  The marbling with blend while rolling. Take care not to overwork or the marbling will become muddy.
  • For clearly marbled planets with smaller variations: Roll and twist your smaller variation colours first, then combine with your more dominant shades using the same method as above. Example shown above.
  • For gently varied (muddy marbling for slight tonal variation) planets:  Work your clay as above; however, after reaching the loss ball stage, roll or "smush" your clay to blend (i.e. overwork the marbling) until it reaches the desired degree of combination, then roll into a smooth ball. 
  • Optional: Pop your balls into the fridge (or in a cool safe place) so that the clay firms up a little. This helps with handling when making bead holes.

  • Gently insert a thin sewing needle or straight-pin through the center of your bead. This is optional, but makes a pilot hole for the larger toothpick.
  • Make a small indentation at the entry/exit point. The flat side of the toothpick works nicely. This is optional, but help ensure a neatly finished entry/exit hole in the next step.
  • Gently insert a toothpick into the pilot hole through to the center of your bead, remove, and re-insert from the opposite side ensuring a clear straight hole through each bead.  
  • Optional: Brush lightly with mica powder or eyeshadow in coordinating colours for a slightly spacey shimmer on the finished beads.
  • Bake to manufacturer's directions for your chosen clay and cool completely before continuing to make your necklace.  If using a glaze (optional) apply prior to proceeding. My beads were not glazed for this project - I like the shimmer of the eye shadow as-is.
  • String onto a cord for a basic necklace or use beading wire (as shown) to string the solar system onto a chain necklace.  My necklace was strung (as shown in the final four images above) using a double-wrapped wire loops on a length of semi-soft silver beading wire, with bead caps at the start/end of the solar system for style, then attached to a simple silver chain with jump rings. 

You can mix in whatever colour combinations and methods your imagination and crating stash allow. A reference (like this handy Cornell website) for planet colours is great to have handy for colour selection and blending, and it is completely up to you whether you include Pluto. Size is discretionary and you can subtly scale your planets, but it helps the final look/style not to make size differences too significant. I have lots of clay, but not a lot of mica or makeup (aka eye shadow for shimmer) to play with.  My mixes used in the necklace shown above were as follow:
  • Mercury - A marbling of pewter grey with small quantities of chocolate brown and a touch of darker grey for subtle variation. Translucent shimmer.
  • Venus - A muddy marbling of pale yellow, with small quantities of cream and gold. Translucent shimmer.
  • Earth - A clear marbling of royal blue with white, a small quantity of pale blue, and a pre-blended cane of green, tan, and brown. Images shown above of making this bead. Translucent shimmer.
  • Mars - A muddy marbling of red, tan, and brown with a tiny touch of orange. Coppery brown shimmer.
  • Jupiter - A marbling of pale blue, cream, tan, and brown with touches of orange and red. Multiple small canes were used instead of per-colour canes to get a thorough marbling for lots of variation without becoming too muddy, and I poked a small hole in ball to insert a little glob of red for "the red spot".  Translucent shimmer.
  • Saturn - A muddy marbling of gold, cream, and a small quantity of pale blue. Translucent shimmer.
  • Uranus - A muddy marbling of aqua and pale blue. Translucent shimmer.
  • Neptune - A muddy marbling of royal and pale blue. Translucent shimmer.
  • Pluto - A muddy marbling of brown, tan, and pale brown. Brown shimmer.

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