Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Polymer Clay Tutorial: Striped Filigree Christmas Bulb

It's time for a holiday tutorial!  This one is a really simple project that can be quite striking.  This one is in candy cane colors but you could add green to the red and white or use any other Christmas color combination you want. 

I've also included some information in this tute about using an extruder.  I use mine a lot and I've mentioned it in a few of my other tutorials so I thought it was about time I showed you some of the hints and tips I've learned.  Hey, let's start with my extruder pusher!

So this is what it looks like.  There are two 18-inch 2x4 boards.  Drill a hole in the top one with a bit a little bigger than the barrel of your clay gun.

Attach the two boards together with a big hinge.  (My clay pusher is covered with white duct tape 'cause I was too lazy to sand and paint it but I didn't want slivers.)  You can kind of see the shape of the hinge under the duct tape.

Close the boards and stick the drill through the hole in the top board to make an indentation in the same spot on the bottom board.  This is to keep the plunger from slipping.  You don't want it more than 1/4 inch deep or so.
To use it, you just load the extruder with clay (more about that below), stick the plunger in, stick the head of the clay gun through the top hole, rest the end of the plunger in the bottom hole, and push the boards together to get the clay through the hole.  (This photo shows the plunger not quite lined up with the barrel of the clay gun.  You don't want that.  I made sure everything was straight before I pushed the clay through.  It helps if you only load the clay gun 3/4 full or less.)

Now you know how to use an extruder! :)

Okay, so on to the real tutorial...

Striped Filigree Christmas Bulb

Supplies Needed:
about 1 oz red clay, well-conditioned
about 1 oz white clay, well-conditioned
waxed paper
1 3-4 inch glass Christmas ball ornament
ribbon bow and glue

Tools Needed:
extruder with medium round hole disk and optional pusher
tissue blade

Make sure your clay is good and soft so that it will be easier to extrude.  Roll each of the colors into logs small enough to fit in the extruder and about 3/4 the length.  (I needed about 2 1/2 barrels full.)

Cut both logs in half lenthwise...

...and switch them so you have two logs that are half red and half white.

Wrap each log in waxed paper, leaving about 1/4 inch of the log hanging out the end.

Close up the other end of the paper.  This is to keep your extruder clean.  The paper will kind of scrunch up in there and leave no clay in the barrel.  Wonderful!

Extrude your clay.

Take the plunger out of the extruder before you take the end off.  Toss the paper, unscrew the other end of the extruder and clean it out.  Now you're ready for the next load.

Twist one of your extruded strings on the work surface to give it stripes.

Trim the end of the string and start rolling it into a coil.

When you've gone around a couple of times, press it onto the bottom of the glass bulb.  You should be able to see a mark on the bottom of the bulb.  This should be the center.  If you have trouble getting the clay to stick to the bulb, you can brush a thin layer of liquid clay on there or rub it with one of those glue sticks that kids use for paper and stuff.  This will give the clay something to grab onto. 

Keep wrapping the string around in circles, twisting as you go.  Cover half of the bulb and trim the end neatly.  This was one entire string for me so it fit perfectly.

It's easier to handle the bulb if you don't have raw clay covering the whole thing so at this point you need to bake it.  I like to hang it on a bamboo skewer and rest the skewer on a glass candle holder with the bulb hanging inside.  Bake at 265F for 30 minutes.

When it is cool,  pull the cap off.

Get another string and cut the end straight.  Lay it on the bulb flush with the end of the other string.

Keep wrapping and twisting.  If you run out of string, start another one.

Hopefully, your strings will get to the top at the same time.  If you have a bigger gap on one side than another, you may have to tweak a little.  The last strand should go about halfway up the neck of the bulb.  Trim the end at an angle so it lays even with the rest of the strand.

Carefully put the cap back on.  Hang it up and bake it for another 30 minutes.

Add a bow and hook and you are done!

The kids are looking forward to making some of these this week!


1 comment:

  1. I have never commented on a blog before, but I just had to tell you how absolutely BRILLIANT your extruder helper idea is! I also wanted to thank you for sharing your PC techniques as I am new to PC, and your tutorials are so helpful.
    Take Care,