So, a couple of weeks ago I tried out one of the alternative ways I'd brainstormed to do "Crackled Inlay". (The link takes you to the tutorial for the technique.) The results were... well, not quite what I'd expected.
The idea was to paint a thin sheet of translucent clay with alcohol ink, let the ink dry, apply metal leaf to the inked side of the clay, and cut shapes from this sheet to apply (leafed side down) to base beads.
I ran into two problems.
First problem-- The metal leaf didn't adhere as well to the inked clay as it does to uninked clay. (I'd wondered how this would work. Turns out the answer is "not so well"!) Now, there may be better ways to do this than what I tried. Maybe it sticks better if you adhere the metal leaf before the ink is dry. I doubt it-- it sounds kind of messy, actually-- but I suppose it's possible.
Second problem-- Once I got the metal leaf kinda-sorta on the inked clay and tried to cut shapes from the sheet (using a wavy blade, mostly), I saw that the metal leaf didn't cut as cleanly as I'd hoped. Meaning there were tiny bits of metal leaf sticking out from the sides of my shapes. (The leaf was tearing loose from the clay in places, so parts of it had no leaf and other parts had loose bits of leaf sticking out randomly.) Now, this did vary somewhat. I tried three colors of ink, so I had three inked sheets of clay. One sheet seemed to cut more neatly than the others. (Not sure what was going on there...)
I made one focal bead with "inlay" from the best sheet of inked and leafed clay. I think it turned out nicely. At least, it looked good enough that I gave it away as a gift before I had a chance to photograph it. But overall, this twist on the technique just didn't work for me. It was such a pain trying to get the leaf to adhere to the inked clay.
I hated to waste that metal leaf and translucent clay, so I came up with another idea to use my left-overs. I reconditioned each sheet of clay separately, breaking up the metal leaf and working the ink into the clay. Then I fed each sheet through the pasta machine and cut my shapes from them. (And applied the shapes to the base bead, etc., etc., according to the original technique.) This was much easier to cut into shapes! The results were a totally different look, too.
So far, I've only photographed one bead from that set, and I don't have the photo on this computer, so I can't upload it here, but if you're interested, just go to my Flickr page. Or better yet, here's a link to the exact photo. It's not the best photograph (and it seems to look worse on this monitor than on the one I normally use!), but it gives you an idea, at least. (For future reference, I used aluminum leaf, Premo Frost and Black, and two shades of Adirondack Alcohol Inks-- Lettuce and Stream-- for this bead.)
So. I was disappointed with the failure of my initial idea, but the lemons made a pretty decent glass of lemonade. ;o) And I have another idea for how to get the more traditional crackled look from the metal leaf. (It's one I've seen in others' work before. I thought my way might look better, honestly, but it turns out that "my" way doesn't really work, so... (g))
Instead of painting the surface of the translucent clay with ink and applying metal leaf to that, try this: Drop the ink onto the translucent clay (or paint it on, if you really must, but it's not necessary). Let the ink dry thoroughly. Mix the ink into the clay. You can either mix it completely or leave some marbling (streaking). And if you don't have alcohol ink, you can also use a tiny pinch of colored clay... or possibly a little acrylic paint-- just don't over-do it, as you want lightly tinted translucent clay. Roll the clay through the pasta machine (or by hand, into a thin, uniform sheet). Apply the metal leaf. Turn the sheet with the metal leaf down and cut your shapes from the sheet.
Now, I haven't tried this yet. It may turn out that it gives you the same problem with the leaf wanting to tear when you cut your shapes, but I think the problem I had was due to the fact that the leaf never really adhered to the inked clay the way I had hoped it would. If you do have problems with tearing, you might try cutting out your shapes with a very sharp craft knife (rather than duller shape cutters and such).
I'm looking forward to trying this new twist on the technique and seeing how it works... :o)