Monday, March 31, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Uses for Acrylic Paint

The other day, pulling out the supplies to crackle some paint, I realized that I hadn't devoted a Ten on Tuesday to acrylics. Time to remedy that, because these fast-drying paints have so many uses in a variety of polymer clay techniques! Better yet, you can find them in any arts and crafts store at a wide range of price points. They're so abundant that there's a good chance you have some in your arts and crafts supply arsenal even if you're brand new to polymer clay.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Use Acrylic Paint with Polymer Clay

1. Antiquing
To "antique" something-- whether it's made of polymer clay, wood, or another material-- is to give it an appearance of greater age. This is usually accomplished with a little paint.

Antiquing is most effective with a textured piece. Start with a cured and cooled piece of clay. Apply paint straight from the bottle/tube, covering the entire piece. (Use a color that contrasts with the color of the clay. Dark brown and white are common choices, but you can use any color you like.) Before the paint has had a chance to dry, wipe away most of it with a soft rag. (Try to find a clean, lint-free rag. Otherwise, the lint or dust from the rag can make a mess of things.) The idea is to remove the majority of the paint from the piece, leaving it only in the recesses. Grooves, nooks, and crannies should catch the paint, much as small amounts of dirt and oil remain in the hard-to-reach spots on true antiques.

Play around with it until you're happy with the results. You can continue adding and removing paint until you're satisfied. You can remove stubborn paint with a slightly dampened rag or even a light sanding. (I find a little alcohol is helpful, if water's not doing the trick.)

2. Highlighting
Highlighting is essentially the opposite of antiquing. Instead of trying to leave paint only in the nooks and crannies of a textured piece, you're trying to apply it to only the raised, uppermost portions of a design. This is commonly done with mica powders to emphasize a design, but the technique can also be used with acrylic paints.

Highlighting is not difficult. The most challenging aspect of the technique is patience. Experiment to find whether you have better luck using a paintbrush (perhaps a stenciling brush?) or a fingertip to lightly dab paint (in any color or combination of colors) onto clay (raw or cured). Try not to overload the brush/fingertip with paint, as this can lead to paint seeping down into the crevices. Just take it a bit at a time, tap-tap-tapping (and reloading as needed) until you're done. You can highlight as much or as little of the pattern as you like and can apply as few or as many layers (in different colors, maybe?) as you like.

3. Washing/Glazing
It seems that the terms "wash" and "glaze" are often used interchangeably. I tend to think of them as slightly different things. The main difference (in my mind) is that a wash is matte (almost chalky, even), while a glaze is glossy. However you think of them, here are two related uses for acrylics:

A wash is paint that has been thinned down using either water or an acrylic medium. (Using water to thin the paint can cause the wash to bead up on cured polymer clay. This makes it difficult to use, so some advise against adding water to acrylics. Feel free to experiment to find what works best for you.) Adjust the ratio to get your desired consistency. Use a wash to achieve a matte, translucent layer of color. You can apply multiple washes to build up layers of color to achieve just the right opacity. Let each wash dry thoroughly before applying the next.

You can create a glaze with acrylic paint by mixing a few drops into a little Varathane, Future, or a product made specifically for creating acrylic glazes. The resultant mixture will create a translucent layer of color that will dry with a shine. This type of glaze can be used to cover an entire piece or as part of an antiquing process. Multiple layers are always a possibility. Just give plenty of time for drying between coats.

4. General and Detailing
General painting on polymer clay-- that is, using a piece of polymer clay as an canvas or painting every inch of a piece with opaque paint-- is largely overlooked, but it is certainly possible. You can start with raw or cured polymer clay. (I'd suggest curing it prior to painting, in this instance.) Paint just as you would any other surface, allowing ample drying time between coats. If desired, you can pop a cured piece back into the oven to harden the paint.

Detailing refers to painting the small details in a piece, such as the eyes, lips, and cheeks of a face. A tiny brush and a steady hand are your best aids in detail painting. If you make a mistake, you can quickly remove the paint with a damp cloth. Take your time, and don't forget that you can apply multiple layers to achieve darker or richer colors. A few thin layers (with "dry-time" between each) is better than one globby, thick layer.

5. Tinting Solid Clay
Because polymer clay comes in such a variety of colors and can be easily mixed to produce nearly any color imaginable, there's not really a need to tint it with paint. However, there are some of us who like to try things whether they're necessary or not. ;o)

There are mixed reports on how well acrylic paint works for tinting polymer clay. If there's too much paint in the mix, it can lead to plaquing or maybe even bubbling. For faux effects-- particularly imitations of stone-- a little plaquing doesn't hurt. In fact, some people try to induce plaquing! General knowledge is that you shouldn't use too great a ratio of paint to clay, but I say it can't hurt to experiment. I suggest letting the paint dry on the clay before kneading it in. This should make less of a mess. Oh, and for the greatest bang for your buck, try tinting translucent clay. You can mix paint into opaque clay, too, but obviously it won't have as much impact as with translucent.

6. Dry Brushing
This is another of those techniques that work best on a textured piece.

To dry brush a piece, pick up a little paint on a stiff, flat brush, remove most of the paint by brushing the bristles over a paper towel, then lightly brush the piece, leaving just a hint of color on the raised portions of the design. You can go over a piece several times until you get the desired finish. Consider using different colors in separate applications.

7. Brocade, Faux Gold Leaf, and Faux Silkscreening
Donna Kato's most recently published book, The Art of Polymer Clay: Creative Surface Effects, demonstrates some lovely techniques involving acrylic paint-- faux gold leaf, Silkscreen effect, brocade effect, and pattern overprinting.

Even if you don't own the book and can't get your hands on a copy, you can still enjoy this tutorial based on one of her appearances on The Carol Duvall Show: Polymer Clay Painted Pendant (featuring the brocade effect).

8. Faux Stone
Several faux stone recipes call for acrylic paint. Of course many faux stones are finished with an antiquing of dark brown-- to give then that ancient look-- but in addition to that, black, brown and white paint in particular are used in techniques that replicate the layered or banded effect found in so many natural materials. Agate, turquoise, marble, and onyx are a handful of faux stones that use acrylic paint, for instance. (Check out this older blog post for links to some related tutorials.)

9. Mokume Gane
(I love this technique, and I've written about it on more than one occasion.)

Acrylic paint can be used in mokume gane with beautiful results. Metallic or iridescent paints are more commonly used than regular ones, but anything is possible. Paint is most commonly used in mokume gane slabs made of translucent clay, as this allows the paint to be seen to the best advantage-- but again, feel free to experiment. Simply roll and cut your clay to the desired dimensions, paint, and let dry. Stack the painted clay and proceed as usual for mokume gane. You can make your mg with several layers of the same color of paint, a variety of colors, or in combination with other materials (metal leaf, for instance).

10. Crackling (or Crazing)
This is another technique that I've loved since the first time I saw it.

This is a simple technique that yields beautiful veneers of clay that can be used in any number of ways. It's helpful to have a pasta machine, but an acrylic rod will do in a pinch.

Start with a uniform sheet of clay in any color. Black is a common choice, but don't be afraid to try something different. Skinner blends can create striking results, too. (Here's a little tip: Don't make this sheet of clay too thin. You'll be thinning it more later on.)

Paint the sheet of clay with your acrylic paint. Metallic or iridescent paint is generally used for crackling, but regular paint will also work. You can use one color over the whole sheet or combine a number of colors in stripes, dots, or random squiggles. Combining different brands of paint can make an interesting crackled sheet, as each brand crackles in a slightly different way. You can cover as much or as little of the sheet as you like. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly. (Trying to crackle before the paint has dried will only make a mess.)

Adjust the pasta machine to a thinner setting and feed the decorated sheet through. The paint should crackle in one direction. To crackle it in the other direction, too, turn the sheet, adjust the pasta machine down to an even thinner setting, and feed the clay through once more.

You can also create a crackled effect on polymer clay by using special products designed to create crazing in the paint on any object. You'll need a crackling medium (sometimes in one bottle, sometimes two formulas kept separated in a pair of bottles). These products create crackling through a chemical process instead of a physical process (such as the physical stretching of painted clay, as described above).

Things to consider:
  • These techniques work just as well with metallic acrylics as with regular acrylics.
  • Some paints' colors can bleed into the surrounding cured clay, over time. This seems to be a problem particularly with red. Some people report success with sealing the clay before applying paint. Others say that this hasn't helped. It probably varies with the brands of paint and sealant.
  • Brands differ. Even colors within brands can vary, from one to the next, as to which ones crackle best, will/won't bleed into cured clay, etc. Experimentation is often the only way to find what will and won't work. I think I've had different results with the same bottle of paint on different occasions-- probably related to the time of year and humidity.
  • Some suggest that you cure painted clay to harden the paint. Some also suggest sealing. What's necessary will depend on what you're going to do with the finished piece. I've put a clay button with unsealed crackled paint through the washer and dryer a few times with no adverse effects (so far), but who's to say it won't come peeling off eventually? Use your own judgment. :o)
  • There are different opinions as to how different qualities of paint-- craft vs. artist quality-- perform for various tasks. Some prefer one brand, others another. The best solution seems to be to experiment until you find what works best for you.
Here are a couple of useful links:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Polymer Clay Buttons

Button, button, who's got the button? ;o)
Remember playing that children's game?

I have a few family members who are interested in polymer clay. They're already involved in quilt-making, and they're particularly focused on using polymer clay to make buttons to use as embellishments on their upcoming quilts.

Until the last week or two, I hadn't really made buttons before (except for a couple to use in jewelry), but I decided to look into the possibilities, since I may host a "clay day", sometime soon. To start myself off, I did a little research on the subject of polymer clay buttons. Here's some of what I found online:

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Links Relating to Polymer Clay Buttons

1. Sarajane Helm's page on polymer clay buttons
She's tested buttons made of Fimo Classic and Premo. Both held up well to washing (with detergent and warm water) and drying. (She even links to photos of the tested buttons, if you want to see the proof for yourself. (g)) One thing I noticed in the photos of the Fimo tests is that the mica powders seemed to have worn off after washing, even thought she finished them with Varathane. . . One other thing to note-- her buttons have acrylic shanks, but if you use a strong brand of clay, you should be able to make buttons with holes, too.

2. Layl McDill's Silly Milly Polymer Clay Buttons
She mentions (as I think I've heard before) that though pc buttons are "washable and durable", they may not be compatible with dry cleaning chemicals, so you should tell your dry cleaner about them beforehand, to be on the safe side. (Other resources simply state that dry cleaning is a no-no. . .)

3. Polymer Clay Button Tutorial from Crafty Daisies
This is a little video tutorial for making simple, chunky buttons. Personally, I probably wouldn't use Fimo Soft. From what I've heard and read, it's not the strongest brand of clay. (Fimo Classic, Premo, or Kato are all supposed to be stronger.) However, they might be fine if they aren't going to be under a lot of stress.

4. CandyFimoWebTR's polymer clay button video tutorial
Another video tutorial using Fimo (not sure if it's Soft or Classic) to make buttons. This tutorial uses cookie cutters to make some of the basic shapes.

5. CraftyGoat's (Angela's) blog post/video tutorial on button-making
Covers not only making button holes or adding a shank using a jump ring (a very common jewelry finding), but also making a mold from an existing button using Amazing Mold Putty.

6. GlassAttic page on buttons
The good old stand-by. ;o) Here are a few tips I found on this page:
  • For added strength, bake buttons longer than the minimum time recommended. (I do this for most stuff, actually, unless I'm really concerned about darkening. Of course, I also tent everything with aluminum foil to prevent darkening. . .) This means baking for at least 30 minutes no matter the thin they are. (I usually bump it up to 45 minutes minimum. As long as you're monitoring the temperature, it shouldn't burn even if you bake it for hours.)
  • To create a raised rim (or an impression in the center, depending on how you look at it), just press something smaller than the diameter of the button into the middle of the button. (As I read in a book recently, this can also help protect the thread, since it will sit lower inside the button and won't be rubbed against as much.)
  • Make your own shank with a "U"-shaped wire.
  • You can use a tiny round cutter (even something as simple as a drinking straw) for cutting holes, if you don't want to "poke" holes with a needle tool. (Poking may cause some distortion in the button. It's mostly a matter of preference.)
  • Holes can also be drilled after baking. (Use a hand drill or even just a small drill bit.)
  • "Some one suggested using two holes, angled inward toward each other (rather than straight up and down) to decrease the stress on the clay between the holes.... mostly important if the buttons will actually be used as buttons (rather than being decorative)" (Would that really make much difference? It might be worth a try if you're planning on using the buttons in a higher-stress application.)
  • Washing and drying (even under high heat) should be ok-- just don't dry clean. (Of course, to be on the safe side, it's best to test one or two before committing to a larger project. Sew the button to a rag or something, then toss it in with your regular washing. After it's been washed and dried a few times, you should be able to see how well it'll hold up.)
  • Buttons may even become a little polished with repeated washing and drying.
  • One person reports that buttons antiqued with acrylic paint hold up to washing.
  • Sarajane Helm notes that metallic and mica powders, even if sealed with Varathane, tend to wash off. But if you make a glaze/stain of paint or Pearl-ex mixed with Varathane, they hold up better. (Must be something to do with the layer of powder preventing a good "connection" between the clay and the sealant.)
  • Alcohol-based inks left unsealed on buttons holds up in the washer and dryer. (But be aware that they'll wipe off with alcohol.)
  • Future as a sealant may not work well if you use strong detergents or bleach. It can come off.
7. Creative Kismet's (Regina Lord's) button bracelet tutorial
This one's not so much for making buttons to use for traditionally button-y purposes ;o) but it's pretty cute!

8. Polymer Clay Button Cover tutorial by Michelle Ross
Step-by-step for adhering polymer clay slices to metal button cover blanks. Could be useful if you wanted to use your buttons on something that had to be dry cleaned.

9. Polymer Clay Button Cover tutorial by Donna Kato
Another style of button covers.

10. Button hole positioner, by Lisa Clarke
The link above takes you to a photo of this handy tool, and you can read about it (and some other tools) on this blog entry. If you're going to be making lots of buttons with a particular shape cutter, this is a great idea for getting the holes in the same place on each and every button.

These links (and a couple of pages in Sue Heaser's new Encyclopedia of Polymer Clay Techniques) helped me learn most of what I needed to know about polymer clay buttons-- plenty enough to get started. It's always such a satisfying feeling when two or more of your interests coincide. Now I'm all geared up to make some polymer clay buttons to use in my next sewing project! :o) (They can also be cute in scrapbooks, altered books, and other arts and crafts that use mixed media.)

Happy button-making! :o)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gorgeous moss-green earrings!

I love these earrings Eliz'art recently posted on her blog. They remind me of the results I got playing around with the faux marble technique in Carol Blackburn's bead book, only these are done up in such wonderful mossy greens! (I am a huge admirer of mossy greens. (g))

Ok, that's all for now. Just had to share the pretty picture. :o)

Etsy Love Stories

I know that a lot of folks (myself included) are selling their polymer clay (and other) creations on Etsy these days. I knew it was a great place to sell or buy unique handmade items, but it never occurred to me that it could also be a way for single folks to meet and fall in love!

Check it out here: Etsy Love Stories.

I really shouldn't have been surprised. My husband and I met online, too-- on an e-mail list dedicated to discussing books by a favorite author. It just goes to show that you never know what's going to happen when you wander around on the World Wide Web. ;o)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Latest Issue of Polymer Cafe

Friday afternoon, the latest issue of Polymer Cafe arrived. It doesn't seem long since the last issue came out-- a pleasant surprise in my mailbox, now that the magazine has made the switch from four issues a year to six.

Lots of eye candy in this one-- including plenty of gorgeous photos of Kathleen Dustin's work (like the piece on the cover) and a gallery of work by the authors of projects in this issue. There are a couple of sculpting tutorials and a few jewelry projects, as well as a tribute to Joan and Mike Clipp (the initial publishers of the magazine) and the other regular features. Oh, and quite a few ads. ;o) I actually like seeing some ads-- gives me an idea of what else is out there. I particularly like the ones that have nice photos of potential projects.

So now I have a little more clay-related reading material! ;o)

Ten on Tuesday: Polymer Clay Eggs

It's nearly Easter again, already! When I was growing up, my sisters and I always looked forward our annual Easter egg hunt at home (and then two more with cousins from each side of the family!). Most of the eggs we hunted were made of colorful plastic, but there was always one "prize egg" for each child, holding a little extra gift instead of the usual candy. In early years, the prize eggs were a shiny silver (still plastic)-- later they were tiny egg-shaped tins.

Those eggs came out of storage just once a year, but decorated eggs needn't be restricted to Easter celebrations. You may have heard about (or even seen in museums) the beautiful Fabergé eggs made of precious materials, for instance. While you may not be able to afford an egg covered in gold or rubies, if you're handy with polymer clay, you can create your own decorative eggs.

Practically any technique can be applied to clay-covered eggs, from mokume gane and thinly sliced canes to mosaic and mica shift. It's mostly a matter of inspiration. Here are some photos to give you an idea of what is possible:

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Photos of Polymer Clay Eggs
You can find more eggs in many of these photo streams. :o)
  1. Eggs (set), by polymer_woman
  2. Polymer Clay Covered Eggs (set), byChicki2008
  3. Faux Chocolate Egg, by hambacreations (Amy)
  4. Polymer Clay Egg, by wabi-sabi creations (Pamela Franceschetto)
  5. Birds Nesting Eggs, by divadea (Alissa Plant)
  6. Feathered Egg, by Jael of jaelsjewels
  7. Egg, by Ruth Tarragano
  8. Floral Egg, by polymerclaycreations (Angela Hickey)
  9. Egg Ornament, by made in lowell (Liz)
  10. Sheep Knoll Red House, by Folk Art from the Heart
Ok, I found more than ten, and this time, since it's so easy to add a few more links, I decided to add a bonus of five more Flickr finds. Aren't you EGGstatic? ;o) (Sorry, I can't resist puns.)
  1. Cat Egg, by Muselover (Ann)
  2. littlegod1, by Leslie Levings
  3. GRAMPS, by Gourd Girl
  4. Polymer Clay Egg, by WigglebuttClay
  5. Crimson Fire Egg, by ssneed
Feeling inspired by all those egg-cellent examples? (Again, sorry. (g)) If (like me) you've never made a clay-covered egg before, you may need a few pointers. You can find some helpful information on this page of GlassAttic. Here are a handful of other related links:
Happy claying! :o)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Springtime Palettes

I don't know what the weather's like where you live, but around here, it's starting to feel more and more like spring. When that happens, my thoughts gravitate toward Easter egg pastels and the fresh greens of baby plants.

If your home town is still facing weeks of bitter cold, maybe you need a boost of cheery color even more than I do! And for those of you in the southern hemisphere. . . Well, any time's a good time for a springtime palette. (g)

Ten on Tuesday: Ten (or so) Springtime Palettes

1. springtime chic--
I'm mainly drawn to the apple green and aqua/robin's egg blue combo (I have a real thing for those colors, it seems), but I think the addition of the coral pink and warm brown is nice, too. This combo is cheerful and gives a nod to classic springtime pastels, but it's not "plastic Easter egg"-y, if you know what I mean. (g)
springtime chic

2. Lady Beetle's House--
Here's something a bit brighter. Those greens paired with peach and berry hues look sweet to me. I can almost taste fruit-flavored candy!
Lady Beetle's House

3. Spring's Premiere--
This palette looks like a sunny day to me. I love how simple and fresh it is. It reminds me of clean laundry flapping on the line-- little lambs frolicking on the lawn-- little puffy clouds drifting lazily across a baby blue sky. . . Well, you get the idea. ;o)
Spring's Premiere

4. Spring Forth--
This one starts from a similar place as the last one-- the classic combination of yellow, green, and blue-- but it progresses into darker shades of blue. For me, the darker blues take the palette from the sunny afternoon through the twilight and into moonrise (with a liberal sprinkling of stars and a soundtrack of frog song ;o)). Maybe to someone else they're a reminder that there can still be a chill in the air in early spring. . .
Spring Forth
Now that I look at this again, I'm getting some Starry Night (Van Gogh) vibes. Maybe not quite greenish enough in the blues, though. . .

5. spring1--
More yellow, green, and blue. I must not be the only one who loves these colors together. ;o) These are all pretty warm, I think, which is fitting for spring, I guess.

6. Spring Salad
These colors do remind me of a salad with lots of lovely, colorful lettuces. Taken on their own, some of these colors (the dark teal and especially the plum) may not seem particularly springlike, but who says you can't have dark colors in a springtime palette? Spring doesn't have to be all pastels (unless you like it that way, of course). A little variety can spice things up.
Spring Salad

7. springforward and spring spirits--
This palette is proof that you should "never say never" about a color. As fashion trends shift-- and as our perceptions shift with it-- we sometimes find ourselves liking colors we once thought we hated. If you had told "Teen Me" that I'd someday like "harvest gold" and tints of mustard, I probably would've laughed at you. ;o) While they still aren't my favorite colors in the world, I have to admit that they have a definite appeal in certain applications. For example, this gentle progression from softest pink to champagne and gold warms me right up.
For a golden palette that's less delicate, how about this one?
spring spirits

8. spring velvet and spring--
I'm a sucker for combinations of dark red and light green or pink and green. With these rather bronzey greens, the combo isn't at all childish or "1950s ice cream parlor-ish" (not that I don't like that style, too!). Instead, it has a certain maturity. Or maybe I'm just won over by the word "velvet". ;o)
spring velvet
Ok, I can't leave it at just one, so here's another "red and green" combo:
(sighs) Ah, the perfect "complimentariness" of the spring green with the wine reds. . . Anyone else ever read The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery? I've always coveted Valancy's dress. . .

9. Spring Meadow and spring--
Here's something a bit more "rainbowy". I'm very fond of the softness of these colors in contrast with the medium periwinkle blue. . .
Spring MEadow
But if you like something a little bit bolder, try this one:

10. vernal woods--
Let's close with something that puts most of the focus on green, the most abundant color of springtime. The ColourLovers site overflows with lovely palettes that demonstrate a very gradual shift in color. These generally appeal to me, but today, I was drawn to this palette with a little more variety.
vernal woods

Also on the subject of springtime color--
If you'd like to see what you're supposed to like this season ;o) have a peek at a couple of color forecasts for spring-summer 2008: Fire Mountain Gems and Pantone Fashion Color Report.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Sign Your Work

We're probably going to have some bad weather in this area early tomorrow morning, so just to be on the safe side, I'm posting this a bit early. I hope your week's off to a great start! :o)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After pouring your heart and soul into a piece of work, wouldn't you like to "leave your mark" on it? Paintings are usually signed-- literature is printed with the author's name prominently displayed-- why not include your own signature, initials, or other personal mark on your polymer clay creations?

Obviously, this can be a bit tricky if you make small objects like beads-- and personally I never sign that type of thing-- but it can certainly be done. If you make larger-scale items, it's easy to find a spot to "sign" in one way or another. It's just a matter of deciding how to do it. . .

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Sign Your Work--

1. Sign with a pen.
Perhaps the most straightforward way to sign your work is to write your name directly on the object (usually on the bottom of the piece or another hidden, inconspicuous spot). What is less straightforward is what ink works best. Some pens (such as Sharpies) can bleed into the clay over time. This page at Glass Attic contains information on a variety of different pens and how they work with polymer clay.

Before you use a new pen to sign your name on a creation that took twenty hours of your life to make, I'd suggest running a series of tests on small scraps of clay. Be aware that it can take months to determine for certain how an ink will behave on the clay.

2. Sign with paint.
If you have a steadier hand with a paintbrush than I do ;o) , you may want to sign your work with paint. Just as with pens, there's the possibility of the paint bleeding into the clay-- particularly with red paint. Experiment on scrap clay to be on the safe side. It can take a while for the bleeding to become obvious, so date your tests and come back to them every so often.

One extra precaution you can take is to seal your cured piece prior to signing. Seal again (with Future, Varathane, etc.) to protect your signature.

There's more about paints and clay on this page of Glass Attic.

3. Carve it.
One simple way of signing your work is to carve your name or mark directly into the clay. If you do this prior to curing, you can use almost anything from a needle tool to a ball-ended stylus to do the "carving". The disadvantage to doing this pre-curing is that it's easy to distort the clay or mar your work. Carving your name after curing, on the other hand, will require that you use some sharp instrument. You may be able to use a craft knife, but if you have linoleum cutters (such as the set from Speedball), they're better for carving cured clay. (Be careful when you use any sharp tool. Practice using the linoleum cutters on cured scrap clay before trying them on anything special. Go slowly-- move the piece you're carving instead of the cutter-- and keep the cutter pointed away from you and your hands.)

Once you've carved your piece (and cured it, if you carved it raw), you can make your signature more visible by either antiquing it with acrylic paint or backfilling with a contrasting color of clay. (If you use clay, remember to cure the piece a second time!)

4. Transfer it.
I don't know that I've ever seen or heard of anyone doing this before, but I don't see any reason why it couldn't work. There are numerous methods of transferring images. Some require special papers and/or ink jet printers. For others, you need nothing more than a toner copy (think Xerox machine copy), clay (preferably in a light color), and water. Using your preferred image transfer method, you could sign your work with your name in any font you like, with a copy of your own actual signature, or with any "mark" or symbol you like. Just keep in mind whether or not your chosen method of image transfer will reverse the image. If it will, remember to mirror the image before printing it.

5. Make a signature cane.
I haven't heard much about this, lately, but some artists make a cane with their initials, logo, or other signature mark, then incorporate thin slices of it into their work. For larger pieces, you could work a slice of the cane into the design or embed it into the bottom of the object. Making a cane of this type may be a bit daunting for someone new to millefiori, but it's something to consider. This video starring Marie Segal includes information on making a signature cane.

6. Have a custom stamp made.
If you have the cash to spare, you can have your own designs made into a sheet of rubber stamps. You can easily fit a number of small "signature stamps" into one of these, with room to spare. Sarajane Helm has written about her experience having custom stamps made by Ready-Stamps. Use your custom-made signature stamp to leave an impression of your name or mark-- usually in an inconspicuous spot, such as the bottom. To make the signature more visible, you can antique it, backfill it, or highlight it with mica powder, acrylic paint, or rub-on wax.

7. Use a ready-made stamp.
Ok, maybe it's not ideal, but if you're short on funds, but already have an alphabet of rubber stamps, you can use those to sign your work. With larger stamps, you may have room only to leave your initials, but some stamps are small enough that you can fit in your full name. Don't forget the alphabet stamps you can find beyond the confines of the rubber stamp aisle of the craft store! The tiny stamp sets used in address stamps are great for polymer clay. You can also use metal stamps meant for marking serial numbers, etc., in metal surfaces.

If you're planning to sell what you make using rubber stamps, it's a good idea to check out the company's "Angel company policy". This will tell you whether or not it's legal to use the stamped image in artwork you intend to sell. There are variations in policy from company to company. Personally, I feel this should be much less of an issue if the stamp is used on the back or bottom of a piece purely to "sign" the work-- but use your own discretion.

8. Make a "2-step stamp".
You can make your own custom stamps out of polymer clay-- not only of your signature or "mark", but of anything you like! To make a "2-step stamp", start by carving your design. You can use raw clay or cured clay. Just be sure it's thick enough that you can carve your design without going through the bottom. Try to maintain a consistent depth throughout the design. If you need a guide to follow, you could either transfer an image of the design onto the clay or draw it by hand before carving. (If you carved raw clay, cure it before proceeding.)

Step two is to take a cast from your freshly carved mold. (Wait until it has cooled, if you just cured it.) Use a release agent and press raw clay into the cured mold (the thing you carved). This will create a "raised" version of your design, which you can cure and use as a stamp. If you notice that you didn't manage to keep the depth consistent in your carving, parts of your new stamp may be taller than others. You may be able to even things out a little by sanding it against a flat surface.

If you're very good with the carving tools, you may be able to condense this process by simply carving the raised design directly out of the first block of clay. This can be a bit messy, though, if your design is very detailed.

9. Make a "credit card stamp".
This is an idea I found in Donna Kato's latest book. She describes Jacqueline Lee's signature stamp this way: "To sign her artwork, Jacqueline Lee makes a mold from her name on a credit card and then presses raw clay into the mold. She then presses the clay to the piece." I haven't tried it yet, myself, but if your work is of a size to accept that type of signature, it seems like a pretty nifty idea!

10. Make an "extruded snake stamp".
Visit Polymer Clay Central to see Kathy Canuel's tutorial for a custom-made polymer clay stamp using an extruded snake of clay to make a quick and easy stamp. You'll need an extruder, some liquid clay, and regular polymer clay. The tutorial demonstrates making a word stamp ("Hope"), but you can use the same technique for any word, name or symbol you choose. In Kathy's examples at the end of the tutorial, you can see her personal "mark" for signing her work.

As you can see, there are methods to suit every style, budget, and application. I hope you've found one that you'd like to try. :o)

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P.S. You know what they say about great minds thinking alike? ;o) Well, the day after writing this (I sometimes do these in advance, when I'm in a bloggy mood, so that I don't have to scramble on Tuesday morning), I saw that I wasn't the only one inspired by Kathy Canuel's tutorial. Angela (Crafty Goat) has also written about ways to make your own stamp-- including a variation on Kathy's technique. Some of our ideas were the same, but there are other techniques on her list that aren't on mine, so if you haven't already seen that blog post, you might want to head over there and have a look. :o)

Actually, there could be several blogs with posts similar to this, and I probably wouldn't know about it, at the rate I read blogs these days. . . (g) So if it ever looks like I'm copying your blog, please know that it isn't intentional. At the very least, I try to mention and link to the blogs I copy. ;o)

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P.P.S. My temporary loss of internet access was only part of my recent computer-related woes. We also lost all our saved e-mail. I know that I had received at least one e-mail in response to my earlier post, "Any suggestions?". Unfortunately, I hadn't even had a chance to read it, so if that person sees this and is able to resend the e-mail, I'd appreciate it. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. At least everything is up and running again, now. :o)