How To Make A Manual Blend in Polymer Clay

               (without a pasta machine)

                                      written by:  Valerie Hollis



Step 1:

You'll need 4oz. of polymer clay in 2 contrasting colors.  I'm using Premo Ecru and Raw Sienna.  You'll also need a slicing blade... and your hands, of course!

This is a great project for children and beginners.  It demonstrates color mixing as well as fractal iterations and it doesn't require the use of a pasta machine.  Children should use a clay scraper (pictured far left) or plastic credit card for slicing.



Step 2:

Begin by thoroughly conditioning each color of clay and rolling them into balls.





Step 3:

Roll the balls of clay into logs of equal length.







Step 4:

Divide each log into 4 equal sections.







Step 5:

Combine half of the dark log with half of the light log.








Step 6:

Thoroughly mix the halves together into a ball which will produce a middle color.





Step 7:

Roll that ball into a log.







Step 8:

Divide that log into 4 sections.







Step 9:

Combine 1 part of the middle color with 1 part of the dark color and combine 1 part of the middle color with 1 part of the light color.




Step 10:

Thoroughly mix those combinations into balls.




Step 11:

Now you should have 5 "shades" of color.  Roll each of them into a ball.





Step 12:

Roll each of those balls into logs of equal length.






Step 13:

Flatten the logs into patties of equal length and width.





Step 14:

Stack the patties together from dark to light.







Step 15:

Reduce and lengthen the stack.  To avoid distortion, work slowly from the center outwards and use the lines of color as guide.







Step 16:

Trim the ends off and divide the stack in half.








Step 17:

Place one half on top of the other to form a new stack.






Step 18:

Reduce, Cut, Stack, Repeat.  Reduce, Cut, Stack, Repeat.

Continue repeating Steps 15-17 until you achieve a blend effect you like.

This picture shows the stack recombined twice.





Step 19:

These are slices that I took from each successive stack to the 6th iteration.  I'm guessing you could achieve the appearance of a "smooth gradient" if you continue to 20 iterations.








Step 20:

This is my 7th and final iteration. At this point, I could see that the "blend" detail was fine enough to be used in a cane that would be further reduced.






Step 21:

Next I'm going to recombine the cane in different ways to see how it looks when further reduced.  In this picture, I've divided the cane in half, then divided one of those halves in half again.






Step 22:

Here, I've taken one of the small sections and reshaped and reduced it into a long log.  Then I divided that log into 6 segments of equal length.








Step 23:

I pinched each of the six segments into triangles and recombined them circuitously.  This is one of the ways that you could recombine the manually blended cane or a similarly blended plug into something that resembles a "bulls eye" - where the shading travels along the radius from light-to-dark.





Step 24:

Next, I reduced and lengthened the other small segment, maintaining it's original rectangular shape.  Then I divided it into 8 segments and placed each of those segments around the first concentric cane.   Then I reduced it.







Step 25:

Lastly, I reduced the big segment in the same way that I reduced the first small segment - reshaping it into a long log.  I divided that into 9 segments, pinched each of those segments into triangles, and placed them around the other cane.  Then I reduced it.





Step 26:

This picture shows the 3 reduced canes.  As you can see, the design results are fairly intricate and certainly "blend" even after only 7 iterations. 







1.  In this tutorial, I demonstrated one way to make a manual blend in polymer clay.  There are actually a lot of ways that you can do it!  Each of the ways will have a slightly different effect.  If you're looking for a smooth blend, the fastest and most efficient way to do it is using the Skinner Blend technique which does require a pasta machine.  However, the method shown above, along with other manual methods for achieving a gradation of color, might be a good alternative for clayers who don't own a pasta machine or who would benefit from and enjoy the challenge of creating a manual blend.

2.  My main goal in publishing this tutorial was to offer a blending alternative to the Skinner Blend.  Interestingly though, the results of restacking and recombining create an effect that is very similar to an Ikat cane.  With a typical Ikat, we either flip or offset blended sheets into a stack.  Here, we're not flipping or offsetting, but the distortion created by manual reduction creates the appearance of fine lines, similar to those created when offsetting the layers in a typical Ikat.  When using a pasta machine, the layers are so thin that even on the thickest setting, the Ikat stack will look similar to my 6th or 7th iteration.  Here we're reducing it manually so each 'stacked sheet' is thicker and we can really see what's going on in there. 


3.  Take a look at this picture from Step 19 where I show the successive iterations for each stack.  Each of those individual iterations could certainly have a place in caning where the goal may not necessarily be to make a "faux blend."  When I look at the first and second iteration, I see that they might be ideal in a situation where you want to cane clouds or a gently rolling landscape.  In the third and fourth iteration, I see that they might be ideal for mountains, shadows, or moth wings.  And the fifth and sixth iterations might be ideal for fire or flames, highlighted hair, or teddy bear fur...  What do you see?




4.  I played around with this technique a little bit more and below are some of my results:

Thanks for looking . . . I hope you enjoy!


Back to  Education


                                                            2007 Valerie Hollis - All rights reserved.