Faux MOKUME Gane Pillow Style Components with Kato Polyclay™
by Kathy Weaver, Polymer Artist and Jewelry Designer
MOKUME Gane (MO-ku-may GAH-nay) is a beautiful, ancient Japanese metalsmithing technique that involves layering different colors of metal then impressing a texture or random design into the surface, which alters the layers below. Finally, the top layer is removed to reveal the resulting patterning.
The faux mokume gane pillows shown here are my polymer clay interpretation of the ancient technique ~ where the layers of clay are far easier to manipulate than the layers of metal in the traditional form.
You can use this technique with any colors of clay; keep contrasting colors in mind, however. Choose a palette that you like, or visit our Fashion Trends for fashion-color inspiration, then choose matching beads to create a great set of jewelry.
Polymer clay needs to be conditioned prior to use ~ since you will be conditioning the clay as you blend the colors, the clay will be ready for use once the colors are completely mixed.
Mix the proportions of clay for each color until the colors are well blended; you will know the colors are fully blended when you no longer see any color striations.
After mixing the colors, flatten each one then roll through the Polymer Clay Press on the thickest setting to create a sheet of clay. Cut each sheet of clay into a 3x4 inch rectangle. Stack the sheets on top of each other. I chose to stack mine green, gold, then salmon.
Roll the three-colored stack through the thickest setting of the Polymer Clay Press.
Cut the thinned stack in half, then place one stack on top of the other, making sure you alternate the colors (put salmon on top of green), then run this combined sheet through the thickest setting on the press.
Repeat step 4 to create a stack of clay with 12 layers of color.
Choose a textured sheet from the assortment. One side of the impression is recessed and the other side is raised ~ each will yield a different result. I chose to use the recessed side of the ''stone'' textured plate, it's my favorite. Cut off a 3x4 inch rectangle from the clay sheet.
Mist water onto the textured sheet, then lay the green side of the clay onto the misted portion of the sheet ~ the water will keep the clay from sticking to the sheet. Run the textured sheet and the clay through the thickest setting of the press. Gently peel the texture sheet away from the clay, and lay the clay down onto a work surface with the green side up. The clay needs to be adhered or stuck well to the work surface to keep it from slipping or sliding around when cutting across the surface of clay which happens in step 7.
Give the clay a few mintues to rest before the next step, as the clay will be too soft and the texture won't hold up to the next step. About 10-30 mintues should suffice, depending on the temperature in the room. It's often recommended to put the clay in the fridge or freezer but given this clay is stuck to the work surface, it really is dependent on the temperature in the room.
You must use a new Accu-Flex® blade for this step; the blade needs to be sharp in order to yield the desired results. Gently curve the blade and run it across the textured surface of the green layer, shaving off the raised texture from the sheet. The end result will reveal how the texture affected the layers of color as well as allowing the other colors to show through ~ the beauty of ''mokume gane.''
Creating Pillow Beads
Use scrap clay to create your pillow ''stuffing.'' Condition the clay well (Click here to learn more about conditioning polymer clay.) Once the clay is conditioned, run it through the thickest setting on the Polymer Clay Press.
Using a round cutter, cut out several circles (you will need one for every pillow bead you're planning to make) from the scrap clay. This ensures each piece of stuffing will be equal.
Roll each circle in your hands until you make a ball, then slightly flatten the ball.
Using the square cutter, cut out several squares (you will use two squares for each pillow bead) from your texture sheet; these will be the covers of your pillows.
Place a piece of stuffing (round ball) onto the center of one square.
Take another square and cover the stuffing. Make sure you line up the corners of the squares. Use your fingers to close each of the four corners
After closing the corners, use your fingers to close each of the seams to complete your pillow bead. If needed, use your fingers to shape the pillows.
I prefer to make my holes after baking. I feel this helps preserve the texture and shape of the pillow beads. However, it's perfectly fine to make a hole before baking.
If you want to add a hole to your bead before baking, now is the time. Decide where you'd like a hole, then carefully insert the needle tool halfway into the bead. Remove the needle tool and repeat from the other direction until the two holes meet.
Before baking, dip a cotton swab into a small amount of rubbing alcohol and then gently rub over each side of the bead. This will help eliminate fingerprints while helping bring out the micas (metallic flakes) in the metallic clay.
Place a piece of card stock onto a baking sheet then place the beads on top of the cardstock. Bake the beads in a preheated oven at 275 degrees for about 40 minutes.
If you haven't already made holes in your beads, wait until the beads are cool, then drill holes using a drill bit.
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