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October 2004


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Polymer Clay Polyzine
Copyright 2000-2004
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Clay Crumbs
A Little Bit of This - A Little Bit of That

By Jeannie Havel

The working title for this column was "Clay Scraps" but I strongly believe that no such thing exists. So, I went to my fabulous Editorial Advisory Board and they came up with a variety of titles. We settled on "Clay Crumbs." Crumbs are those little things that aren't quite big enough to stand on their own, but represent a treat nonetheless. Here is a little bit of this and a little bit of that -- I hope you have fun with these "crumbs."
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Pasta Machine Mokume Gane
A funny story with a happy ending.
Some of the best things come from "mistakes."  And so it was when I tried out my new pasta machine motor.

I fully intended to create traditional Mokume Gane by stacking layers of clay, creating dents -- or valleys, as some people call them, and then filling the little craters with balls of translucent clay. That's what I intended. Here's what really happened. You might want to try this and see what kind of results you get.

Roll out sheets of clay on the #1 setting (largest) of your pasta machine. I used translucent, copper, gold, and black. I used Premo. I got distracted by something and quickly shoved the sheets of clay in a drawer at my work table. Later, I took the time to place the translucent clay between two sheets of paper that were easiest to grab -- regular printer paper. I just wanted to keep it clean. Guess what happened? That's right, by the time I got back to this particular Mokume Gane project, the translucent clay had leached significantly. It looked like Provolone cheese. All the other clay looked OK to me, so I decided to wing it and started stacking. Translucent, copper, gold, black.
Translucent, copper, gold, black.

I cut the stack in half, stacked it, pressed it with my trusty hands, remembered I had a lot of work to do, and decided I would just roll it through the pasta machine and put it away until another time. (I do this a lot).

So here is where the accident happened. Instead of rolling it through with the handle on the pasta maker, I left the motor attached. We're talking speed and heat here. Did you know copper clay is really, really, really, really soft no matter how long it sits? Sheesh, as my friend, Sam, would say.

That clay raced through those rollers and my entire polymer life flashed before my eyes. "Oh no," I said out loud, (OK, I didn't say 'no' -- I said a bad word) as I watched in horror as the copper clay slinked all down through the translucent Provolone. I wasn't even thinking of the gold or black clay. All I saw was what I thought was going to be a big mess.

Ha! When I finally got the nerve to pick up the stack of clay, I could see from the side that the copper clay had sort of melted down around the translucent and up toward the gold and black. Actually, from the side, it looked like a honeycomb design. I cut it in half, stacked it, and without letting it rest at all, began taking thin slices from the surface.

And what did I get? A beautiful Mokume Gane pattern that I have now used to cover just about everything I can get my hands on. But wouldn't you know it, this is exactly the time my exorbitantly priced digital camera decided to go on the fritz (is that how it's spelled?), so all I have to show you is a fuzzy photo. But trust me, if anyone asks, you can be sure I'll tell them, "I meant to do that!"

Accidental Mokume Gane