Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Hanging Around…A simple tutorial - Part 1

Hopefully you've gathered your supplies, cut your pvc pipe to length and sanded down the edges if they were not already nice and straight. I use a compound miter saw to cut mine so they are usually nice and smooth but you can use a hacksaw or even a cutting wheel on a dremel. I just love power tools!

To get started, condition a block of white clay. My preferred brand of polymer clay is Premo, however I find their new bright white hard to work with so I mix it half and half with Sculpey III to get the consistency that I like. Condition to the point where you can fold your clay in half and it does not crack along the fold. Don't cut the conditioning part of the process short. Not only does this conditioning increase the flexibility, it strengthens the clay.

You'll probably have more than you need for the inner plug but we'll just add it to the mix when we make "stucco".

Condition enough scrap clay to make a sheet at the thickest setting of your pasta machine large enough to cover one end of the pipe.

Plug the pipe:

I started with a 3 and ½ inch length of 3 inch pvc (plumbing) pipe. To close up one end, I make a two-layer plug. First condition enough white clay at the thickest setting for the inner plug and enough scrap clay at the thickest setting for the outer plug. I use white clay for the inner plug since you can see it but the outer plug can be scrap since it is completely covered.

Sit the pipe on the white clay and mark the inside of the pipe with a needle tool.  (Picture 2)

Remove the pipe and cut out a plug just very slightly larger than the marked line for a snug fit. Flip the white inner plug over and lay it on scrap clay run at the thickest setting. Lightly press together to bond the two layers of clay. I like to add a little bit of texture here just for interest. (Picture 3)

Then sit the pipe back over it. You may have to put slight pressure on it if you cut your inner plug too big but you want it to be snug. Use your craft knife to trim around the pipe, then use your thumbs to round the clay at the edge of the pipe. (Picture 4) If you have gaps between the inner plug and the pipe, use a ball stylus to push the clay over to fill the gap. Bake for a minimum of 30 minutes. You don't have to cure it completely but you do want it strong enough that it won't break when you cover the bottom.

Let's lay some brick:
The clay for the brick wall that peeks through the stucco is a custom mix of some random reds mixed with copper. If you can leave some streaks and marbling in while you are conditioning, this is even more realistic. When you have the color you want, run a sheet at a middle thickness [I used #4 on my pasta machine] and cut some small rectangles. I have a small geometric stamp that I used that is about 2 inches by 3/4 inch so that's how big I cut my rectangles. [If you don't have a stamp, you can use a texture mat or a needle tool to impress lines when we get to that step. For right now we're just positioning the brick patches.] (Picture 5)

Brush some Genesis medium on the area where you want the brick patches to be and press it on. You probably don't have to do this since the polymer clay sticks pretty well to the pvc pipe but I just like to make sure everything stays put. You can use liquid polymer clay instead of Genesis. (Picture 6)

The brick patches should be placed randomly around the pipe.

Use your thumbs to spread and smooth the edges. (Picture 7)

Now for the stucco:

The stucco is also a custom mix. I used the rest of the white that I conditioned for the inner plug, then added about half a block each of Premo and Sculpey III white to half a block of ecru and just a pinch of copper. You are wanting a very light sand color.  Add the copper sparingly as you condition. You want to keep your stucco light but adding the copper gives the color warmth and helps to keep the colors of the brick and the stucco harmonious. [We will be using copper again when we make the gecko and I have copper in my kaleidoscope cane so it helps everything to blend if you have a touch of it in your stucco mix.]

Once you have your stucco clay conditioned, run it through the pasta machine on a mid-thick setting [I use #4 on mine]. Tear several strips with rough edges and pat it on above, below and on each end of each brick patch. (Picture 8)

Use a bit of artistic license here to create a look of the stucco crumbling away by varying the angles – you do not want a square!
Once you have your brick patches bordered, tear larger pieces and fill in the rest of the wall area.

Use your fingers to blend the edges relatively smooth, but don't obsess over it. We're going to be adding texture later. Remember to cover the bottom and wrap the stucco clay over the top edge. I don't cover the inside of my pencil cups. We'll clean up the inside edge after we add texture.  (Picture 10)

We'll stop here today and continue the tutorial next post. Check back next post to see how we make the red/copper mix look like bricks and all that white/ecru/copper clay look like stucco.

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