Denise Graham creates unique three-dimensional "paintings" using her polymer clay.
"Domestic Goddess" Denise Graham was introduced to polymer clay by accident. As a watercolor painter she had no interest in creating projects from clay. When her son had a kindergarten project that called for him to use polymer clay, she had as much fun with the medium as her five-year-old did. She started out making polymer clay jewelry, but she missed painting. She soon found a way to combine both. Today she creates unique three-dimensional "paintings" using her polymer clay.
Materials and Tools
clay dedicated pasta machine
clay dedicated convection oven for curing clay
clay blade for slicing
polymer clay: blue, royal blue, green, light green, yellow, orange, cream
4" x 6" ceramic tile
burnt umber acrylic paint
folded paper holder
small mixing cup
leaves from a flower
1. Sketch a floral painting to fit the size of the background.
2. Select two colors of clay and prepare a skinner blend for the background and edges. To make the skinner blend, cut two triangles from each color and place the four pieces of clay together alternating the colors. With all colors touching the pasta machine, run the clay through. Fold the clay top to bottom and continue running it through the pasta machine about 18 times to blend the colors.
3. Press a sheet of deli paper over the clay. Apply grains of uncooked rice on top of the sheet and press them into the clay to texture it. Remove the rice and peel away the paper.
4. Blend yellow and orange clay to make a sheet that will be used for the petals and thin it through the pasta machine. Then fold the sheet in an accordion fashion.
5. Reduce the piece into a small block of clay, which is called a plug.
6. Slice three cuts into the side of the plug and insert thin pieces of cream-colored clay. Begin to reduce the clay to create a cane.
7. Reduce the cane. Cut it, stack and reduce it three times. Shape the cane into the petal style needed. Then set the cane aside to cool.
8. Prepare a skinner blend for the green segments of the painting. Place a leaf from a flower face down on the clay. Cover it with deli paper. Rub over the leaf with the back of a spoon leaving an impression in the clay. Remove the deli paper and peel the leaf away from the clay.
Cut out the leaf shape with a craft knife. Make several leaves.
9. To make the stems, roll two snakes of green skinner blend clay. Twist them together, and then roll them into one thin snake. Cut the snake in half lengthwise.
10. Apply the unbaked leaf and stems to the unbaked background. Bend and mold them, create elevated areas to produce a three-dimensional effect. Refer to the sketch for placement.
11. Slice the petal cane and apply the first layer of petals to the unbaked clay according to the sketch.
12. When finished applying the first layer, fire at 265 degrees for 20 minutes in the oven.
13. Slice extra petals and shape them. Set the loose petals onto folded paper and fire the petals for 15 minutes at 265 degrees F. These are fired separately for a shorter period of time since they will be baked a few more times later in process.
14. After the main piece is baked, apply a wash of burnt umber acrylic paint to the leaves and any area for depth. Let dry for a few moments and wipe off.
15. Repeat the layering. Cut more petals from the cane and apply them to the cured work and fire again.
16. Prepare a mokume cane stack for the center of the flower. Layer thin sheets of different clay colors together and press them with various textures using a needle tool or stylus.
Create a center shape from scrap clay and apply the thin slices of mokume onto the scrap surface.
17. Using a tiny amount of the liquid clay, insert the cured petals into the unbaked center. Apply the signature cane; cure again.
18. Fire the entire piece for 45 minutes at 265-degrees F.
19. Mix a small amount of acrylic wax with mica powders. With a paintbrush, wash over selected petal areas to show a flash of color on the work.
20. Add burnt umber paint to the center. Place the finished piece in a frame.