Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Faux Amber - A Slightly New Approach

There are many wonderful tutorials out there for making amber, some free (paroledepate.canalblog and polymer clay express, just to mention a couple) and others for a fee but well worth the price (Tory Hughes), but I still felt the beads could look more, well, "amberish"! Here is what I came to that I am really happy with.


The weather today is overcast yet look how these beads above seem to glow, compared to amber created using other techniques below:

using small amounts of clay to colour the translucent clay

using alcohol inks to colour the translucent clay

How to do it? Here we go: Make up a pale warm yellow translucent, then some deeper caramel translucents using Premo translucent and alcohol inks (sunflower, butterscotch, caramel, etc.) Thanks to Jay I've corrected the colours as follows: The yellow is Pinata Sunbright Yellow. All the clay used is Premo translucent (not frost, but I'm sure that would work as well - I find it has a slight bluish cast when buffed, cooling down the warm amber a bit. The other colors that I work with are Pinata's Havana Brown, Calabaza Orange and Tangerine, and Adirondack's Terra Cotta, Caramel, Butterscotch and Latte. I mix the colors gradually, adding a bit of a brighter color if needed to brighten a mix, or a bit of the browner colors to dull down a too bright mix. The base yellow is the Sunbright Yellow knocked back a teeny bit with the havana brown. Check the comments on this post to see more.


 Roll a ball of the pale yellow (I also roll it around my desktop, picking up bits of metal, dirt, clay)


 Roll the darker amber clay out on the thinnest setting possible. Tear off a small piece.


Stretch this piece out as thinly as possible. It will start to tear - that's ok.


Stretch this piece around the pale ball, tearing and patching as you go, leaving some areas pale.


 Smooth the edges of the dark, thin sheet to blend them into the pale clay and into each other.



Roll in your hands to smooth out any lumps and bumps. Pierce any air pockets.



Shape the way you want and pierce a hole, giving thought to where the weight of the piece will pull the side down and out of view.


Dig out scratches, holes, push in texture, dimple, pierce.


I'm practicing hammering rivets in 18 gauge blackened steel wire. Not bad, but I'll insert these into the bead, so curve the back side so it will stay embedded in the bead when baked.



Sand 400, 600, 800, 1,000 and buff on Foredom or with dremel. Patina with oil paint (burnt umber mixed with black), dry, buff again.




My polymer clay muse, The Arctic Fox, aka "The Geologist", says these finally look like amber!!! He should know! It's tough having to come up to his standards!

20 comments:

  1. This is beautiful! I've used Tori Hughes' recipe
    with good results. Will have to try yours.
    Thanks, Patty

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  2. Thank you, Patti. Let me know how it turns out.

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  3. Fabulous!! I love the way you have layered the colors--that's really unique.A gorgeous piece of work and your generosity in sharing it is awe-inspiring.

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    1. Thank you, Randee, I really appreciate your comment. Years ago when I first found my way into the polymer clay community I was so impressed by how supportive, nurturing, and giving it was and continues to be and I'm happy to be able to contribute a little bit to that.

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  4. Hi Vickie,
    Really like the look of your amber and would like to give it a try. However, I cannot find the color 'sunflower' in neither Adirondack or Pinata ink. Adirondack has a 'Sunshine yellow' and Pinata has a "Sunbright yellow'. Couldn't find a 'sunflower' Premo clay either, so I guess it was ink. I don't like to deviate from a recipe until I have it down pat, but I suppose either of those would work. I know substituting zinc yellow clay with cad yellow can make quite a difference in the finished product. I don't know if the same would apply in ink, but it seems logical.
    Thanks, Jay

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    1. Hi Jay, I'll try to clarify a bit. I'm an intuitive colorist (having been a painter for many years) so I often just feel my way to a color with whatever I have available. I apologize for not getting the name right. Let's put it down to a senior moment, lol. The yellow is Pinata Sunbright Yellow. All the clay used is Premo translucent (not frost, but I'm sure that would work as well - I find it has a slight bluish cast when buffed, cooling down the warm amber a bit. The other colors that I work with are Pinata's Havana Brown, Calabaza Orange and Tangerine, and Adirondack's Terra Cotta, Caramel, Butterscotch and Latte. I mix the colors gradually, adding a bit of a brighter color if needed to brighten a mix, or a bit of the browner colors to dull down a too bright mix. The base yellow is the Sunbright Yellow knocked back a teeny bit with the havana brown. I never stick to formulaic color, especially with natural effects like amber, jade, ivory, etc. since I find they look much more natural if they differ batch to batch. As a matter of fact, this technique came about because I was trying to reproduce "bread and butter" amber, so my initial pale yellow had a wee bit of white clay mixed in to give a bit of opacity to the paler "dots" within the warmer amber. So just play with your colors, getting a relatively pale yellow to start so that glow will come through the layer(s) of caramel/butterscotch/ambery tones on the surface. I hope this helps. All the best, Vickie

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  5. Thank you for answering Vickie,
    After I sent the email, I went ahead and played around with the info I had and came up with a beautiful bead. I'm not sure exactly what I used(amounts), but that inside yellow bead really made the whole thing 'pop' better than I have seen on any other faux amber. That is a great idea. Rolling that second sheet out to the thinnest possible making it stick together in some places and not others really causes the different shades of color show up with the yellow behind it. None of the beads will be the same which makes it more natural looking. I put the patina on, let it almost dry, wiped most off, before I baked it. Eaiser to sand since I took it to 12000 grit and got a terrfic glass shine.Thank you so much Vickie. I'm anxious to see what you did with the 'jade'bracelet and 'ivory' bangle you showed at the end of the tut. I have all of the alcohol ink colors that you mentioned.
    Thanks again,Jay

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    1. Hi Jay,
      Thanks so much for the update. I'm so glad it worked out for you too! Neat! I really appreciate your feedback. It encourages me to keep doing this.
      All the best, Vickie

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  6. Many thanks for sharing, I love making faux stones with polymer,I can't wait to try this out xx

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    1. Hi Jinny, I hope these turn out beautifully for you. If you have any problems or questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll be happy to give you more information.

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  7. This is a wonderful tutorial Vickie - thanks so much for sharing. Your step by step photos really help a visual person like me :) I can't wait to try it out.

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    1. Hi Michele, I'm glad you feel inspired to try it out. Please drop me a line and let me know how they turn out for you.

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  8. So thrilled that I happened upon this amazing bead and you on pinterest. How generous you are to share your knowledge for free this way. I cannot wait to get the colors I need to try it out! That bead really is gorgeous and convincing.
    Again, thanks for the knowledge and inspiration.

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    1. Hi Zendegy, welcome to the blog and thank you for your comments and enthusiasm. I hope you're happy with the results. If you have any problems or get stuck with any of the directions, please let me know and I'll be happy to try to help. Happy claying! Vickie

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  9. Hi Vickie,
    just used this tut to make some faux amber - and wow, does it look realistic - can't wait to make up a piece of jewellery now - thank you soooo very much, this is so generous of you - I will mention your pages on my blog next week if I may, thanks so much
    Also, an invite to come have a look at my site - www.capriliciousjewellery.com - next week will see a necklace with faux amber on it :)
    Neena

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  10. Hi Neena, I'm so glad you got the same great results that I did! Thank you, yes, I would appreciate a mention in your blog. I visited your blog and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your work is beautiful. We are quite alike in our wide range of passions! I look forward to seeing a necklace with the amber bead in it featured on your blog. Warm regards, Vickie

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  11. Hi Vickie, found this wonderful Tutorial through Pinterest. I can't wait to try it. Pretty new to PC so I don't have some of the stuff that is needed. I really want to learn to make rustic looking beads so this is exactly what I'm looking for! One thing I'm confused about, what is the steel wire for? Thanks so much!!

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    1. Hi Kristi, and welcome to polymer clay. I know you'll find that working in this medium is tremendously gratifying. Amber, whether from the Baltic or African or Indian locales, in the older ages, was often used for trade (hence the term "trade beads"). They were basically currency and therefore valuable and when they would start to degenerate, especially when cracks would appear, the owner would strengthen and support the bead with wire, either wrapping it all the way around or driving in a bent piece to keep the bead from cracking any further and falling apart. If you look at the post on the Village Queen necklace, and click on the images to see them larger, you will see several faux amber beads that I made with different variations of wire in them. It helps to make them look old and rustic, I think.
      If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to put them in a comment here. I'll do my best to answer them or to direct you to other locations that may help. All the best, Vickie

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  12. I just came across this. It is gorgeous. I'm wearing some real amber at the moment and am admiring wildly. Can't wait to try. I've used general technique of tinted transparent but have never tried amber. Thank you!

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  13. Hi Patl, I hope you're happy with the results. Let me know if you need any clarification. Vickie

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