Friday, 21 April 2017

Ever Decreasing Ducklings, liquid polymer clay as varnish, and the delights of doo doo. . .

Faux ceramic tube beads/earring beads

Enjoy the bead pics and excuse me while I witter on about ducks for a minute. . .

Nature is pretty impervious to sentiment it seems. One day we have twelve, or possibly thirteen ducklings buzzing around their mum (they don't stop running or swimming, so it is hard to count them). The next day we have eight, and later that day five.
The next day, we are down to three, then two. . . Fortunately two has been the number at which the duckling disappearances stopped. They are growing and sticking close to mum. Fingers crossed for them.

Reading up on this on the good old internet, it seems that this startling level of duckling decline is pretty normal in wild ducks, and two is a good number of surviving offspring as far as keeping up duck numbers is concerned. And they will most likely have more than one brood. Still, this tragic attrition rate is tough to bear witness to, even for a not all that sentimental human being such as myself, especially as the one extra-cute yellow one amongst the dappled brown and yellow brood was one of the first to go. . .

Moe faux ceramic tubes

We're not sure what happened to them, but most likely they became dinner for owls, kestrels, stoats, etc. There is a cat in the neighbourhood too (just the one, which is an unusual statistic I think), and always the threat of a fox, though they get shot by local farmers if they are spotted.

Oh well, these predators likely have broods of cute offspring of their own that need feeding. . . Nature huh? All together now, "The circle, the circle of l-i-i-i-i-fe. ."

A set of bicone and 'diablo' beads with crackly areas

And to continue this theme of predation and untimely death, something also put paid the big fish (a carp, about a pound and a half) that we used to see lurking in the cloudy water of our pond. We found its disembodied head on the bank. This is a bit odd because, reading on the internet (again) it seems that animals such as otters or mink (please not mink, they are not good news) that are able and willing to catch and eat fish, eat the head and leave the rest. We seem to have an inverse otter. . . It's a bit of a mystery as there are no tracks or droppings that I could find.

My fave so far, faux ceramic effect tube beads

Anyway, I have been back in the workshop after the distractions of Easter, and have been experimenting with liquid polymer clay, the clear kind, Kato clear to be exact. I have used it as a sort of varnish before, but a while ago and not very carefully. You do get a particularly glossy shine with it. The trouble is that it is quite easy to burn it if you aren't careful, which leads to a horrible smell and tiny blackened bubbles that set hard and can't easily be picked off.

Very shiny bicones

The technique I use once the liquid poly clay has been applied to the bead, is the time honoured one of sticking it on a wooden barbecue skewer or toothpick/cocktail stick and turning the hot air gun on it. If you hold the bead about six to eight inches away and spin the toothpick/other between your fingers you can usually avoid the heat concentrating in one place and it getting too hot. Not always though. The trouble is that there is nothing to tell you how hot the bead is getting until it's too late and it starts bubbling and smoking. What I now do is always hold the bead at the same distance from the heat gun, and only keep it in the heat for a set time, say 12 seconds. (You need to do a few trials to find your optimum time and distance). I have found that if I follow that procedure, the liquid poly clay evens out over the surface of the bead, and when cool results in a hard, smooth and shiny surface.
I like the toughness of the finish, but I wanted to see if I could get a duller finish, as hyper shiny is not always the look required. I tried thinning the liquid poly clay with a little white spirit before applying it to the bead. This sort of worked, but the semi shiny surface that resulted was easily smeared by my finger when cool so I put that idea aside.
I had a bit more success by using a brush and really trying to make a small amount of liquid clay go a long way. Smearing a very thin layer on the bead. This worked quite well. I got a tough semi gloss finish that suited the beads I was making.

Satin or matt finish

I will try the white spirit idea again, but only using a very small amount, to see whether that makes a useful difference to the result.
The shiny finish is very good for the sort of faux ceramic look that I have been messing around with though.

Earring beads, faux ceramic 'bells'. The colours look like Royal Doulton (I think that's the type of pottery I mean)

When we moved into this area about eight months ago, we were amused to see that there was a Chinese take away in the local town called "Do Do", which, of course, sounds like 'Doo doo' as in 'deep doo doo'. We have talked jokingly about having a take away doo doo someday, well today was that day. It was very good, so Woo Hoo for the Do Do! . . .
Jon x


  1. Amazing finishes, John. Every time you mention "white spirit" I am thinking you have a jug of vodka nearby. Thanks for detailing your technique. It's great seeing your progression in this medium.
    Too bad about the ducks. we were entranced by a cactus wren that built her nest within our cholla cactus. the two survivors out of the four eggs fledged last week. That's it for nature here in Arizona, heading back to Alaska next week for some swan and moose action in the neighborhood

  2. Thanks Kimberley, Vodka might be an option but i would probably just absent mindedly clean the brushes in it. . . The moose and swan action sounds a bit more dramatic than ducklings, I'm jealous. Though the mosquito action you get up there is not something I would want to experience. .

  3. I too am completely amazed by the finishes you have achieved Jon. Your journey of discovery made me realize I had forgotten the trick of the hot air gun. But then again - I'm finding I'm forgetting that I have such a shite memory in the first place so am always learning something new apparently.

    Your duckling story made me think - oh no! and as I read on - Oh NO! and finally - well drats. I had no idea. I do love seeing them all following along behind their parents. It makes one think how wonderful family could be. Now I don't want to think how they deal with that kind of loss over and over again. Nope - not going there. See what you've started?!

    And finally - a good laugh at the end. Thanks - needed that!

  4. Thanks, sorry I took so long to reply ;-) The one remaining duckling is doing well. . . sigh. . . recently joined by two goslings, which is nice.
    I find I have to relearn stuff if I leave too long a gap between trying and revisiting a technique. . Age probably. . .

  5. Hi Jon, Here's what I do for a matte finish-- Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS) + Sculpey Diluent (used by most to soften crumbly clay). Add a few drops at a time until you reach the consistency of half and half. Use a dedicated paint brush (you can keep it in a Ziploc bag --it will never dry out) to dab the mixture onto your surface treatment. I use a Ranger brand craft heat gun (not as concentrated as an embossing gun) to set the TLS and then cure in the oven on polyester fluff. I find this works as a sealant for anything but Prisamacolor pencil. Turns the colors yucky. I use this on all sorts of surfaces, even those naturally rusting products. The diluent is the thing. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Christine,
      I wonder if that works with Kato trans. I have yet to try TLS. Sculpey diluent sounds interesting. I'm assuming you are talking about using this mixture on baked clay, but you may not be. It may work on baked and unbaked. I am a fan of your work, and like you, found painting and distressing surfaces was more interesting than trying to use coloured clay, much as i admire expert caners and the like. I take a kind of perverse delight in this strange modern material being made to look like something ancient. . . I like to think that I embrace absurdity, in life as well as in art ;-)
      Anyway, thanks again for your comment and recipe. I shall try it out next chance I get.