Mokume Gane Beads This ‘n That Mokume GaneMokume Gane is a Japanese metalworking technique in which thin layers of metal are fused together and manipulated to create beautiful patterns that resemble the grain of wood. In fact, “mokume gane” means “wood-eye metal” in Japanese. Polymer clay artists mimic this process by laminating sheets of polymer clay together, distorting them, and slicing thin sheets from the stack to reveal the resultant patterns. There are several basic techniques known as “mokume gane” and as many variations as there are people who’ve tried these techniques. The following tutorial demonstrates a variation that uses “a little of this and little of that”. Don’t hesitate to make substitutions—It’s all part of the fun!MaterialsPremo Frost (aka Bleached Translucent)This particular type of clay is thought to be the clearest and least likely to yellow during curing. If you don’t have Premo Frost, you can use any translucent polymer clay.Clay in colors that coordinate well with the paints, powders, etc. you choose. I used a rich salmon and a slightly metallic red for my base beads. White is a popular choice for this, too.Rubbing alcohol (or Alcohol Blending Solution or Claro Extender for alcohol inks)Glitter in coordinating colors (optional)Polymer clay-friendly finish (optional)Such as Varathane, Future, Minwax Water-based Polycrylic, Sculpey Glaze, Fimo Lacquer, etc.You’ll need at least one or two items (possibly in different colors) from the rest of the list, but you don’t need them all. For instance, if you don’t have metal leaf, just choose one more color of metallic acrylic paint to make up the difference.Metallic acrylic paintsAny brand will do, and you can even use non-metallic paints if you prefer.
If you don’t have a wide variety of colors, you may wish to mix your own colors. I wanted color with sparkle, so I used a mixture of metallic red and metallic black (FolkArt brand) to make maroon.Mica powders (and Future Floor Wax or another clear acrylic medium)Any brand will do. In this case, I used the red available in the Midnight Pearls line of powders and “Brilliant Gold” from Pearl-Ex.Alcohol inksSuch as Piñata Inks from Jacquard or Ranger’s Adirondack Alcohol Inks. I used “Cranberry” from the Adirondack line.Metal leafAny brand is fine—just be sure to use the very thin, “fly-away” sheets of real metal—not the plastic-backed rub-on foil. (Actually, you can use the foil, too, but it is applied differently and doesn’t have the same crackled look as the leaf.) I used gold-colored metal leaf.ToolsWork surfacePlastic wrap (or wax paper, parchment paper, etc.)Latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves (optional, but the cut down on fingerprints)Pasta machine or brayerPalette, plastic lid, etc. for mixing paintsToothpicksPaintbrushCraft knifeDrinking straws, bamboo skewers, etc.Sharp tissue bladeClay shaper or similar tool (optional)Piercing tool (optional, for making beads)Oven (plus paper-lined cookie sheet/bead rack, thermometer, and timer)Bowl of ice water (after baking)Wet-dry sandpaper (320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, etc.) (optional)Electric buffing wheel or denim or muslin polishing rag (optional)Step 1From your block of translucent clay, cut a piece thin enough to go through the pasta machine on the thickest setting. (If it’s too hard or crumbly, pre-condition as necessary, but remember that over-conditioning bleached translucent clay / “Frost” may introduce more air and increase plaquing in the final product.) Continue putting the clay through the pasta machine on progressively thinner settings until it is as thin as possible (without tearing). If you don’t have a pasta machine, roll the clay very thinly with a brayer.Place the sheet of clay on your work surface. (I prefer to cover my ceramic tile with a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent the thin sheets of clay from sticking to the tile. This also makes cleaning up easier. Wax paper will work for this purpose, too.)Cut the clay into small, equal-sized rectangles. When cutting your rectangles, keep the following two things in mind:1. The size of your rectangles depends on the size you want your finished mokume gane block to be. Even a modestly sized mg (mokume gane) block can yield a lot of “veneer”, so you may want to start small. If you keep a record of the materials and colors you use, you can always follow the recipe and make another, larger mg block, later on.2. The number of rectangles you need depends on the number of paints and other materials you plan to use. You can use as many as you like, but keep in mind that the more you use, the more variety there will be among the slices you take from the mg block. For instance, a block with only three colors or materials will have those three repeated closer together in the block than in a block with nine different colors or materials. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but you may have a preference, depending on the project you have in mind.In this instance, I used five separate colors/mat