Glossary of Artistic Terms
©2012 All Rights Reserved, Lisa Pavelka
Antiquing - The process of creating an aged look to clay. This can be done using pigment powders, paints, Baroque Guilders Paste, and Rub N’ Buff, typically after baking. An application is made on the baked clay and the excess is wiped or lightly sanded away to create an aged of distressed patina.
Armature - A foundation or framework under which clay is built for sculptural purposes. It is used to add strength and reduce the amount of clay needed to form a piece which otherwise may be heavier. Wire, aluminum foil, or other materials can be used to create an armature.
Backfill – This is the process of filling crevices in clay with other clays (solid or liquid), paints, or other clay compatible mediums. This is a means of achieving looks including intarsia inlay, mosaic, cloisonné and other enameling methods.
Bezel Setting – Typically a metal foundation with thin sidewalls designed used to frame stones, clay and other mediums. Backfilling is the most common means of use with a bezel setting. There are commercial settings available. Recycling old costume jewelry for settings is another fun alternative. Polymer clay bezels can be fabricated to create bezels.
Bull’s Eye (see Millefiori) –This is a millefiori term for any clay color wrapped in another color. It can refer to a single cane (rod) of clay wrapped in single clay sheet of another color, or be multiple layers of clay wrapped around a central clay core just as a traditional bull’s eye target might appear.
Cane (see Millefiori) - A glass blowing term applied to clay that that refers to a colored component of clay or a combination of them to create a pattern assembled in what is known as millefiori.
Clay Foil – This is a Mylar backed foil brought to the market by Lisa Pavelka who developed the first Faux Dichroic Glass technique for polymer clay. These foils come in several colors and patterns. They are applied to uncured clay. Heat through burnishing makes them adhere and not pressure. They create a more intense metallic effect on clay than leaf and don’t crackle as dramatically when stretched. Foils, like leaf should be sealed to prevent fading, wearing or peeling with repeated handling. Lisa’s foil for clay and crafting are specifically made to adhere to uncured clays (available through: www.lisapavelka.com). Many other brands won’t release onto clay.
Clay Gun (see Extruder) – An extrusion device that creates clay canes or rods in various shapes and diameter sizes by way of interchangeable discs. Clay guns rely on a plunger to force the clay out a barrel.
Color – Refers to the composition of a light wavelength composition of light. Terms that are frequently associated with color include hue: referring to the modification of a basic color, shade refers to the gradation of a color’s degree of darkness, and tint refers to the gradation of a color’s degree of lightness.
Conditioning – The preparation of clay in order to reach a workable state. Conditioning is is typically achieved by one or a combination of the following: kneading, rolling through pasta machine and or dedicated food processor granulation. Each brand of clay has its own unique degree of firmness and consistency. Some brands are easier to condition than other.
Cure – The baking of clay to reach molecular fusion of the molecules in order to reach optimal strength and permanence. Temperature and time vary from brand to brand.
Dichroic – A property that causes light to be split up into distinct beams of different wavelengths (colors). It can also mean light rays that have different polarizations are absorbed by different amounts. Dichroic is a popular type of glass used to make artwork and jewelry. It displays a beautiful iridescent quality throughout a wide spectrum of color.
Embossing Powder – A thermography powder developed for the printing industry and adapted to rubber stamp arts. This can be added to clay as an inclusion or applied to the surface before baking for stone like and special effect. Some powders are coated and “bloom” during baking revealing a different color when heated than the exterior coating. Blue can become white in the baking process in some brands. Various grades and coarseness can also create various surface textures. Typical rubber stamp application can be done on baked clay.
Extruder (see Clay Gun) – Gum paste guns or garlic presses can be substituted for a clay gun to press out lengths of clay in varying shapes and diameters.
Faux – Is the French word for “false.” It is used in many polymer clay techniques to indicate an imitative method. There are many techniques and adaptations for creating Faux: wood, stained glass, fabric, opal, metal, stone and more. Polymer clay is the chameleon of artistic mediums. About the only thing that can’t be copied in look if not feel is clear glass.
Hue – Refers to the modification of a basic color.
Image Transfer – This is a means of transferring photos or artwork onto polymer clay. Various methods for achieving this are available including Toner based copy transfer which can be done in black and white or tinted by hand with pastels, chalks or colored pencils. It can also be done using liquid clays. The easiest method for image transfer directly onto clay is inkjet pre-printed or customizable transfer medium. Developed for the clay market by Lisa Pavelka, it can also be used on other crafting surfaces.
Inclusion – Any ingredient that is added to clay to create a special effect. Most often inclusions are added into translucent or lightly colors clays. Items often used for this purpose include: glitter, embossing powder, spices, fibers, ground crayon, metal leafing and more.
Jelly Roll – One of the simplest and most basic millefiori canes. It is two or more colors of clay rolled into sheets, stacked and rolled just like a jelly roll cake to form a swirl pattern. More complex versions can be created with wedged sheets, color gradients and manipulated sheets (including striped, foiled, and textured sheets).
Leafing – Thin sheets of metal traditionally used to gild picture frames, illuminate manuscripts, and embellish walls, ceilings, paintings and frescos. Most metal leaf that is used for crafting is known as composite leaf. This is metal leaf that appears to be gold, silver or copper, but is must tinted metal such as aluminum. It comes in sheets thinner than paper. Real gold leaf and other precious metal leafing is typically hundreds of time more expensive per sheet than composite leaf. It can be applied to uncured clay and has a dramatic crackle effect when stretched. Leafed clay, especially anything that will be handled should be sealed with a thin layer of liquid clay or other compatible sealant to prevent fading, tarnishing or peeling. Unlike clay foil it comes in a limited number of colors and effects.
Liquid Clay – This is polymer clay in liquid form. It can be applied to seal foils, leafing, powders, paints and embellishments onto clay. It can also be used to attach clay to clay before curing. Additives including dye, paint and powders can be mixed into liquid clay to use a heat curable paint and surface treatments for clay. Marbling effects with liquid clay mixed with more opacity can be achieved by swirling multiple colors with a pin or needle tool. Liquid clay when applied thick enough is self-leveling. It can even be used as a transfer medium. All liquid clays appear translucent when in the bottle, but are typically transparent in nature when applied, unless in unusually thick layers are used
Marbling -The mixing of two or more clay colors together without blending into a solid color. This technique creates striations and veins in a random pattern that can mimic the look of stone, marble or paper. Drawing lines through a sheet of marbleized clay using a skewer or knitting needle can create chevron patterning.
Mica Powder - Finely granulated mica particles that have been dyed with pigment. When applied to unbaked clay they can give an iridescent finish that resembles the look of metal and mother of pearl. While they can be added as an inclusion in clay, it takes quite a bit to get a visible effect.
Mica Shift (see Pearlescent) – A holographic effect that is unique to polymer clay alone. It is the manipulation of mica particles in metallic polymer clays. Conditioning in a single direction through a pasta machine will align the particles that work like tiny mirrors. Once these particles are all facing the same direction, they can be manipulated with the use of a texture stamp, of cutting and assembling grain against cross-grain to create a ghosted effect. Impressed metallic clay is shaved until smooth leaving a ghosted effect. This is actually a typed of “bruising of the clay.” Both methods used to create a mica shift work like a hologram. The clay appears to have texture, but is in fact flat and smooth. Polishing enhances this effect, which increases the illusion of depth in the pattern. The technical term for the phenomenon that occurs with the mica shift technique is Chatoyance. This is an optical quality in which an object exhibits a wavy and luminous band of light that appears to glow from within and move when viewed at various angles. This quality is also seen in things like opals and in cat’s eyes.
Millefiori (see Cane) – Derived from the ancient Roman glass blowing method, it literally means “a thousand flowers” in Italian. It is the formation of patterns or pictures through the combination of canes. These are assembled and compressed together. Slices can be cut from finished canes and applied to clay and other surfaces for a decorative veneer. Individual slices can be layered or assembled to form dimensional or sculptural effects.
Mokumé Gané – is pronounced “May-ku-may Gone-ay”. This technique has been adapted from the metalsmithing technique discovered by 17th century metal smith, Denbei Shoami, it literally means: Moku - wood, Mé -eye and Gan - metal) and is also known as wood grain metal. It involves creating loaves of clay from thin layers that are stacked and manipulating with the use of texture stamps, tools or other findings to create holes, hills, and/or ridges. When thinly sliced the loaf reveals various and random patterns of amazing beauty. Applying clay foil or leaf between these thin layers can enhance the effect, especially when layered between translucent clays.
Monochromatic – Refers to all of the hues of a single color (both tints and shades). The resulting look is subtle due to the lack of contrast.
Needle Tool - An awl-like tool with a pointed tip, used to pierce texture and pick up clay. It’s easy to create a variety of lengths and diameter needle tools by creating handles for various size needles.
Opaque (see Translucent) - Anything that is impenetrable by visible light. It will neither reflecting nor emit light.
Pearlescent (see Mica Shift) – Terminology referring to the shimmer effect found in mica bearing clay. These microscopic particles reflect light and are a key component in the Mica Shift technique.
Polymer Clay – A non-toxic, man-made modeling material based on PVC composition (Polyvinyl Chloride). It made up thermoplastic resin, plasticizer, and pigment. Unlike earthenware clay, polymer clay contains no water and cures at low temperatures and has an indefinite shelf life when properly stored. Polymer clay properties vary from brand to brand considerably. It can be baked in a home oven, convection oven or toaster oven. It is compatible for baking with many materials (that don’t burn at 275°F) including paper, wood, cardboard, paper maché, metal, glass, crystal, pearls, feathers, fabric and some plastics. It can be baked repeatedly. Afterwards it can be drilled, sanded, painted, and carved.
Relief – The sculptural method of creating three-dimensional imagery in an almost flat composition. Coins are the best example of how dramatic relief work can be in creating the illusion of depth and dimension in a nearly level plane.
Shade – refers to the gradation of color as related to its degree of darkness or the amount of black that is added.
Skinner Blend - A technique developed by polymer clay pioneer Judith Skinner in which a color gradient is formed between two or more colors of clay. This innovative and time saving technique revolutionized polymer clay work. It is a staple component for many projects that involve millefiori caning, backgrounds and embellishment.
Texture Plate – These can be anything that can create a texture on polymer clay. Rubber stamps and plastic rubbing plates are the most commonly used products to create texture in clay. Fabric, wood, sandpaper, screening material and even the soles of shoes can create wonderful textured effects.
Translucent - A quality that permits the shining through or passage of light without being transparent. This is the nature of polymer clay without pigment added. A very small amount of colored clay will tint an entire block of translucent clay when mixed into it. When used in very thin applications it can become nearly transparent.
Transparent - A quality that allows light to pass through a material so that clear images of what’s on the other side are apparent. Transparency is the opposite of Opacity.
Value - The relative lightness or darkness of a color.