Mica Shift is one of those techniques that has many levels of possibilities. For beginners is perfect to experiment with because you only need one color of clay. If you don’t like how it turned out just roll the clay into a sheet again and start over. It’s especially fun now that Premo polymer clay comes is several new colors of metallic clays. The new colors are Peacock, Copper, Purple, 18K Gold, Antique Gold, Magenta, Bright Green & Blue are fabulous !!! The still have 3 of the old colors too: Gold, Silver & Pearl. The Pearl clay can be tinted with small amounts of the opaque clays or with alcohol inks to create your own custom colors. Just be sure to let the ink dry completely on the surface before you mix it in.
Mica Shift is simply the particles of mica in the clay being disturbed or distorted creating the illusion of depth and layers or chatoyancy like you would see in Tiger’s Eye gemstones. First you must align the mica particles so they all lay in a single direction. The easiest method is to condition the clay with a past machine so you have a smooth sheet of clay to begin you project. The process of conditioning the clay with the pasta machine aligns all those mica particles with little effort on your part.
To distort or disturb the mica you have many option. Objects like a ball stylus, a pencil, knitting needle, etc. can be drug along the surface of the clay sheet to create shallow lines and designs. Run the sheet of clay through your pasta machine 2 or 3 times (making it thinner each time) and you will still see the lines you made, but the sheet will be smooth. Other items such as texture sheet and rubber/clear stamps can be used to make more intricate patterns. (*Tip – I always use a release agent like water or Armor-All to keep the stamps from sticking to the clay.)
Here is a very simple project of mine showing a basket-weave Mica Shift project.
And couple by my friend Kellie called Twisted Rope Mica Shift and also the Satin Swirl Egg.
And a few more beginner level projects:
And a nice video showing the technique for you visual learners :)
The secret to a really nice Mica Shift finished project is the sanding and buffing. You will first need wet/dry automotive sandpaper starting with 320 grit up through at least 1000 grit and a buffer with a muslin cotton wheel. (*Tip – Use the muslin buffing wheel with only a couple rows of stitching at the center. I do not recommend flannel cloth wheels. They tend to be very hard to use on polymer clay and leave gouges in the surface.) I will be the first to admit sanding is tedious and I do not like doing it at all LOL but it’s one of those evil necessities. I always work in water to keep the dust from sanding the clay contained. Add a couple drops of liquid soap as a lubricant. Start with the 320 grit to smooth out any lumps, bump or imperfections. Once it feels smooth all over, then move on to the 400, 600, 800 and 1000 grits. The 1000 is really just polishing, because the paper is so smooth, but that is the whole point, yes? :)
The electric buffer takes a very light touch. Don’t push the clay deep into the wheel, the fast momentum of the wheel can grab the clay right out of your hands and fling it across the room. I put an empty box on it’s side, with a layer of quilt batting in the bottom, behind my buffer to catch any projectiles that may leave my hand. You don’t want to break a window or your favorite vase ;) A bit of practice and you’ll be an expert on buffing in no time.
Some eye candy to inspire you :)
Happy Claying :)