Mica Shift: Great for beginners

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:
Jelly Roll
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 🙂

Jan Geisen mica shift beads

Jan Geisen mica shift beads


Donna Kato

Donna Kato


Donna Kato

Donna Kato


Sherri Kellberg

Sherri Kellberg


Rita Seale - PCC Contest Entry

Rita Seale - PCC Contest Entry


Kathy Weinberg

Kathy Weinberg


Laurel Steven

Laurel Steven


Into The Dawn Designs

Into The Dawn Designs

Happy Claying 🙂

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What Is Mica Shift?

Some examples of Mica Shift. Believe it or not, the surfaces are very smooth 🙂

This first is a faux wood technique using the mica shift effect

These 2 show the mica shift ghost imaging effect


This egg is covered with pinches of mica clay squished over the surface.

An explanation of the mica polymer clay may help you to understand. The metallic polymer clays are jam packed with teeny tiny particles of mica. When you condition the clay (using a pasta machine is the easiest way) and roll it out as a sheet it forces all the mica particles to lay down in the same direction. The sheet of clay will have a consistent color across the surface. When you disturb the surface of the sheet of clay by stamping, carving, combing, etc. the mica particles become misaligned (pointing in many directions). This misalignment of the mica is what we use to create the Mica Shift (some people call it ghost imaging).

I get the best mica shift when I use a stamp or texture with a deep etched design. I then use a sharp clay blade to shave off the raised areas of the clay. It takes a little practice to shave the clay evenly, but don’t fret. You are using one color of clay, so if you don’t like how it turned out just roll the clay into a sheet once more and try again. 🙂 Lastly, after shaving the sheet, run it through the pasta machine on a setting thinner than the sheet to smooth the surface out.

I have a mica shift tutorial online that is beginner level and no stamps are required. http://www.tonjastreasures.com/tutorials/basketweave.html

Great videos to buy or borrow:
1) Mike Buesseler – All-Polymer Metallic Clays (try your local clay guild for a copy, it’s out of print, but very worth the watch)
2) Grant Diffendaffer – ArtWay Studio: Marvelous Mica and Ghost Imaging

And a list of other online tutorials.
http://www.polymerclaycentral.com/ms_texture.html
http://www.everclay.dk/1_Tutlinks/Techniques/micashift_US.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm5V3kglUw0
http://paroledepate.canalblog.com/archives/2007/01/22/index.html
http://www.claylessons.com/tutorial/stamped-mica-shift
http://www.sculpey.com/how-tos/techniques/mica-shift-metallic-and-pearl-clays
http://www.sculpey.com/projects/mica-shift-trinket-box

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