Posted by: doras_explorations | September 10, 2009

I Have Homework !

        Hi, folks !  Well, Labor Day has come and gone, schools are in session (I’ve been getting stuck behind a lot of school busses lately), and the home improvement projects are at a complete standstill.  There is finally good weather and good fishing, which means that my husband is not home as much.  I’m getting the house to myself more frequently, which is soooooo nice.  I get rather cranky when my need for solitude is not met !
      One way I’ve been spending my alone time is reading and looking at the newest addition to my polymer clay book library, Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful Palettes, by Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio.  Most of us who work with polymer clay know the names Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio, their specialty is COLOR-choosing colors, mixing colors, and developing personal color palettes.  Lindly and Maggie travel extensively teaching color workshops to polymer clay artists.  I have never had the pleasure of taking one of their workshops, so I was thrilled when I learned they were publishing a book.  Finally there is a book on color written specifically for the polymer clay artist. I’ve never met a polymer clay artist who isn’t ‘color obsessed’ at least to some extent. 
     And the book does not disappoint !  The photography is absolutely stunning, there is eye candy overload for sure.  You have to see it to believe it.  To be honest, I have so far spent a lot more time looking at the photos than reading the chapters.  However, there is a gold mine of information on just about every aspect of color.  There are 11 exercises in the book that teach, among other things, color mixing, color interactions, and the properties of hue, value, and saturation.  My goal is to complete all 11 exercises, and hopefully some of the projects as well.  Yesterday, I completed the first two exercises, “Package Color Testing” and “Value Sorting”.  The purpose of the package color testing exercise is to learn how polymer clay colors change when they are baked, and to make ‘test mixes’ of packaged colors by mixing 1 part each of the color and white. The test mix samples are the small circles inside the large ones.  I used 6 Fimo Soft colors: Cherry Red, Windsor Blue, Tropical Green, Sunflower Yellow, Plum (dark purple), and Purple Violet.  All the colors darkened with baking, as I had expected, but the purple violet seemed to change the most.  Take a look: 
       There is a wonderful chart in the back of the book which classifies the primary and secondary colors of the major clay brands by hue, value, and saturation after they are baked.  It also indicates which colors show the most significant darkening after baking, which is very useful information to have.
       The second exercise involves making a ‘Value Sorter’ and comparing the absolute value (lightness and darkness) of a  clay color by using a gray scale , made from polymer clay, of course.  I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time seeing the ‘value’ of colors independent from the hue.  Value is probably the most important consideration when making canes (especially very detailed or small ones!), and probably the most difficult to master.  I used my gray scale to compare the values of the same Fimo Soft colors listed above.  The results were, shall I say,  ‘eye opening’: 
Here's the black&white version, showing the similarities in value between the colors.
Here’s the b&w version, note the similarities in
value between different colors. 
      What I found especially interesting was how different the colors looked depending on the gray scale background.  When surrounded by white, the colors appeared significantly darker than when surrounded by black.  Against the gray backgrounds, some of the colors almost ‘disappeared’.  Obviously this has huge implications for designing canes, and for any clay technique for that matter. 
     At any rate, I hope to apply the principles I am learning in this book to my next cane design.  I am due-OK, overdue- to post another Cane of the Week feature.  As much as I’ve enjoyed doing ‘math inspired canes’ such as Bahaskara’s Behold! and the ‘Joy of Hex’, I’d like to try a desgn that doesn’t require a graphing ruler, calculator, or protractor !  We shall see…..


  1. Hi Dora,

    Great start in your color experimentation. I got Lindly and Maggie’s book this week and hope to start some of the exercises after I finish my show in October.

    The color shift (darkening) that happened with the Fimo Soft colors is rather dramatic. I may work with Kato or Premo for my testing…whenever I get started. Sigh; another item added to the play-time list.

    Thanks for sharing your results so far.


    • I know what you mean, Amy ! So many projects, so little time. I agree, the color shifts look quite dramatic when the big outside circles are compared to the small inside ones, however the inside circles are a mix of 1 part white and one part package color. When comparing baked vs unbaked samples of the package colors (no white added) the clay color shifts are not quite as dramatic, although they are significant. On more than one occasion, I’ve used a dark blue or brown clay in a cane which looked black once the clay was baked. I try to compensate for this by adding some white to the dark colors.

  2. Hey Dora, Thanks for sharing your homework so far from Lindly and Maggie’s book. It arrived in the mail right before I left for New Mexico and I read it on the plane. As I am a TOTAL color freak, I was in heaven!! I’m itching to get started. Thanks for the inspiration! -Karen

    • Hi Karen ! Isn’t it a wonderful book? I’ve done the first 3 exercises so far (package color testing, value sorter, and pivot tiles), and they’re a lot of fun. I’m planning to make more pivot tiles, and then store them in an index card file box so I can refer to them when I’m working on a cane or other pc project.

  3. Cool experiment. There’s nothing as invigorating as vivid color.

  4. I love all your tutorials and experiments. I always learn so much from you.

    Since I enjoy your blog, I’ve given you a blog award here:

    • Thanks so much for the award, it’s nice to know that ones efforts are appreciated!

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