Sunday, June 30, 2013

Adapting Mokume Gane

Mokume Gane a Japanese layered metal technique has been adapted to polymer clay. It is one of my favorite techniques for polymer clay.

Mokume gane is a mixed metal technique used for producing the appearance of wood grain on metal. The name is descriptive. "Moku" means wood, "me" means eye and "gane" translates as metal. A variety of metals can be used in mokume gane, both historically and in modern applications. Mokume can be and has been used to make not only jewelry, but also a variety of other metal items, including weapons. Mokume gane was invented by Denbei Shoami, a 17th century smith from the Akita prefecture. Originally, the process was used to make elaborate and ornamental samurai sword handles and sheaths. Historically, gold, copper and silver were used to create laminated billets. These laminated metal billets were then used to forge, craft and finish the mokume gane items. Read more:

The style of mokume gane that I favor the most is one I learned in Lindly Hunani's class several years ago.  It is created from a strip of Skinner blend,(I like to use a medium teal color with a medium tint of cobalt blue for my Skinner blend) cut into eight sections, then combined with a pkg. of translucent, also cut into eight equal sections and mixed individually with one section of the cut Skinner blend. After mixing the eight blends, pass thru the pasta machine from #1 (thick) setting to #6 (thin), trim sheets until six will fit on a sheet of silver metal leaf. Cut apart and stack, using the seventh sheet to top the stack. The eighth sheet will be used to create balls, similar to peas and randomly place on bottom of stack.  Shape the stack to make hills where the peas are by pushing up on the peas from the bottom of the stack and make valleys in between.  Let rest or chill stack before taking thin slices off of the hills on top.  Have a base sheet of clay and place the slices on the sheet, placing the most interesting slices last.  Smooth flat with brayer or roller.  Cut out for your selected jewelry pieces and bake according to the manufacturer's directions.  I usually tent my pieces of jewelry and lower the oven, slightly when translucent is used in jewelry.

Mokume Gane No. 2:

(I call it distressed Mokume Gane)

In this style of Mokume Gane style we will use four layers of clay and push tools and textures from the top to the (almost) bottom of stack. The artists also sometimes use paint and metal leaf between layers of clay.  Today we will stack four colors of clay sheets and, after compressing and running thru pasta 

machine, until we have sixteen layers, we push tools, textures and wavy blade into our stack, planned or random.  Try to arrive at about 2”x3” and about ½” to ¾” high.  Stack.  Let rest, then take thin slices with a clean thin blade, flip onto deli sheet, as in first tutorial and follow same instructions with baking and finishing steps.


No. 3:  Mokume Gane style:

This style uses linoleum cutters or carving tools to create a design in this style.  Let’s begin by stacking five contrasting colors:  white, raw sienna, gold, Spanish olive green and black (or similar colors).  First, we will prepare layers by passing thru pasta machine, cut into two even stacks, until we arrive at 20 very thin layers.  Try to arrive with a stack 4”x4” and ¼ “high.  Using linoleum or carving tools, make your design by carving into and removing clay from stack.  Pull apart slightly and run thru pasta machine.  You may want to turn 45 degrees and run back pasta machine.  Proceed with baking and finishing steps in first tutorial, with the exception of taking thin slices from stack.  If you have any questions, please email me at: