Our readers can make f'opals just like this, Blog! That is, of course, if they have the required items on this Required Items List:
- translucent polymer clay (and the usual tools/equipment for working with same)
- opal colors of clay, in metallic or pearl varieties (I used blue and green; peach, yellow, pink and purple would be good too)
- Perfect Pearls metallic powder in opal colors (see above)
- iridescent glitter
- Dremel tool
- bits for rough sanding, finer sanding, polishing and drilling
- Future floor polish
- Optional--iridescent or opal colors of thin foil
STEP ONE--PREP YOUR F'OPAL FIXINS'
The general thing about making f'opals, Blog, is that you are trying to recreate the random, translucent, crystalline aspects of an opal. So start by making yourself some globs of translucent clay tinted into pastels, by mixing a bit of metallic or pearl color clay with translucent. Don't mix it too much...go for swirly.
When you have two to five colors, roll them into ropes of varying thickness. Then combine the ropes by twisting and smooching to produce a random, only slightly mixed ball of the various colors.
Get out your Perfect Pearls powders of choice, as well as your iridescent glitter. You can also prepare some tiny teeny snippets of foil if you want, but make them teeny. You can also take some metallic colored clay, roll it out very thin, and chop it into tiny bits...but remember if it is dark colored, you will get an effect not totally opalescent (but still interesting).
STEP 2--BUILD YOUR BASE F'OPALS
Slice the multi-tinted ball of clay into thin layers. Take a layer and paint with some daubs of Perfect Pearls, or sprinkle with some glitter, or top with a piece or two or three of foil or clay fragment. Top with another layer, and repeat. Continue in said fashion, going for random and multicolored.
When you've stacked and festooned all the layers, press together and form into a spheroid shape. Twisting a little is fine--just make sure all the layers are pressed together firmly.
Cut your f'opalescent glob into any number of smaller globs, the approximate size you want the ultimate f'opals to be. Gently roll each piece into a sphere.
Roll some plain translucent clay into the thinnest possible layer. Cover each sphere with this clay and then round into a ball again and make sure any seams are smoothed out.
Bake as usual for the type and size of clay (I did 20 minutes at 270 degrees).
STEP 3--HERE'S WHERE IT GETS FREAKY...F'OPAL WRECKAGE!
So, Blog, up until this point my technique was not really different from other people's you can read about in online tutorials. But at this point things took a hard left turn onto Freaky Street.
In the oven, all my f'opals cracked. For whatever reason, the outer shells cracked and half came off, and some of the inner parts cracked as well. As it turned out, though, I think this is what made my technique end up to be really cool.
You will want to prepare a big bowl of ice water and set it near the stove. When it's time to remove the f'opal wreckage from the oven, dump everything at once into the ice water. This is what makes the clay go as clear as possible.
Now it may well be (highly likely, I'd say) that your f'opals don't crack in the oven. Not to worry. When they are cool, just dry them off. Lay some paper on a hard surface like your concrete basement floor, put on eye protection, and smack those suckers with a hammer. Gather up the resulting f'opal wreckage (some small pieces, some tiny) in a small plastic bag and you're good to go back to your claying area for the next step.
STEP 4--F'OPALING FOR REAL THIS TIME
The little bits of f'opal wreckage have all kinds of fun crystal-like qualities. Choose a piece or two that you especially like, and then coat them once again with plain translucent clay and roll the result into a ball. If you can't exactly get a smooth ball, that's okay--you don't need to.
Re-bake, and re-plunge into fresh ice water. Your new and this-time-for-real faux opals will look like what you see in the photo.
STEP 5--SANDING AND POLISHING
Time to literally crank that Dremel tool, Blog. Don your mask and eye protection, and a smock or old clothes. Start with the rough sanding bit in your Dremel. Take a baked, cooled, dry f'opal.
Use the Dremel to sand, with two goals in mind: to shape the f'opal into its desired ultimate shape, and to expose some pretty areas. Under the plain outer shell, underneath you'll find really interesting colors and patterns and sparklies. The color, intensity, and shine of these will increase with the later steps. It's like digging for buried treasure!
When you have the basic shape you want, switch to the fine sanding bit and make the f'opal smoother all over.
Lastly, switch to the buffing bit and buff the heck out of that little guy. No doubt it will fly out of your hand a bunch of times (and shoot under the most cobwebby shelving in your basement, possibly), so keep a good grip if you can. Don't stop until it seems almost perfect.
Wash any dust off, dry, and get out the Future and a small paintbrush. Give the f'opal two coats of Future (one side at a time, so that's four steps total), allowing 20-30 minutes drying time in between coats. Now it will gleam just like a real opal!
Drill a hole through the f'opal if you wish to string it, and you're done! So here's the choker necklace I made with a few of my batch of f'opals...
Blog, I've wanted to make my own opals for a very long time...they are my favorite semi-precious stone. Now I have the next best thing at a fraction of the cost. That mother-of-all-f'opals focal-f'opal is my pride and joy!