Adapting Quilt Patterns to Polymer ClayThese are definitions of terms often used in working with polymer clays.

This glossary is taken from “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay” by Judith Skinner and Sarajane Helm, with thanks to Nan Roche, Barbara McGuire and Merriam-Webster.

Achromatic – Free from color

Acrylic – Derived from acrylic acid or acrylonitrile; containing acrylic resin, Plexiglass is an acrylic thermoplastic and is used in sheets for work surfaces, rods for clay rollers

Analogous colors – A group of colors that lie side by side on the color wheel

Applique – To apply on top of

Armature – A skeleton or framework on which clay pieces are built to give support and reduce the amount of clay volume inside. Paper, wire, aluminum foil are some items used.

Brayer – Roller tool with a handle

Buffing wheel – machine driving wheel with a muslin or flannel disc for bringing polymer to a shine

Bull’s eye – A cane design in circles that increase in size and radiate out from a midpoint, like a target

Cane – A term borrowed from glass working that refers to patterned or solid colored rods placed to form a design. Slices of canes are used to create millefiore work.

Chroma – The purity of a color or its freedom from white or gray

Clay – A fine suspension of aluminum silicate, moldable when wet and fused into permanent form at very high temperatures

Clay Block – A small unit of polymer clay, usually 2 or 3 ounces

Clay Brick – A large unit of polymer clay, usually 12 to 16 ounces

Conditioning – Preparation of clay before use to warm and soften it and align molecules for permanent strength.

Convection oven – Oven with a continuous flow of air that keeps temperatures even throughout

Cut-outs-Shapes made using cookie cutters or similar tools.

Cutters – Any shaped metal tool that cuts repeatable designs, from small Kemper cutters to cookie cutters

Discs – Round die made of acrylic or metal with shaped openings for use with extruders

Diluent – Liquid plasticiser to soften hard clays

Embossing powder – Acrylic particles used in stamping designs or as inclusions that react with heat to expand and become glossy.

Extrusions – Shaped lengths of clay made using a tool that presses soft clay out through a disc (die) with a precisely cut opening.

Forms-Shapes on which clay can be baked

Findings – The mechanical parts of jewelry making; clasps, pin backs, earring parts and more

Finish – Any way of smoothing the surface or giving a shine including sanding and buffing, or added glosses and glazes. Compatible products include those made by polymer clay manufacturers, Future Acrylic Floor Polish, Rust-Oleum Waterbased Varathane

Glass – A hard, brittle, transparent, non-crystaline substance produced by fusion of silicates containing soda and lime at very high temperatures

Grit – Degree of coarseness in sandpaper or powders; low numbers such as 60 are very coarse and range to superfine automotive grade at 1200 and 2000.

Guild – Group of individuals who come together for a common purpose; the National Polymer Clay Guild and local guilds are a great way to share and exchange information and experiences

Hue – The color of an object; classed as red, blue, green, or yellow in reference to the spectrum

Inclusions – Powders or other materials such as glitter, fibers or spices that are put into the body of the clay, affecting color and texture

Jelly roll – Spiral cane made with two colors rolled up and sliced; like a cinnamon bun

Loaves – Square or rectangular clay assemblies; sometimes sliced from the top as in Mokume Gane

Log – Cane component like a snake but thicker, also sometimes refers to canes

Marbleize – The incomplete mixing of two or more colors that creates the appearance of marble or stone

Mica Powders – Shiny pigmented powders that contain mica and give the look of metal or shell, or that have “interference” qualities affecting the perceived color. Can be used on top or inside clays

Millefiore – Literally Italian for “thousand flowers”; refers to glass making technique that uses patterned and colored rods of glass to form canes, slices of which decorate objects like beads and paper weights.

Mokume Gane – A Japanese metal smithing technique adapted to polymer that uses clay sheets stacked and layered with metallic foils to form “loaves”. Areas are raised or lowered with impressions from top or bottom and a blade is used to slice thin pieces horizontally from the top

Molds – A negative relief impression that allow replication using clay pressed in and pulled out; can be made using polymer clay or silicone compounds, metal, acrylics, glass or plaster of paris

Monochromatic – Colors made from tints or shades of the same hue

Morphing – The process of changing a component from one shape to another. It can also be done to a square cane to change the corners into the flat parts and the flat parts into corners.

Onlay – The application of a layer of clay onto another layer of clay

Opaque – Neither reflecting or emitting light, not transparent or translucent

Parchment Paper – An oven baking paper useful for eliminating shiny spots on polymer clay, also useful as a work surface liner

Pasta Machine – Roller device designed for making noodles, and used with polymer clay to condition, blend colors, texturize and create even sheets of clay of 7-9 variable thicknesses. Comes with hand crank and removable noodle cutters that will cut raw or cured into strips. A motor is also available.

Pearlescent – Shimmering; clay that contains small mica particles and reflects light. Used in mica-shift techniques to create a raised image visible inside the flat surface of the clay

Photocopy Transfer – Technique that uses the plasticisers in polymer clays to transfer ink from photocopied images onto the clay. Liquid clays form soft peel-off sheets that contain the image after baking and can be appliquéd and rebaked.

Pigment – Coloring agent

Plastic – Literally “changeable”; refers to any natural and synthetic materials that can be shaped when soft and then hardened. Includes resins such as amber, resinoids, polymers, cellulose derivatives (like celluloid) casein materials and protein

Plasticiser – Any of a group of organic substances used in plastics to impart viscosity, flexibility, softness, and other qualities

Polymer – A very large molecule made up of many smaller units joined together, generally end to end, to create a long chain. The smallest “building block” of a polymer is called a monomer (mono = one)

Polymer Clay – A modern modeling compound composed primarily of PVC resin, plasticiser, and pigments as well as other fillers including mica

PolyVinyl Chloride – Known as PVC; a white, water insoluable, thermoplastic resin used in making record albums, plumbing pipes and polymer clays.

Plugs – short fat rolls of clay, often sliced into and added to before reduction into snakes

Pulver – Powders marketed by Eberhardt Faber, Bronzepulvers are made of powdered aluminum and pigment, use with a air mask

Reduction – Squeezing and compressing the cane in on itself as the cane is also stretched to lengthen it causes the scale of the design to become smaller. This can be done a little, or a lot.

Release Agent – Powder, cornstarch or misted water used on molds or stamps to allow clay to be pulled away after impression

Saturation – The degree of chroma or purity of color; the degree of freedom from mixture with white

Shade – The degree of darkness of a color determined by the quantity of black added

Sheets – Flat, even layers of clay, made by rolling the clay with an acrylic rod, a brayer, or a pasta machine.

Skinner Blend – Technique allowing the even gradient blending of two or more colors of clay, developed by Judith Skinner

Slamming – Forcefully throwing the cane down on a flat surface to help “wake up” canes that are slow to move. Also refers to the process of putting canes together quickly or within a group caning process.

Snakes – Rolled out pieces of clay that are long with a round diameter. Also referred to by other shapes as in “triangle”, “teardrop” or “square” snakes.

Spiral – Curled image inside a cane made by rolling up two colored sheets in a jelly roll fashion

Stamp – Texture tool with a positive or raised image that allows the design to be impressed into the surface of clay or used with inks or embossing agents to pattern the surface

Strips – Clay pieces not as wide as tongues that can easily be formed by flattening a snake of clay by pressing with your thumb or a roller to flatten onto the work surface.

Thermoplastics – Polymers that once formed can be heated and reformed over and over again.

Thermosets – Polymers that are formed and then heat cured into a permanent shape.

Tint – A color diluted with white

Tongues – Sheets of clay that are longer than they are wide, and can be thicker (in depth) than a rolled sheet. These are formed by hand, not by stacking

Translucent – Admitting or diffusing light so objects can not be seen clearly through it. Refers also to clay with no pigments or fillers that can be sliced very thin and buffed almost clear

Transparent – Transmitting of light so objects can be seen clearly through it

Value – Degree of lightness or darkness of a color

Varathane – Line of wood finishing products made by Rust-Oleum; the water based indoor version is compatible with polymer clay as is the water based spray.

Wedges – Components shaped like triangle snakes but are cut at an angle from sheets of stacked clay.

Taken with permission from “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay” by Judith Skinner and Sarajane Helm