Mirror images are fast and easy to make in polymer clay. They’re also a great way to use up scrap clay – the pieces left over from other projects that aren’t big enough to be used alone. Here’s how to make mirror images and a few ideas for what to do with them.
Gather up as many pieces of uncured clay as you want. It doesn’t really matter what kind of clay you use, as long as it hasn’t yet been cured. The sizes and colors of the pieces also aren’t important, unless you’re trying for a particular effect – something you might want to play with after you master the basic technique.
Push all the pieces together and form them into a log. Smooth the surface of the log and then start twisting it with your hands. Give it several firm twists – maybe as many as ten or fifteen, depending on the size of your log. Sometimes the twisting motion will make the log longer and smaller, so if you need to you can push the ends together to make it bigger. But don’t do anything else with it. You don’t want to mix the colors too much.
After you’re finished twisting use a roller, a piece of glass or plastic (something that won’t stick to the clay), or your hands to flatten the surface of the log and create four sides. Your “log” will now be a long rectangle.
Using a tissue blade or a long sharp knife, slice the rectangle in half lengthwise. Try your best to make each side the same thickness; this gets easier with practice.
If the rectangle were tall and thin it would now just fall open. It probably won’t do that on its own, so you’ll have to “help” it by laying each side flat on your work surface, the same as if you were opening the pages of a book. Make sure the bottom edges of the pieces are next to each other – touching, in fact. Then look down on the clay and you’ll see the mirror image.
If you got the pieces the same thickness all you’ll need to do now is smooth the surface of the image a bit and make sure those two edges (which are now in the center of the image) stay together. If one side is thicker than the other you’ll need to stand that piece back up on its end and trim off some of the back.
The image you get will depend on the size and colors of the pieces and how much twisting they received. You may actually see recognizable figures, like a heart or a flower, or the image may be simply abstract. But it will always be something interesting, especially since it’s unpredictable.
Tips for working with mirror images
Once you’ve made a few of these you can start experimenting with the colors, sizes, and placement of clay pieces in the log. One artist likes to make mirror image hearts. It is possible to affect the final image this way, but personally, I prefer the random effect.
You don’t have to use the entire image; if some parts are more pleasing than others you can always just cut those out and put the others aside. You can also take the discards, make another log, and start over. But the more you rework the log the smaller the clay pieces will get, and the less noticeable the image will be.
There is a way to enlarge a second- or third-generation image. If your piece is thick enough you can flatten it with a roller or in the pasta machine. This will make the parts of the image bigger, but it may also distort them – especially if you use a pasta machine. The distortions may produce their own effect, which is sometimes attractive and sometimes not.
What to make with mirror images
You don’t need a lot of clay to make a mirror image. If your log (and the resulting image) is small you can always make pendants. You can also make beads; the best way to do this is to cover a plain bead with the image, working carefully so it isn’t distorted.
Larger images can be used to cover objects like boxes, bottles, and pens (which is my favorite way to use them). Depending on the colors and size of clay pieces, the effect can range from subtle to very dramatic.
If you spend much time working with polymer clay you’ll eventually accumulate many unused pieces. Now you don’t have to consider them wasted or wonder what to do with them. The mirror image technique will give you a creative way to use them.