How to create Mokume Gane with Polymer Clay

By Chris Rentmeister (goldfinch4) on March 9, 2012

Mokume Gane (pronounced moe-koo-may-GAHN-ay) means “woodgrained metal” and is a Japanese method of stacking, fusing together and manipulating metal to create a wood grain appearance. This is mainly used to decorate samurai swords.

Polymer clay artists imitate this process by layering several different colors of clay sheets and thin sheets of metal leaf or foil.  These layers are then patterned by manipulating or distorting and thin sheets are sliced from the stack to reveal beautiful patterns.  There are many ways to accomplish this and more are being developed all the time.

In this article I will only be describing one method of how to create Mokume Gane in polymer clay, not the entire process of conditioning the clay, shaping, baking, etc.



The first step is to make thin sheets of clay in your chosen colors by running  them through a pasta machine.  (The pasta machine and all tools should be dedicated to polymer clay use only.)   Cut all these sheets to the same size. 

You can now add layers of metal leaf/foils, or you can paint some sheets with acrylic paints, use colored inks, mica powders, etc. to add more color.  In this example I’m only using metal foils.  The sheets are then stacked and firmly pressed together.  I use an acrylic roller to press together and smooth out the stack. 










It’s time to create the patterns in the clay.  Ways to do this are by using rubber stamps, texture plates, tools, wooden dowels, pens, blades, cookie cutters, silverware, your fingers, anything that will make impressions in the clay.  When any of these are inserted into the stack of clay the different layers are pushed down through the other layers. 











You can also push pieces of clay into the larger holes if desired.  The stack is again squished together and rolled flat.











Using a tissue blade, slice off sheets revealing the various patterns created by your manipulations.  If the slices are too thick, they can be run through the pasta machine again.  After each slice I roll the stack with the acrylic roller to keep a smooth surface. 











These  pieces can now be used for many applications.  If you cut thicker slices, the pieces can be cut or shaped to use as is for jewelry, pendants, buttons, etc.  Or if you prefer you can shave off and apply very thin slices to other pieces. 

I use this technique often in creating items for my  Garden Buddies store.  For the critters and mushrooms I use thin slices placed over solid colors.  For the vases I use thicker slices to cover the entire vase.




The entire process does take a considerable amount of time.  Because of the colors you use, the number of layers and the way you manipulate the stack of clay, it’s nearly impossible to recreate the same pattern again, so every one you make will be a unique creation.




Click here to visit my Garden Buddies store to see many more examples. These make great Easter or Mother's Day gifts, or pick some up for yourself to celebrate Spring!

Related articles:
art, bugs, chat, clay, container art, container gardening, containers, crafts, decorating, decorative, dragonflies, frog, frogs, garden art, gifts, handmade, hobbies, hobby, home decor, inchworm, knick knacks, Mokume Gane, polymer clay, vases

About Chris Rentmeister
I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived here most of my life. My hobbies are woodworking (specifically intarsia), working with hypertufa and cement, polymer clay, cooking and gardening. Whatever hobbies I'm interested in I tend to do to the extreme.

« More articles

Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Untitled Lynxx Aug 25, 2012 11:06 AM 1
Wonderful Article LaVonne Mar 10, 2012 3:05 PM 6

Garden Buddies

Stop by and visit my polymer clay "Garden Buddies" store where you'll find all kinds of garden-themed polymer clay art from bugs and critters to flowers and container decorations.

» Home
» Forums
» Articles
» Pages
» Store

Cubit owner: goldfinch4