How to do basic Skinner blends

Color gradients are great for giving depth and visual interest to any art piece. Judith Skinner is a hero to literally countless of clayers for her incredible discovery - how to use the pasta machine to easily create ramped color gradients.

That's what a Skinner Blend is - using the pasta machine to produce a ramped or smooth color transition gradient. In the illustration to the right, that first drawing with the blue and white triangles may help you understand why the Skinner blend technique works the way it does. The ratio of the two colors as you go from left to right changes.

Because of the way you lay the triangles together (instructions below), then fold the clay sheet and allow the pasta machine to mix the colors together in one direction, you create endless varying ratios of the two colors. That's why the way you fold the sheet is so vital to doing a Skinner blend.

Doing stepped color gradients (e.g. a mixed blob of 7 parts color A with 1 part color B, a second blob of 6 parts color A with 2 parts color B, and so on...) has been relegated to being an option only when you want a strong stepped color pattern.

I looked on the web at various sites that provided Skinner blend instructions, but I could not find a single page that explained it how I like to explain it. ;-)

So I decided to throw in my two 'technical' cents on the how and whys of doing a basic skinner blend. I'm using illustrations instead of photos to help tighten the focus on the technical aspects of the technique.

Email me if you want me to include something I've overlooked. A comprehensive discussion of blending and color gradients can, of course, be found at Diane's http://glassattic.com

Instructions

1) Create 2 sheets with your pasta machine; 1 blue, 1 white, each sheet approximately 5 1/2 " wide X 5 1/2 " long and as thick as the thickest setting on your pasta machine (#1 on modern Italian Atlases).

  Cut each sheet on the diagonal, as shown.

2) Select one triangle from each color and place them on your work surface so that they will form a rectangle if placed together.

There are two basic methods to blending two colors, depending on how you want the color gradient to appear. I call them Aligned versus Offset methods.

3)

Aligned

Aligned method involves a perfect alignment, connecting the two color triangles on the diagonal. The finished gradient is nice, but usually the two original colors get swallowed up in the blending process.

4)

Offset

Offset method involves offsetting one sheet from the other. That way the two original colors will remain on the ends of the color gradient sheet when the blending is completed.

3a)


Butt the diagonal edges against each other to form one sheet. Press on the seam to make the blue and white triangular pieces stick together.

4a)

Butt the diagonal edges against each other but with a slight offset. Press on the diagonal seam to make the blue and white triangular pieces stick together.

Snip off the little points so the final sheet forms a nice rectangle.

3b)
Fold the sheet in half so that the blue edge meets the blue edge and the white edge meets the white edge.
4b)
Fold the sheet in half so that the blue edge meets the blue edge and the white edge meets the white edge.
3c)

Insert the sheet into the pasta machine. Roll it through.

Fold the sheet that comes out of the pasta machine in half, making sure to match the colors on the sheet edges (blue to blue; white to white). Starting with the folded edge, pass the sheet through the pasta machine, again.

It may look a little messed up at first. The first few folds and rolls is where Skinner blend newbies tend to panic. Stay true.

Repeat the folding and rolling through the pasta machine until well blended; usually about 20 passes through the pasta machine.

Note: Usually the rollers are not perfectly parallel. When that is the case, one side of the gap will be smaller and therefore squeeze the clay more, thus making it longer. If this happens to you, fold the sheet, then turn the folded sheet around so the left side goes into the right side of the machine.

4c)

Insert the folded sheet (folded edge first) into the pasta machine. Roll it through.

Fold the sheet in half again, making sure to always match the colors on the sheet edges.

Fold the sheet that comes out of the pasta machine in half, making sure to match the colors on the sheet edges (blue to blue; white to white). Starting with the folded edge, pass the sheet through the pasta machine, again.

It may look a little messed up at first. The first few folds and rolls is where Skinner blend newbies tend to panic. Stay true.You will eventually see the blending work.

Folded edge first, continue folding and pass the sheet through the pasta machine again until well blended; usually about 20 passes.

3d)

The aligned method produces a nice gradient but the two original colors may get blended right into the sheet.
4d)
The offset method helps retain the two original colors on the edges of the sheet so you should see a broader color spectrum with this method.

5)

The two sheets are shown below for better comparison.

Well now. That seems simple enough, no?

 


6)

Stretching

One additional typical step is to fold the gradient sheet in half, this time so gradient edge matches gradient edge (#2), then roll the sheet through your pasta machine to stretch the gradient (#3).

Narrow the roller gap to, say #3, and roll the sheet through again. Narrow the roller gap again to a 5 and roll the sheet through again. If you have a motorized pasta machine, this process will be easy because you generally need both hands to guide the loooong sheet through the machine.


7)

Linear Gradient Cane*

What to do with a. the standard sheet? Here's one simple technique.

Starting with either one of the two color gradient edges, roll up the sheet.

As a cane, you can lengthen or shorten its width to suit your needs.

* = I haven't encountered any name for this cane so I decided to give it this name.

 

   


8)

Radial Gradient Cane*

What to do with d. the long sheet? Here's another simple technique.

Roll it up starting at the lighter end.

* = I haven't encountered any name for this cane so I decided to give it this name.



9)

Rainbow Braided Cane howtoThere are so many other things you can do with color gradient sheets and canes.

OK. Ready to jump into something a little more challenging?

Something with three colors in one sheet? Make a Skinner blend cane? Good. Go warm up that pasta machine and some pretty pearly clays.

Braided Rainbow Cane How-To

 


Enjoy. ;-)

Desiree

Last update to this page: 28 Jul 08. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.