artsy fartsy,  crafts gone wrong

my polymer clay experiment

my favorite bowls rice in glass

I have these really cool bowls I bought in Chinatown ages ago. They have rice embedded in the sides. If you hold the bowl up to the light, you can see through it. I love the bowls because of this neat feature. Every time I slurp a bowl of ramen noodles or gobble up some yummy stir-fry, I wonder how they were made.

Is there a show on bowls like this because I am dying to know how they got that rice in there and how it’s preserved so well. I’ve tried googling it but I guess I don’t even know what words to use because everything I find just turns out to be a post on how to cook a bowl of rice—which I already know how to do!

Since I don’t have any glass blowing skills and I don’t knowing anything about ceramic-bowl-making, I thought I’d try this rice embedding trick with polymer clay. It’s the closest thing I could think of that might be like a glass dish. I looked all over to see if anybody has tried this before and I think nobody has. Probably because it doesn’t really work.

polymer clay bricks squish it, squish it real good

I’ve never worked with polymer clay before but I’ve seen it blogged around the internet from time to time. I poked around our craft store and there was a book that said it’s one of those mediums that is easy to break into but difficult to master so I thought why not. I might as well try it.

ready to bake pendant

It is easy to work with. Bug and I had fun kneading clay for the required two minutes and then rolling it out into a thin slab with her little rolling pin that she uses to play with play dough. We made a bunch of pendant like shapes and then pushed pieces of rice into them. I tried different thicknesses hoping the rice would show through like my glass bowls. Then we popped them in the oven.

rice clay pendant medallion

Thirty minutes later I took them out of the oven and I was not impressed. I don’t think my experiment really worked. They are interesting beads but not really very glass-like at all. The thin pieces could be held up to the light and you could see through the rice but the clay was bendy and if you you bent it I’m sure it would break. The thicker pieces were nice and solid for wearing as a necklace but the rice was just texture. Not the translucent effect I wanted at all. So I guess that’s that. It was fun to try but not a success. I may try it again with clear clay but I think this is a mystery I might have to work a little harder at to solve.

Any experienced polymer clay artists or glass bowl makers have any insight for me?


  • Chrisy in Chicago

    This link will give you the the details. In a nutshell, the little spots are made with rice embedded in “wet”clay. Once it is fired for the first time, the rice bits burn out, leaving little interesting shaped holes. Those holes then are filled in with melting glaze when you fire the bowl for the final time. It’s a pretty effect for sure!

    You might be able to do something somewhat similar using polymer. If you get the clay thin enough, you can push the rice into the clay so it is exposed on both sides. Bake the clay, pop out the rice bits and then fill them with Modge Podge (or something similar). Let it dry and then put a super duper thin layer of clay and maybe dry it with a blow dryer instead of in the oven. Just an idea – I obviously haven’t tried it.

    I love watching you come up with all of these creative ideas – it really gets my creative juices flowing! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • anna b bonkers

    Ahhh, so this is what you were after. Some clays bake really hard and some softer. Try making them a little thiner and add a rich glaze after.

    I think they are still pretty though!

  • Chrisy in Chicago

    Oooo! Or instead of the thin layer or clay, you could paint the clear spots pretty colors that show through the other side! (Sorry for two posts – this was an afterthought.)

  • lorien

    From the first link that was posted, it looks like the windows are not actually grains of rice, but rather the relief that was left when the clay was bisqued (the first firing). A kiln gets so hot that any organic matter burns off, which left little holes, which are then filled by the melting glaze in the second firing. Pretty much exactly what Chrisy said. I would imagine that it’s not that hard to do with the proper equipment.

  • margalit

    The bowls you love are porceline and fired at a very high temperature, which burns off the rice grains. They’re fired twice. Once when the clay is wet, which is when the rice is put into the clay, and then a second time with the glaze. The glaze is what covers up the rice holes and makes it translucent.

    FIMO isn’t fired at a high temp at all, in fact just the opposite, so it’s not going to be melting the rice when it’s fired. I don’t know how to tell you how to make translucent shapes into the clay, but you don’t glaze fimo so you’re not going to get the same effect, no matter what.

  • jaynette

    Unfortunately or forturnately your oven doesn’t bake at 1200 degrees. Wrong clay and wrong temp. The pottery you like to paint is closest to what you want, but it has already been fired before you get to it. They do make kilns for home use. I’m not sure you have the correct space to use one though. The rice bowls do look amazing.

  • paula

    good for you for 1-being curious, 2-coming up with a theory, 3-trying it, and 4-getting the word out! its so much fun to figure out how pretty things are made.

  • Ali

    That is awesome that you have so many knowledgeable readers ( I’m not one of them). Those are awesome bowls, its amazing what you can find in china town, last time I was there I found some awesome shoes for my little girl! She wears them CONSTANTLY.

  • Tammy

    Check out the ceramic classes at Saddleback College. They have a great program and are probably cheaper than private classes.

  • BeachMama

    Too bad you aren’t local, I have a girlfriend who is starting to teach pottery and she does funky stuff like that.

    I think your jewelry turned out really, really cool.

  • gingermog

    Your post reminded me of a little bone china cup my great aunts had. It had been brought back as a curio from Japan by one of my sailor great uncles, when you lifted it up to the light at the bottom of the cup was a perfect head and shoulder silhouette of a Japanese lady. As a child I just loved it. Had forgotten all about it until now.

    Polymer clay is awkward to model, I’ve made puppet hands out of it and they’ve always come out slightly bulbous. I wonder what it would be like using it in molds? Good luck with the experiments I was impressed with your ideas.

    I will be confirming dates this weekend but it looks like I will be around Newport Beach area 15-18th of July if you would be around for a catch up xxx

  • Lady in a Smalltown

    I took “clay class” as a child (when I say pottery people think I mean what you do with Bethany, when I say ceramics people think I mean that stuff people did in the 80s when they were over macrame) and now again as an adult at the same studio with the same teacher. One of my favorite project comes from the art teacher at my school. She uses alphabet soup noodles and has the kids spell words or just put in lots of letters. They burn out (as the rice does) and you are left with the indentation. Then you put on glaze and wipe it out. The glaze stays in the letters.

    Good luck finding a class. You really need a class with flexibility and no required projects. It is the most relaxing part of my week.