Top 5 Polymer Clay Tips to the Perfect Millefiori Cane
Posted on August 14, 2015 in Hints, Tips, & Tricks by Katie Oskin
Top 5 Polymer Clay Tips to the Perfect Millefiori Cane
Top 5 Series Continues
with Wendy Jorre de St Jorre
I’m so excited to introduce you to Wendy Jorre de St Jorre today. She’s been an online friend for almost a year. I love her polymer clay canes, which have quite literally made her famous. Today, she’s going to share with us her top 5 polymer clay tips to making the perfect millefiori cane. Thanks for joining us today, there is much more fun planned from other polymer clay artists coming up in two weeks. Don’t miss it. Sign up for the emails here.
Making polymer clay canes can be a long process, so there is nothing worse than going to all that effort only to have it go wrong at the very end. The following five tips are things that I do to ensure that my canes ‘go to plan’, and to maximise the cane left after reduction.
Tip 1: The firmness of your clay must be consistent
Choose a brand that is suitable for caning and then adjust it where necessary to make all the colours as even as possible in firmness.
Clay consistency is definitely the most important thing. Getting the finished cane to reduce evenly is impossible if there are big variations in the firmness of the colours that you are using. Choose a firm brand of clay, the softer ones are too hard to work with. Regardless of the brand you use, there will be some variation in firmness between colours. I soften the harder colours by adding some softer clay when I mix my colours. If I want a pure colour I use translucent to soften it. For colours that are too soft, I will leach them until they are firm enough to use. Spending time getting the firmness of every colour as even as possible will give you the best chance of reducing the cane easily.
Tip 2: Construct your cane carefully to minimise gaps
Packing out your cane neatly and with no gaps will ensure your design stays as you would like it to.
A lot of people go to a lot of trouble to make a pretty flower cane only to pack it unevenly. Does a round plug fit a square hole? Often “snakes” of clay are used to pack square or triangular spaces around a design. Yes they will fit in there, but they don’t fit well, so gaps at the corners allow the clay to move and fill the gaps when you reduce the cane. It is much better to use suitably cut pieces of clay that fit the spaces as perfectly as possible. Ensure that your cane stays true to your design by filling gaps with the colours that you choose, rather than letting the cane decide which random colour moves into the gaps.
Tip 3: Let the cane rest and even out before you reduce it.
The picture on the left shows my cane prior reduction, it has a straight horizon line. On the right, after reduction the horizon is skewed. Why? Because the top half of the cane was too soft compared to the bottom half when I reduced it. Waiting a few days, until all parts of the cane are the same “firmness” will prevent this from happening.
The longer it takes to make a cane, the more important this step becomes. If you have made the cane in a few hours reducing it immediately is not a problem. However, if your cane has taken several days to make, the areas you worked on first will be set and unwilling to move having sat still for several days. The areas you finished last will be soft, pliable and ready to stretch as soon as you start. If you attempt to reduce at this stage the soft clay will easily move while the firm clay will resist and you will end up with a wonky cane. Leaving the whole cane to rest for several days will ensure that all parts of the cane are as even as possible.
Tip 4: Use registration strips to keep your corners true.
Registration strips of grey scrap clay on the corners of the square cane, will show you if your design is starting to skew sideways, or if the shape of your square/rectangle/triangle is changing. On round canes registration strips ensure your cane does not twist.
This is more important for square and triangular canes, but even round canes will benefit from at least one registration strip. Registration strips let me know if the design inside the cane is starting to develop a twist, or skewing sideways. By placing registration strips on ALL of the corners of your canes you will be able to see if the design is drifting sideways or if the proportions of your square, rectangle or triangle are changing.
Tip 5: Scrap clay can save you a lot of waste.
The picture on the left shows my freshly reduced cane, ready to cut. I make the first cut at about the point where the scrap clay meets the coloured clay.
In the picture on the right the original cane is now in 3 pieces. Back left is the scrap piece I cut first. Back right is the undistorted cane. The single slice at the front is all I needed to remove to reach the undistorted cane.
I use scrap clay at the ends of my canes where most of the distortion occurs. I add 2 layers (maximum thickness on the pasta machine) of scrap clay to both ends (faces) of the cane. Take care not to trap air between the cane and the scrap layer. I add the scrap prior to resting the cane so it firms up with the rest of the cane. Once I reduce the cane down to the size I want, I remove the scrap sections from each end by cutting where the scrap clay meets the coloured part of the cane. Then it’s just a matter of taking one or two more small slices before the undistorted cane is revealed.
Little Notes from Virtual Friends:
Thank you Katie for inviting me to join in the Top 5 Tips project. These are the things that help me to achieve consistent results with my canes. I hope you too will find them helpful. Happy Caning! ~Wendy
No, no, no … thank you Wendy! ~Katie
Find Wendy Here
Don’t miss the other articles in the Polymer Clay Top Five
Join me throughout the summer months as guest polymer artists from around the globe share some of their “Polymer Clay Top Five’s.” Guest writers have chosen their own “top five” items, they have not been paid or sponsored in any way to promote their favorite items.
Thanks for joining me today,