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Posted on August 14, 2015 in Hints, Tips, & Tricks by Katie Oskin
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,