Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's Not Painted On-It's Cane Work!

You've seen it on many things, from beads, to vases and beautiful jewelry boxes. Intricate and repeating patterns that look like they were meticulously painted onto a surface. Meticulous, they certainly are, but not painted. When you understand how polymer clay canes are made, you acquire a whole new appreciation for the amazing results.
Polymer clay canes are made by arranging and stacking clay in different colors so that a certain pattern or image will appear every time it is sliced. If you imagine making a rainbow cake that consists of five layers, each layer a different color, the concept is easy to understand. Every slice of the cake will have the same pattern.
Canes can be made for simple spiral, or "jellyroll" patterns, or as intricate as flowers and faces. Renaissance Gal of San Antonio created this mime cane that I absolutely adore:
From the example above, you can see how canes like that are made in several stages. A cane for the mouth, eyes, nose, etc. are made separately and then combined to form one log. The images are large at the beginning, and then the cane can be "reduced." That's the process of gentle stretching and pulling that reduces the cane to a smaller scale.
I have drawn a diagram that demonstrates the basic steps in one of the simplest kinds of cane, the leaf:
It begins with one cylindrical "plug" of clay, which is cut and inserted with a sheet of another clay color, represented by the blue. This is done three times until in step B, when a fourth sheet is added, that half of the cylinder is flipped over before putting the pieces back together. Now the blue lines converge. In step C, a final wrap of the whole log is made. This log can now be pinched along the top to change the round shape into a leafier one. My tutorial for making a leaf cane is here. Now, every time this log is sliced, this leaf will appear:
Here are some earrings I made from slices of my first, somewhat floral, cane:
So now you know the details behind these intricate patterns in polymer clay. Cane work takes a lot of practice and patience to master. There are other special techniques that produce interesting pattens too, that also appear "painted." Mokume Gane is one with many variations and striking effects.
I made the above bracelet using the polymer clay mokume gane technique. This is a good method for artisans like myself who are still struggling with caning.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more of my creations, please check out Ecclectic LadyLand on Facebook or visit my jewelry shop on Artfire.
Cheers =D

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