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Making a "Painterly" Flower Cane

Posted by JoAnne Mattingly on

When making a cane, you want to have depth, color, and a certain look.

In this particular case, I was looking for a painterly effect to my cane.

  I wanted it to look like it had been painted on, not created out of polymer clay.   I believe that I got the image I wanted.  Here are the instructions on how you can get this look as well.

  Hi, all.  I promised you a video, but unfortunately, my video camera doesn't  seem to like me.  I will have the read the directions over again to see what the heck I am doing wrong.  In the meantime, I built this cane shown above and took pictures of each step.  I am sorry that some of the photos are a bit fuzzy, but you will get the idea of what I am doing.  So let's begin this lesson....

You will want to pick out three colors going light to dark. 

In this case, I picked out a light blue, a very dark blue, and black.  I used a half a block each of the white and the light blue and about a quarter of the dark blue and about half of that for the black.  You will want to adjust the amounts according to how much cane you want and the effect you are going for.

The lightest color should always be white or beige or something like that.  I have used white pearl before.  The white I picked out is the Fimo effects glitter white, so I used that just as it was.  The other colors, I added a "bit" of glitter in matching shades for each of the colors.   I used what I had, which included a very old light blue (lesson on conditioning "bad" clay coming) and a newer Fimo effects dark blue which maddened me when it was nearly in as bad condition as the other clay and Sculpey III for the black.

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We will be making a Skinner Blend,

but instead of very carefully cutting everything into triangles, I found out about this method and it is so much easier.  Simply shape the different colors into a cone shape and line them up next to each other.  You will see here that I didn't use as much of the dark blue or black as I did of the other colors.  I wanted the other colors to be more in the forefront. The dark colors are there to give depth to the flower, not overtake it. 

You are going to need to roll out your colors so that they can go into the pasta machine easier, 

I roll it out on both sides to get it fairly flat before starting the process of rolling, folding, rolling and folding until all of the colors are blended to my liking.  If you haven't seen how to make a Skinner Blend, go to YouTube and search out Polymer Clay Skinner Blend.  You will see many videos that will explain how to do it.  This is the blend I am looking for in this particular case.  You can take it further until the lines of color are blended so smoothly it is difficult to know where one begins and the other stops, but for this project, we want a bit of contrast.  Once you are happy with your blend, you can do what I do  I find the large sheet difficult to control, so I divide it into usually thirds and stack them on top of each other.  I then run the stack back through the pasta machine still on the thickest setting.  This results in a longer sheet but still managed to handle.  If your clay is very soft and sticky, you will want to use this method.  It will save you from the frustration of it all sticking together, at least in the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

Here I have rolled the clay in thinner and thinner settings until I got it as thin as I could without making myself crazy with the clay sticking and wanting to make air pockets every time I turn around.

 

 

Now you need to roll the clay up into a log starting with the lightest color first.

  In this case, I began with the white.  As you can see in the picture, the ends and sides look pretty raggedy, but don't worry about it, I wanted to keep all of the white I could, so I just carefully began rolling up the raggedy bits until I reached solid clay and then kept rolling.  The sides will be trimmed off when you are done rolling up the cane.

While it looks a bit messy, you will be trimming the ends after rolling and don't worry about scrap.  I have a great idea what to do with that.  Just roll up your cane and trim it down until you get to a clean edge.

You are now going to do the same thing all over again with the next set of colors.

  Again, you will want to pick out colors that look good with the first cane but have some contrast.  In my case, I picked white, gold and copper.  I used Sculpey Premo for the first time and was very pleased with how it was firm, but not impossible to condition.  I set them up the same way, going light to dark and yes, I added glitter to the clay, even the metallic clay.  I am a glitter fool. 

I didn't write down all of the steps this time as it is the same as the with the blue cane, except with one less color.  I did, however, use a half a package on each of the colors.

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You now have two canes in contrasting colors. 

Pretty as they are, we are now going to cut them up.  Cut each one in half lengthwise and turn it and cut it in half again. This will leave you with four quarters of each cane.  Sorry for the blurry pic. And now the fun begins....Take each of the quarters and reline them as seen in the picture below.  Don't worry if one-quarter is bigger or smaller than the rest, just get them lined up.  I sometimes will cut the very last quarter in half to have a bit of each for each end, but it doesn't really matter in this instance.  With the resulting piece, set it down flat on the table and begin to squish it a bit smaller.  The idea is to end up with a more workable size.  You are not really reducing the cane at this time, just making it easier for the next step.  Once you are satisfied with the size, you are going to cut it in half, lengthwise.  You now have, instead of eight pieces stuck side by side, you have sixteen pieces.  Some people would want to go a step further and I say go for it if you want, but for me, with the two different colors, this is as complex as I want to make this cane.

Sorry, having picture problems.  The first ones lined up so nicely.  Figures these wouldn't work out the same way.  Anyway, now that you have this nicely lined up group of canes, you are going to begin to reduce it.  Not only are you going to make it smaller, but you are going to coax it into a round shape.  I found it easiest to start with it on the work surface and pressing it in into itself.  Turn it over and do the same on the other side to keep everything more or less together. As you continue to compress the unit, start pressing the the top together and the bottom together.

Now you want to keep compressing or reducing the cane by squeezing in the middle of the cane to slowly ease it out longer and longer.  The size you will want to get to is at least 12 inches in length.  This will allow you to cut it into six 2 inch pieces.

Now then, you remember those ends you sliced off of the original two canes?  Gather them up and separately, one color for one and the other color for the other and lightly blend them.  Above you will see the browns blended together, but since I like the specks of different color, I didn't blend it all the way to one color overall.  The brown, I decided will be the center of my flower.  The blue leftovers, I blended the same way and after rolling it into a very thin snake circled it around the brown for more visual interest. First I covered the canes with t                                                 Thin sheet of black and  I then pinched the six pieces of cane into a rough teardrop shape or petal shape and lined them up around the center that I made.

 Well, I thought I got my picture problems under control, but nope.  They are still doing whatever they want.  Sigh.  Anyway, now it is time to break out some translucent clay.  Here again, I picked out Premo.  It is very hard as most translucent clay tends to be.  So be sure you condition the clay a lot.  If you don't, the flower will be able to move as you start to reduce it, but the translucent clay will barely budge.  I can't tell you how much you will need for this project, it depends on how big a cane you are working on.  

You will now want to make a long snake of the clay and then pinch one of the sides to create a triangular shape of the translucent clay.  It doesn't need to be perfect.  The snake is going to be pushed into the blank spaces in the cane to fill it out.cane.  Not to worry if you see spaces in your cane or in this article.  I'm glad I am not that much of a perfectionist.  This could drive you crazy.  I hope you will be able to follow the directions okay.  If not, just let me know and I will send you a separate report, most likely with all of the pictures out of order.  Oh well, let's carry on. The next steps will get rid of those.  Now you want to cover the entire cane with two sheets of very thin translucent clay.  One thicker sheet will be okay, but it is harder to fill in those open spaces that way especially if your clay is still fairly stiff.  Is better using two thin sheets, knowing it will get the job done right in the first place. Now squeezing from the middle, start reducing the cane.  This will help get rid of any pockets of air that are trapped in the cane as well as make it a smaller, more usable size. Once your cane has been reduced some and you feel that it is the right size for bigger projects, cut a good sized piece of it off and set aside.  One day you will thank me for holding a good sized piece of cane aside for a rainy day.  In the meantime, after trimming the ends and finishing reducing your cane to whatever size you need, take a look at those "scrap" pieces.  I've got something you can do with them.  When you are done, you will not have any scraps at all.  This can become a problem too if you are used to having scrap to use in the center of beads.  

Save "ugly" clay bead centers and the like.

  This scrap material is too pretty not to use.  For what?  Natasha beads, swirl beads or maybe just beads that would be the perfect color to go along with your cane.  I will explain how to make Natasha beads or as I call them, Totem beads in another article. I will also show how I make swirl beads when I can get my camera to work.  In the meantime, here are a few examples of beads I made using the leftovers from this cane.  When I was done, all I had left was a snake of the brown left which I will most likely use on my next sculpture that has any kind of tree or branch on it. Here are the pics of the beads I made.  Kind of fuzzy, but you get the idea.  

You can now reduce your cane into many different sizes,

but again, hang on to each of the larger sizes so you have the ability to make other things from your cane.  Here is one example with a different cane I made, but it will give you the idea.  Thanks and let me know what you thought of the article.  JoAnne (J Paw Studios)


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