Many of the canes I make use translucent clay as a background. Adding a background makes canes easier to reduce, protecting the central design. Clayers use translucent clay because, sliced thinly, it’s not highly visible in layered cane designs. It bakes up as a mostly clear area where you can see the designs underneath. Of course, it works best if sliced thin, sanded, and buffed. It’s also notoriously the first colour to brown and it shows most on light colours. If you can make the cane without the background? Absolutely go for it. I do that for a lot of my “bead canes”.
The clearest translucent in the clay line I use is Premo White Translucent but it’s not the friendliest. As a result, I tend to mix it with Sculpey 3 (also very clear but the texture of peanut butter in warm weather) and Premo’s regular translucent in sort of random proportions. That means I mix it ahead and store it like the box above. It’s always nice to have it ready when I’m ready to make a good cane!
The lilac above and the butterfly below are both examples of designs where a background colour – translucent in this case – is used to support larger, complex images. I can see both of these as part of layered cane designs, perfect for spring.
If you make polymer clay canes and you’ve made rose canes and variants on the multi-petal canes like chrysanthemums or dahlias you’re familiar with the very cool effect that Skinner blend shading can give your canes. Those canes are made with two colours of clay, generally, and all detail is arrived at with careful placement of the shaded blocks, like you do with painting. It’s sort of an art form to make complex, effective designs with the simplest of combinations and materials.
Backing up in time a bit, I’ve made tulip canes a few times and they were clearly tulips. They weren’t great and they relied on “outline” or drawn elements to establish that yes, these were tulips. The shading was there but not used for definition.
I decided to tweak that a bit this week and, starting with the crocus, did a “drawn” or outlined flower to get the shape right. Then I, using roughly the same design, went with tulips using just the shaded blocks to get the definition and it worked! I got tulips out of it.
My mildly clay nerd week for you.
Let me preface this with: I am no sort of sports person. I initially made baseball beads because a customer wanted some. This tends to be the reason I make a lot of the stuff that wanders off from rose canes or little flower beads. This tutorial is a high level walk through of making the cane. It assumes you can do a Skinner blend and are comfortable reducing or working with odd shapes. The beads are what I call slice beads. Each bead is a slice off the reduced cane. I drill holes after baking, typically, but you can punch them before you bake. You can bake the cane and slice the beads while still warm as well.
To make the shade on your baseball, mix a very light grey. Skinner blend the light grey to white and then turn it into a plug. If you don’t care about the shading, skip right along to adding the red “cord”.
Shape your plug into a half circle with the darker part on one end of the half circle. Cut the half circle into 3 parts. The middle section will be where we add the stitching. Slice the section in half and line the inside with red rolled out to midway on the pasta machine (in my case, yours may vary).
This gets you the sandwich with the red in the middle. Cut that in 7 parts, without mixing it up (we want the shading to stay in it’s place). Line each of the sections with a little of the red and then reassemble. Roll the cane to smooth it back out to fit back into your half circle block.
Reassemble your half circle chunk. Reduce it until at least 3 or 4 inches in length. Cut that in half and assemble it into a full circle. Voila! Shaded baseball cane. Reduce and use for all your baseball needs. In my case, beads for a good customer!