Mapping Canes

If you make a lot of canes you probably memorize a few of them. Then comes a time when you want to make your own fancy picture cane. Well, it comes if you’re me. My process begins with finding a good picture, photo or drawing one. I’m equally likely to do any of those and I find that sources like stained glass pattern archives, stencils and children’s colouring books are easiest to work with. Photos are less easy.

Of course, I’m starting with a photo here. I had a cute flower pic in my ‘inspiration’ pile on my computer – I asked a smart friend what it was. She told me, that’s a corn cockle. So my example is going to use a corn cockle.

This isn’t a tutorial to make a corn cockle cane specifically. The technique can be used to make any cane – and this post shows me doing it with a fabric piece – and I’m assuming the user is familiar and experienced with basic caning techniques. Instructions for Skinner blends and actual cane construction can be found in Google or in some of the links to the side of this page in Six Petal Flower Cane and Skinner Blend Plugs.

The Photo

Here is my inspiration photo:

corn cockle flower

Normally I’d probably make a cane that looked something like this:

corncockle open cane

but I really like the shape of the flower in the photograph so I’m going to try a cane with that shape to it. I’ll probably also do the ‘regular’ one and use them together for variety in my work.

Clean Up the Photo

So here I take the photo into my graphics program and clean up the background. I add a circle around the picture because I want a circular cane face in the end. I know from experience (and math!) that a cane with a 1 1/2″ diameter and 2″ long will be about 3 ounces of clay. I’ll pad my amounts and bring it to 4 oz or 2 regular packages of clay.

Looking at this, I can see that the background colour – for me, that will be translucent clay – is going to be at least half of the cane. So I’ll say 2oz for the background and 2 oz for the remainder colours – pink, white, pink-black (for the veins on the flower) and green.

Mapping Around the Picture

Next step, I either draw directly on the photo or trace around it to make the sections I will need in the cane.

The corn cockle in this position has the five petals, a very, very small crumb for the center of them, the green calyx at the base of the petals and the start of a stem. I trace around these, slightly stylizing the heart shape of the petals as I go.

The Blends

Looking at this I can see I really only need two sections of colour – the shaded blend for the petals with veins cut into it and a stacked blend for the calyx and stem portion. A little crumb of marbled yellow brown will be the small center dot between the petals.

corn cockle blend

And the leaf blend:


So going with that I will make the cane both ways – the first, open face one and then the more interesting angled version. I’ll use the same pink blend with veins cut in for both canes.

I know that I get best results when I work with the diagram to size in front of me, so I’ll print this out to a size of 1 1/2″ across and actually shape my lengths of blends to the shape on the diagram as I go. Since there are five petals and I want to work with about a 2″ length, I’m going to make my blend into a 10 inch length and cut into 2″ segments before shaping.

The End Result

In the end I made some not bad canes from this – two that work together quite nicely. Slices from the ends of the two:

corn cockle cane slices

And here are two mini-tree Christmas ornaments I made using these canes and a separate leaf cane. The balls are approximately 1 1/2″.

corn cockle balls

Another example of these canes in use are on some flip flop beads I strung into a bracelet. And another example of mapping out a cane, this time from a fabric piece, can be found in this post.