Last month before the world ended – I’m joking here but it feels like it, some days, with the complete disruption from the pandemic – I revamped a cane design I had in my shop. I had made what I called zinnias, previously. They were perfectly good canes but they did not look like the crazy, multi petaled fluffs that are regular zinnias. Then, while trying to decide what to do with some blends in my box, I realized I had a better idea of how to approach it. Turns out I did have a better idea! I made four new zinnias in pretty much one go and they make me so happy. You can grab them in my Etsy shop, too (insert mandatory plug).
The fourth is a little muddy because I made it with this fabulous 3 colour blend rather than the higher contrast you get with a single colour to white. Next time I’ll do 3 blends. It’s still beautiful… just not the same style as the others.
Then it got a little crazy in the real world as #flattenthecurve got going, markets started collapsing, and we all started gluing ourselves to the news. A few weeks later it’s not less stressful but there’s starting to be mental space to be creative again as I adjust to the new reality. I cranked out a few zinnia themed round beads and I have to say they are such cheery little things. And I took photos while making them because I’d resolved I would be writing a lot more on my blog and the internet while we were social distancing. The photos now make up the revamp of my Making Round Beads tutorial which is what I point out to everyone who asks me how to use the canes I sell.
I hope all you guys out there are able to hold onto the creative spark, whatever that looks like for you!
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.