Polymer Clay Bead- and Jewelry-Making Secrets: Make a Spotted Cane and More

One of the most essential techniques for working with polymer clay is caning, or creating specially designed canes of clay by rolling snakes of colored clay and arranging them together in a particular way to create designs in the cane slices, such as flowers, stars, or random colorful patterns. Some amazing polymer clay cane artists can make very specific designs–I've seen Santa Claus, cute boy and girl faces, dogs and cats, and all kinds of animals. Such talent!

The secret to making those impressively detailed, tiny polymer clay canes is reduction and repetition. Canes aren't created small–they're built with colored snakes of clay in a reasonable, workable size and then reduced, by rolling. As they're rolled and reduced, they get longer and the design inside gets smaller . . . and smaller . . .  and more impressive.

Simple colorful canes are a really easy way to begin learning polymer clay caning techniques, but the results are always still one of a kind. Here's a basic polymer clay cane-making tutorial, spotted cane, borrowed from Jean Campbell on our sister site, Beading Daily. Jean was inspired by Carol Blackburn's Making Polymer Clay Beads and modified the cane to make it her own (step 8).

Make a Polymer Clay Spotted Cane

You'll need at least two colors of polymer clay, a flat surface, a piece of PVC pipe or a clay roller, and a clay blade or other cutting tool.

1. Working on a smooth, flat surface, roll out a sheet of soft white polymer clay. (I used a piece of PVC pipe to roll the clay flat).

2. Use your palm to roll soft black polymer clay into a skinny snake.

3. Cut the white sheet into a rectangle and lay the black snake inside it. Pinch the sheet around the snake to completely cover it.


4. Slice the cane into even pieces.

5. Gather the pieces together and lightly squish them together.

6. Roll this new bunch into a snake, cut it into even pieces, and lightly squish it together.

7. Repeat the previous step.

8. I pressed my cane into a triangle shape and covered it with a sheet of black polymer clay, then sliced it into triangles. I’ll drill holes in the clay after it’s baked so I can string them. —Jean

Make Advanced Polymer Clay Canes: Designer Canes, Flowers, Gemstone Replicas

Once you've mastered this technique, try adding golden brown to the mix and see if you can make cheetah or leopard spots. Then try using a variety of colors (perhaps with some translucent clay) to mimic opal, or use several earthy tones together and see if you can replicate a gem like jasper or agate. Lapis lazuli is an easy one to replicate–just use s small amount of metallic gold clay snakes with a much greater ratio of bright vivid blue clay snakes. Then try working with larger and fewer snakes–perhaps a yellow one inside five pink ones with white all around that–to make a pretty yellow-centered pink flower. And then. . . .


To learn more about making jewelry with polymer clay, check out our favorite back issues of Step by Step Wire Jewelry, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, and dozens of special issues (like the one on the right). They're HALF OFF (digital issues too!) in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop, now through July 21, 2012.

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