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The Process of Caning Polymer Clay

A cane is a log or cylinder of clay that has a design running through it. You can make a large, complex design that's easy to handle, then reduce the size of the cane by pressing or rolling it so it becomes longer and thinner. This creates a tiny and delicate design that will stay intact no matter how small you make it.

At Quilted in Clay, we use FIMO polymer clay to ensure crisp, clean lines on the canes. This combination of colors will result in a custom, mixed shade of blue. The clay must then be chopped into pieces in the correct proportions to produce the select color.

At Quilted in Clay, we use FIMO polymer clay to ensure crisp, clean lines on the canes.

This combination of colors will result in a custom, mixed shade of blue.

The clay must then be chopped into pieces in the correct proportions to produce the select color.

It’s then "food processed" until it looks like odd-colored cottage cheese. From the food processor, the clay is run through a pasta machine. We run it through the pasta machine until the colors are mixed and it’s become a nice smooth sheet.

It’s then "food processed" until it looks like odd-colored cottage cheese.

From the food processor, the clay is run through a pasta machine.

We run it through the pasta machine until the colors are mixed and it’s become a nice smooth sheet.

The design is laid out and broken down into a number of elements.

The design is laid out and broken down into a number of elements. The tools needed to make the variety of shapes include a clay gun with different dies.

These 3 sheets have been mixed and conditioned, and represent the colors needed for this particular cane.

A portion of the chosen color is rolled into a rod, then slid into the clay gun.

With the help of a "clay gun pusher", long strands of clay are extruded into the different shapes.

All the rods have been extruded and are now ready to stack together to form the design.

For this particular design, we begin by putting the extruded rods of color into the diagrammed rows.

The rows are then stacked together as they relate to the particular segment of the design.

We were able to break the final design down into 4 identical segments. Once stacking is completed, we then assemble one corner of the final design.

If the clay is properly handled, designs can be made smaller by a process of pulling and stretching. By using a tool called a brayer, the edges are kept flat and the corners square.

This particular section of the design was originally 2.5" square by 8' long. It’s now reduced down to 1" square and can easily be cut with a sharp blade.

We now have 4 identical design sections.

The 4 sections are assembled to form the design, and at this point the cane is 2" square by 10" long.

We now add layers of colors to the outside to create borders and reduce the cane down one more time.

The larger cane will be used to create pendants and brooches, while the smaller ones will soon become Quilted in Clay earrings.

Slicing the cane requires the sharpest blade available. Soon, we’ll have earrings!

     
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