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Polygrafix: Images in Clay - Canework Basics


Preparation and Tools

Tools and Supplies

  • Smooth work surface, such as plexiglas or tempered glass.
  • Tissue Blade, available via mail-order from Thomas Scientific
  • Toothpick or awl for making holes
  • Wax paper to wrap finished canes
  • Acrylic roller (or smooth spice jar)
  • Optional - Pasta Roller (cannot be easily used for pasta after used for clay!)


I prefer FIMO, harder than Sculpy and more colorfast. Hardness is GOOD! Color selection should include primary colors, black and a large quantity of white. Avoid transparent colors which will darken when baked!


Fresh clay has trapped air, which must be removed to make it more elastic. Roll clay into a ball. Lengthen into a snake, 8-12”. Fold in thirds and repeat 15 times. Use this process to mix colors as well. If clay remains crumbly after folding 4-5 times, it is too dried out, and should be mixed with conditioner or discarded. ALL CLAY MUST BE CONDITIONED PRIOR TO CLASS!

Creating a Cane

In this class we will concentrate on a round floral cane, the simplest to produce. It is made using several steps that may be repeated, combined and varied to create many designs. Each step will involve BUILDING a cane, followed by REDUCING.

Start building with a simple BULLSEYE.

  1. Roll the center color into a small log. Cut the ends to have an even rod shape.
    Flatten and roll a sheet of clay to wrap around the outside. Trim to the length of the core, then test-wrap to determine the length required. Unwrap and cut to length. Wrap neatly over the core, perfectly butting the ends together. The seam should be smooth and nearly invisible. Repeat this process as needed for your design.
  2. Reduce the bullseye by gently rolling and stretching. Stretch to 3 times its original length, and cut in thirds. Set aside one third, and cut the remaining two in half lengthwise. Build the floral cane petals by placing these four half-rounds evenly around the core.
  3. One of the keys to creating a good design that will reduce well is to fill the SPACES in the pattern with the correct shape. Look at the spaces between the petals. They are roughly triangular. Roll a snake in the next color, and pinch it to this shape. Cut to length and lay in place, filling the spaces. Now continue to build the design by adding another sheet of clay, like you did earlier in the bullseye.

From this point the cane can be reduced, cut, recombined, or used as is.


Once you have used your cane to create a bead or other finished product, you will need to bake it. Place the object on a piece of paper set on a cookie sheet. Bake at 270º for 1 hour. Let cool before handling.

Beads can be drilled after baking, or the hole can easily be formed with a toothpick or awl while still soft.