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How To Make A Hydrangea Cane

By Dawn Naylor, edited by Sunni Bergeron

Before I get started, I must say first that we all stand on the shoulders of Giants. Any work you see here has been inspired by Marie Segal, Pier Voulkos, Katherine Dewey, Leigh Ross, Kris Richards and many other artists whose work has left an impression on my mind - Monet, O'Keefe, Escher - I thank you all!!!

For tips on simple canes, reducing canes, skinner blend or just help or praise please join Sunni and myself and many other clay enthusiasts (newbies are way welcomed!) at PCC. Come meet Leigh and the whole gang! At Polymer Clay Central and while you are there don’t miss the Message Board where the real fun happens!

This flower cane has taken me 6 months and made more scrap clay than I care to think about! But this cane was worth the wait! Now you can do very complicated looking canes and it is relatively easy! There are a few supplies which will make this easier - the first and foremost is a pasta machine. I clayed for many years without one, but for this cane, it is a necessity!

The colors I use in the example are just arbitrary. You can use any colors (please do!) just keep the technique.

Supplies:
  1. 2 oz each of translucent and an opaque clay of the same brand. Here we have used a lavender color.
  2. Pasta machine
  3. Cutting utensil
  4. A clean work surface

First, you must condition your clay a little. Do this by manipulating it. Squeeze it, fold it, twist it, pull it and smash it. This softens the clay and "gets it moving." Work the clay until it you can roll it into a fat log, bend the log in half so the ends meet and the log does not crack or break where it bends. How long you condition depends on the brand of clay you use and how old it is.

Fig. 1Step 1. Roll out a thin sheet of translucent on the medium to medium thin setting on your pasta machine. The size of the sheet is up to you, but I tend to keep it around 2" x 5" or 2.5" x 6" because that's simply the size I like to work with. Keep in mind that you will be cutting it lenthwise and then into four, six or eight pieces depending on the length of your sheet. Set this sheet aside.
Fig.2Step 2. Roll your colored clay through the pasta machine, thinner than the first layer of trans. Remember this number because you will roll other sheets through at THIS number. For example, if your pasta machine has 6 settings with 1 being the widest, medium would be 3 or 4. If you roll your translucent on 3, your first color would be rolled on 4.

Now this next step is just one way to do it... you could substitute color clay for the trans or two colors. . .like Bob Ross says "It's your world". Cut the color into a wedge which will go lengthwise on the translucent rectangle (same length on both long sides, so you could cut it in half and have two equal halves). The triangle needs to be the same size of the translucent sheet in length and less than the width of the translucent sheet.

Fig.3Step 3. Apply this in the middle so the midline of the triangle matches the length wise midline of the translucent sheet.

Roll some more translucent through the machine at the same number as the colored clay (remember, all other layers from now on will be at that thickness) and trim it so it's the same size as the first translucent sheet. Cut a wedge out of it the same size as the colored sheet and set the wedge aside. Place the remaining translucent around the wedge of color on top of the original translucent sheet - this is your "filler." So now you have two smooth sheets of clay laying one on top of the other - one is the original solid translucent on the bottom and one has a color wedge down the middle.

For variations you could repeat this setup with differing size wedges putting the color in the filler around the wedges. Remember the "your world part." For the next layer, simply repeat Step 2, but use a different color and turn the wedge so it's tip is at the base of the first color wedge on the second layer. Repeat Step 3. For another variation you can use translucent for the reversed wedge and put the color on each side of the transparent wedge. I haven’t done more than four layers, you could and I probably will but for now stick with two or three layers. This tutorial only shows two layers.

Let's say you are done, well - you're ready to move onto the next step.

Fig.4Step 4. Slice the two sheets down the center length wise. Now divide it evenly the other way... either 4, 6 or 8 times depending on how long you made your sheet. How many times you cut it will be determined by the shape - you want each of the cut blocks to resemble a square as closely as possible. Okay, let's say you now have 12 pieces in front of you (you made 6 cuts). Here's the tricky part: the midline down the middle is the bottom. Of both sides. Mirror images. So looking at the figure below, the bottom of the top row is facing down while the bottom of the bottom row is facing up.
Fig.5Step 5. Looking at the graphic just above, start with the top row and work from left to right. Pick up the square on the left end and, holding it just the same way it came up off the worksurface, place it on top of the square next to it. Pick up the two of those and place them on top of the third square. At this point, you would have the first square on top, the second square in the middle and the third square on the bottom. Now pick up this pile, keeping it in the same orientation, and set it on top of the fourth square. Repeat this process until you have all the squares stacked on top of the last one. Leave that stack just as it is for now. And now you should get an idea of what it is going to look like.

You need to stack the other side (bottom row) the exactly the same way, stacking from left to right. Now pick up the two stacks and look at them. You can combine them two different ways. You decide. Now you have a large stack of trans with color in a pyramid.

This is what the to stacks would look like from the end. The bottom of this pyramid is the middle where the original lengthwise cut was made. The stacks had been turned a quarter turn each so the center cut was turned to the bottom.

Fig.6Step 6. After you have them all stacked you should begin to see what will happen in your flower. Pick your front. Remember your front - pick one of the two ends where you see the pyramid. While you are reducing it, is not always apparent which is the front. Your goal in this reduction is a short fat square snake with the front on the face of the snake. Turn the whole thing on it’s side face facing you and push down gently, turn it over 1/4 turn, repeat until it is the size you want it. Now comes the fun part. Push it, 1/4 turn, push it, 1/4 turn. . .you are reducing it to have the pyramid go through a large chunky square cane.
Fig.7Step 7. When it is a reasonable size, you need to make it into a round cane. Keep the front facing you and gently squeeze the sharp corners along the length of the block. Now you have a somewhat round cane. Wrap it with a VERY thin strip of your chosen color. Reduce by pulling and squeezing. The less you roll it, the less distortion you'll get. The reduced cane should be as thick as anywhere from your pointer finger to your pinky finger. This will be your flower petals. Cut into five equal pieces. Figure out which part of the petal cane is the center - it's your choice to make the pyramid as either the top of the petal of the base of it.
Fig.8Step 8. Roll a small snake for your center. This can be plain translucent, a jellyroll, bull's eye cane or anything you choose it to be. Use this as the center of the flower. Pinch the base of your petal canes a little to give them a teardrop shape to better fit around the center.  You may need to play with the size and/or shape of the canes and/or center snake to get a good fit.
Fig.9Step 9. Now, at this point you at least need to put trans in the gaps between the petal canes on the out side only. If your translucent "piping" or "fill" is too big you will have square flowers at the top and if they are too small you will have a cane that looks like a slice of citrus. I don't cover the whole thing with trans but you can. If you do, the thinner the better. 

Roll a snake of translucent for each petal and lay it on your work surface. Press one side down so the snake has one round side and one pointed side. Place the point at the bottom of the trough between two petals and press it so it doesn't have any gaps. If you have too fat a snake, trim the excess off. If you don't have enough to fill the gap from the top of one flower petal to the next, add some more.

Step 10. Reduce the assembled cane by pulling and squeezing. Try not to roll to much so you get less distortion. Slice and use! To get dramatic effects combine with foils or pearlex powders and slice your flowers thin!

Here are some examples of various hydrangea canes.

©2001-Dawn Naylor

Thank you, Dawn! You can Email Dawn at dn1st@yahoo.com or visit her Website at D-Zyns by Dawn

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