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Basic Polymer Clay Techniques

Reducing Canes

Reducing is one of the most important techniques you are going to learn if you want to become a Cane Artist. I have found that I get more and more obsessive about Reducing Canes with less and less waste at the ends! I remember one of my first really really big canes - I lost over half of the cane to the "Distortion Gods" - in fact I'm still making things from the clay I had to throw away!

Here is a quick pictorial that I hope will help you learn more about reducing canes!
The first most important fact that you MUST learn, with a round cane is


At least not until you get it down almost to the size you want! The more you roll, the more you distort the outer layer of clay! Another good tip is to make sure that the main elements of your design are not right up against the edge of the border, this can cause a bit of frustration!

Picture 1
1. Take your cane and cut the ends even.
Picture 2
2. As with all canework, neatness counts, the more exact you are, the more precise the finished cane. We start with nice smooth ends.
Picture 3
3.Grab the cane in the middle and, as Marie Segal says, "CHOKE" the heck out of it.
Picture 4
4. Squeeze, turn, Squeeze, turn and Squeeze. Continue doing this out to one end, then to the other.
Picture 5
5. Don't be afraid of it. You can bend it to help it start moving, but make sure that you don't squeeze it smaller than you want your final size.
Picture 6
6. Keep squeezing and turning and moving the clay towards the ends.
Picture 7
7. As long as there is no movement on the ends, your entire cane has not distorted much at all. Keep easing the squeezing towards the ends until you start to see some movement on the ends.
Picture 8
8.Ah HA, do you see it? Can you see here that the Center of the cane is starting to bulge?
Picture 9
9. How about this photo, see the bulging center? Now it's time to work on the ends.
Picture 10
10. With your hands in a similar position, you are going to apply pressure evenLEIGH all around the edge of the end. Pay attention to the arrows, your left thumb is pushing against your right fingers, which are squeezing together.
Picture 11
11. You could practice this technique by taking a circle of clay and making it a bowl as in making wish bottles. The principle is the same, it's just done with a larger circle of clay. Keep doing this evenly around the entire edge.
Picture 12
12. This procedure will reduce the end of the cane. Being careful to keep the end as flat as you can will minimize distortion again!
Picture 13
13.Now, you have a "BULB" close to the end of the cane.
Picture 14 14. Just wrap your fingers around it and squeeze again! Being careful not to squeeze past the size you want! Picture 15 15. Squeeze and turn, Squeeze and turn!
Picture 16
16.NOW that it is just about the size you want, but a little bumpy...
Picture 17
17.Put it down on your work surface and start rolling it carefully. If you have a lucite slab you can use that to make it even, if not, use your hands....
Picture 18
18. And roll it till it is smooth. Voila!

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