Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The emotional thrill of polmer clay caning

This post is part one of a two-parter by PCAGOE member Jackie Sieben of The Pleasant Pheasant. Jackie offers her insights on caning just in time for our November caning challenge. Read Part 2.

Part 1 of a 2-part series: The emotional thrill of polymer clay caning


Now if you have had nothing but frustration and squished canes when you’ve tried to make polymer clay canes, you’ll think a crazy person wrote that title. But, although “perfectly normal” is not always included in a description of me, I’m not crazy, honest!

These days, I love making polymer clay canes. But it was not always so. I spent a small fortune for years buying beautiful canes from other clayers to use in my work. Behind the scenes, with many disturbing failures along that road, I tried to make my own canes. Eventually, it all came together for me. However, I recall my frustrations then clearly and I care very much about your frustrations now. It’s awful!

If you’re not currently a “caner” and find the process wrought with frustration, what can you do to make your caning results better and actually enjoyable? How can you find that emotional thrill at the end of every cane making session that sends you back to making more and better canes?

I’ll try to share some of my most important tips and tricks here, along with instructions for some basic canes. These are the things that work for me and not necessarily the way everybody does it.

There is always some “waste” involved in polymer clay cane making. However, “waste not, want not” is our motto, so save those cane ends and extra bits! They can be used in other projects.


The clay matters
For now, we need to talk about the choice of brand of clay for caning. I’ll keep this as short as I can, however, with the clay companies constantly changing our medium, pulling and adding colors, and changing the viscosity of our clay, it is a big and important subject that deserves your attention. 

For the purpose of this article, I’ll try not to go into too many details. Suffice to say that, in my opinion, you shouldn’t even try to make canes with some of the clay available. They have their place, but not in the caning process. Those are Studio by Sculpey, Sculpey III, and Fimo Soft. Some people can do it… but I can’t so I refer you away from those. A lot of people use Premo… again, while you can get some results, they aren’t going to be the best when you’re looking for crisp patterns. My recommendations are Kato Clay, Pardo Art Clay (not Pardo Jewellry Clay) and Fimo Classic. 

I use Kato clay most of the time. The problem lately is that Kato has changed their formula and the clay is far softer than it ever was. However, I have experimented a little and the new Kato still holds a pattern quite well. If you buy new packages, you’ll need to let them sit for a couple of months to harden up a bit. Don’t leach… just leave it sitting in the package. The drawback to Kato clay for me is their color palette, which means that I can spend days just mixing colors (and not an easy process with the choices given).

However, Kato clay stays true to color when it’s baked, which Fimo Classic does not. Although I like the way Fimo Classic handles and I love their colors, the baking color change makes it not a viable choice for me. I have only experimented a little bit with the Pardo Art Clay, but it works great for patterns. It’s quite difficult to condition and I’ve had to mix other clay into it just to get it conditioned, so at this time Kato works best for me.

Part 2 of this series will give you some tips for creating classic cane patterns.