Posted by: doras_explorations | July 19, 2008

Sarah Shriver Workshop, Part II


One can’t mention ‘kaleidoscope canes’ without mentioning Sarah Shriver.  For years I have stared at those unbelievably complex patterns displayed in her jewelry pieces, and wondered, “How the heck does she do that?”  The shading, the colors, the perfect symmetry and balance…I looked and looked, but just didn’t get it.  When her video “Intricate Kaliedoscope Canes” was released, I rushed to buy it immediately, thinking, “Now I will learn the secret !”  In the video, Sarah does indeed explain the steps she uses to create her amazing canes.  However, it is one thing to see how she does it, but quite another to actually do it !  For me it wasn’t enough to watch the video, as informative as it was.  As luck would have it, I got the opportunity to learn from the master herself when she came to the Bead House to teach a 2-day kaleidoscope cane workshop.


Our first task for constructing our kaleidoscope canes was to form our ‘base cane’,  which is basically a slab of Skinner blends stacked on top of one another like cold cuts from the deli.  She suggested using 4 or 5 colors of our choice which have high ‘value contrast’, ie,  light and dark colors.  Here Sarah explains the finer points of making blends:


top:  Sketching out ideas for Skinner blends (going beyond the simple 2 right triangle arrangement);
bottom: Making a variety of blends for the stack;

      When stacking the blends, the goal is have the light colors all on one side, and the dark colors on the other. In between the blends, other ‘inclusions’ such as bulleyes, and contrasting thin sheets of colors are added to create visual interest and detail.  Once this clay ‘sandwich’ is completed, it must be reduced to a rectangle shaped cane, which will be used to create all the other cane designs.  Taking a 5″x6″ slab approximately 3/4″ thick and reducing it to a piece that is about 1 1/2″ wide and 9″ or 10″ long isn’t very easy, let me tell you !  But with Sarah’s guidance, even those with limited ‘reducing experience’ did a reasonably good job.  Unfortunately, I did not take a good photo of this particular step, however, it is shown here in the storyboard from her website.  The figure at the upper left corner is the stack ‘pre-reduction’, and the one next to it is ‘post-reduction’:


      Once we had our  rectangle, we chopped off a piece for ‘future use’ and set this aside.  The remainder of the cane was cut into 3 equal pieces which were each reshaped into a trapezoid.  The top of each trapezoid was covered with a very thin sheet of clay.  This sheet of clay would serve to separate and define the cane components.

The 3 trapezoid pieces were then assembled to form a ‘hexagram’.  A solid triangle log was inserted to fill in the space in the center before reducing it:

     This step gave me absolute fits !!!  My trapezoids did not come even close to making a hexagram.  Sarah helped me get them to the point where they finally came together, although I wasted quite a bit of the canes in the process.  Oh well, live & learn !

      Once the hexagram was made, it was time for Sarah to show us all the myriad of ways it could be combined and reassembled to form patterns of mind boggling complexity.

     Click on this link to see some of the canes made by  the  participants.   My canes are the yellow and green ones that appear directly above the Celtic cane samples. Quite impressive!  It is a testimony not only to Sarah’s wonderful teaching and guidance, but to the talents of my fellow workshop attendees.   

     My next post, Sarah Shriver Workshop, the Conclusion will feature more photos and some final thoughts, so stay tuned !





  1. Oh my gosh!!! Now I really want to take her class! I’ve seen examples of her work before but I totally understand what you’re saying about being there! It seems like I have so much going through August but then I’m going to watch and see where she’s going to be! I am sooooooooo envious!

  2. Yeah I know what Susan means… there’s a big difference between seeing an artist’s work and seeing her teach her art! I am jealous too!

  3. good stuff Dora. Love the pictures of everyones canes. Can’t wait to read part three

  4. Wow Dora, I remember watching Sarah’s video and thinking how much better it would be to see her make those components and put them together in person. And you got that wonderful opportunity! Your work from the class and the other students’ is fabulous! What a great experience for you.

  5. Dora… sounds like an amazing class. I know you’ve always wanted to take her class and now you have.. good for you… You are such an amazing caner yourself; was there something you learned that you never knew about?

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