In my previous post, I showed how Sarah goes from a ‘blend sandwich’, to a ‘blend rectangle’ to a ‘blend trapezoid’ to a ‘blend hexagram’. In between each step, of course, is a lot of cane reduction. For many polymer clay enthusiasts, reduction is the most difficult and scariest part of the cane construction process. That’s because the potential for wasting time, effort, and, of course, CLAY is high unless one proceeds slowly and carefully. Reduction takes a lot of practice (you really need to get a ‘feel’ for the clay and how it moves) and the ‘right’ clay conditions (ie, not too soft and squishy, but not too hard and crumbly). I could go on and on about the good, the bad, and the ugly of cane reduction. However, it is not the subject of this post. Besides watching someone like Sarah Shriver reduce a cane in person, I highly recommend viewing one or more of the following videos if you can’t make it to a workshop: Judy Belcher’s Millifiore Story , Karen Lewis’s (aka Klew’s) Tips and Techniques of Caning , Sarah Shriver’s Intricate Kaleidoscope Canes , Marie Segal’s Advanced Millifiore, Vol 1&2 . This is not an exhaustive list of videos that demonstrate cane reduction, but these are ones I have personally viewed and found helpful.
top: Reducing the hexagram
bottom: Cutting up, manipulating, reassembling, etc., to form numerous kaleidoscope patterns from the base rectangle and hexagram canes
The rest of the day was devoted to hacking pieces out of the canes everyone had worked so hard to build. Obviously we were not the skilled magicians that Sarah is-she is, after all, the teacher!-but I thought my fellow attendees did a marvelous job, considering that this was not ‘Caning 101’. Most interesting was the amazing variety of color choices…. from cool purples and blues to unlikely combinations of red, brown, and green, and everything in between. I meant to take photos of everybody’s canes, but I was so busy working on my own canes that I never made the rounds. Some of them appear on the Bead House webpage .
During the final afternoon of the workshop, brain fatigue was starting to set in for many of us as a result of concentrating so intensely on our work, not to mention sitting in one place for hours at a time ! Sarah showed us how she constructs her beads and finishes them with those wonderful ‘twisty borders’.
About an hour before the class ended, Sarah took out her ‘wares’; copies of her videos and her incredible jewelry. Here are a couple of examples, along with her fish cane. Enjoy the eye candy:
I did not purchase one of those ‘Sarah Necklaces’ due to insufficient funds, but I did purchase a pin, and I also got her to autograph my issue of Belle Armoire with her work on the cover and a feature article inside (Jan/Feb 2006).
All in all, it was a thrill to meet my polymer clay ‘idol’, and to see first hand how she creates her amazing work. Sarah is amazingly down-to-earth and approachable, with a great sense of humor. Her work may look intimidating, but she certainly is not ! Her approach to her art is meticulous and very well thought out. The smallest details are given her attention, and those tiny flaws most of us would dismiss as ‘good enough’ do not escape her. She admitted to being a slow worker who will keep ‘futzing and futzing’ until she gets it just right. This I found very encouraging, since I always imagine that great work easily flows out of famous artists like a creek down a hill. In the coming weeks and months ahead, I hope to take what I’ve learned from Sarah and use this knowledge to take my own polymer clay skills up a notch.