Posted by: doras_explorations | July 24, 2008

Sarah Shriver Workshop, the Conclusion


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.



  1. yah!!! I was waiting for this part of the class post. just reading about your class experience brought back the fun we had in our class with her. Now….make some pretties and share! (dang I am demanding aren’t I?)

  2. Dora, I was happily reading along and enjoying your post and then those fish canes appeared in my browser and my jaw dropped and hit the keyboard!!

    Oh I love those. Fish images mean a lot to me. My father is a commercial fisherman and my son’s name is even Fisher.

    After seeing those beautiful painterly canes I realized I needed to bring in that love of fish and painting into my designs more.

    Thank you Sarah and Dora! I feel so inspired!!

  3. Kathi, I didn’t know I was supposed to DO something with the canes, LOL !!! I thought I could just keep them on a shelf and look at them !

  4. Cindy, I’m glad you were inspired by Sarah’s fish. Isn’t it awesome ? The fish in the bottom photo is nearly 6″ long. I’m guessing it was a slice from a cane before it was reduced…if so, that was one huge cane !

  5. Sounds like you had a fab time. i can’t help noticing one of Dan Cormer’s tools attached to the pasta machine! I have got one too!

  6. Kylee, that is indeed Dan Cormier’s tool ! Do you like it? Sarah showed us another one of his tools, it’s a magnet that fits on the rollers and keeps your Skinner blend from stretching out. I thought that was really cool, but I usually have decent results by using my finger and reshaping my blend frequently. And it’s free !

  7. Hi Dora,
    I really enjoyed reading your account of your workshop experience. What a fabulous time and so inspiring for you.
    Thanks for sharing the photos of Sarah’s work. Wow, amazing.
    I can’t wait to see what this inspires you to create!

  8. uh yes…you are supposed to make a few pretties at least. then the cane can sit on the shelf and gather dust bunnies and look beautiful!

  9. I have only one polymer clay video. It’s Sarah’s Intricate Caning one. Let me tell you… I had to watch the thing 7 times before I really got it, and then it took me three tries to get a Shriver-like cane going. Amazing work, multiple examples of each step, and just really mindblowing assembly.

    What I got out of the video the most was the use of multiple colors within a blend, the way she manipulated the blends to control the color. That knowledge alone was worth the purchase price of the video and more. I’d never known you could control a blend like that, and it forever changed my caning. Even though I don’t really do kaleidoscope canes, I greatly admire the precision and control Sarah teaches in the video.


  10. Hola Dora, soy española. Te agradezco tus comentarios y tus fotos pues me han ayudado mucho a saber más sobre el maravilloso trabajo de Sarah Shriver. Me parece increible lo que hace y la tengo como una meta a alcanzar. Gracias

  11. I’m glad you enjoyed my commentary, Pilar. Sarah Shriver es profesor maravillosa. ¡Ella ha enseñado en Europa, quizás ella visitará España!

  12. Hola Dora, queria hacerle una pregunta. Quiero comprar los DVD de Sarah Shrivers y en septiembre viene a España una amiga que vive en Atlanta, sabe usted si los puede encontrar en cualquier tienda como Amazón o solo se venden por internet? ¿los DVD los puedo escuchar en español? Perdone las molestias. Gracias

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