Posted on 9 Comments

Adventures in self-color-changing cane-making

The Afghan Cane in progress

The Afghan Cane in progress

18 clay 02

The Afghan Cane in progress

It’s been a clayful couple of days around here. Well not, strictly-speaking, around here, per se, since I was actually in Philadelphia for some of it, but you know what I mean.

Last week I built a new Afghan Cane in the Rainbow colorway. I don’t often repeat canes that I already have made. Once they’re gone, I usually move on and make something else. But this time was different. For one thing, I really liked my original Rainbow Afghan pattern, and for another thing, I had an order to fill. My customer specifically requested that pattern on her pendant and I hated to let her down.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to forge ahead and make a new one of these was that the Afghan Cane is a perfect example of the concept I was planning to demonstrate to the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild on Sunday.

This is one of those canes that is a bit on the tedious side to assemble. It’s not hard, it’s just time-consuming. It took me roughly an hour to get to the stage you see in the last photo up there. Imagine having to do that exact same step sixteen times in order to make a 4×4 polymer clay afghan with 16 differently-colored squares inside of it? My head hurts just thinking about it.

And that, precisely, is why I designed that cane to be a self-color-changing cane. In other words, when you cut into the middle of it, you no longer have a navyblue-red-yellow square in the face of it. You have a chartreuse-skyblue-pink square. And elsewhere, you can slice off a brown-yellow-purple square. And so on. And through the magic of well-placed Skinner blends, you get all of these colors in a single cane – in other words, you only have to build one square, but it looks like you built a whole bunch of them.

I was visiting the PAPCG this past weekend as their guest artist, and the topic of my demonstration was this alternative use of Skinner blends. I prepared enough clay to show them simple ways to make gingham and plaid, and I showed them the Triangle Cane that got me started on this path more than six years ago. I hadn’t planned to show them an Afghan cane, because of how involved the process can be, but then the serendipitous need to build a new one popped up. Perfect! I did the most uninteresting parts at home and saved the Big Reveal for Sunday.


If you’ve ever made a complicated cane, you know that the most exciting part is cutting into it and seeing how it came out in the middle. That excitement is multiplied exponentially when you are working with a cane that you know will be significantly different on the inside than it is on the outer edges. I tell you, it was killing me not to cut into this Afghan cane for two days! Still, I managed to survive, and together my Philadelphia friends and I cut into the cane and re-assembled it. I lacked the presence of mind to photograph that step, but someone in the guild was on the ball, and they took the image above.

Teaching an alternative use of a Skinner Blend at the PAPCG

I reduced and re-assembled one more time to get the 16-square version you see on my Philly worktable there. Not much of a glamour shot, I know, but it’s pretty much the same as the cane on the cover of the eBook, with perhaps a teensy bit more intensity in the bluish parts.

So, the weekend went well, I had fun, I enjoyed seeing everybody again, but I am still a teeny bit relieved to be done with it. Public speaking is not exactly my forte. (Oh! and along those lines? There will soon be a YouTube video on the PAPCG channel – an interview with me. Ack. I’ll probably share it with you when it’s up. Maybe. Depends on how my hair looks, and whether I said anything stupid. Heh.)

I am also relieved to be nearly back to normal in regards to Neil’s eye. He’s healing well, and was allowed to take the weekend off from doctor visits. As I write, it is 5:30 on Monday, and we have 7pm appointment to see how things have developed over the last few days. Fingers crossed there are no signs of fungus!

This may be the first normal week I have had in ages. Maybe now I can finish my taxes (thank goodness for extensions!)…


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Posted on 9 Comments

9 thoughts on “Adventures in self-color-changing cane-making

  1. I hope you were knocking on wood when you wrote that last paragraph! haha

    1. ha! I wish I was, too! I got out of bed this morning and immediately pulled a muscle in my back. It’s funny, in an “ouchy” kind of way 😉

  2. “This may be the first normal week I have had in ages.” That line sent me RUNNING to the nearby door to knock on it. It’s the only wood in the office.

    1. Too late, but thanks anyway 😉 Pulled a muscle in my back this morning! Duh.

      1. Oh Lisa…

        1. I KNOW! Crazy, right?

  3. […] you ladies are just so darn smart, telling me to knock on wood after I declared this would be a “normal week.” I am kind of wishing I […]

  4. These are so neat! Thanks for sharing the process. I’ve made some polymer clay miniature cake magnets before but I’ve not tried making canes.

    1. Glad you like them 🙂 Canes are my favorite things to make. I don’t do much sculpting or miniatures.

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