What is a cane?

The technique for caning is derived from the ancient art of glass millefiori canework perfected by the Venetians. However, instead of glass I use the modern medium of polymer clay.

The designs are created by combining many colors of clay, wrapping them with contrasting colors of clay, stacking them, shaping them, and cutting and reassembling them into a large complex image. The cane is then stretched and reduced in diameter so that the pattern inside becomes smaller and smaller, while the detail is retained. When the cane is sliced in cross-section, the intricate pattern inside is revealed!

Making a Tropical Fish Cane

Fish Cane 1 Fish Cane 2 Fish Cane 3
I like to use gradient colors of clay rather than solid colors because it makes the canes appear more alive and three-dimensional. Here I've joined together two triangular shaped canes to form the head and the body. I inserted the eyeballs into the head by pushing a large knitting needle through the clay and wiggling in the eye. To make the little stripes in the fish, I cut slits into the fish's body and insert thin wedges of a different color of clay. Here are some assorted fish bodies awaiting their fins.
Fish Cane 4 Fish Cane 5 Fish Cane 6
I reduce the cane by stretching and rolling it. I do this before attaching the fins to avoid distorting them.

I have reduced the short stubby fish body into several feet of tiny fish body.
I make the fins and reduce them separately. Then I lay them in place along the fish's body. Here is my surgery technique for inserting a cane within another cane. This will become the fish's tail fin.
Fish Cane 7 Fish Cane 8 Fish Cane 9
After reducing the tail cane, I attach it to the body of the fish. I use a needle tool to secure the contact wherever the strips meet. The scrap heap!

Whenever I make canes, it's inevitable that I get a pile of scrap trimmings of the ends. There are lots of uses for the scrap clay.
After a long day of conditioning, rolling, wrapping, layering, shaping and reducing, I have many feet of fish canes ready to be sliced!