A while back I made this star cane and due to popular demand I promised to put it out there as a free tutorial. There are many different ways to approach the star as a cane but this "cookie cutter" method is my all time favorite. It's just what works for me.
This is the finished cane reduced down to various sizes. For this tutorial I used black and white because well, I like black and white and It contrasts well in the photos. And my photos need all of the help they can get! Not one of my strengths!!!
The first thing we need to do is condition some polymer clay. Firmer clays are best for canework. They don't get all squishy and distorted, I hate that!!! My personal preferrence is Kato Polyclay by Donna Kato and Van Aken. It's firm yet easy to condition, has a nice waxy consistency that I like, and it is freakishly strong after a proper heat cure. Oh and let's not forget the nostalgic aroma of my childhood toybox that it gives off. Ah, I love the scent of fresh baked babydoll in the morning!
I am conditioning a lot of clay here. You will not need half as much. I just like to have a large quantities of conditioned clay available for use at my moment of inspiration. To condition our clay in a pasta machine we will need to cut it into slices about 1/6 of an inch in thickness. As you see here the slices are very rough cut, precision is also, not one of my strenghths!!! We are conditioning the white clay first otherwise the black would turn it grey, and that's just not pretty!
Once the clay has been conditioned (it will be supple and smooth, free of cracks and air bubbles) we will roll it out in a sheet on the thickest setting of your pasta machine. Fold the sheet in half and lay it out on your work surface. Now let's go find a cookie cutter shaped like a star or a heart, oooh, a heart cane!!!! Urgh! I'm getting off track again...........
OK so, we found our cookie cutter, before using it with polymer clay you must realize that it is no longer food safe and from this day forward shall be banished from the kitchen forever. Oh what the hell, I like my cookies to go freestyle anyway, how about you? Shortbread is my favorite Mmmmm! Where are those girlscouts when I need them??? There I go again............. OK so, back to business, next step dust your cutter with a little cornstarch. Here I have a cloth pouch filled with cornstarch. You can make one with an old sock or panty hose. Uh, you probably want to wash it first, just sayin'.............. The cornstach will keep the clay from sticking to your cookie cutter and gunking it all up.
And now we get to cut out our stars; cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, and then cut, cut , cut some more. Try to leave as little space between starts as possible. Over working the clay just adds more potential for air bubbles that can wreack havoc on you later.
And everybody sing Twinkle, twinkle little star.................. My grand daughter's favorite song!!!
Stack 'em up. a 1-1/2 to 2" stack is a good sixe to work with. Bigger canes are hard on the hands and smaller ones just distort and lose too much detail.
Now we will wrap the stack-o-stars up with a sheet of black clay. Be sure to keep the wrapping very snug. You don't want any air creeping in between your layers. Bubbles are not your friends!!!
To ensure a tight fit I have pinched creases into the clay at the points and valleys.
Now that the entire cane has been wrapped I will refine the creases and points with a narrow knitting needle. I am moving in one direction so that any air bubbles trapped inside can escape at the edges.
Star with black lining.
Next we will roll some of our black clay into long snakes. Try to keep the diameter about the same along the entire length.
Pinch the snakes lengthwise to form a long triangle. Here I an pincing and pressing into the worksurface to flatten on all sides. I also want nice crisp points.
Here is a front side view.
Use your triangles to fill in the valleys. Wedge them in there well. You may need one, two, three or more depending on the spacing between points.
Use more triangles and snakes to fill in all gaps around your star shape. We really need to fill in all open spaces to prevent our shape from distorting. This part may seem a bit tedious but, it is SO, worth the effort.
Keep filling in gaps and try to stay uniform along the length ofthe cane.
I am happy with the filling so now we will go back to wrapping. Wrapp your cane with a thin sheet of black clay. As you wrap pull and stretch the clay to conform with the undulations created by the strips added in the previous step. The goal is to pack and wrap so tight that there is no room for air bubbles, because they are not your friends! Do not be fooled by their "bubbly" little personalities. They will wreack havoc on tour finished work. Just trust me on this one!!!
Here I've wrapped my cane in progressively thicker sheets. Each one wrapped firmly against the next.
This is the neglected underside. From here on out we will pay it more mind. This will help us keep our cane straight, as opposed to twisted, although, I kinda like twisted but, not in my canes! Anyway, the underside looks pretty crappy hah???
I cut off a slice to show you what we are working with. We stll have a nice star shape but, we also have DUM, DUM, DUM, DUM the dreaded air bubbles. OK, so next step is to work these air pockets out of the cane completely. We are going to give them an offer that they just can't refuse!!!!
We are going to squeeze the bujeezeez out of those air pockets and coax them out of their hiding places. Resit the temptation to roll. Squeeze firmly with both thumbs and index fingers up at the top of your cane. Good, now do the same at the bottom. This is called "reducing" the cane in polymer clay terms.
Here is what we are going for with this step. Be patient, firm but gentle. We are gradually lengthening the cane with steady even pressure. If you going smashing trying to speed things up you will only distort your image ot lose it all together. I for one, have an image to protect!!! ;P
Continue applying pressure along the length of the cane. As you move down to the next size. Once you have a bit of length going you can also do a little gentle, tugging. Operative word is "gentle". Remember this is a polymer clay cane not a uh, uh, uh, URGH! headed in the wrong direction again, never mind! Just stick to gentle tugging or you'll rip the poor guy in two! I mean you'll rip the poor cane in two! ;P
As you can see here we are getting a little bit of distortion on the ends. This is perfectly normal and nothing tho be alarmed about.
Here I'vut my cane in half to show you that the image is still twinkling bight withing the comfy surroundings of it's bubble free packing.
I like to reduce some of the cane down to about a 1/4 to 1/2" diameter and leave the rest large until I am ready to use it. With Kato canes I have been able to reduce canes that are more than 5 years old. Some other brands, stored under ther same contions, have not worked out so well for me after just 2 years. You'll just have to experiment and see what works for you.
This distorted piece of clay is the "waste". But, don't throw it away. I'll use it for bead guts, prototypes, and doll bodies that will be covered with clothing. If you must toss it out please be sure to heat cure it first. raw polymer should not be disposed of. It's just not good for the environment.
Slices of my finished cane waiting to be put to use.
II hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know how it goes if you decide to try it out. I am happy to answer any additional questions.