I believe we’ve established the fact that I’m obsessed with cane making. That’s why I’ve paid close attention to the properties of Sculpey III, Premo and Souffle. I choose Souffle for caning for these reasons:

I love the dryish, velvety texture. The clay does not stick to the work surface and it resists sticking to itself. That allows me to lay out blends and dividing sheets (lines) easily while deciding on placement of the cane components. I’m literally never “stuck” with my first layout.

Souffle is softer and requires very little conditioning, so it’s faster and easier to mix colors and create blends. The soft texture also makes cane reduction SO much easier on my hands.

I sometimes hear that Souffle is too soft for caning; so I’ll share my trick. Don’t over-condition your Souffle. It’s fairly flexible out of the package. Slice the bar and create a sheet and start from there. As you work, set components aside when they seem too warm. Souffle will cool down quickly and, sort of, reconstitute itself. Then you can make cuts without distortion.

Souffle can be matte or shiny. Premo and Sculpey III both bake up with a shine. You can make them even shinier with coatings; but you can’t make them matte. Now I’ll say this at my own peril. Not everything needs a shine. Flowers, animals, faux fabric, wood effects, and nature scenes to not need gloss. The natural suede texture of baked Souffle lends a soft look that you can’t achieve with other clays.

Lastly, Souffle is noticeably lighter than any other clay. I can make more substantial jewelry pieces that are still comfortable to wear.

Now, let’s talk about color. For classes at IndyJam (our yearly clay gathering in Indianapolis) I give the guests two Poppy Seed, two Igloo and two bars of ONE color of their choice. This is why: Choosing, blending and combining colors are the easiest part of cane making. You, as artists, have favorite palettes; so its not hard to imagine what the colors will look like together. The challenge in caning lies in making components, putting them together and reducing the combined canes while keeping them in their proper configuration. In other words, making accurate shapes and keeping them straight. When we start with simple two or three-part blends, made into simple shapes (jellyrolls and fanfolds) we can concentrate on scale and composition rather than color.

For the cane shown here, I made a Skinner blend with Souffle Cornflower and Igloo. For the “black” lines, I used Royalty. Any dark color provides enough contrast and can be the “black” in your cane, creating dividers and filling spaces.

I used half a bar of Cornflower and Igloo, and a small amount of Royalty. The Royalty was sheeted on a number 5 setting. You’ll see I also used small snakes of Royalty for fill. Fill goes in any gaps between the components. In fact, I use a rod to create bends and gaps. Those darker pops add mystery and detail to your canes.

Once you’ve played with the jellyrolls and fanfolds (I use plural because I often cut the components in half or reduce them to multiply the pieces) and put them together in a way you find pleasing, don’t be afraid to alter the shape of the combined canes. You can start with a square and create a triangle or vice versa, then reduce and recombine them endlessly. This cane started as a rectangle with the fanfold in the center, half of the jelly roll on the right and the other half of the jellyroll reduced and reshaped to teardrops.

Then I made an indention and added the rest of the pieces to the top. It wasn’t hard to get a triangle from there.

I reduced the triangle and made a hexagon. Then I formed the hexagon into a square, reduced it and recombined.

I hope these concepts are helpful to you. Caning can be a dry topic; but once your hands get busy with the clay, it’s a magical experience. #howdoyousculpey