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f. Millefiori Canes

1.Constructed Cane Untouched

2. After some Reduction (hard work!)

3. After more reduction (More Hard work!)

4. The reduced Cane sliced - the exciting part!
(note ends are waste)


5. Slices of Reduced Cane showing some end pieces distorted.
The idea is to reduce evenly so you don't lose too much!

6. Further reduction of Cane to various size smaller canes which can be sliced to make beads or thin slices to collage.

What is Millefiori? 

Millefiori or 'caning' originates from an ancient Venetian glass-blowing techniques where long rods of glass were made with tiny flowers going through the entire length. It is Italian for 'A thousand flowers.'  Polymer Clay artists have adapted this technique for use with clay, and it is perhaps the most 'magic' effect you can get.  People look at the pictures and ask 'how did you paint that tiny picture?'  You can then amaze them with your explanation.

I would recommend obtaining a good Polymer Clay book (Donna Kato has a great book on the subject) to give you a good view of the technique.  Lots of other Polymer Clay titles also have been published which have a wealth of information.  You can also find tutorials on the net which are both free and involve a payment which are the next best thing to doing a class.


Start with simple foundation canes such as the Spiral or Jellyroll, Bullseye, Checks, and Stripes.  Then move onto combining these to make other more complex canes such as flowers, stars, shapes.  Once you have mastered all of these go onto trying some more detailed canes such as simple faces, animals, kaleidoscopes etc.  Do a workshop with a Polymer Clay Artist who can teach you the finer points.

Colour Contrast:

  • Keep the contrast sharp between colours in the design - when the image is reduced in size, colours which are too similar visually merge into each other.  If you have two colours which are close together on the colour wheel (such as blue & purple), and you want to have them separated visually, add a thin strip of white or black between them.
  • When I make canes I usually add a thin wrap (#5) of black and/or white around the main image in the cane - this keeps the image crisp and makes it stand out from the background.

Avoiding Distortion of your Design:

If you want your canes to be precise and neat here are the tips.  If you don't care and into more flowing designs, you don't have to be so pedantic.

  • Avoid any air-holes between sections of the design - any areas where you don't pack the clay will cause distortion of the picture.  The clay will move from another area into the empty area!
  • Take your time making a cane - extra care is worth the time when you look at your finished product.
  • Especially when you are making a larger sized cane, remember that when you reduce the cane, the outer edges of the cane usually move quicker than the centre, therefore the closer any parts of your picture are to the edges, the smaller they will end up.  An example:  A face cane can end up with very small hair, ears and lips but very large nose and eyes!  You may need to make up for this by adding extra bulk to the outer design elements of the cane.

Cane Size:

  • Canes can be made as large as a dinner plate, but unless you want to spend hours or days reducing the cane, or end up with a serious hand or shoulder injury, I would suggest keeping cane sizes more manageable size.  I generally try to keep them small enough so I can get both hands around the diameter, and tall enough to grasp properly (around 4-6cm).  If you want lots of detail in your cane, think of reducing the elements of the design individually then assembling them into the larger design, then reducing down from there. 
  • The larger the cane, the slower you need to go with reduction to avoid distortion of the design.  The edges will move faster than the centre of the cane, so your aim is to squeeze evenly and firmly to encourage the centre of the cane to move along with the edges. 

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