Designs like Multicolored Snowflakes: 36 Kaleidoscopes from A Single Master Cane

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This fall I was contacted by Polyform to see if I would agree to be the featured artist on the cover of their 2013 Sculpey catalog. Of course I would!  I asked what they wanted for the cover and they replied “cane slices.”  At that point I had just returned from Europe and didn’t have any canes sitting around so I had to make one. I explained that I don’t use canes the way most people do; I slice them up and combine different sections of the slices to make a nearly infinite number of unique kaleidoscopic designs. They agreed to that approach and  suggested a color combination.

The cane I made looked like this. cane slice

I made it rather quickly and there was quite a bit of distortion, but that didn’t matter with the technique I was using. I sliced the cane into very thin slices and started cutting and combining pieces of slices. These are some of the first designs I made.

 subset 4

There is something zen like about cutting and combining pieces to make one kaleidoscopic design after another. With my approach, there is no stopping to think “have I already done that arrangement?”  One set of designs leads seamlessly into the next:

subset 1

The designs above are from a different portion of the cane than the first three. A a result they have a different color emphasis. A third set of designs (below) includes some of the yellow and orange portions of the cane. (I’ll be teaching this technique in my 6-day Kaleidoscope Pendant workshop in Racine, WI next April. There are still two openings left.)

subset 3

I didn’t want to just send the raw cane slices to be photographed so I applied them to a backing of scrap clay, trimmed the edges and put them in the oven. By the time I was done I had quite a few designs; each of them unique, like multicolored snowflakes.

36 permutations on black

As the pieces came out of the oven I realized that they wouldn’t photograph well unless I sanded them. Typically my pieces are close to 1/2 inch thick and domed on both sides; I actually enjoy sanding them. Each of these disks was only about 3/16 inch thick , absolutely flat and nearly 2 inches in diameter. If you have tried sanding very thin, flat pieces, you know it doesn’t take long before your hand is cramping, your finger tips are bleeding and your nails are sanded down to the quick. I decided I needed some way other than my hands to grip the disks.disk holder

The solution turned out to be quite simple. I had my helpful plastics guy make me a disk holder by gluing a 1/8 inch thick piece of plastic with a 2 inch square opening on top of a 1/2 inch piece of solid plastic with the same outside dimensions. I could place the disk in the opening, flip the block over on a piece of sandpaper and and slide it back and forth to sand the disk. Because the disk was thicker than the 1/8 inch-thick frame, the top of the disk was quickly sanded into a flat, even, smooth surface.

36 kaleidoscope designs from a single cane.

36 kaleidoscope designs from a single cane.

The display above is now a piece of wall art for my studio. I call it 36 Permutations.

This entry was posted in Caning, Classes/Workshops, Color, Kaleidoscopes, Premo Clay, Teaching, Technique, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Designs like Multicolored Snowflakes: 36 Kaleidoscopes from A Single Master Cane

  1. Priscilla says:

    There’s a product to add to your arsenal of goodies! Wish I had thought of something like this last summer when I was actually paying to get my nails done. Ruined a couple while sanding. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t avoid sanding them down.

  2. Priscilla says:

    Forgot to mention, I adore the colors. It’s amazing how beautiful orange can be–even though that’s probably my least favorite color–when it’s part of a gorgeous design with other colors that I do love.

  3. Diane Bruce says:

    I love this colourway Carol! Congratulations on being asked by Polyform to grace the cover of their catalogue! And I agree with Priscilla, you have made another very useful product that I’m sure will sell well. Especially if you debut them at one of your workshops.

  4. Linda Dixon says:

    Absolutely beautiful. I love the colorway and am amazed at how many different combinations you have. If you ever come to the south to teach I’d love to take your class.

  5. Jan Montarsi says:

    Hello Carol,
    Unbelivable Color Way.
    I cant wait to get back to my slices And Start a new Cane.
    Another Great Gadget , if you start to sell them with your other class supplies Lmk.

    Cant Wait to see the Polyform Cover.

  6. Carol Simmons says:

    Thanks, Jan!

  7. Candy Emerson says:

    I love the colors. It is one of your best colorways yet.

  8. Katya says:

    Wow!!! So beautiful pieces, Carol!

  9. Kathy Porter Koontz says:

    Fantastic! Would love to attend your kaleidoscope workshop. I don’t guess you are ever near the Charleston, SC area?

  10. Eli says:

    Carol, it’s truly amazing all of the different colors that appear in the pieces from one cane! Marvelous! I regret that I will not be able to come to your April workshop in Racine. The timing doesn’t work well for my work schedule. Hopefully I can catch another one along the way.

    You know what would make the sanding tool even more perfect? If you could adjust the sides to fit any size piece. Hmmmm………

    Congrats on the Polyform gig!

  11. Carrie Neidlinger says:

    Amazing as always Carol! And congrats on the catalog, you definitely deserve it!

  12. Carol, you and your plastics guy are brilliant. Any chance you’ll have a few of these to bring to Synergy 3??

    And big congrats on being chosen for Polyform’s cover. Makes perfect sense to me!

    • Carol Simmons says:

      Thanks Barb. The holder only works with flat items and the opening has to be about the size of the object to be sanded, so it is best to make your own.

  13. I would love to be able to make the 36 permutations at our class!

  14. Pingback: The Daily Polymer Arts Blog » Pushing Variation

  15. Corine says:

    This absolutely fascinating! There are so many ways to look at the original piece. It blows my mind!

  16. Renee Miletta says:

    Wow, the bowls are beautiful. I have so much to learn. I love the designs and how pretty the colors are.

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