Scrap clay techniques

There’s no such thing as scrap clay – well not for me – I find so many things to do with clay left over from projects I rarely have much scrap.

If you make items to sell it may not be economical to look for ways to use scrap.  However, if you do this for pleasure like I do, and make items on a small scale you might find working with your scraps helps fuel your creativity.  

Here I make suggestions for all levels of scrap, from left-over canes to those muddy clumps of clay. 

Here’s my video of the ‘Totem’ / Micro-Natasha technique mentioned below.

Left-over canes

Kaleidoscope canes

Lengths of these canes were combined to make the new cane (bottom left).

Kaleidoscope canes are great if you have excess canes, or have canes you just don’t like.  To get the repeated pattern, all components need to be consistent for the length of the cane, so are good for canes you have no more use for – even canes you think are ugly can look great when combined in a kaleidoscope cane.  You can also add long ‘sausages’ or strips of a color.  You’ll find a lot of tutorials for these, or  See my steps in making a kaleidoscope cane from left over canes and also here.

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Simple kaleidoscope cane

I’m luckier than many who’ve suffered physically, emotionally and financially from COVID19, and haven’t minded the extended lock-down in Melbourne.  As well as having a bit more time for polymer clay and other crafts, I’ve had regular zoom ‘craft catchups’ with friends.  One technique I share with people who are new to polymer clay is the kaleidoscope cane.  You can get impressive results using just a few elements, and it’s a great way to use up canes you have left over.  Even canes you don’t like can be beautiful when combined with others and repeated in this way.

Pen kit (sold for wood turners) covered in polymer clay canes, showing step by step to final cane.

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Playing with ‘scrap’ clay

I like to play with scrap clay left over from projects, and there are so many ways to work scraps into a new design as long as it is not mixed to a mud color.  [I have since written more about this technique and using scrap clay, including a video here.]

I had two flower canes, but this would have worked well even if you were using the distorted ends of canes, and I had a skinner blend bulls-eye cane and a stack of stripes.    I cut these up into small pieces, and chopped up pieces of clay of contrasting colours.  I laid these together to create a ‘log’ – with most of the canes lying across (rather than along) the log.

I rolled this into a smooth log, and twisted it – but not too much.  This is similar to the technique some use for making natasha beads, see

However, instead of slicing through the log, I rolled it flat, and cut thin slices (cut across the stripes which will appear once you have twisted it).  Put two slices together to show the symmetrical image.    As I cut each slice, the pattern will slowly change, so no two pieces will be exactly alike.

Domed, mokume gane pin

I made this brooch (pin) from a small, thin sheet left over from a workshop I did with Melanie Muir about two years go.  The “mokume gane” design was created by staking very thin slices of different colours, pressing in one of Melanie’s stamps, and slicing off the top until smooth.

Here are the other pieces I made from this sheet.   I then made the additional gold (mica shift) piece with another stamp and placed them together on a fresh thin sheet .  I let this sit for a few days, hoping that would get this dry piece flexible enough to work.  I think it helped,  but you can see that there is still a very small crack or two.  I then shaped a gentle dome by using a technique based on Dan Cormier’s technique of gently working the sheet into a raised shape through a cardboard die and I placed it on a backing sheet of clay.    You can see the die I cut, and a test I did with scrap grey clay in the other picture.   I’ve enrolled in Dan’s online class so am looking forward to working on this technique.

Marriage Equality Earrings

In Australia, our Government is holding a postal survey of our views on whether same sex couples can marry.  The survey is costing us over $100 million, it won’t bind the Government, and the related debate is causing harm and distress to LGBTI people.  While many people opposed the survey, now it is underway the strong message is “Vote YES”.

Yes earringsCornflour stopped the rainbow sticking to the log it was shaped around. The log was only removed once the rainbow was sliced.  The end of the posts were bent (for better hold) and were sandwiched between a slice of “yes” cane and circle of clay in which I inserted a heart using a cutter.



Found objects & polymer clay

found object for web

Found object Necklace: polymer clay, metal paint, brass bead, vintage icing nozzle, vintage sewing machine bobbin, small plastic & brass objects, steel wire.

Some years ago I did a class with Tory Hughes.  While Tory often uses imitative techniques, the topic for that class was mokume gane.  One of my samples was the centre piece here, which I didn’t like much at the time.  Tory encouraged me to try to make some pieces from polymer clay that would work with some of my found object pieces, which I did.  So, after having these polymer clay pieces sitting around for years, I finally put them together in this necklace.  The polymer clay pieces are the long brown bead (which has been painted with metal and rust effect), centre square bead, imitation ivory, and rough grey bead.

Another kaleidoscope cane

These kaleidoscope canes are very satisfying.  The yellow/orange base cane here is similar to Sarah Shriver’s canes, made up of a number of stacked Skinner blends.  A few other canes are added at random, formed into a triangle and then put together in a repeat pattern.

While the initial design doesn’t look impressive, it’s usually hard to go wrong once you start putting together the repeat design.  However, I was glad I didn’t use up all the base cane on my first attempt.  Although very similar, my initial attempt produced the design below which is not as pleasing.







Optical illusion

This cane is not my own design but it looked like fun.  Here is someone who has done it really beautifully.  It was difficult to keep the shapes even. I use Kato brand which is rather firm – I don’t think I could have managed with one of the softer brands.  This pendant is made from very thin slices of the canes mounted on a plan colour background and cut to shape.


I also made a cane in grey shades which shows the process.  I used an extruder to make the long triangles, then wrapped the triangle pairs and combined them to make the cane.





Masterclass Camp

Over four days in June I once again attended a Polymer Clay Fests event in Laurel, Maryland, US.

In these classes all participants produce similar work, so there is not much scope for ‘doing your own thing’ – however this means that the classes move along quickly and squeeze in a lot of techniques over the four days.  These are the pieces I made.

The key technique in Melanie Muir’s class was mokume gane using the beautiful stamps she produces, but my main “take outs” from the class were her amazing construction techniques (using buna cord and o rings makes these necklaces strong but flexible) her approach to designing and planning,  and the benefits of spending more time burnishing flat surfaces.  I often do this with wax or baking paper on top, smoothing with hands or the back of a spoon, but firmer pressure and using a heavier object can make the surface smoother and significantly reduce sanding time.

I loved Jana Lehman’s technique for clean geometric designs.  Her work is so colourful and quirky.  I’d like to try this technique with less geometric designs, using home-made cutters.  I’m wondering about using it to add further detail to large cane slices.  Again adequate burnishing was a key to a good result.

Finally, Donna Greenberg taught a class that involved carving and painting polymer clay.  While I’ve done very little sculpting with polymer clay, I’d be keen to try this technique to produce some pieces that could be integrated with some of the found object pieces I work with.

It was lovely to see a few of the people who I met in 2012, including Mags (I love her Bernie Saunders earrings) and Carol – and, of course, the  wonderful organiser of these events, Kathryn Ottman.