Another Dan Cormier workshop

I recently finished another online course with Dan Cormier, this time making vessels. The course was about construction, and we had to create our own veneer. As always, there was a focus on exacting work, which is a great discipline.

I’ve since made a film container for someone who is using an old ‘box brownie’ camera. I was aiming to create a mid-century design based on the shapes in my leather cutter set. These cutter sets are quite cheap – search eBay or similar for “leather cutters”.

Two workshops – two very different approaches

We’ve had over 200 days of lockdown in Melbourne, and I’ve been hosting online ‘crafternoons’ with friends since April 2020.  The COVID pandemic has meant much more use of video meetings, and I doubt I’d have been able to attend a Ford and Forlano class in ‘normal’ times.

I did two workshops this year – both were great but different in many ways.  I did Dan Cormier’s Building Better Beads.  This is the third course I’ve done with Dan – you choose when you read the materials and watch his videos which are posted over the 4 weeks. You can post pictures or questions and receive comments back.

Here are my two finished pieces from Dan’s course.

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Knotted rope cane

I love watching Philip Wiegard’s youtube videos – whether you want to make any of the canes or not, they can be mesmerising.

I recently made one of his knot canes. Check out his video for step by step demonstration. I made a couple of brooches (pins), covered an egg (why not?) – now thinking about something to do with the rest.

Polymer Clay Eggs

An alternative to chocolate eggs – but not as tasty!

The eggs are blown out and usually covered with liquid polymer clay (which you can do as you go).

There are many techniques for covering eggs, depending on the look you want, and/or the designs you start with.  You can start with any polymer clay design – plain metallic clay, sheets of patterns or some canes.

The gold one is the simplest, just roll a sausage of metallic clay, take some slices and push them onto the egg.  Depending on how thick the slices are, and how you place them on, you will see various ‘mica shift’ patterns.

Philip Wiegard covers a Christmas bauble here, but shows how you can ‘shrink’ a sheet of polymer clay to shape it around a sphere.  Check out his other videos, I love his quirky and complex canes.

Fiona Abel-Smith covers a goose egg in this tutorial using a different technique. 

The top 3 eggs were covered by cutting 1/6 segments that narrow at the top and bottom (like the segments of an orange).  Fiona covers a Christmas bauble here. I followed this technique (covering alternative segments, baking then filling in the other segments) for the one at the top LHS corner, although I need to get my measurements more accurate and improve the joins.

Check out Fiona’s amazing bowls while you’re on her channel.

For the 3D block egg (my favourite), I added the cane slices then baked the egg.  Once cool, I wrapped it in the grey and gradually cut out ‘holes’ for those slices and smoothed the joins.  A technique I first did with Sarah Shriver, a technique she calls “reverse inlay”.  

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. [I’ve heard since that the term used for this technique is ‘scrap-scape’]

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.