Monday, June 7, 2010

To pack or not to pack? That is the question….

The thing I like to do the most with polymer clay is to make canes. Primarily flower canes, although I do make leaf canes, specialty jellyroll canes, kaleidoscope canes and anything else that grabs my attention. But my favorite remains the flower cane.
Until about a year ago, I made my flower canes in the traditional way by packing between the petals then wrapping the entire cane with translucent clay. This works great however it does have a couple of negatives. If you want to do a dimensional piece, you have to carefully cut all the translucent away… I'm not good at that! Or if you want to use the flower cane in a multi-cane layered design, you have to slice it extremely thin or you have a "halo" around your flower. (In the heart pendant to the right, the yellow flower is borderless but the little white flowers have a translucent packing.) The translucent is just that – translucent – not clear. So you can see the edges. Oh, there were solutions to this problem. Like I said, you could slice very thin – although I rarely was able to slice thin enough to avoid the halo – or your could painstakingly trim away the translucent before you cut your slices. Again, I'm not good at that!

Then in July 2009, I ran across a post in one of my online polymer clay groups about a video by Yonat that showed how she packed her flower canes with play-doh. Yes, you read that right – play-doh – the same stuff your kids and grandkids play with! If you want to check out the technique for yourself, go to my post of 7-20-09 – Ten things I learned from playing with Play-doh This post includes the link to Yonat's video as well as how I do it which is just a little bit different. The end result of this technique is that you have a flower cane without any packing around it – but reduced to a usable size. It can be used in dimensional work where you want a fairly thick slice – or even as a stand-alone bead -- as well as sliced thin for use in layered millefoiri designs. This is, of course, now my favorite way to make flower canes.  In the example shown here, the flower on the center focal bead is dimensional while the same flower is sliced thin and applied to beads.

This brings me to the question - to pack or not to pack. I'm getting ready to revamp my Etsy shop and I'm going to include canes in my shop. What I need to decide is whether to make canes with the translucent packing or without. Most of the canes that I see for sale on the internet are packed – either with translucent or with a color -- but to me that just creates more work for the end user. I rarely use packed canes so I resist the idea of adding canes to my inventory that I won't use – I like to show examples of items made with my canes for reference – but on the other hand if the end user has never used a unpacked cane, how willing will they be to order?


Katie said...

What if you list the canes unpacked and mention that you will pack the background on request? (Found you from Polymer Clay Tutor)

Arlene Harrison said...

What I think I'm going to do is list some of both kinds and when somebody orders a packed cane, I'll send them a sample of a borderless cane for them to try. When I showed the members of our guild how well the canes firm up and slice without distortion, they were surprised. Now I've just got to get pictures taken and the canes posted! So much to do, so little time.