I was fascinated with the word millefiori and spent almost as much time researching the origins of the word and art form as I did building my first cane. Millefiori means "thousand flowers" in Italian. The process of combining rods of glass into specific patterns, such as the petals of a flower, heating the rods and then drawing or stretching them out to form the cane is the basis of the term. The cane can be sliced and combined to form the "thousand flowers" or other patterns, and then used to decorate beads or other glass objects. Millefiori cane work lends itself very well to polymer clay. The cane is formed by piecing the clay together like a puzzle, and carefully compressing the outside of the cane to reduce the image. The resulting cane can be sliced to form beads or to be used as a decorative layer for other objects.
Condition all clay well by hand kneading or slice thinly and run through a pasta machine until soft and pliable.
Roll out each color of clay on #1 (the thickest) setting of pasta machine into a sheet that is 4x4 inches.
Preparing the Skinner Blend: Use this technique to quickly and easily create sheets of graded color needed to make the leaf cane. The Skinner Blend method works when using two or more colors of clay.
Fold each color sheet of clay in half diagonally.
Join the folded sheets along the diagonal edge, off setting the triangles slightly so that the corners do not exactly meet. You must do this if you wish to have areas of the original colors included in the graded-color clay sheet. If the colors meet exactly, you will have a sheet that is entirely graded.
Roll the new sheet through the pasta machine. Fold the two-color sheet in half, folding same color edge on same color edge and roll through the pasta machine, placing the folded side of the sheet against the rollers of the pasta machine--helping to prevent air bubbles. Fold and roll through again. Repeat until the sheet is fully blended and there are no streaks.
Lay the sheet of blended clay in front of you so the white edge is to one side and the magenta to the other. Roll up the blended sheet to form a log or cane that blends from white to magenta from front to back; be sure to roll the cane tightly.
Turn the cane up on its end and compress the cane downward, making it more squat.
Cut the cane in half while it is still up on its end.This will result in two half circle logs or canes.
While the half circle cane is up on its end, slice it into 3 - 4 sections, like a pie. Repeat with the other half circle cane.
Roll out a sheet of black clay on the #6 (relatively thin) setting of the pasta machine.
Insert thin strips of the black clay between the sections cut in Step 9, this will define the leaf's veins.
Reassemble each half-circle cane with black "veins." Add a strip of black clay in between the two half circle canes to form the stem. Reassemble to reform a circle cane.
Wrap the entire outside of the cane with a thin sheet of black clay.
Reduce the cane by rolling and stretching until it is 1/2 inch in diameter.
Cut the cane into fifteen, 1-inch segments. Keep each segment in line, as you will be cutting the cane paying special attention to the gradation of color.
Look at the ends of each segment and pinch the top of the cane where the stem is to form the point of a leaf. Work to be sure each leaf is pointed in the same direction.
Keeping the leaf segments in order, slice 10 thin slices from each cane.
Assembling the purse:
Starting at the bottom of the heart filigree purse, begin attaching the lightest (or darkest--your choice!) cane slices, pressing the top of each leaf cane slices into the filigree work. Complete the purse row by row, overlapping the tops of the leaves already attached with the tips of the leaves being added. By keeping the leaf slices in gradated order, the blend will become apparent as the leaves are added to the purse.
Cover the front, sides, and half of the back of the purse, but not the flap. Bake the purse for 15 minutes at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the purse to cool. Baking at this stage will allow you to continue covering the purse with layers of leaves without distorting the layers already applied, and baking the piece several times is of no consequence.
Once complete, bake the entire purse again for 15 minutes at 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
To insure that the layers on the flap are secure, open the purse and, working on the back of the flap, squeeze a thin layer of Kato Clear Liquid Medium. Bake for 15 minutes at 275 degrees Fahrenheit again.
The pieces featured in the Gallery of Designs are copyrighted designs and are provided for inspiration only. We
encourage you to substitute different colors, products and techniques to make the design your own.