Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I Did! OOHHH! What I Did!

OK. So I was having a great week. I was playing great tennis (for me) on Monday. Something that hasn't happened for awhile. I finished my mosaic cane and I liked they was she came out. I took pictures and posted to my blog. I was getting great feedback. (thanks for all the nice comments) I got an email that they were going to be putting me up on Polymer Clay Daily. I was thrilled. I'll admit it - I am a media whore. I love the attention. I am the "Bubble Boy" of polymer clay. I check my stat counter several times a day to see how many people have visited my site. My head swells so much I have to duck walking into rooms. I know I am the "next big thing in polymer clay". I think to myself "people will spend hundreds of dollars (well make that tens of dollars) to see me do a video. INSERT LIGHT BULB HERE! A brilliant idea. People love my blog. I'll add a video of me taking a slice off my mosaic cane.
So now I have this great idea just how am I going to take a slice of this mother of a cane. I am not very good at slicing canes. Most of the time it doesn't matter for what I am doing. When I am using some of my face cane slices I usually cut fairly thick slices because I have to do some tweaking to the cane. You know - pull up a droopy mouth or eyebrow. Fill in a gap etc. So I know I am going to have to take a thick slice off my mosaic cane. Too often in times past I have tried to get more use out of my canes by slicing thin. Well as I said I am not a great cane slicer and very often I end up screwing up the "thin" slice and wasting more of the cane. So I have this cane that is approx 5 X 8 X 2 inches. The first thing I did was add a layer of translucent around the entire cane. One reason is so that I can take a thicker slice and not use as much of the actual cane. Later I found a better reason and that was the all the little extruded pieces wanted to fall apart and I was glad that I had a layer of translucent to help hold them together. But I get ahead of myself.
I decide I need to make some sort of contraption to help me take this slice. I take a trip to Hobby Lobby to see what I can find there. I purchase some foam core, wood slats, and an acrylic ruler. My brilliant plan is to cut out the shape of my cane into the foam core. I can make several of these and stack them up to help support the cane while I slice. Picture in your mind a several picture frames stacked up with the cane in the middle. Then I used the wood slats on either side of the cane to get to the right height for slicing and offering support for my blade. Ah the blade. Here was the first problem with my plan. My cane is over 5 inches wide and so is my blade. There just wasn't enough blade to hold on to. I thought it over. I could try to reduce the cane just a little or add handles to the blade. (of course option 3 would have been to search for a longer blade but I didn't even know if any existed and besides I was on a roll. You know I was "the next best thing in polymer clay" the world couldn't wait.) Now when I reduce a cane I add a lot of scrap clay and beat the heck out of it. There is always more waste each time you stop to take a slice and then restart the reduction. Now since I have decided that I was going to reduce the cane (how much still isn't decided) I really didn't want to start and stop just for one slice. Besides I was TNBTIPC. (think about it it will come to you!) So I decide to bake on some handles to hold the blade.
Now I have the holes cut out of the foam. I have the wood pieces in place. Lastly I put an acrylic ruler on either side of the cane so that my blade will slide easily across the ruler to make this precise slice. I have the whole thing clamped down. I am ready to go! Since I am TNBTIPC I get my camera ready to record the "slicing event". INSERT DRUM ROLL HERE!
Well as for what happened next...let's just say you don't see a video posted do ya? Oh I set it up and recorded TNBTIPC describing my slicing contraption. I even move everything into the spare bedroom so that the video won't show my trashy work room in the background. I put the camera on a tripod and get ready to make history. I start to make the first incision. Incision? Ha? I laugh at the comparison to a surgical procedure. I have to start and stop the video several times while I make adjustments. Taking out some wood pieces adding back foam core pieces. Well it was not going well! I decide to turn off the camera. (maybe I was getting nervous) So I start to make the slice and I am finally making some headway. So I decide to turn the camera back on. Big mistake. Since I had stopped the slice the blade was stuck in mid-slice and I didn't have that "free flow" of the blade. I don't know how to describe it but if you have ever sliced canes you should know what I am talking about. Oh yes and I should mention my brilliant idea of the handles...not so much! There just wasn't enough of the blade to hold on to and they kept falling off. At this point the camera gets shut off for good and what can only be described as a hatchet job ensues. Cleaner cuts were made on "The Texas Chain Massacre". The blade bent. There were gouges made. The term "uniform slice" never was spoken. The extruded slices were coming apart. As I said earlier this is where I was glad I had put a layer of translucent on first because it helped hold the hatchet job together. When it was over I had a slice of my three weeks to build mosaic cane. It varied in thickness from about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. And I am not talking about a gradual increase in size. There were hills and valleys and gouges galore. I took a deep breath and very carefully proceeded to take small slices off the main slice and using them back on the remaining cane to fill up holes. By the time I was done I finally had my slice (albeit a honking big slice) and a cane that was about 1 1/2 inches thick. This is not a lot to work with but I am going to try to reduce that. I have it there waiting for me but I wanted to get this posted first just in case it comes out even worse. I think I am more nervous about this reduction than I have ever been.
OK so this is the end of my ramblings. If you are still reading I thank you for sticking by me. I guess I am not TNBTIPC but just someone learning and sharing what I know about polymer clay.


  1. Awww Julie, I think you are TNBTIPC :) I can't wait to see the pictures. BTW..if you want/need a 10" blade (think tissue blade way longer) then I have some I can send you.

  2. Oh my goodness! I can feel your pain and also the similar random thoughts of being TNBTIPC lol! I keep getting slapped down by reality and have decided to just try to do what I do... and do it well. You do it well girl!! :))) Would love to see a pic of the completed slice :)

  3. Kathi,
    I'd love a 10" blade. Somehow I doubt this is the last big cane I'll ever make. Email me (it's found at the top right of my blog) and we'll work it out.

  4. Julie, I love the cane, it is awesome and love your slicing commentary more! LOL Girl-friend you do amazing canework and I pray that I can attend Clay Carnival next year. Happy claying & Happy New Year!

  5. ROTFLMAO, just last week I made a bargello cane. I wanted to use it for the fronts of some memo pads for Christmas. I thought, rather than having to piece smaller sections of bargello cane together I'd just make one the size of the memo pad cover. It wasn't nearly as large as yours, but even at 3" X 5" I couldn't get a decent slice to save my life. I finally got 3 I could slice the hills away on that at least worked, but the rest was purely wasted. So, I empathize and sympathize. I hope you have enough left to reduce, it is a great cane. Smiles, Sue C

  6. You are an amazing artist Julie and the reason you are featured everywhere and admired for your work is because you are brave enough to try something you haven't tried before, to experiment.
    I have wished for a way to slice really large canes for years. Maybe someone will figure it out. Thanks for sharing.

  7. lol...Julie, that was fun to read. So sorry for your hassles :)

    I had a similar dilemna (although the cane looked NOTHING like your masterpiece!!), and solved I can take a slice off a big cane without too much hair pulling, lol. Happy to share ideas if you're ever in that position again!

    When you go to reduce your very thin cane, you could slam the two 'ends' as well as the sides to get the whole thing warmed up. I was asked to help a gal reduce a huge cane (the diameter of a dinner plate and only 1 inch thick!!!), and the remedy I came up with was to not only slam the edges, but the "faces" or ends as well. This worked really well. Also, you could pack scrap clay onto the ends, making it longer and easier to reduce (similar to applying the 'end caps' as you learned in my workshop, only make them much, much thicker). Just ideas :)

    You, my dear, have such amazing vision....I cannot believe your talent at creating "portraits" in clay. You are very gifted.

    Warm hugs and Happy New Year! j

  8. What a great post! I felt like I was sitting there with you, watching the whole process!

    Isn't there a product out there for slicing large canes into thin slices called the 'Able Cane Slicer' or something or other? I am pretty sure I saw a YouTube Video on it once. I think it is expensive but it may just be the thing you need, especially if you get into making more of the larger canes. Your designs are so awesome it would be tragic to waste even a tiny bit of them!

  9. Hmm... I have never tried this, but what about slicing it using some very thin wire? Perhaps wrapping the ends of the wire around some dowel rods so you can hold the wire extremely taut and it won't cut into your fingers because you'll be holding on the dowel rods. I've only ever sliced canes that were about 1" in width (or diameter) but it seems like (in theory) the wire might be a good idea.

  10. Julie,
    Comments are so true - We all felt that we were sitting right there with you and can feel all of your hurt, anger, frustration, etc.
    But I know that your abilities will solve this "slice" - So looking forward to seeing the end product of this fantastic cane !!
    Mary Lee

  11. Lol Julie! Thanks so much for sharing all this with us. I do feel your pain and have been there done that. I would still love to see photos, and WITH your messy work area in the background. You know ours all all the same - messy that is.

    And have heart, you are TNBTIPC!

  12. Julie,
    I laughed, I cried, I sat on the edge of my chair.
    Your creative writing abilty rivals your top notch, polymer talent.
    Deb Hutchison