Posted by: cassymuronaka | September 7, 2011

Polymer Clay’s high wire act

Face caning is polymer clay’s high wire act.  I can’t think of a most labor-intensive process.  It can take you weeks to tortuously build a cane, and all of that effort can go right out the window in an hour or two of sloppy, anxious cane-reduction. You end up with a face that looks like it had too much plastic surgery, not to mention a heart that is broken into a thousand tiny pieces.

Many of the clever face beads in the above photo date back to the Cro-Magnon age of my interest  in polymer clay, when I was dying to acquire information and couldn’t regularly attend guild meetings or classes, because of a small child at home and a full-time job. So,  I was participating in online swaps regularly.

However, I was not always diligent about keeping all the information that arrived with swap beads. That laziness or lack of organization I now regret.  Therefore, if you are one of the fine artists who made some of these beads, and have been unidentified in this post, please let me know, so that I can give you credit.

I’m pretty sure that the bead on upper far right is from Marion Quinn, who now is inactive in polymer clay.  But she was a very skilled caner and president of the Greater Los Angeles Polymer Clay Guild.  She also is a dermatologist, and once saved me from a case of blazing fingers when I zealously sanded beads very late into the night at the first Ravensdale conference in 1996 or 1997.  I  didn’t realize I was taking off some of my skin at the same time. PAIN. Marion told me to lightly rub Super Glue on the affected areas, a common crafting material that apparently was designed to help seal wounds during the Vietnam War.

Despite the age of these face beads, they are no less well-crafted than many face canes emerging from studios today.  And you aren’t going to be receiving a bead from someone like Barbara McGuire in a swap these days. Barbara’s is the vertical and ethereal face bead in the middle top of the photo.

The crown jewel of the swap beads here is the face of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the only man of the bunch. That cane came from Carol Simmons, still very much a force in the world of polymer clay.  Again, I highly doubt that Carol is swapping beads online today. Like Barbara, she is too busy successfully teaching and selling her work.

Not all of these beads were obtained in swaps.  The Art Nouveau-ish face profile with the black background is a lowly cane end slice I that I obtained at either a Shrinemont or Ravensdale conference.  But it was the end of a cane from Kathleen Amt!

I don’t remember how I got this bead. I must have fallen down on the ground in front of Kathleen and cried for it.

Again, Kathleen no longer works with polymer clay, but she was a great goddess of clay and tremendously influenced my work and that of many other people.

The bead to the right and slightly above of that is one of Cynthia Toops’ “People Beads,” which I received simply because my birthday fell on one of the two days I was enrolled in a mosaics class of Cynthia’s way back in the last century.  She surprised and amazed me by her generosity. Cynthia no longer makes these beads, so owning it makes it doubly special.  These beads were not the result of caning, although they sometimes contained caned embellishments on the “clothing.” The very patient Ms. Toops  rolled out and cut very, very thin, short lines of clay and applied them to a bead base. The beads are a unique form of mosaics, one of two mosaic techniques she taught during that class oh-so-long ago.

I’m pretty sure the playing cards faces were made by my friend, the magnificent Marie Segal.  Marie will certainly let me know if they aren’t.

Note: Unless you live in Alaska, avoid trying to reduce any canes whatsoever during the entire months of July, August and September, when you are hot and impatient.  Just finish, them, wrap them up and put them in a drawer until October. (Take it from one who has been there, done that, and now has a lifetime supply of a grossly-skewed mosaic that she carefully built all summer.)



  1. I love looking at older work of the Masters. It gives me hope even though I really don’t do much caning anymore. I was looking at The New Clay the other day, thinking that most of it is pretty simple today compared to when it was published. I am so grateful for all the sharing in this community- just when I think I have something figured out, someone will come up with a new twist or a totally new technique. The faces are great. Some people were great at caning from the beginning, I am not one of those. I can, however make a really nice eye.

  2. I solved the lack of face cane talent by buying canes from others. Unfortunately Julie Wise and her Razberi Kids has disappeared from view so I don’t do teacher ID necklaces anymore. Corby Lee and her Santa faces has given way to Deb Tuchman so my Christmas is saved. I have a drawer full of face canes in various stages of ugliness. I may just toss ’em all (gasp!) and get on with life (and inchies)

  3. One of these days I’m going to do a face cane. Right after I climb Everest…

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I can cane but it never comes out to what it is suppose to be but the caning design I get is very good.

  5. Mine is the Queen of Hearts. I love that brooch.
    I am hurt you didn’t remember ;-D

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