The possibilities of polymer clay canework drive my style and subject choices. Polymer clay canework is roughly the same technique as mille fiori glass work. The canes are rods made up of sheets and snakes of different colors of polymer clay. The horizontal cross section of the cane contains the same pattern all the way through. I can reduce the diameter of the cane and the pattern reduces as well. Thus I can make patterns far too intricate for brush strokes.
Traditionally, polymer clay artists have used canework to make intricate beads and jewelry. Polymer clay sculptors usually finish their work with paint. By using canework to finish my sculpture, I can create both intricately-detailed colored patterns and layered texture.
I begin each group of animals with a series of sketches culminating in a finished size profile pattern of the animal. I use this pattern to construct a metal armature to support the animal internally. The bodies are made of highly compressed tinfoil. Brass rods support the legs. Thin sheets of brass support the long necks of giraffes, camels and long-necked birds. Wires support wings, beaks, tusks, tails, and ears.
I sculpt the body directly over the armature. I must make this sculpture thinner than the finished sculpture will be, because the canework I use to decorate the animals adds bulk.
After the body is complete, I decorate it with slices of my polymer clay canes. For the smooth parts of the sculpture, I apply the canes flush with each other. I often purposely distort these canes to simulate natural wood or stone. The bodies of lions, camels, and elephants often receive this treatment. In other cases, such as frogs and turtles, I carefully preserve the patterns. I add manes, wool, ruffs, and feathers with multiple layers of overlapping cane slices.
After baking, I sand the animal with very fine sandpaper (400 to 2000 grit) and finish it with clear acrylic.