Tutorial by Marla Frankenberg

Published November 3, 2006

This article was originally published in the Spring 2003 Issue of PolymerCAFE Magazine.


The inspiration for this pansy came to me in the mail. Our guild was about to host its first workshop—Leigh Ross* teaching her Millennium Garden Beads technique—so I was already thinking about flowers when we received an invitation to my Aunt Betty’s birthday party. Aunt Betty loves pansies, and the invitation was bordered with them. The two ideas clicked, and this cane is the result.

Remember, flowers are organic. If your petals are a little lumpy, those lumps are ruffles!


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I chose to use very light, medium, and dark shades of purple for this cane, but you can choose colors that appeal to you. I started with the same amount of each color and ended up using more of the medium color.


Step 1

Start by making flat sheets of each color, using the thickest setting of the pasta machine. My sheets were each about three by six inches. Cut each sheet approximately into thirds.

Step 2

Set one piece of each color aside. Tapering the inner edges of each color with your fingers, form a striped sheet of clay, overlapping the three colors.

Step 3

The striped sheet should be about the width of your pasta machine rollers. In my sheet, from left to right, the first lavender sheet is tapered on the right side, then overlapped by the tapered edge of the white sheet. The other tapered edge of white is overlapped by the tapered edge of the purple sheet. In the second layer, from left to right, the same lavender/white/purple overlapping pattern is repeated.

When tapering, messy is good! It gives some natural variation to your design. Remember: think organic!

Step 4

With all three colors touching the rollers, run this striped sheet through the pasta machine once only. Cut the sheet in four pieces and stack the pieces on top of each other. The edge of your stack of clay should now look like an Ikat** pattern.

Step 5

Compress the sides of the stack to make it narrower and longer.

Step 6

I compressed mine to about one inch wide and eight inches long. Cut this into four equal pieces and stack them.

Step 7

Add more of the medium color (lavender, in my cane) to that colored end of the stack.

Step 8

Now it’s time to shape the stack into a petal shape by rounding the edges and compressing and tapering the darker end. You can trim away some clay from the dark end if you need to. Reduce this tapered cane and cut it lengthwise into four pieces.

Step 9

Combine two of the pieces to form the large bottom petal. Gently compress them together, side by side, then form a depression in the top of the petal. I used the handle of my needle tool.

Step 10

Line this depression with a sheet of yellow, then put a thin snake of light green inside the yellow sheet. This will be the throat of the flower.

Step 11

At this point, line the outer edges of the three petals with a very thin sheet of a contrasting color. I used dark purple. This will delineate the petals of the pansy. Trim a little clay from one side of each side petal before you put it in place. This will make the side petals appear to be behind the bottom petal.

Step 12

To make the back petals, make a Skinner blend of two colors. I used my medium and lightest colors.

Step 13

Roll the blend as shown, forming a plug

Step 14

Shape the plug into a petal shape and reduce it to twice the length of your cane. Line this petal with your contrasting color, then cut it in half. Trim some clay from one side of one petal and add it to your pansy

Step 15

The remaining petal shape is trimmed and cut away to fit beside the first back petal and should appear to be behind it.

Step 16

Fill in the indentations around the pansy with your background color, then wrap your entire cane with a sheet of your background color. Compress and reduce your cane.

Variations/Final Thoughts

Pansy Cane covered surface.

*Author’s Note: I first met Leigh Ross at the 2001 NPCG retreat at Shrinemont, where I was struck by the exquisite detail of her work. Her Millennium Garden beads are lushly colored, intricately patterned and perfectly finished. She also works in silver, which complements her gorgeous work in polymer clay. In addition, Leigh and her husband Stephen own and run Polymer Clay Central, the virtual center of the polymer clay world.

** ikat-noun-1. A craft in which one tie-dyes and weaves yarn to create an intricately designed fabric. 2. The fabric so created. (Source:American Heritage Dictionary)

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