Animal Cell Millefiori




Introduction: Animal Cell Millefiori

About: Hi, I'm Esme!

These colourful polymer clay millefirori are made to look like animal cell diagrams!

Step 1: You'll Need...

To make the millefiori, you'll need:

  • polymer clay in assorted colours
  • something to roll it out with
  • a surface to work on (paper is fine, although I wouldn't recommend newspaper as the ink can transfer to light colours of clay)
  • a knife (it needs to be quite sharp, otherwise it will smear the clay. An X-acto knife works, as does a paring knife, but you probably shouldn't use it for food afterward.)
  • an oven or toaster oven


  • a toothpick, if you would like to make the millefiori into beads or buttons
  • pinbacks
  • a poylmer-clay-friendly varnish, to add extra shininess after baking

Step 2: The Nucleus

The nucleus controls the entire cell!

Before forming the clay into your desired shape, it's a good idea to mush it around a bit condition it. This makes it softer and easier to work with, as well as less likely to split oddly while you roll it.
Also, you should pick a colour to be the cytoplasm of the cell! This will be the background, so you'll want to make sure the colours of the organelles aren't too close to it or they'll blend in. I chose red, because a lot of animal cell diagrams are red! It seemed appropriate, but there is really no need to pick "appropriate" colours.

The nucleus here is a cylinder of black polymer clay (the nucleolus!), rolled up in a sheet of yellow clay.

Step 3: The Vacuole and Lysosome

Vacuoles act as storage compartments. Lysosomes can break down foreign materials in the cell, or parts of the cell itself.

These two organelles are made the same way.

Just roll out a cylinder of the colour you'd like for each!
They should be about the same length as the nucleus.

Step 4: Golgi Apparatus

Sometimes this is referred to as the Golgi body, but I think that you should never turn down a chance to use the word "apparatus".
The Golgi apparatus packages proteins for transportation around the cell.

My Golgi apparatus is a dark red, but it really ought to be darker or a different colour altogether to contrast well with the cytoplasm.

Roll out a few cylinders of the Golgi apparatus colour. They don't need to all be the same size, irregularity adds to the squodgy effect! Make the same number of cylinders in your cytoplasm colour.
Flatten them all slightly. You can use a rolling pin, but again, using your fingers adds to their squodgy appearance!

Stack them all up, alternating between the two colours.
Flatten the entire organelle.

Step 5: The Endoplasmic Reticulum

The endoplasmic reticulum is a transportation system for the cell.

It's made in a similar way to the Golgi apparatus.
Again, you'll need a colour for the organelle, and your cytoplasm colour.
Roll out a sheet of each. They should be about the same thickness.

Cut and arrange them so that you have three pieces of the solid colour, and two where the colour is thinner and flanked by the cytoplasm colour.
Stack them up, alternating between the two, and roll them together a bit.

Step 6: The Mitochondria

The mitochondria is the POWERHOUSE of the cell!

For this organelle, you need to make sure you have good contrast between the two colours you use, as well as between the outside colour and the cytoplasm.

Divide the inner colour into four pieces. Roll them into cylinders, but then shape them into triangular prisms by pinching them and pushing them down.

Roll out a sheet of your outer colour.

Drape it over the first triangle, which should be lying point up. Pinch it around the point.
Place the next triangle beside it, point down. Wrap the outer colour around this, too.
Continue adding the next two triangles and moulding the outer colour to them. 

The triangles should be aligned like this
with the contrasting colour separating them.

Wrap this shape in another slab of the outer colour.
Roll it slightly to compress it.

Step 7: Cytoplasm/Assembly of the Cell

Cytoplasm is a gel which organelles are suspended in.

Its purpose in this millefiori is to fill the gaps between the organelles, so place your organelles around the nucleus to get a sense for how much space you need to fill in.

First, wrap the nucleus in cytoplasm. Roll it to make sure it's attached well. The nucleus will occupy the middle of the cell.

Next roll out five cylinders, enough for each space between the rest of the organelles. I needed to flatten them a bit to get them to fit.
Pair one up with each organelle, and arrange them around the nucleus.

When they're all in place, roll the entire cell to get it rounder and to help eliminate any gaps between components.

Step 8: Cell Membrane

The cell membrane holds the cell together. It keeps certain things in and others out. It's selectively permeable!

I took my leftover scraps of clay and mixed them with some black to create an interesting colour that is dark... and kinda blue... and green... and brown?

Roll it out thinly, and wrap your cell in it.

Step 9: Revealing the Cell!

Now your cell millefiori is ready to be chopped up!

Make sure to use a sharp knife, or the colours will smear.

You can make your cells smaller by rolling the cylinder to a smaller diameter before you slice, or larger by slicing them a little thicker then rolling them out flat like cookie dough.

Then follow the instructions on your polymer clay package for baking!

There are lots of things you can do with these cells!
You could poke holes in them before baking for buttons or beads, or add pinbacks for badges. They could also be used to make round beads, to cover things, and more!

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    Very creative! It's like femo sushi. This would be a great activity for a science class


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you!!
    Haha, I was actually thinking that they looked a bit
    like sushi while I was making them! The colour of the "cell membrane"
    probably helps :)