Introduction: Polymer Clay Leaf Cane

Most of us played with some form of clay as a kid. Play-Doh was appealing to every kid's innate desire to create, and a lot of kids who wanted to try more advanced creating turned to polymer clay, like Sculpey. That's what happened to me, and I've been playing with clay ever since. One of the techniques I was most excited to learn about was creating canes, which are then sliced to create flat shapes with intricate designs inside.

In this instructable, I'll be showing you how to create a basic, but very versatile cane - A leaf design with a gradient inside! First things first, you need to pick your colors. For this instructable, I chose a light yellow-green, and vibrant true green, but at the end, I will show how I used more colors to create a variety of beautiful fall leaves!

Step 1: The Building Blocks

The first step is to pick out your colors, and create a gradient. Start with the lightest color, which will be the one in the center of the leaf. For this demonstration, I chose a light yellow-green. You should have the smallest amount of this color. Start mixing with the darkest color, which will be the outermost color, a little bit at a time. It's hard to describe the logistics of this part, as it involves a lot of "Is that too similar to the last color? Let me add a smidge more green - Oh god, now it's just green, that was too much, we'll save that for later, let's try again."

Once you have your colors, you will need to roll them out into canes of roughly the same width. It doesn't have to be perfect, but try to get them fairly close. The next step is to take these canes, and flatten them to a similar width as well. Because I make a lot of canes, I've invested in a tool called a "conditioning machine," which is basically a hand-cranked pasta machine designed for rolling out clay. However, you can also just press them out with your fingers, and get ready for the next step!

Step 2: Assembling the Cane

Now that you have those flattened strips, it's time to start assembling!

Your lightest color will be the center of the cane, that's the one you left in a circle. Press it with your fingers until it's about as tall as the width of the strips you flattened, and then press the end of the lightest colored strip onto the circle. You will be wrapping that strip around the radius of the circle, overlapping when you get all the way around.

Once that strip is fully wrapped around, take the next strip in the order, and press the start of the strip onto the end of the last one. You will then repeat the process around once again, and again, and again, until all of the strips have been wrapped around.

Take a moment to admire how pretty that looks! You did that! Good job! Now, it's time to SQUISH.

Step 3: Making the Cane

Now that you've made that beautiful radial gradient of clay, it's time to turn it into a cane!

This is the finicky part - Start pressing the sides inward, going around the circle evenly, and pressing the top and bottom when needed to keep them relatively flat. Keep doing this until you have a cane that is slightly taller than it is wide, and has a flat (ish) bottom and top. It's not going to look perfect, but that's fine, don't worry.

You will then roll the cane on your table to lengthen it to around an inch and a half. Take an x-acto knife and slice off the messy ends of the cane, so you can see the full effect of the gradient again.

Next, it's time to turn it into a leaf!

Step 4: Making the Leaf

Now that you have your cane, the first step is to split it in half. Then, figure out around how long the cane is, and make yourself a flat strip of the dark green you have around the outside that is about that width. This is going to be forming the veins in your leaf!

Take one of the halves and cut that diagonally into three or four pieces. (I highly recommend only doing one half at a time, because otherwise, things can get mixed up reeeeal quick.) Take the strip of dark green that you have, and put it between two of the diagonal slices you just made. Cut that piece to fit and repeat, as shown in the fourth picture.

Then, put a strip of dark green in the center, and slice the other half of the cane in the same way as the first. Once you've put all the pieces of the cane back together, wrap a layer of dark green around the outside, and start pressing the sides to form a leaf shape, and lengthen it as you go, like you did with the gradient. Once it's to the size you want, slice off the messy ends, and check out what you've made!

Step 5: You Did It!

You made a leaf cane! Cut slices however thick you want for your purposes, and admire your fine work. This is a simple, but very versatile cane! These leaves can be made into jewelry, added to sculptures, or made into patterned objects! The choice is yours! Go forth and share your polymer clay foliage with the world!