Polymer Clay Canes for Beginners

27 videos, step by step, beginner cane workshop beginner Cane Tutorial What people are saying about this tutorial. jennifer rose Just finished this first workshop on how to make canes, and I must say I learned so much. This is exactly what I have been looking for, someone who could explain cane making in a step by step that process that I could replicate. I watched the videos, went into my studio and began to create all of the canes Alice showed. I finally have results I can be proud of, and I say thank you so much for doing this workshop. My only question now is when do we get more workshops. If you are only going to take one online class let it be this workshop. Thank you Alice for your hard work, and your dedication to helping others learn the joys of polymer clay.

Online Workshops with Alice Stroppel


[caption id="attachment_102" align="aligncenter" width="100" caption="Member IPCA"]Member IPCA[/caption]

My Story

I’ve been surrounded by creativity all my life. My father was an artist, a cartoonist and was always drawing or creating. He owned a printing

Cartoon by Lamar Simpson

Cartoon by Lamar Simpson

business, Graphic Advertising, during my teen years. He used his artistic talent to create brochures, ads and business campaigns for companies. I was always fascinated by the process, the designing of the item, setting of the type, the four color work and the time it took to produce the finished project. He also drew a weekly cartoon for the local Sebring paper. I remember standing beside him, looking over his shoulder while he drew.

This was a cartoon he did for one of Sebring’s first art show in the 60’s. Years later, I would be in charge of the production of Highlands Art League’s Festivals in downtown Sebring.

Daddy was amazed when I began a craft pattern company, that all the work was done on the computer. I wish he was still here to see how much everything has progressed.

Mother grew up in Sebring, she became a beautician, she was very creative and very popular in our little town, everyone loved her. But it was costumes, dresses and christmas presents that she made for my sister and myself that stand out in my memory. I remember all the Christmas presents that we made together as my first example that I could make anything. My mother is in her 80′ and still encourages me in whatever I do and I love her for that.

And I was always making something. When I was about 11 or 12, I saw a project in a magazine, probably Woman’s Day or Family Circle, for figures made by draping fabric soaked in wall paper glue over a wire armature and a Styrofoam ball. I made several for Christmas presents. Angels and trios of Joseph and Mary with baby Jesus. I friend of Mother’s bought a set of the holy family for $25.00. That was in 1961 or 62 and that was quite a bit of money for something I truly enjoyed doing. For then on, I never doubted that I was talented or that I would always want to express myself through arts and crafts. How funny is that? That something as simple as that first sale gave me so much confidence. Then again, my parents were responsible for my over all confidence, the sale just confirmed what they had told me all my life, that I could do anything. I always wondered if Mother’s friend brought the set as a favor to Mother, but years later we talked about it and she assured me that she bought them because she wanted them and thought they were wonderful. She still had them after 40 years and brought them out each Christmas. Wish I had ask her to take a picture of them, it would be fun to see.

Then came high school, football games, boys, etc. and my creative talents turned to school plays. I just knew I was born to be an actress. All I need to do was go to acting school and the rest would be easy. Well, that didn’t happen. What happened was that I fell in love and got married. Three years later, we started our family. We have two wonderful sons who are grown and off on their own, and a dog and a cat that are not. Off on their own that is.

When the boys were little, I did all kinds of crafty things, I made them both sculptural blankets, tried stained class, candle making, cross stitch, wood craft, miniatures, and oh gosh, I can’t remember it all. Once both the boys were in school, I knew I had to do something with all my creative energy.

A friend and I started what I believe was the first craft shop to rent space to crafters in Tampa, FL. It was great fun and a great deal of work. Talented Friends came to life in the early 1980’s. The name came from my first partner and friend Pat Black. She always introduced me as “my talented friend”. Her talent was in organizing etc. and so the name, Talented Friends. We both had young children and after several months, Pat decided it wasn’t for her. I found another partner that knew how to frame and so we added cross stitch supplies and framing equipment, plus a few other craft supplies. Unfortunately, my new partner’s parents both became ill and she left to care for them. That’s when I learned how to frame. It didn’t last long, I hadn’t signed on for full time and my children needed me, so I closed the doors.

The problem was, I owed about $10,000.00 on a line of credit that I had taken out for the business. I decided that I had do something, so I took some of the craft supplies and began to make items to sell at craft shows. After two years in my shop, I hadn’t taken home any money at all. My first craft show was my first profit for all my efforts. I was sewing a lot, country was in and I was willing to make what people wanted. Besides, it was fun and I was having a good time. I kept the business name and never looked back.


My first pattern

I made funky turkeys and scarecrows, snowmen and painted faces on Santa Claus figures. They were, for the most part, my own designs. I did shows for several years and even took my work to the mountain shops in North Carolina and took orders. I did very well at both the shows and selling to shops, but doing craft shows was labor intensive and you never know what the weather held in store for you. I wanted a better way for me. I had purchased a couple of sewing patterns to make items for sale. I think the first one I bought was a tiny little angel. I loved the idea of the pattern and realized that I had my answer. I could design a character, write the directions, print it and sell it over and over again. Plus I would be able to share my idea with other crafters to sell. A win-win situation.

It was a wonderful idea, but how do I market them? Where would I sell them? How do I let customers know what I have? The year was 1991, and the internet wasn’t on everyone’s must have list. I was doing a show in Miami and had my first snowman wall hanging for sale. A woman that owned a quilt shop stopped in my booth and bought the snowman. I noticed her shop name on her check and asked her if she sold patterns in her shop and if she would sell a pattern of the snowman if it were available. She said yes to both questions and encouraged me to begin turning my designs into patterns. Then I asked her the million dollar question, “how do I connect with other shops that might want to carry my patterns?” The magic answer was the Quilt Market in Houston. I made some phone calls, and found out they had two markets a year, one in Houston in the fall and one that moved to different cities in the spring. I rented a booth in the Fall Quilt Market in 1992.

For those of you who have grown up with computers, you will laugh when I tell you that my first computer was an Apple that have 40 mg for it’s hard drive. I drew all my instruction pictures by hand and scan them in on my new Apple scanner, black and white only, and placed them in my document along with my written instructions. I had a friend that was a printer and he printed the patterns and instructions. I found a printer in a crafts magazine to do my front covers. I took pictures of my models for the covers and I was in business.

I went to that first market with three large patterns and seven mini patterns that didn’t require a color front cover and had a lower price point. I came home with $8,000 in orders. I was thrilled. That year I grossed an amazing amount in total sales. Of course I added to my line for the spring market and continued to add patterns every six months. I had a few bombs, but over all, most of my patterns were successful. I met some wonderful people and truly enjoyed the whole experience.

Each year at the Houston Quilt Market, there was a display of art dolls created by some of the finest doll artists in the world. I was smitten! Fascinated! Inspired! I fell in love! They were so incredible, so life like, I wanted to stop making santas, reindeer and turkeys and just make dolls. But alas, I was making money at what I was doing and couldn’t see a way to change at that point. But the experience started me on a quest to create figures of all kinds.

I never met the doll artists with dolls on display at the markets, but I did run into some fantastic vendors making crazy funky patterns. Three of the most interesting people at market were always Elinor Peace Bailey, Sally Lampi and Barbara Willis. Colorful, funny and full of fun, and I mean both the designers and the patterns.


I experimented with soft sculpture

So between wanting to drop everything and sew funky fun characters or create lifelike enchanting figure, I did both and nothing. I played with fabric figures and polymer clay. I tried paper clay and paper mache. All entertaining and rewarding, educational and a great way to build a wealth of experiential knowledge that I am going to share with you.

I experimented with computer programs and drew faces. printed them on fabric and made some crazy pillows. None for sale, just for friends and for me. I laughed the whole time, having the best time.


Drawn on the computer

I used found items and feather boas, cutter mink jackets, things that made me laugh, things I wouldnever use on anything else. I just had fun. Both of these pillows are from 2005.

We have been through a lot together and most of it was your fault.

We have been through a lot together and most of it was your fault.

I dissolved Talented Friends in the late 90’s and went to work as Director of Design for a start up company where I added to my knowledge of Photoshop, Indesign and the web. Then later just stayed home for awhile, we all need a break now and then.

Then one day I took a drawing class at my local art league. I became involved with Highlands Art League and began to volunteer my time. I saw their need for a director and agreed to step into that position part time. If you know anything about non-profits, you know how many hours part time actually is. I enjoyed it and am proud of what we accomplished over the last 7 years. But that’s another story…. I recently stepped down as director and am working with polymer clay and my blogs full time.

I began working with polymer clay in the late 80’s. I made a few things, but then got caught up in sewing and my patterns. I put it away and really didn’t get it back out until I came across some wonderful work on the internet. I joined a Yahoo group called Polymer Clay People and began reading the posts and following links to sites and tutorial. I was fascinated and began to “play with clay” again. I wanted to sculpt people, I wanted to learn how to make those fabulous millefiori canes, especially the face canes. I was fascinated by several Santa Claus life size figures by polymer clay artist, Judith Klawitter. I wanted to learn how to do what she does.

Polymer Clay Tourist

Polymer Clay Tourist

The tourist's feet

The tourist’s feet

I was surprised by my husband one Christmas with the class, airfare and hotel stay for Judith’s class. I was off to Montana and a week of magic. I had just begun as director of the art league and made a couple of figures when I came home, but was so busy with the league that I really haven’t done as much as I would like. Practice makes perfect they say. See some of my figures here.

A commissioned order by Judith Klawitter

A commissioned order by Judith Klawitter

The picture above is not one of Judith’s Santas but a commissioned figure she had in her studio getting ready to ship. I loved him, the colors and the character were all enchanting. The picture to the right is my first full figure. The Tourist. Nothing close to Judith’s, but I thought a good start. He is home with me now, but has spent time in the window of my friend Janet King’s art studio. He has been dressed as an artist, cupid and I think a witch for Halloween.

I was also completely in awe of Kathleen Dustin’s purses with these incredible faces. From the moment I saw the first one, I was a goner.

I wanted to know how she got the face on the clay and created all those layers. I took a class with

Kathleen Dustin Purse

Kathleen Dustin Purse

Kathleen in Vermont at the North Country Workshops. She is an amazing artist and a wonderful teacher. I enjoy her class very much and learned some very useful techniques and yes, how she got the face on the clay, she painted them. But I never attempted a purse, the construction of it was more technical than I wanted to attempt or thought I could achieve anything worthwhile.

I was and still am on a figurative mission and what I learned from Kathleen I have been able to use on some of my figures and will continue to experiment. Kathleen is currently doing nature pieces and they are amazing, she is truly one extraordinary artist.

What I did continue to pursue was cane making. I have made hundreds. I have made some really awful face canes, but I continue to improve and am pleased with the ones I am creating now. So if you are just starting out, don’t give up. I hope to offer instructions to my method soon.

Current Face Canes

Current Face Canes

That brings me to…I know, I know, you’re saying, finally…..the point. I have spent hours and hours working with polymer clay and want to sell some of my work, share some of my experiences and to share the knowledge that I have gained. There is lots of information on the web about working with polymer clay and everyone should take advantage of what’s out there. I hope to add links to the free tutorials and to add some tutorials myself. My first one is covering a business card holder and you can view it by signing up for my newsletter. I also what to start a membership option for some of things I have taught in workshops.

This site is for me, but it is also for you, the polymer clay enthusiast, beginner,  artist/crafter or just customer who just want to share in what I’m doing and what you might be up to.

Thank you for stopping by,

Alice Stroppel