What are "canes"?
Murini? Millefiori & African trade beads, etc.

What are Canes?

"I know this is going to sound dumb, but what's canework? People keep talking about canes and I don't have a clue what they're talking about . . ".

Canes are logs of clay which are created by laying differently-colored and differently-shaped clay pieces together (usually lengthwise) to form a pattern or a picture (the image runs all the way through the clay, but shows only at each end). Slices can be cut off the end to be placed elsewhere, yielding many little copies of the same image. These "canes" can be "reduced" (lengthened), which results in a shorter cane and an image which becomes smaller and smaller. Canes can also be (created as or) pressed into non-round cane shapes (rectangular, triangular or irregular).

In addition to polymer clay, "canes" can also be created with bread or cake and icing or cookie dough or marzipan, etc. (but those may not be as reducible!) 
.....It just dawned on me how to explain canes to the general public ...canes are like those Pillsbury slice and bake cookies where the design goes all the way through! Laurie
....Ha, that's a good one. I usually reference a jellyroll cake, and if the person I'm talking to doesn't get that, I say "like a HoHo" and that usually does it. Irene
...many candies are also created this way, but you may not see the total canes... only the final results (which are one slice at a time)

Thin slices of cane(s) may be placed on a ball of clay, then rolled in the palms to completely merge the seams into the ball (see Desiree's lesson on covering a ball with overlapping slices at
(see photos #14 and #15 in particular)
...Or the slices may be applied to other surfaces such as clay/glass/metal/cardboard in all kinds of other ways (overlapping, bas relief, etc).--or thicker single slices may be used for earrings and other danglies.

A cane (or a multi-cane cane) can also be reduced (made smaller).... cut into 2 or more lengths... and then recombined with itself
... (this process may be repeated several times. . . each time the images will become smaller and the pattern more complex looking)
... some people refer to this technique as "millefiori" but some don't).

Canes may also be combined with canes of a different pattern, or with the reduced-duplicated canes (as above), yielding multi-cane canes.

Complex canes made with many different shapes and colors of clay (for example, "picture" canes such as a face, animal, or landscape) are harder to do, but it's just a matter of learning how!

If a lot of cane is wanted, clayers may begin with only an inch or more of clay length for each of the building pieces (think of a very thick puzzle), and end up with a cane as large as a saucer --or dinner plate (but only a few inches high)! These are more difficult to "reduce," but it can be done.

See the other pages here at GlassAttic which deal with making canes of all types:

http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/Canes--general.htm (general info on making canes)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/canes--instructions.htm (many specific cane patterns)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/faces_caned.htm (only face canes)

http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/canes--reducing.htm (making canes smaller)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/canes--old.htm (old-stiff canes)


Murini & Millefiori

many examples of contemporary (& some traditional) glass canes and slices
histories and explanation
explanation of process of making glass canes in several different ways

history, definitions, & techniques, beginning with Egypt ....(*notice especially methods at bottom)
http://www.krause.com/corner/990101.html (gone)

Moretti Co. (history and examples of different kinds and sheets of patterns),
beautiful paperweights
cane slices and fish on crackled gold backgrounds, etc.

Millefiori is an Italian word meaning "thousand flowers."
Although the process was developed much earlier in Egypt, it is now most identified with a glass making technique in Venice where hot layers of hot glass were laid over-around each other to create an image (or cold rods of glass were bundled together then heated to meld together for the image), then stretched into long rods while hot (the image might be flowerlike, concentric circles, etc.).
These rods were then cut into one-foot lengths called millefiori rods.
From these one-foot lengths, very short lengths were cut and laid next to each other in a contained shape or around a bead base, for example, and then remelted together to create a finished item called a "murrina" (after Murano, an island in the city of Venice).
http://images.google.com/images?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&q=millefiori (many images of millefiori, mostly glass)

Jamey Allen's article from 1982 which sorts the principal kinds of canes used for glass millefiori beads into categories:

(I think the term is used more loosely these days, when it's used at all, but Vince has a stricter interpretation):
"Millefiore" is of course an Italian term meaning "thousand flowers", referring to the glass paperweights and other glass items which appear covered with hundreds of tiny flowers. In other words, the term refers only to FLOWERS! Millefiore is just one kind of "MURINI", which is the correct term, referring to any glass imagery which involves making and combining glass canes to create a rod or loaf with an image or pattern running through the length of it. Small slices or chips taken off these canes or loaves are then used as surface decoration on glass forms, as in the work of Dick Marquis, Ro Purser, and other contemporary glass artists. So, "clay millifiore" is accurate only if the imagery involves lots of flowers. "Clay murini" encompases any kind of imagery, as long as it involves creation of a clay loaf with the pattern or image running the length of the loaf. Slices are cut off the loaf and used to create clay forms, or as surface decoration on clay forms. Vince

Since the millefiori method is so commonly used with polymer clay these days, see Canes-Instr. for many examples (especially Repetition, but many others) ... as well as many other places on this site.

African Trade Beads -- Venetian beads made from 1800-1950 were also traded to the countries south of Italy for slaves, gold, and precious stones, etc. (these beads were mostly cylindrical, and had a matte finish as opposed to those for the European trade). There were a huge number of these found in those countries, and it is thought that they were actually used as ballast in the trading ships. Many were also exported to America after 1970.