Thursday, 17 July 2014

Spirogyra (part 2)

I said a while back that I wanted to share the making of this "cane" ... and then, among other things going on, my extruder broke. Now that I have a brand new extruder (a Fimo one this time) and a few spare minutes, it seemed time to revisit this idea.

I've called it a "cane", but unlike a conventional cane, you make slices lengthwise to get strips or stripes of a pattern that changes with each slice, creating interesting mirror images as you go. In its basic form, the yield is low but you could certainly try combining more than one to make a more conventional stack.

Closely related to the Retro or Klimt extruder cane and Julie Picarello's Lizard Tails, it's more of a development than an original idea ... I like the organic look and called it Spirogyra as it reminds me of cells under the microscope in school biology classes! More thoroughly twisted canes take on a marbled, mineral look. You don't need much of each colour and it's dead easy to do, so it's a fun way to use up leftover clay after a project. Here it is for you to play with : )

You'll need some leftover clay, an extruder and a blade.


1. Prepare some scrap or leftover clay, conditioning it well. These were about no.3 on my machine.

2. Proceed as for a pixelated retro cane; I stacked mine randomly, although I think a graduated stack a la Bettina Welker might produce interesting results.

3. Extrude.

4. Cut the extruded string roughly in half; leave one half as it is, and cut the other half more or less in half again. Roll and stretch the two shorter lengths until you have a variety of thicknesses - some each of roughly thick, medium and thin pieces. It doesn't matter if the strings are a bit lumpy, although of course you could use different sizes of extruder discs. At the end of the day, it's a freestyle cane and you can be as precise or as careless as you like - the result will be organic and random.

5. So now you have several extruded strings, in various thicknesses.

6. Group these into a bundle, and gently smoosh them together. It doesn't really matter how you do this, or even if your strings aren't all exactly the same length - just arrange them in a way that pleases you. If the strings happen to be grouped around one central one, that will tend to give a more defined central "spine", but it's hard to control this effect. And keeping them aligned straight along the cane isn't important, but it helps to give a more regular "pattern" if you do.

7. Twist, turning the stack in one direction, and working right to the ends. Again, there's no set number of turns - anything from four or five to ten or more. The more you twist, the flatter and more detailed and ... err, twistier, the result. I think I gave this one about 10 twists.

8. Unlike previous experiments this time I also compressed the stack slightly, from both ends and  lengthways to make a more squarish shape. I did this intending to try stacking several canes this time, to make a bigger block - but then I got all excited about seeing what was inside, and I forgot!

9. Once twisted, cut lengthways through the centre to see the result! From here you can either join the two mirror images into a lizard tail, or

10. continue with 3 or 4 thin slices towards the outer side, with the pattern changing as you do so (11).

12. I think the pattern results from the outer strings turning horizontally around the central ones, which are less twisted.

The extruder ...well, I'm finding the Fimo one hard on my hands. Maybe I'll get another Makin's one after all.

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