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Millefiori floral corsage

In Italian, millefiori means “thousand flowers” and refers to a centuries-old glass-making technique. Adapted to polymer clay for this brooch, the technique’s effect is dazzling. 

First developed by the glassblowers of the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon, millefiori merges rods of colored glass into patterns and then stretches them out to form a cane. Millefiori glass cane-making techniques have been easily adapted to polymer clay and have gained popularity with a wide range of artisans making vessels, mosaics, and jewelry. The cane can be sliced, layered, and draped to produce many results, including this beautiful brooch.

SUPPLIES

  • 4 millefiori triangle-shaped canes, in coordinating colors, each measuring at least 2 x 1 in. (51 x 25.5mm)
  • Polymer clay:
    • 4 oz. (113g), black
    • 5 oz. (141g), ecru
    • 1 1⁄2 oz. (42.5g), burgundy
    • 2 oz. (56g), dark brown
    • 5 oz. (141g), gold
  • Pointed-back rhinestones, 1 12-20 stone size (ss), 5 6-10ss
  • Pin back, 1–1 1⁄4 in. (25.5–32mm)
  • Pasta machine*
  • Tissue blade
  • Ruler
  • Acrylic block
  • Acrylic roller or brayer
  • Ceramic-tile work surface
  • Tweezers
  • Oven*
  • Liquid polymer clay
  • Small cardboard box
  • Instant glue
  • Heating pad (optional)
  • Latex gloves or finger cots  (optional)

*Dedicated to nonfood use 

INSTRUCTIONS

Make four triangular millefiori canes in coordinating colors. For tips on making your own canes, see “Create a Skinner Blend,” or “Create a Kaleidoscope Cane.” Premade millefiori cane is available from some craft suppliers. 
Millefiori floral corsage Step 1
Photo 1
Millefiori floral corsage Step 2
Photo 2
Millefiori floral corsage Step 3
Photo 3
Millefiori floral corsage Step 4
Photo 4

Reduce the triangle canes. Lengthen and reduce each triangular cane to a 3⁄4-in. (19mm) side width and at least a 2-in. (51mm) length by pressing them with your thumb and forefinger, beginning in the center of each cane and moving toward the ends [PHOTO 1]. Turn and flip the cane often as you gently squeeze all the sides so that the entire cane receives the same amount of pressure. As the cane begins to lengthen, run your fingers along the cane to smooth and lengthen it. You will notice that the three corner edges do not reduce as quickly as the center. To coax the corner edges to lengthen, gently pull them with your thumb and fingers [PHOTO 2]. Use a gentle pinching movement along the corner edges to keep them crisp.

Size the canes. Assign each of your canes a number 1–4 [PHOTO 3]. From cane 1, cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. Reduce the remaining cane to a side width of 1⁄2 in. (13mm), and cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. From cane 2, cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. Reduce the remaining cane to a side width of 1⁄2 in. (13mm), and cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. Reduce cane 3 to a side width of 1⁄2 in. (13mm), and cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. Reduce the remaining cane to a side width of slightly larger than 3⁄8 in.  (10mm), and cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. Reduce cane 4 to a side width of slightly larger than 3⁄8 in. (10mm), and cut a 1-in. (25.5mm) piece. Gently press in two of the bottom corner edges of each cane to form a teardrop shape [PHOTO 4].

Millefiori floral corsage Step 5
Photo 5

Wrap each teardrop cane in a slab of black clay. Condition 2 oz. (56g) of black clay, and run it through the pasta machine on the thinnest setting. Smooth the teardrop canes with your fingers, and wrap each one in a slab of black clay. Let the canes rest for 2 hours, or cool them quickly by putting them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. [PHOTO 5]

Assemble the brooch, and bake. [PHOTOS 6–10] When assembling the brooch, work from the back to the front. The featured  brooch has seven layers, with five slices in each layer. Form a ball of black clay 3⁄8 in. (9.5mm) in diameter, and press it down gently on a smooth, ceramic-tile work surface. 

Slice the canes. Cut five 1⁄16-in. (1.5mm) slices from each of the seven canes.

Millefiori floral corsage Step 6
Photo 6
Millefiori floral corsage Step 7
Photo 7

 

Millefiori floral corsage Step 8
Photo 8
Millefiori floral corsage Step 9
Photo 9

First layer: Arrange five 3⁄4-in. (19mm) slices in a floral pattern around the clay ball with the points facing outward [PHOTO 6]. 

Second layer: Place five 3⁄4-in. (19mm) slices staggered between the previous layer, with the points overlapping the clay ball [PHOTO 7]. 

Third layer: Place five 1⁄2-in. (13mm) slices directly on top of the previous layer, with the points overlapping the clay ball. 

Fourth layer: Place five 1⁄2-in. (13mm) slices directly on top of the previous layer, with the points facing outward [PHOTO 8]. 

Fifth layer: Gently curve the points of the remaining 1⁄2-in. (13mm) slices downward before setting them in place. Place the five curved 1⁄2-in. (13mm) slices staggered between the previous layer, with the points facing outward. 

Sixth layer: Place five 3⁄8-in. (10mm) pieces staggered between the previous layer, with the points facing outward [PHOTO 9]. 

Seventh layer: The final five slices must be gently arched so each of the points faces downward. Place these final five pieces staggered between the previous layer, with the points facing inward.

Millefiori floral corsage Step 10
Photo 10
Millefiori floral corsage Step 11
Photo 11
Millefiori floral corsage Step 12
Step 12

Place the rhinestones. Use tweezers to pick up the rhinestones. Gently press one into the center and one on each of the five points of the first layer [PHOTO 10]. Leave the rhinestones in place during baking. Bake the brooch on the ceramic tile according to the clay manufacturer’s instructions.

Attach a pin back, and bake again. After the brooch has cooled, dab a small amount of liquid clay on a pin back. Press the pin back onto the back of the brooch. Run a small piece of black clay through the pasta machine on the second-to-thinnest setting. Cut out a disk from the slab that’s 3⁄4 in. (19mm) in diameter. Coat one side of the disk with a thin layer of liquid clay, place the disk on top of the opened pin back, and gently press the disk in place [PHOTO 11].

Cut a slot in the side of a small cardboard box only big enough to fit the pin back. Lay the brooch on top of the hole, with the pin back sitting inside the slot [PHOTO 12]. This will help the brooch to lie flat during baking. Bake the piece again with the box for 20 minutes at 275°F (135°C). 

Attach the rhinestones. After the brooch has cooled, remove the rhinestones. Using tweezers to hold the rhinestones, apply a small drop of instant glue to the pointed backs of the rhinestones, and set them in place on the brooch. 

TIPS FOR REDUCING CANES

  • Firm, general-use clays will retain detail better when used to create canes.
  • Canes must be pliable and warm to be reduced and formed into shapes. 
  • Prevent older canes from cracking during reduction by coating them with a small amount of liquid clay prior to warming. 
  • Warm your canes by placing them on a heating pad set on the lowest setting.
  • Check the canes often to make sure they do not overheat. 
  • Wear latex gloves or finger cots to avoid transferring fingerprints to the clay. 
FIND MORE: polymer clay

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