Millefiori is a simple technique that involves repeated folding, rolling and stretching of clay (or molten glass) to create intricate 3D patterns called 'canes'. The designs run through the cane like the words in a stick of rock.
Although it is a simple process, it's not necessarily easy. The end result is unpredictable, and the designs are unique and impossible to recreate.
The technique has been around for thousands of years - originating in Roman times or possibly before.
However, the technical knowledge for creating millefiori was lost for centuries and only revived in the eighteenth century.
Within a few years of the technique's rediscovery, factories in Italy, France and England were manufacturing millefiori canes in large numbers.
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Here's my three minute video showing how the technique works in polymer clay.
You will see:
- the clay conditioning process - this makes the clay workable and flexible
- creating a very basic pattern or cane - this is the block of clay that carries the pattern
- the creation of a Skinner blend (a sheet of clay that shades gradually from one colour to another)
- and the basic stretch-cut-recombine process that characterises millefiori
- (the enormous 'mangle' machine you can see in action is actually a glorified pasta machine!)