Layl McDill works ten to forty hours on building a millefiore cane. Most canes are around 8 pounds, 7 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter but she has made some as large as the size of a paint can.
She has been building canes since 1993 but it wasn't until about 5 years of trial and error that she really started to get the hang of it. Since then she has made hundreds of canes. Most of which are created while at arts festivals. She creates at least one large cane a week.
Here is Layl's description of how she makes millefiore canes from polymer clay.
The art of Millefiore (sometimes spelled Millefiori) dates back to the Egyptians who made canes with glass. In recent years artists have been using polymer clay to build canes. I discovered the secret of making a cane large and shrinking it down when I saw a picture in a kid's polymer clay book. From there I learned by trial and a lot of error and I am still learning with each cane I make.
My favorite canes to make are detailed pictorial canes. I have created hundreds of animals, faces and designs. Below are pictures of the process I use and here are more polymer clay canes in-progress.
My first step is usually to draw a picture the same size the cane will be built. I then spend a day or two mixing colors and getting all the colors soft. Then I start to build the character. Usually I start with the eyes and work my way out. I use my drawing to build each shape. It's like thinking two dimensionally and three dimensionally at the same time. Lines are created with flat slabs and wrapped around the other shapes.
When the character is complete I work in the background until the whole piece is round, square or oval. At this point the cane looks like a big can with the same picture all the way through.
Now it's time to reduce!
I begin by squeezing the center until it becomes hour glass shaped. Sometimes this goes really quick (10 minutes) but other times it can be up to an hour to soften the clay enough to get it it start moving. I try to stretch the center out as evenly and as long as possible before I slice the cane.
At last I get to make the first slice! It's like opening a present - you never know exactly what you will get.