Artist Interview – Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

Ivy Niles of iKandiClayI’m thrilled to bring you an artist interview with the incredibly talented polymer clay cane artist Ivy Niles of iKandiClay. You have undoubtedly seen Ivy’s intricate and distinctive canes in both her Etsy shop and incorporated into the work of other artists. I have loved Ivy’s work for a long time and was very pleased when she agreed to be interviewed here on The Blue Bottle Tree. I’ll let Ivy take over now and tell you about herself, her work, and how she makes polymer clay work for her. Thank you Ivy for sharing your story with us!

Kaleidoscope cane by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

About Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

I was raised in East Helena, Montana, a small town. But now I live in Omaha, Nebraska. I have 4 kids, ages 12­-22, and we have a dog, a Bichon named Toto.

Cane covered eggs by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

What are your other hobbies and what do you do when you’re not claying?

When I’m not claying, I spend time with family and friends! I’ve converted some of my best friends into clayers, so when I host a get-together, it’s almost always a clay night. I grab a few big bags of canes out of my Etsy clearance drawers, and set out glass vases and Christmas ornaments, Bic pens, brass ring and pendant bezels – all sorts of goodies. I feel really fortunate to have creative friends who enjoy taking part in something I’m so passionate about.

Ivy's family has a tradition of a "family food fight".I do other things, of course…typical family outings such as going to the zoo, park, etc. And also special family traditions such as our annual Mother’s Day Nerf Battle, Fall Family Food Fight (each person gets their own, different colored giant bowl of oatmeal for slop­slinging in the back yard), post-Halloween family costume dinner party at which each kid has chosen a part of the meal, two ­week couch fort indoor ­camping during winter break from school, and “First Snow” (the first time it snows each winter, we gather up bowls full and flavor them with powders, syrups, and sprinkles).

My younger 3 kids are rarely interested in clay, so I try to help them explore their own individual passions. My oldest daughter, though, runs an Etsy shop in her spare time, with polymer clay pens, wands, pendant necklaces, and beads for sale, as well as resin and painted items. She has also begun doing local art shows. We love to sit and clay together while we watch TV shows or listen to stand­up comedy.

Comedy and tragedy masks by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay.

What is your art/craft history?/ How did you get started with polymer clay?

I was an avid scrapbooker for about 10 years. My kids and I have always given handmade gifts, and we had a lot of fun trying out crafts like melt and pour soap, beeswax candle stickers, painting, jewelry making, etc. I did home daycare for 10 years, and helped the kids make various projects including polymer clay. It must have been around 2004 when I got a couple of polymer clay books, and saw some intricate canework. I had made jellyrolls and a few other simple canes, but I had never seen anything like those complex canes. I was especially inspired by Karen Lewis’s work.

Caned flower by Ivy Niles of iKandiClayI made a lot of beads with my early canework; many more than I could ever use. So I started auctioning them on Ebay, just to earn enough money to buy more clay. It worked out really well, because not only did I feel encouraged to keep making lots of beads, but I received helpful feedback from my customers. Over the course of time, I had a few people message me to ask where I was getting my canes from. When I told them I made the canes myself, they asked if I had any extra to sell. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me! So I started selling canes too, and eventually that became the majority of my sales. I moved my business to Etsy after a few years, and I have had a really great experience with my little online shop. My customers are so nice! I get messages full of compliments every week, both on Etsy and my Facebook page. It’s really incredible to have a job where all of the feedback is positive.

When I went through my divorce 7 years ago, I was afraid that I might have to close my store and get a “real” job. But my youngest son has severe asthma, and missed quite a bit of school back then due to respiratory illnesses, so working from home was ideal. So I threw myself into my work full ­time, and have managed to support my family with it.

Polymer Clay Mask Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

You’re best known for your canework, why do you like to cane?

Canework just fits so perfectly with the way my brain is wired. I’m a perfectionist, and by nature I prefer to work slowly and carefully. My mom tells me that when I was in kindergarten, I used to beg my teacher to let me stay inside during recess to finish coloring my pictures because everyone else was done, but I wanted mine to be ‘just so’. In so many areas of life, it has been frustrating for me to work so much slower than everyone else. But with claying, my snail’s pace works in my favor. My attention to detail pays off.

Beautiful cane patterns by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

Have you done other types of polymer clay work?

I’ve dabbled a bit, but I’m a total novice at surface techniques, sculpting… well, basically everything except caning! I enjoy making things with the canes such as jewelry, covered vases, masks, and crazy projects like converting a canvas sneaker into a cane ­embellished vase.

polymer clay cane covered shoe by iKandiClay

How big do you make each cane, typically?

It depends on the style of cane. Leaf canes, for example, start out about a pound. Most of my kaleidoscope canes start out as a 5­-7 pound base triangle.

Ivy Niles's son holding one of her huge polymer clay canes.

What is your design inspiration for your canes?

Everything! I’m inspired by clayers and artists who work with other mediums, and many things in nature. And I’m intensely inspired by color. During the process of mixing and playing around with colors, design often suggests itself to me.

I’m also inspired by the music and audiobooks that I listen to while claying, the people and events in my life, which often inspire the titles of my cane series, which in turn influences design and color. An unusual source of inspiration is microbiology illustrations, which I find visually fascinating. I once made a cane derived from images of a type of microscopic worm.

Unicorn canes by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

How much time do you spend working on clay in a typical day?

It varies, but I’d say about 7­-9 hours. Running an online store involves a lot more than just production, but the majority of my work time is spent claying. I’m a single mom and iKandiClay is my sole source of income, so I’m putting in a lot of hours to keep my family afloat. But I’m able to do what I love. This is literally my dream job, and I’m thankful for it every day.

What brand of clay do you use?

I work with a mix of about 2 parts Kato to one part Premo.

How do you store your canes?

I store my canes wrapped in waxed paper.

Seahorse cane by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay

Are there any advice or tips that you can offer that have helped you get good results?

There are lots of ways to create canes. To make my style of cane, however, my number one piece of caning advice is to always use Skinner blends! It really makes a big difference. I also like to use a thin sheet of black or sometimes white, or both, to make a thin outline around each of the different colors in a cane.

Translucent polymer clay cane by Ivy Niles of iKandiClay.

Can you tell us a story of a time when you had an epic failure? If you resolved it, how?

My early canes were pretty terrible! But that’s only in retrospect. At the time I created them, I was head over heels in love with them. I think with caning you just have to put in the time…you have to go through the process of getting a feel for how the clay moves by making lots and lots of canes, and learn through experience what works and what doesn’t.

At this point, I’ve made well over a thousand canes. I’ve learned not to think of any of them as a failure. Sure, sometimes I end up making an ugly cane! But I just figure out what went wrong, learn the lesson, and move on to the next one.

Do you have a website or blog? Where can people buy your canes and other work?

Ivy Niles of iKandiClayMy informational website is iKandiClay. My canes are available in my iKandiClay Etsy shop.

The best place to see new photos of my work is to follow me on my iKandiClay Canes Facebook page.

Thank you Ivy!

Many thanks to Ivy Niles of iKandiClay for sharing her story with us. It’s great to learn more about such a talented and creative artist. All of the photos belong to of Ivy Niles, and credit for the top-most portrait goes to Biblename Photos.

Don’t forget to check out the others who have shared their stories in my artist interview series, including Staci Louise Smith, Wendy Jorre de St Jorre, and Toni Ransfield.

29 thoughts on “Artist Interview – Ivy Niles of iKandiClay”

  1. Today was the first time I’ve seen Ivy’s canes. I saw one on pinterest and of course pinned it, then followed it to etsy and was led here finally. I would come be your slave for a year just to learn how to do these wonderful amazing canes! I am literally blown away by your work Ivy, just absolutely the prettiest, most interesting, and most beautiful I have ever seen! And please put me on the list for tutorials when you get them developed, i’ll camp out overnight in a snowstorm! lol. You have beauty in your heart as well, and I can’t even tell you how inspired I am right now! You go girl!

  2. Stephanie Nelson

    Ikandiclay is my favorite polyperson. She has an amazing eye for this work. An her canes are gorgeous. I use her canes all the time incorporated into my work. She has inspired me in my own clay work an cane making. She has given good advice several times. I hope she continues with the kalidascope canes and more.

  3. I must admit I am a major fan and love using your canes first they are beautiful second I I am so new to claying that everything I do is a first. I also let everyone know that I didn’t create the cane. So thank you for helping a novice! Buy selling your canes you help so much! And your beautiful work goes a long way in making fairy roofs, jewelry etc.
    So thank you for sharing your talent with those of us who don’t know how or haven’t learned your technique or dedication to caneing.
    Love your work and enjoyed your interview. I would love to have thought of the things you do with your family for fun!

    1. Thank you, Donna! I’m so glad that you enjoy working with the canes, and I’m very happy to be able to be able to make them, and see all the creative ways people use them.
      Feel free to use any of the activity ideas with your own family! It’s fun to have unusual traditions.

  4. Thank you to The Blue Bottle Tree this interview it was very informative for me a beginner. Also to say this work by this artist is incredible is just not adequate.

  5. I drool over your canes every time I see them! So glad you didnt have to quit and get a “real” job! You are right where you are needed! I will be a forever fan of your work as long as you are creating!

  6. Argh. Looking at Ivy’s work and then at my own, I have the urge to throw in the towel because I don’t seem to have whatever fire (and talent!) Ivy has inside her. I’m gonna use her story, though, to try to channel my disappointment with my own work into improving. Good heavens, Ivy, you’re so talented, you bring tears to my eyes. I’m gonna try not to stomp on all my hard work in disgust with it. I guess we can’t all be Ivys! I’m so happy for you that you have this kinda talent, and happy for us, too, as the world would be a poorer place without your amazing cane work. Thanks for giving us something to aspire to, and keep up the jaw-dropping work!

    1. Binky,
      Nooooooo!!! That’s the opposite of what I hope my work inspires! But, look… I feel you. I remember when I saw my first kaleidoscope canes on Ebay. I thought… that’s the most amazing thing I have ever seen! But I could never do *that*.
      But then I thought… “What have I got to lose?”.
      And I took a cane I had recently made, and made a kaleidoscope of it. And… guess what?… it was flippin’ terrible!!!! It was the worst waste of perfectly good canework that this world has ever seen!
      But, my heart was all-in, as far as canework goes. So I just kept on. And, several years later, I didn’t suck at canework anymore.
      It’s really all a matter of… where do you want to spend your time? For some of us, it’s canework… and we will never have much time for finished pieces. For some, it’s finished pieces… it’s a symbiotic relationship, but we both have to accept that it’s pretty difficult to master *BOTH*.

  7. Ivy is my favorite cane artist, and one of my absolute favorite people in the world. I love ordering from her etsy store for so many reasons other than the beauty of her art: the canes are always very carefully and professionally packaged, the delivery times are ALWAYS consistent (Ivy ships on Wednesdays, and I get my canes on Thursdays!), and she always includes a few freebies! I get so excited opening my packages to see what little goodies are hidden inside.
    On a more personal level, Ivy is my mom role-model. Her creativity bleeds into all areas of her life. I actually screen-captured the part of the interview where she talks about her family traditions. I want to apply that level of parenting-win into my family!
    I’m glad this article is helping to spread the awesomeness that is ikandiclay.

  8. Linda Lapery-Criscuolo

    I’ve purchased a number of clay canes from Ivy via Etsy. I don’t understand how she makes them so intricate….she’s a wonderful artist. Ivy, you should pat yourself on the back for keeping up with four children, running an at home business and making your children’s lives so much fun with your scheduled events. You are a super Mom! And, now it reminds me, to look in on your Etsy shop and make some purchases on Friday. Blessings to you and yours…

    1. I wish you blessings in return, Linda! It is a bit *unreal*, to have the fortune to be ABLE to work from home, being a single mom of 4. There are plenty of women who make single motherhood work with jobs outside the home, and I’m truly in awe of THEM, because I have no idea how difficult that must be. I feel soooo fortunate to have been able to make my lil’ clay business work out.

  9. I am NOT a caner – but I do so admire caning. Your lovely work says it all. Your love of it comes thru loud and strong. To be able to support your family is really a blessing. Keep making canes and loving life!!!

    1. It really, truly is a blessing. I can’t imagine what in the world I’d be doing for a living today, if it weren’t for the magic of the internet, which allows me to do my *favorite* thing, as a means to support my family.
      Thanks so much for your kind words, Patt!

  10. Brenda Urquhart

    Great article…for a great Talent…so glad as a single Mom Ivy is able to make her love for an Art form work to support her Family…that truly a rarity …My 1st love is Polymer is caning as well…but I’ve come to love what Ivy does so well that when I need a cane for a project I check her Esty store 1st…even when I convinced her to do a Tutorial for her Strawberry cane…I bought it immediately…after reviewing it I begged her to continue making her Strawberry Cane…as long as she making it I’ll be buying it…Love her new Butterfly series…Keep up the good work…I’m a big fan and I put my Money where my mouth is…LOL

    1. I’m really glad you convinced me to do that tutorial, Brenda! I’m slowly-but-surely working my way toward doing more tutorials.
      I appreciate your continued support!

  11. I am so impressed with how you have had the beauty and grace to get through such rough times and yet keep the joy and love going for your family and yourself through devout creative expression because you just “love” so much. You have heart and soul in your canes my dear and it is evidence of your loveI FELT IT!!!!

    1. I appreciate that so much, Linda! I really do feel, some days, that “clay therapy” is the only thing that gets me from one day to the next! It’s nice to know that is *felt*.

    1. Hi Jackie! I do have a video tutorial in the works, which will come out next year. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for further details. And thanks so much for the compliment!

    1. And you’re one of my favorite customers, Monique! The enthusiasm you have for each of my new ideas really means a lot to me.

  12. Your success story is truly awesome. That’s truly using your talent to the upmost. I look at your canes, and wonder “Wow, where would I even start?”
    Beautiful job.

    1. Thanks, CatheeB!
      The best advice I can give, in regards to your question, is to approach it as a child. This is just clay. We’re just playing around with clay. You know? Definitely take some time to look at some canes you admire, and figure out what components appeal to you. But, in the end, if you can just “be a kid”, playing, you’re going to feel so much more free to experiment, and that has been the greatest key for me, in finding my own style.
      Happy claying!

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