Inspiring DIY polymer clay sculpting tutorials and artist profiles.
OK Dragon fans, sorry for the delay, I had some major photo quality issues on the first round of pictures and needed to re-shoot. Such is life! Today we will build the base frame for the ear cuff and get it prepared to have the polymer clay pieces sculpted onto it. Tomorrow we will be sculpting the head and tail. Tuesday comes making the shimmery wings and adding them to the frame, and we will wrap things up Wednesday with painting and finishing!
We begin with a piece of the flexible aluminum wire. I like using the aluminum wire for projects like this this because it does not get brittle and break like regular metal wire does. Since this is an ear cuff it will need to be bent and wound several times both during crafting and wearing. It is also lighter than a similar guage of metal wire and will be a more comfortable wear.
Let's begin making the cuff! Cut around 11-14 inches of wire. Better to have extra than too little here. I have made a 90 degree bend roughly in the center of the wire. We'll make the cuff part next. This is the piece that wraps around the edge of the ear and secures the dragon to your ear. About 3/4 of an inch up from the bend position your round nosed pliers as pictured above.
Wrap the end of the wire halfway around the pliers as shown above. Then position the pliers about 3/4 of an inch below the 90 degree bend you made in the first step.
Just like you did for the top loop, wind the tail halfway around the pliers. You should end up with something like a zig-zag in the middle of your wire. We will need to bend this into a C-shape eventually, and to accomplish this we will need to stabilize the center portion of the wire zig-zag. Use your smaller gauge metal wire for this. Cut a piece off of your spool about 9-12 inches long. In the above picture I am holding a tiny tail of wire under my thumb while I wind the wire around the aluminum frame.
Once you have made about 4 loops around the left side of the frame, cross over the center of the zig-zag diagnonally about 3 times, then do 3 loops across the zig zag the other direction. You should have a little X in the middle. Finish up by doing about loops around the right side of the frame. Trim your ends and you are done with this step! Once we add the wing frame there we'll pop a little glue dot in those ends to prevent any scratching.
This is why you needed that Sharpie. It is a good size to accommodate the width of most ears. Position the center of the cuff on the Sharpie and use your other hand to bend the wire around the sharpie. It will look like a C-shape. Armature wire like this is quite soft so it should be pretty easy to form the wire around the pen.
You want to get a pretty close to perfect semi-circle to get the most stability against the ear. This is difficult on the ends of the loops. I use the pliers to grip just the ends and bend the wire just a little bit more. You can use your finger, another set of pliers, or the round nosed pliers to complete the bend. It should end up looking like the picuture above right.
This is the fun part. We need to estimate where the cuf is going to wrap around the ear. I am planning to make mine with the head down toward the ear lobe and the tail at the top of my ear. The cuff loop attaches to the outside of the ear midway from the lobe to the tip of the ear. You can see above I poppet it on my ear and in a mirror wound the tail end of the way around the top edge of my ear.
In the above left photo, I have trimmed the wire to a length allowing for about a 1 inch sculpted tail to trail down over the ear and for the head to rest below at my ear lobe. This means the wire itself will not be that long as it will not stretch quite all the way to the tip of the clay sculpt. I am estimating the wire will be about 1/3 of an inch into the sculpt and trimmed accordingly. The little loops on the end are there to help to hold the clay onto the wire as we sculpt. This is a trick I learned a long time ago to stabilize sculpting polymer over wire for doll making. There are two reasons to wrap the aluminum wire in white florist tape. First it makes the clay adhere to the frame better and keeps it from wobbling around as you work. Second, aluminum wire will make ugly black marks on polymer clay. It is a chemical reaction that can ruin a piece. Wrapping as much of it in tape as possible prevents this. Keep the tape taught as you wind it around.
The end result of your wire armature building will look like this. I have included the ruler for rough size and scale. Tomorrow we'll sculpt a cute tail and a charming whimsical dragon head on the frame so get your clay tools ready! Any questions? Leave a comment!
is kept in a dark basement and fed a diet of mostly green peppers.