With the armature built we can begin to sculpt clay right onto it. This technique is essetially the same one I use when I make poseable mixed media dolls. We'll begin adding clay to the shorter of the two ends to create the head.
We will be working small. That's a chance for me to use my new reading glasses! There are a couple resons for this. First, most people don't want something huge coiled around their ear. Second is really more about weight. At each step in the project we'll need to balance out the demands of weight vs. artistic detail. You can see above the sphere of clay that will be the dragon's head is a bit smaller in diameter than a penny. I couldn't find a dime, but if I could they would be the same diameter. Roll that sphere into a slightly elongated cone. Don't worry about getting it perfect just yet because in a second you are going to just mash it onto the frame. The photo to the right shows the mashing. I have gripped the head by the fattest part and slowly pushed it over the loop in the wire so that the loop is totally inside the head.
Onve the head is on that armature I tend to gently squeeze the clay just around the bottom where it mets the wire to snug it up. You don't want to squeeze so hard youlose your shape, just enough to secure it. I also at this stage add extra suppprt so that the head doesn't wobble around as I work on it by taking a small strip of clay, adding it to the, base of the head, and smoothing it on with my paddle tool. For a second it will look like your dragon has whiplash!
Now we'll add the eyes. Use one of the ball stylus tools to make indentations where you think the eye should be. Dragon anatomy is flexible and will look nice with a number of different eye placement options! To make the eye socket a bit bigger I make tiny circles with the stylus to widen it out just like the picture on the right. at this stage I will make little spheres for eyeballs and either bake them for 5 minures at 265 degrees F or I will use a heat gun to cure them on a ceramic tile.
The reason I cure the eyeballs is that it makes it so much easier to get them into the socket in a more believable way and to sculpt detail around without deforming the shape of the eyeball. You can see that I have inserted them about 2/3 of the way in the socket. I tend to make my dragons with eyes more like lizards and frogs and less like humans whose eyeballs are more fully recessed into the socket. Push them in very slowly so you don't deform the clay of the head. Next we'll need to make upper and lower eyelids. I generally do a sort of trial and error process in measuring out the clay for the eyelids. You want them to be thin but also to reach corner to corner. You can see above right the size I made the larger upper and smaller lower lid clay.
More to come, slower than I would like, but we'll get it done!
Roll the spheres into a sausage shape and then gently press them flat as shown upper left. The larger pieces are for the upper lids and the smaller pieces are for the lower. Position the upper lid as shown.
The lower lid is placed in a similar way and then you simply use your paddle tool to blend the edges into the clay of the head (paddle side down). Do not touoch the edges of the clay that lay over your cured eyeball with the tool. This makes the eyelids look rough and tears them. You can smooth any tool marks with a soft paintbrush. Next we'll move onto the nostrils. Make tiny tear drop shapes roughly the size shown above right. Flatten them slightly by pressing down with your finger.
place your two teardrop pieces of clay as shown to begin the nostril. At upper right the edges of the clay additions have been gently blended into the head clay and brushed with a soft paint brush to remove tool marks. Using the paddle tool, blend only the very edges of the nostrils. The common mistake people make in the beginning is getting the tool too close to the middle of the tear drop and blending the shape away.
Once the edges of the nostrils are blended, use the ball stylus tool to make an indentation in the center of each. I also go back in with the needle tool to shape the hole you made into a matching tear drop shape. You can also see in the upper left that I have used the X-acto to make a cut below the nostril to make the mouth. After the cut is made you will want to use the paddle tool and paint brush to smooth down the rough edges of the cut. Think lips. round the edges over to make some nice dragon lips! I also added some shaping to the tip of the nose once I got the lips smoothed and pressed back up a bit. I simply pinched nostril area into a point and then tapped it into a nice downward curve.
Next we'll use some translucent clay to make the horns. Translucent clay bakes to a semi-transparent quality. Begin by making 4 tiny spheres of equal size. Next roll those into an elongated teardrop shape and place the tips of that shape together like in the photo in the upper left. Holdiing the thicker base in one hand and the tip in the other, twist the pieces together to end up with a pair of horns. I tend to cut off part of the base because it gets mashed a bit during this process and I want the horns to look cleaner when I add them to the dragon.
Place the horns more or less slightly to the rear of the head from the center of the eye and blend them a bit into the head clay. We'll add in the ears next and use the ears and horns to support each other so that the piece is not fragile. The upper right photo shows the size of the sphere used for the ear. Roll each ear into a long-ish tear drop shape.
Flatten the tear drop and fold it in half as shown in the upper left. Place the ear on the dragon far enough back from the eye that you won't destroy the eye area as you blend the ear clay onto the head.
Both pictures above show the ears being blended onto the head. I have also positioned the horns so they touch the ears and add to each other some strength and support. It is key in working with polymer clay that any thin areas are supported by something or they most certainly break off with wear.
As this is sort of an experimental piece meant to allow both you and I to get an idea for the next stages of refinement to the design, I will not spend a lot of time decorating the piece. But here are some basic additions that will get you started in planning out how to make these pieces uniquely yours and add some intrigue to them. Some basic geeen leaves are made with the steps above left. I also added a round disc to his head and carved out a little divot in it with the larger ball stylus tool. I'llprobably fill this with glitter! Go as crazy as you want with detail! On the next one I make I will likely add more detail to it. I am already seeing logistical changes I'd make to the design. I get asked frequently how I design new products. This is how! Get an idea, try out the basics and make changes. Generally it takes me about 3-4 prototypes before I have something completed fully.
With the sculpt on the head done, We move to the other end of the cuff and make a tail to wrap behng and down over your upper ear. Begin with a ball of clay above.
You guessed it. Roll that sucker out into an elongated cone. Next use either the X-acto or the clay scraper to cut the cone in half.
Here is where you will make a clay and wire sandwich. Place the tail halves around the wire as shown in the upper left. Use your paddle tool to blend the seams, being careful to touch only the seams. Once blended press the tail into a gentle curve and maybe loop the tail or whatever you want to do with it. I am not decorating the tail on this one. Again, this has to do with the prorotyping process. I want to see where ti touches the ear and how it feels to wear it before I add ridges or appliques that might feel unpleasant to the wearer. So this little guy will have a pretty boring tail. Now that you have all the sculpting done, it is time to bake! I bake them in a toaster oven according to package direction. I put some poly fil on a ceramic tile. Lay the dragon on the tile and cover with a bit more poly-fil This prevents both flat spots in the clay and is insurance against scorching. This guy stayed in the oven about 20 minutes at temp. Next up, a paint wash and some glitter! After that we make the wings and finish the body. I'll have the painting up in a day or two! Technical difficulties have slowed this project down more than I would like :(
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!
Get out your craft supplies! I am excited to announce that the dragons have gone very experimental and have decided we will be making a mixed media dragon ear cuff together during the festival! First off you will need a basic polymer clay sculpting tool set. Use what you are comfortable with, pictured below are the basic tools I regularly use. You'll also need some jewelry tools that will work for a little bit of wire work, just wire cutters, pliers, and round nosed pliers. You can get away without the round nosed ones if you need to.
And now the fun part, all the shiny stuff! You can make any color of dragon ear cuff you want, I chose blue. Choose your clay and sparkly stuff colors to coordinate! You will need:
* Fancy Yarn
* Polymer Clay
* Pearl-Ex pigment powders
The glitters and pearl-ex are optional. They add some punch to your dragon but if you are on a budget they are not totally necessary to completing the piece.
You'll need two different kinds of wire for the frame of the ear cuff. Aluminum armature of florist wire. This is a very soft wire that will stand up to posing and moving again and again without getting brittle. it is also of a larger diameter and will be more comfortable on your ear. The other wire is just basic metal wire The Sharpie I find is the perfect size for forming the cuff, any pen around the same size will do.
* 18 gauge aluminum wire (pictured silver)
* approximately 22 gauge craft wire (pictured gold on the spool)
* Fantasy Film
* White florist tape
* E-6000 glue
Finally, you will need a very dark color of acrylic paint and an optional coordinating color to highlight parts of your dragon. The Fimo Decorating Gel will be used for wings. You an also use Translucent Liquid Sculpey as it is more widely available. I use the Fimo gel because it cures more clear. Choose any water based glaze for your clear coat.
* acrylic paint
* liquid polymer clay
* water based clear glaze
That's it! I am excited to share this idea with you. I'll post the first step Friday April 24. We'll see what comes of this experiment!
So epoxy clay has eclipsed polymer clay as my absolute favorite medium to work with. It hasn't been an easy relationship to build and I have made some unspeakably craptacular things with it. However, once you get used to the process of working with it I think you will also place the polymer clay on the back burner. There are two other posts in this series so far that introduce the pros and cons of epoxy clay and discusses the tools I use in creating the projects.
I have tried a few brands, certainly not every brand. I really can't recommend Aves ApoxieSculpt and Apoxie Clay enough. The Apoxie Clay is the firmest of the clays I have tried and hence the most forgiving to work with. Crystal Clay I found too soft to work with for sculpture but would make an excellent medium to add crystals and elements into a bezel, almost like a grout. Magic Sculpt was acceptable, not as squishy as the Crystal Clay, more like the ApoxieSculpt. I don't use it really but it is a good clay to play with for molds, etc. For the kind of detailed work we will try today I recommend the Aves Apoxie Clay.
So here is what you are going to need to work on this very simple project. The intent here is just to get you used to the texture, timing, and forming simple objects. Make a few projects like this and then begin to branch out!
The strand of jasper beads is readily available at Michael's and Joann Fabric stores. Don't want to buy those? Use a shell, crystal, bottlecap, anything really. There are some flatback crystals to incorporate as well. The real lesson here comes from the powder pigment and the oil and acrylic paints. Apoxie Clay does not come in the wide array of colors as the polymers, but you can really use different processes to get some great color effects. Let's get our tools and Apoxie Clay and jump right in!
I am using white Apoxie Clay because we are going to color the clay itself. As per the package instructions, mix equal parts of each container of clay. Mix less than you think you need so you don;t have waste. You can always mix more when you run out. If you plan to use color in the clay, you may want to use one of those templates with various size circles to mix exactly the same amount of clay with the same amount of pigment each time.
You can mix many kinds of pigments right into the Apoxie Clay. You can mix in the pearl ex powders, chalk pastels, acrylics, and oil paints. I have tried them all. I Can say you need a lot of powder to make a good color and I found that the clay became crumbly to work with and made a piece that broke easily. If you are making a very subtle color and don't need much of the powder pigments you can likely use them. Acrylic paints can also be added and not really affect the strength and workability. I did find that they did not mix well and remained a little streaky no matter how much mixing I did. Perhaps the water base does not make very good friends with the epoxy compound. But oil paints work wonderfully. You only need a tiny amount. If you measure your clay for each batch you can get consistent colors by measuring out the paint. I use a toothpick and apply uniform dots to the clay. As long as I make the same number of dots on the same amount of clay each time I end up with good consistency in color batches.
So here is the epoxy clay with the oil paint blended in. I have a pretty light but consistent color.
SO the first 30 minutes of Apoxie Clay curing it is a very strong adhesive. I like to get the base pieces on there at this stage, then wait 15 minutes or so and start with the details. This way I get any stones or hanging loops on there while I have peak stickitude. It bonds very well for the first 60-75 minutes too so don't freak out at minute 35. After 75 minutes it is really starting to firm up and I'd not try to bond anything with it at that point. You can see above I have simply rolled a ball shape out and flattened it into a pancake shape and popped it on my rock.
Super helpful tip for placing your clay bits onto the rock: this is when you really need that tub of vaseline. The clay often likes sticking to your fingers and not the nice smooth rock. With a teeny dab of petroleum jelly rubbed into your fingers you'll have a less frustrating time placing your elements onto the base piece.
You can see above that I have added a flat backed glass gem into that disk and pressed it down. The snake of clay rolled out next to it is for the hanging loop. One thing epoxy clays don't do well is to stretch. You can stretch polymer as you roll it out. Epoxy will just tear. So only roll the clay out, no pulling on it. Not even as you place it onto the piece. Epoxy is nudged, never tugged!
Take the snake shape you made and wind it around the glass gem and across the top any way you like. You can see that the extra time I am taking to photograph and check that I have a good picture has accelerated the timetable on my sculpting. Note the cracks in the epoxy from shaping. You can use a paintbrush dipped in a tiny bit of water to smooth that out. I'll be leaving it in the interests of finishing the tutorial!
Once you have the hanging loop how you want it, add some other crystals the same way you added the first glass element. I have begun to roll out a thinner piece to wind around piece like a vine.
I have added some vines wound around the hanging loop and formed into spirals. You can work in small clay balls into the spaces between the vines and other elements. I use the ball stylus tool to press them down and make a little cup shape. Coat the tool in a thin layer of petroleum jelly so that the clay prefers to stick to the piece and not the tool!
Just to show you how to work in other color processes. Before the clay gets too cured (within 60 minutes), you can brush on powder pigments like pearl-ex or chalk pastels and they will bond with the clay. You can see I have brushed on some pearly blue. I'll likely paint over much of it as I show you how to add acrylic paints to the clay in the next post. For now I will wait for the piece to cure. Epoxy can be painted while it is curing, since it does not shrink or deform as it cures. It is just really difficult to do so since it may be slightly floppy.
So part 2 will be posted later in the week and will be short! We'll look at adding some acrylics and perhaps some alcohol inks to the piece. I hope you have enjoyed this simple tutorial and that it gives you a fun, creative way to get used to working in epoxy.
Coming to FaerieCon, I'll be showing you how to incorporate beautiful flickering lights into your costumes and art projects! No knowledge of Ohm's Law necessary ;). I'll teach you just what you need to know to begin to develop your own soft circuits using LED lights and microprocessors.
We'll be doing some sewing, but nothing an absolute beginner couldn't accomplish. There will only be a few spots available for this class, but the project and some variations on it will be made into an ebook and an online course this winter.
I sure hope you can join me in Baltimore to add some mystical glow to an industrial looking hotel ball room!
One super important thing to keep in mind about 2-part epoxy clay is that it is permanent. Really, really permanent. This stuff bonds stronger than super glue and does not come off with a little acetone like glue does. Once it is on something, you better love it there because it is staying.
How, may you ask, did I discover the epic bonding power of epoxy clay? Well it wasn't from reading the instructions or any warnings. I didn't so much as peep at a blog post about it. Nope. I jumped right in and started making stuff. I ruined my folding work table in the process. It looked like it had broken out putty grey acne. No zit cream will help epoxy acne! But the best part was the glob I got on my left thumbnail. It was an amorphous blob hanging right by the cuticle. I did not wash my hands frequently enough and it set up on there.
It looked like the tiniest hinkypunk took a crap on my nail, and I had to let it grow out. Worst. Nail art. Ever. So avoid my tragic mistakes: learn about the media, wash your hands, and protect your work surface.
So here are some things you'll need to get into working in epoxy clay!
One of the wonderful things about epoxy clay is that it holds sharp detail well. It will brilliantly hold detail from a silicon mold. You can see above my absolute favorite and my least favorite 2 part silicone molding compounds. The purply-pink stuff is what Michael's and other craft stores tend to carry. Don't be fooled by it. It is garbage. When it sets up it's limper than a pancake in the rain. Soon as you begin to press some clay in there it flattens out like a pancake in the rain under my truck tire.
The larger containers are the best 2 part silicone molding compound I have ever tried. It's called Alley Goop and you can get it from Clay Alley. These molds are firm, not limp; a firm mold is better (wink). They are firm enough to not completely distort as you press clay into them, yet flexible enough to easily pop your casting out. They really take a detailed impression as you can see from the crow original next to his mold. If you plan to mold your epoxy, get some goop!
Finally, the same tools you feel comfortable using for polymer clay tend to work well for epoxy. Just remember to wash them often. Soap and water does the trick. I often rub the mineral oil over them before I work and after a wash to give an added layer of protection from having that clay set up on my tools.
Next up, blending and working with the clay and some tips on coloring it yourself! There is an art to timing here, you won't want to miss it! If any questions have come up for you, pop them below and I will answer them! In a short time I'll have the newsletter exclusive project up for newsletter members, you can sign up below!
I've been nursing a growing dissatisfaction with polymer clay for a long time. I still like part of what it lets me do, but I think it has become too constricting. It's brittle, it will fade out in sunlight, and it has to bake all the way through to have a long life. Proper curing is a science of its own.
My mind is filled with bird feeders and fountains. I want to make wispy and delicate jewelry. I have fallen in love with lights and want to make sconces and chandeliers. Very different things from my past work, and polymer clay is not well suited.
I've been using Epoxy for some time now, specifically Aves Apoxiesulpt. My customers have really loved their pieces and my students have been asking me to teach the medium. So here goes! Over the next few weeks I'll be working on some blog posts discussing how to use epoxy. Today we'll discuss the many kinds of epoxy clays and the pros and cons of the epoxy vs. polymer. In the next week I'll show you some tools and other things you will need to work well with epoxy. I'll post a few tips and tricks, like how to color the white epoxy clays. At the end of the basics, I'll pop up a simple project to get you used to the feel of the clay. You'll want to be on my newsletter, because I am doing an exclusive tutorial right in the newsletter using epoxy. Sign up to the right or on the bottom of the page.
This is my favorite kind of epoxy clay. Aves Apoxie Clay I have tried a few others, Crystal Clay and Magic-Sculpt among them. I like the Aves better because the Clay is firmer and holds detail well. Epoxy clay works very differently from polymer. Polymer clay is PVC and a plasticizer that hardens when the clay reaches the right temperature for the right amount of time. Epoxy is a self-hardening clay. Like liquid resin, two parts are mixed together, beginning a chemical reaction. Over a 24 hour period the clay hardens. No kiln needed, no oven required.
Let's get down to the real nitty gritty. What are the key differences between the clays.
Next up, the dos and don'ts of epoxy! What I want you to do now is to comment or e-mail me with anything you want to know about epoxy clays. I'll answer as many of them as I can!
One of my newsletter members asked me what is the best polymer clay for beginners. There is no simple answer for this question. Really it boils down to two factors: Cost and Workability.
There are several kinds of polymer clay available at your local craft store. Sculpey III, Premo, and Fimo are the big three. Each of these is a good bet for color selection. They are all similarly priced at $2.39-$2.79. There are some newer, less expensive clays appearing. The Craftsmart is the cheapest at $1.25 per brick. Sculpey's newer Bake Shop brand comes in near me at $1.79
The Craftsmart clay was for me brittle and cloudy after baking. The Bake shop was better, but still got a whitish film on in after curing. If you can afford it it is probably best to stick with the big three clays.
My ultimate favorite for durability is Kato Polyclay. It is much harder and less brittle than the others. Problem is it is not widely available. I have to order mine by searching ebay for it. It is super firm and holds detail like tiny noses and leaves like a dream. Main problem is it reeks! Your craft area will be rocking that new shower curtain smell for sure!
Back when I was a beginner it was more of a Goldilocks and the Three Clays dilemma. I was sculpting a lot of detail. So one block of clay might be too hard. Another was way too soft to hold any detail. But I learned some skills to make my clay just right! Any of the big three brands will be great for a beginner and each packet varies in its firmness. For clay that was old and crumbly the clay softener above was just the thing. a couple drops, some kneading, and it was as if the clay had come back from the dead. But not in a zombie sort of way. For clay that had too much plasticizer, hence too soft. I learned to use a clay roller or pasta machine to roll it out in 1/4-1/8 inch sheets and place it between a couple sheets of plain white copy paper. Pop a couple of books on it and in a couple hours some of the softener leaches into the paper and firms up the clay. The video has more information and more detailed instructions. Be sure to subscribe for upcoming video projects and other tips and tricks!
I am positively obsessed with making the perfect wing jewelry. I experiment all the time in my mad scientist wing lab. Oh don't misunderstand. I don't have fairies and bugs in cages, ripping their wings off to make diabolically glittery necklaces and such. I choose to believe they shed them naturally in the fall and spring to match their seasonal outfits. Or you can make them for your OOAK art dolls, Monster High or My Little Pony clothes, the possibilities are endless.
But I digress. Here is a way to craft some detailed little wings to wear anytime. My step by step instructions will make these sparkly creations a breeze to make! And after you are finished learning this technique, you can add some really expert tips in my Filigree Cicada Wings Tutorial.
If you love this project, why not expand on your skills and try a mystical, magical Mermaid Tail project? Available as a PDF via Etsy or on your Kindle!
I don't know about you, but here in Pennsylvania it is COLD! My cat and I are freezing our buns off and going outside is so not happening. Time to hunker down and get crafty making stuff! I taught this as a class at FaerieCon a couple of weeks ago. The students asked for a reminder sort of tutorial, so here it is to share with everyone! I'll be making a full length polymer clay chibi kokeshi doll tutorial in a couple weeks with Kokeshi Dryads, Dragons, and more! But this should whet your appetite for some cute winter projects!
Download a PDF of this project below!
is kept in a dark basement and fed a diet of mostly green peppers.