Inspiring DIY polymer clay sculpting tutorials and artist profiles.
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 :(
is kept in a dark basement and fed a diet of mostly green peppers.