Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine's Day Sleepy Fairy Baby Part 2

This post continues from V-day Fairy Part 1

Completing the fairy sculpture was half the battle, then came wing accessorizing and experimentation
I had a basic ‘plan’ with the intentions of ‘winging’ the rest

The Wings

I assembled the basic wing tools including red craft wire, Angelina film (also called fusible film) glitter, tiny beads, and pink feathers.
Angelina film is a magical discovery that I found at the Morezmore Estate. What starts out as a rather plain sheet of ‘plastic’ can be turned into magical wings that reflects a rainbow of colors

I started with the wing base. Since this is a Valentine’s Day fairy, I chose a heart shape for the wings. Using red craft wire I shaped two large hearts with a long enough tail to insert into the baby’s back.

I glued the heart wires to the Angelina film in the ‘Aurora Borealis’ color. Note the colors reflected in the untreated film. Angelina film is a special type of plastic that melts in the heat. The process of melting also causes the film to undergo many color transformations before melting into ‘nothingness’
The trick is to apply just enough heat for the colors to show without causing the entire wing to melt
This is accomplished by holding the wings a few inches above a candle, ready to pull away at a moments notice. Alas I wasn’t fast enough on the first set and melted right through the wings
Trial #2 worked out nicely though with a small rainbow of color surrounding a magical hole in the wings (where the film was intentionally over-melted and burned away)

I covered the film with a thin layer of pink crystal lacquer to ‘set’ the wings and add to the Valentine’s Day color scheme. I then doused the wings with a combination of fine glitter and micro-beads in shades of pink and white

I kept the sculpture unbaked till the completion of the wings to ensure a proper fit. Using a tapestry needle I placed 2 holes between the baby’s shoulder blades. I trimmed the wing stem to half an inch, inserted into the fairy, and made adjustments as necessary

Baking The Sculpture

Satisfied with the wings, my baby was ready for the oven. This is always the most torturous part for me.
When clay is in the oven, it gets soft, and soft clay is unpredictable. I planned for the bake by supporting the arms with strong wire, but I didn’t want to take any risks. My ‘amazing’ oven support discovery = PAPER!! That’s right, a rolled up piece of paper has A LOT of strength as long as it cannot unroll. (Provided there is internal support in the armature too)
I placed a roll under the baby’s arms to discourage them from sagging. I used my oven thermometer to support the baby from the side placing a piece of paper between metal and baby to prevent a metallic sheen (and increased heat/burning)

I set the timer, set my panic button, and began the scary wait. Luckily all went well. I checked the temperature every few minutes, and breathed a deep sigh of relief when the baking was over (after escaping the baking fumes from the kitchen)
I kept the fairy in the oven overnight to ensure a slow and even cooling process. This increases the long term durability of clay sculptures, and also prevents accidental breakages of the soft/warm clay

Blushing the Fairy

I blushed the fairy with my new discovery – Genesis Heat-Set oil paints. This is a special type of oil paint that doesn’t dry unless heated to a temp of 250F (oven temp). Unlike water-based acrylics, once baked the genesis paints will never wash off. I ‘blushed’ the entire fairy giving the baby a ‘healthy’ glow especially around chubby portions like the thighs and belly, and areas like the cheek, fingers, and toes
Once again the fairy was allowed to cool before handling.

The Finishing Touches

I chose to use fine feathers in place of ‘hair’ for this special creature. I placed a healthy plume of pink feathers at the base of each heart shape wing, a few wisps onto the fairy’s head, and a tiny feather on each of the eyebrows.

Additional Photos will be featured on My Website

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Valentine's Day Sleepy Fairy Baby Part 1

I am honored to be a team leader on the PCEteam on Etsy (Polymer Clay Enthusiasts)
Every month we have a ‘challenge’ to sculpt something unique and beyond. This month’s challenge theme is Valentine’s Day, and so I have embarked on the journey of a Sleepy Baby Valentine Fairy

Alas I embarked with a dead camera battery, so the first few steps will be left to imagination.

2 quick comments before I begin
1 – I had my camera on a bad setting so please excuse the blurry photos. I promise the final photos will be sharp and clear
2 – Since many steps are similar to my previous Sculpt-n-blogs, I will skim through them. You can read about them in detail for my Christmas Elf

The Plan:

This fairy was going to be a ‘big’ baby compared to some of my recent baby sculptures. I drew a 3.5 inch tall sketch with proportional body parts for size reference.

Tools and Material

The fairy itself will be sculpted using my mixture of Sculpey Living Doll, Original Sculpey, and Premo polymer clay, all in light-flesh tones. Instead of pre-measuring the clay, I prepared 5-6 ounces of mix to ensure I had enough (I hate measuring just to run out at the end)
I prepared 17 gauge wire and aluminum foil for the body armature, and thinner yet ‘harder’ wire for the hands.
I grabbed my Favorite Tools, cleaned my work space, and got lost in fantasy land

The Armature:

Since my fairy is seated I created an armature (internal skeleton) for the head and body only. I took a length of thick wire, created a loop for the head, and covered it in foil forming an egg-shape slightly smaller than my sketch.
I covered the foil in clay, then began sculpting the facial details one at a time, fixing and tweaking as needed (while my camera battery was charging)

The body:

I covered the lower portion of the armature with enough foil to create the torso of the fairy. At this point I wasn’t sure if the fairy would be clothed or nude, so I left the torso simple and un-detailed.

The Legs:

Baby legs are trickier than adult legs to sculpt since they have more detail in less area. I started with a basic ‘log’ shape bent at the bottom for the heel and foot. I smoothed the tip to a boot shape, and then trimmed the bottom to allow for individual attachment of toes.
Each toe was formed from a tiny ball of clay, slightly elongated, then carefully attached and blended into the foot. I regret that the photos are fuzzy but will do another baby with better photos after this one.

Once the toes were attached I shaped the arch, and then added little wrinkles and joint creases using a thin needle tool.
I measured the foot against my sketch, of course the toes were slightly larger - my sculptures always ‘grow’ bigger than the original sketched plans. I marked the knee area, bent the leg slightly, and shaped the calves. I attached the legs, one on the side, the other facing up.
I blended the thigh area, added some clay to form the buttocks then set it to rest. I contemplated adding a little floral skirt, but she looked ridiculous, so I went with a nude baby.

Adding ‘chub’

I like sculpting nude fairies, partly because I have no sense of dress style, and party because I find the details to make them more ‘realistic’
Just like humans, fairy sculptures get ‘chubby’ off pancakes :) clay pancakes that is.
A clay pancake is a flattened ball of clay added to the sculpture and blended in to smooth the seams. I added a large pancake to the belly, and another to the nether region. I added a number of smaller pancakes to the inner and outer thigh and buttock region, until the baby looked sufficiently chubby.

Anatomical Details

My baby is real to me, which means she has to be ‘anatomically correct’. Different artists will translate this term differently, but it usually means genitalia. I also gave her a nice popping belly button and chubby chest.


The hands, like the legs, began with a thin ‘log’ of clay. I squeezed the ends between my fingers created a small palm and wrist.
The fingers, like the toes were each sculpted individually from a tiny ball of clay, then attached and blended into the palms. I pushed each finger towards the palm to make them chubbier.

I added a large pancake to each arm to allow for extra chubbiness, then formed a rough elbow and forearm. I say ‘rough’ because I was about to butcher them.
I positioned each arm to see how it would look once attached and to get a feel for the angles. Since the arms are up in the air rather than resting on the legs, they risk sagging and breaking off. To prevent this I prepared 2 very strong wire armatures to help hold the hands up.
I positioned each wire over the back of the hand, bent them to the shape of the hand, and bent the protruding tip to allow for attaching to the fairy body.
I pressed the wire onto the hand to get an imprint, and then cut a deep groove into each hand. Each wire was inserted into the groove, and the clay smoothed over.

Using a strong needle I poked a hole in the body armature where the arms would go. Each arm was inserted, and the clay smoothed to ensure a proper fit. I added additional pancakes to the shoulders and back.

The Ears

With all the manhandling out of the way (poor baby is subjected to dizzying movement during sculpture) it was safe to add ears. I shaped a very large teardrop for each ear and attached to each side of the head. Poor little fairy looks like a pouty troll, though a cute pouty troll in my opinion.
I debated skipping the wings and turning her into a troll but was talked out of it. I would normally bake the sculpture at this point, but past sculptures have taught me to complete the wings prior to baking so that alterations and accommodations can be made in terms of wing-insert positioning, weight and support.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I will create wings using Angelina (fusible) Film, glitter and more
Want to receive completed photos in your inbox? This fairy will be released in my newsletter shortly.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Refer a Friend - Raffle Giveaway

I recently came across Rafflecopter, a contest/giveaway app that looked rather exciting. So I played with the demo and decided to ‘experiment’ (the science geek in me comes out)
The good news is that YOU get to benefit from my experimentation
That’s right; you can win up to $50 to my Artfire shop

Prizes are as follows:

First Place: $20 to my Artfire Shop (1 winner)
Second Place: $10 to my Artfire Shop (2 winners)

How do you Enter?

1 – Use the form below enter for up to TEN points (each point is another chance to win)
2 – Share this page with your friends (using the share-it feature top right of this blog) asking them to enter for a chance to match their prize
If your referral wins a prize, YOU WIN THE SAME PRIZE (a prize-match)
Be sure your friends include your Name/Email in the referral box so you get the credit)
3 – Sit back, relax, and start browsing my AF Shop to plan your spending spree

How can you win $50?

1 – You can to win (first or second place)
2 – Your referrals can win the other 2 spots
That’s up to $20 direct winning, and up to $30 referral prize-match winnings
Second Place: $10 to my Artfire Shop

So go ahead, use the form below to enter up to TEN points (every point is another chance to win)
Winner will be chosen on Thursday, 19 Jan 2011 and announced in the following newsletter issue

Why subscribe to my Newsletter?

Don’t worry, I won’t be ‘spamming’ your inbox with daily issues. I use my newsletter as a chance to ‘show off’ my latest sculptures by including photos and links (for more photos and details)
I also like to throw in little ‘extras’ in my newsletter, like contests, discounts, and giveaways

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bodewell The Yorkie - Part 2

This Post Continues from Bodewell the Yorkie - Part 1

Beloved Pet sculptures require a base, period!! No matter what you tell them, people will INSIST on handling your sculpture, such is human nature. I cringe every time I see it and can’t imagine what goes on with the ones I don’t see. So… securing the sculpture to a base not only provides a ‘professional’ finished look to the sculpture, but it also gives those touchy folks something other than the dog to grasp, thus increasing the longevity of the actual dog sculpture
(These things are beyond fragile)

The Base

A base is only useful in protecting a sculpture, if the dog cannot break off. Simply securing the sculpture to the clay covered base provides temporary support, until the dog decides to break off taking part of the base with it. To prevent this I placed the sculpture on the base and marked where his body will sit, then drove a thin nail partway into the base. This nail will be driven into the dog to keep him from shifting. Working WITH the clay covered base, this will keep the dog in place.
Covering the base was a 2 part process. Step 1 required covering the base with a thicker layer of scrap clay. Clay and wood don’t like each other, so I’d rather mess around with a scrap layer to ensure my ‘design’ layer goes on fast and easy.
After much smoothing, pleading, begging, and some liquid sculpey (as a ‘glue’) layer one was complete
(Note to self: never used a tiered base again, too complex and lower structural integrity on the clay)

Fancy Wood Texture

I like to create a ‘faux wood’ base layer rather than using the actual ‘boring’ wooden base as is. I decided to go with a reddish wood so as not to compete with the dog’s brownish golden coat.
The best part about this process, is that you can’t really mess up. I chose random amounts of white, dark brown, flesh, and crimson clay ensuring I would have enough to cover the entire base.
I rolled each color into a ball, then combined them all into another ball. The marbling effect is a matter of incomplete mixing of colors. This is done by rolling the clay into a log, twisting, rolling, then squishing into a ball. And again, and again. I like to chop the log of clay in-between steps to check on the process. I don’t like when individual colors are too obvious, yet I don’t want it completely mixed into one solid color

Once satisfied, I ran the blob through my pasta machine (never used for pasta, only clay) till I had a nice rectangular sheet.
Now for my ‘secret’ (shhh don’t tell). This marbled sheet still looked too ‘busy’ so I chose my favorite pattern within the sheet to bring to life. I did this by folding the rest of the sheet under it (like folding a paper in half) keeping the desired half on top and running it through the past machine. Each time I did this, my desired area got stretched over the underlying clay, finally giving me a nice, natural looking, marbled sheet. If you squint closely you can almost make out the underlying patterns (notice the overall directions of the colored lines)

I painted on a dab of translucent liquid polymer clay to the eyes, lips, and nose, to give them a natural ‘moist’ look
I positioned the sheet of clay, and went through the gruesome task of securing this to the base. The new clay adhered nicely to the old clay, but alas the old clay kept trying to ‘leave’ the wooden base. I won in the end (or so I thought). The tricky part of course, was the air bubbles. Trapped air can cause havoc on a completed sculpture. Air expands as the oven temperature increases. Trapped air will ‘pop’ out of the clay much like an overfilled balloon, causing unwelcome cracks where they exit.


I secured the dog onto the nail and to the base and tried my best to get rid of residual air bubbles. I spent the next hour stalking my oven checking and rechecking both thermometers and breathing in the strong (non-toxic) clay fumes.

I let the sculpture cool in the oven overnight. Warm clay is very fragile and can behave ‘funny’. Removing a hot sculpture from the oven may introduce a ‘shock’ of cold air causing uneven cooling. Allowing the sculpture to remain in the slow cooling oven ensure even temperature distribution for the duration, proven (by clay scientists) to increase the durability of the sculpture.
Next morning I noticed 2 cracks on the base. Being an OCD perfectionist I was ready to start crying and start all over. As a sculpture like this takes too many hours/days to complete, this was not an option.
Painting the Sculpture
Perhaps I should have walked away, left the painting for another time. Being ‘upset’ with a sculpture is a bad time to experiment a new method, and experiment I did, still ‘mad’ at the cracks.
I painted the sculpture using acrylic paint and water. I started with the legs. I mixed brown and gold paint with water to get a runny solution. Painting textured ‘fur’ with watered down paint applies a thin coat of paint that gets in between the needle strokes, yet allows the lighter color of the clay to show through. If you have a furry pet, look closely at his fur and you’ll notice that it appears to have a lighter layer, perhaps gray or blond beneath the dark fur.
This worked nicely, except that I had gone too dark with the paint and didn’t notice till much later. I applied the same method to the hind legs and back using black paint diluted with some white and light gray.
Painting the face
I started painting the face using the color mixtures above, but did not recognize the dog before me, this is when I realized my paint colors were too dark.
Tantrum Time! A few hugs later (my BF is the best) I was ready to salvage the dog. I prepared a ‘white wash’ something I should have started with but forgot about. This consists of a drop of white paint in water, applied to the textured areas; to give the fur a true base-layer/shadow effect. The runny paint seeps into every little crevice, adding the faintest hint of white, without concealing the underlying clay color.
I then diluted my gold and dark mixture, and attempted to copy the general color patterns on Bodewell’s complex face. All the while I kept reminding myself, “this is an experiment, it doesn’t have to be perfect”
My BF had another view of the matter “You can always make her another one next year”
Overall, I like how the face turned out, I am not pleased with the darkness of the legs. (and I knew that Bodewell’s mommy wouldn’t complain) Perhaps I will bring my supplies over to their apartment one day to fix it. Or, as BF said, make another one, after all, this was only the first painted sculpture of many more to come.

Additional Photos will be posted shortly on my Website

Low and behold, Bodewell joined us that day and got to meet his mini counterpart. He was VERY suspicious