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


  1. Beautiful! That is amazing work, Leah!

  2. oh wow, great job Leah, so much work!!

  3. wow, amazing detail. lovely work leah!

  4. I love your sculpting. This whole series of blogs has been fascinating.

  5. Woooow ... Incredible work :) I'm so amazed by your talent. The post is neat with great processing pictures ♥

  6. Wow, that clay looks so yummy, like a mix of white, milk, and dark chocolates :) hehe. And the yorkie is so cute!!

  7. uniquecozytreasures- Wow! It's so cute. You are really one talented lady.

  8. Oh my! You have incredible patience for all those details!!! Super super cute!

  9. It is amazing the detail you achieve. Great job.

  10. Thank you everyone
    Stay tuned, a fairy blog is currently in the sculpting process ;)

  11. That is impressive! Great work :)