Senior Clay Folks
Learn about a sculptor's unique inspiration for artwork — senior citizens.
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Dominic Zinanni is a sculptor with an unusual subject — senior citizens. After living with his grandmother for the last years of her life, he really learned to appreciate what that generation had to offer. He loves the texture and wisdom that their faces hold; his sculptures show the different elements of life at that stage. His current line of work features winged senior characters.
The first thing Zinanni does is sketch to get a general feel for the character he will create. True details don’t come forth until the sculpting process begins; the sketch serves as a starting point for positioning and personality elements. Zinanni then begins building the head of the sculpture. He balls up tin foil and adds a layer of polymer clay to create a skull of sorts. Teeth and glass eyes are added at this point, and the entire skull is baked. The face is created by hand with layers of sculpted polymer clay--wrinkles, age lines and all. Facial expression comes forth as the piece is being worked on and creates the personality of the senior. Hair on the head and/or the face is also added at this point. The full head is baked again and set aside until the body is complete.
The hands are the next step, also hand-sculpted and exquisitely detailed. The hands of a senior citizen have larger knuckles and more defined tendons--details that Zinanni pays great attention to. The hands are also baked separately. The body is the major portion of the sculpture. This also begins with a large foil structure that is covered in polymer clay, which is baked to create a skeleton. Clothing is created--long colored robes or possibly a suit--and placed on the skeleton. Wings are also created in the painstaking process of creating each individual feather. The feathers are then grouped together into the desired wing shape.
The separate elements of the sculpture are tacked together with glue and put in the oven one last time. The glue may melt, but as the body hardens, the head, hands and wings adhere to it. The resulting sculpture is extremely detailed and lifelike. They have defined personalities, intriguing expressions, and look like people anyone would like to know.
Since discovering polymer clay, Tami Molar of Tustin, Calif., has used it to add to her clown collection.