Wired Clay Characters

Jodi Biewen from Durham, N.C., makes some quirky, moveable characters from painted polymer clay, wire, beads, fabric and a button. An added bonus is that her characters represent diversity in race, gender and style.

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Materials and Tools:

polymer clay
18 mm steel wire
baking pan
vintage and scrap fabrics
8 mm glass and zinc beads and word charms
vintage and artsy buttons
aluminum foil
needle nose pliers
wire cutters
small skewer
utility knife
extra-fine sanding paper
acrylic paint
gloss acrylic varnish
small brushes
scissors
needle
thread and sewing machine (optional)
oven

Steps:

1. Knead clay until soft. Mold flat pancake of clay around a small ball of aluminum foil. Shape into head form, adding eyes, nose and mouth.

2. Shape clay into small mittens. Make four slices into mitten and form into fingers and hand.

3. Form shoes or animal legs. (Thighs may have aluminum foil foundation.) Use a skewer to indent for toes or shoestrings.

4. Cut wire approximately 24 inches long. Bend in half and using pliers, turn loops 1 inch from either side of center for leg connections. Fold wire ends up and twist wires approximately 6 inches from base to create neck. Bend each wire back through upper body area to create shoulders. End with a round eye loop. Cut excess wire.

5. Cut another wire approximately 36 inches long and wrap around figure, starting at the base, allowing for loops and twists. Add metal beads as desired. Add a large loop at the back base of the neck for hanging. Twist the ends and cut.

6. Cut four lengths of wire approximately 3 inches long and four lengths of wire 5 inches long. Turn a round eye hole at both ends of the 3-inch wires. Turn a round eye loop on one end of the 5-inch wires. Add colored beads to all four 5-inch wires. Allow a space of 1-1/2 inch on two of the 5-inch wires. Twist wire around pliers a few times. Bend end straight back to form a 3/4-inch connecting stem. Allow a 2-inch space on two 5-inch wires; twist wire around pliers a few times. Bend end straight back to form a 3/4-inch connecting stem.

7. Open eye loop of smaller wires and attach to shoulder and hip loops of character. Close loops. Open eye loop of larger wires with beads and attach to elbow and knee loops.

8. Attach clay parts to wire figure. Firmly press clay around wire connection stems. Set character into a baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 275 F degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool before handling.

9. Paint characters with acrylic paints. Let dry. Varnish.

10. Create pattern for pants and skirts. Cut fabric. Hem by hand or on machine. Sew clothes on character.

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