"Keeper of Flame" Porcelain Bearded Dragon

Learn how to sculpt a lifelike porcelain bearded dragon from clay.

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Joseph Chiarello says moving to Hawaii was the best thing that has happened to him. In his second year of college he decided to move from the Midwest to Hawaii where he was inspired by nature and the history of the islands to follow his dreams.

Materials and Tools:

cone 5 stoneware (high fire clay)
slip
colored pigments mixed with slip
clear glaze
cactus spines
kiln
clay wire cutting tool
wood thickness strips
rolling pin
epoxy
container with water
plastic bags
rib tool
wooden paddle tool
sponge
c-frame saw
sharp knife
needle tool
rubber tipped tool
paintbrushes
squeeze bottle with needle applicator
turntable
tape measure

Steps:

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1. Place a block of clay between two 1/4-inch thick strips of wood. Run a clay cutting wire through the clay along the strips to cut a 1/4-inch thick clay slab. Repeat to cut a second 1/4-inch thick slab. Place one slab in a plastic bag so it won't dry out to be used later for the bearded dragon's head.

2. Roll one slab gently with a rolling pin to release the air but do not change the dimensions. Measure an 8-inch piece by the width of the slab and cut it with a knife. Put the excess in a plastic bag to use later.

3. Smooth the clay sheet with a wet sponge. Curl the sheet lengthwise into a cylinder shape. Score one edge with a rib tool and smooth the edges together using water.

4. Close the ends of the cylinder by rounding the clay with your fingers and smoothing it together using water. The shape will resemble a burrito.

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5. Pierce one end of the clay shape with a needle tool to let the air out. Place the clay on the work surface and tap it with a wood paddle to flatten the shape slightly. This will be the body of the dragon. Shape the tail area and form a neck on the other end. Smooth the clay with a wet sponge. Place the body in a plastic bag.

6. Roll the excess clay cut from the slab and curl it into a narrow cylinder tube, smoothing the clay with wet fingers.

7. Cut through the tube diagonally with a c-frame saw several times to make the parts of the legs.

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8. Join the sections together and shape them into four legs for the bearded dragon.

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9. Remove the body from the plastic bag. Cut holes in the body to attach the four legs. Score the ends of the legs and attach them to the body, smoothing the clay.

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10. Roll a cylinder of clay for the tail, shape it and smooth the clay. Cut a hole in the body and attach the tail after scoring the end. Smooth the clay with a wet sponge. Create the toe details on each of the four feet using a needle tool. Shape the neck at the other end of the body. Place the body in a plastic bag.

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11. With the second slab of clay, form the dragon's head by creating a hollow cylinder, closing the ends and sculpting the facial features. Cut a hole in the bottom of the head and attach it to the neck of the body. Score the neck and use water to smooth the head onto the body.

12. Using a needle tool, poke holes around the back of the head for placement of the cactus spikes after the piece has been fired.

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13. Using slip in a squeeze bottle, with a needle applicator, apply the scales in rows along the length of the dragon's body and on parts of the head.

14. Let the bearded dragon dry. Bisque-fire the dragon in the kiln to cone 06 (about 1828 degrees). Remove from the kiln when cool.

15. Place the dragon on a turntable. Paint the dragon using various colors of pigments mixed with slip. Apply a base coat of gold yellow and add details as desired.

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16. Apply clear glaze to eyes and eyeballs and wherever else desired for a shiny appearance after firing.

17. Glaze-fire the dragon in the kiln to cone 05 (about 2167 degrees). Remove from the kiln when cool.

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18. Mix epoxy glue and glue the ends of cactus spines into the previously created holes in the head of the porcelain bearded dragon.

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