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Paper Clay Giraffe

Melanie Falk creates a wild and wacky paper clay giraffe.

Melanie Falk loves to create wild and wacky creatures out of ceramics, clay and paper clay.

Materials and Tools:

paper clay
wood block (roughly 1" x 1" x 3")
20-gauge wire (1 piece 2’ long)
18-gauge wire (4 pieces 2’ long)
acrylic or other water-based paint
leather string (2" or so)
small flat head nail
varnish or acrylic coating
basic clay sculpting tools
needle tool or nail
small paintbrushes
needle nose pliers
wire cutter
craft knife
instant glue

Figure A


1. Sketch ideas for a giraffe. Refer to a photo or search the Internet for ideas (figure A).

Figure C

2. Work a handful of paper clay in your fingers to make it pliable. Make a cylinder with a ball shape at one end for the giraffe head. Make a depressed ring around the base of the neck as a place to wire the neck to the wood block torso (figure C). Pull up the back of the neck and shape into a rectangular mane.

Figure D

3. Shape the snout on the head, make depressions on the front and pull up slightly with sculpting tool for nostrils. Poke eye shapes with the same tool and depression lines above and below to form each eye (figure D). For ears, roll a pinky nail sized piece of paper clay into a cone shape. Moisten the flat side and the side of the head and attach the cone. Smooth the seam. Poke in the center of the cone toward the outside to create the ear hole. Repeat on the other side. For antlers, roll pinky size pieces of paper clay into cylinders with balls on the ends. Attach flat sides toward the top of the head slightly forward from the ears.

Figure E

4. Scratch irregular circles into the sides of the neck and the top of the head with a needle tool. Fill in with parallel lines. Pull up the lines on the sides of the mane and poke a bunch of holes into the topside of the mane (figure E). Set aside to dry, approximately one day, depending on room temperature and humidity. Tip: Place the unpainted project in a 250-degree oven for 30 minutes or until dry.

Figure F

5. To make the legs, divide a handful of paper clay into four pieces. Roll the pieces into four cylinders, two larger than the others to make the back pair. Depress a ring 1/4 inch wide at one end of the large cylinder so that it looks like a smaller cylinder is attached to a larger one. Squish down the leg on the small end and push forward one side of the smaller cylinder. Cut a triangle out of the area that sticks out to form a hoof (figure F). Poke a 1/8-inch hole on the side of the leg toward the opposite end. This is where the leg will be attached to the block with wire. Repeat with the remaining three legs. Set aside to dry.

Figure I

6. Cut a small block of wood 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" x 4". Holding the block horizontally, drill two holes at least 1/8 inch diameter beside each other (1/4 inch in between) on the side, toward the bottom back of the block, and another pair of holes toward the front bottom of the block. This is where the legs will attach. Drill a pair of holes toward the top front as a place for the head to attach. Whittle down the edges a bit using a craft knife to give an aged look. Sand smooth. Paint the block, leaving room by the whittled edges to make the block look worn (figure I). When dry, apply varnish.

Figure J

7. Once the clay has dried, start painting. Watering down the paint will allow it to settle in the crevices and give a light wash to higher spots, creating a little more depth to the piece. Apply two or more coats to get the desired effects as the clay will absorb the paint (figure J). Once dry, apply varnish.

Figure K

8. Glue a small piece of the fuzzy part of the feather to one end of the leather strip. Glue the opposite end of the leather strip to the back side of the block. Nail the small flat-headed nail into the leather where it is glued into the block, while the glue is still wet (figure K). Allow glue to dry.

Figure L

9. The giraffe's head will be wired to the wooden block torso using the 20-gauge wire. Place the mid point of the wire against the mid point of one side of the giraffe's head at the ring of the depression. Wrap the wire snuggly around the neck once and bring the wires back to the beginning side. Cross the wires and pull them through the holes to the other side. On the side where the wires come out, cross the wires and wrap the wires around the head again until they meet the second cross over. Twist the wires together with needle nose pliers (figure L). Cut off excess wire with the wire cutters. Wires can be left out or bent over and tucked in. Tip: If wires are left out, put a drop of the instant glue on the ends and let them dry to make protective spheres. Wait until the entire piece has been assembled before doing this step.

Figure M

10. String one of the 18-gauge pieces of wire through the hole in one of the smaller legs until the leg reaches midpoint of the wire. Wrap one side of the wire snuggly around the leg; going under the wire that comes out the opposite side. Twist the wire ends together a few times with the pliers and run the two ends through separate holes at the front of the block toward the head. Twist the ends together where they come out the other side of the block. Run one end through the hole of the other small leg. Wrap the wire around the leg, going under the other wire and meeting back at the point where the other wire comes out of the leg. Twist the two ends together and cut off the excess. Treat wires the same way that you treat the wires that attach the head. Repeat the process with the back legs (figure M).

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