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How to Sculpt a Polymer Clay Poet

Make intricate shapes and miniatures with clay to create "The Poet."

William Ehrlich tried his hand at painting and drawing in his younger years, but he found that creating three-dimensional art rather than two-dimensional art was much easier for him. Although he modeled clay as a boy, it wasn't until his adult years that a friend introduced him to polymer clay, and when he started making gifts with it, they were a big hit.

Materials and Tools:

polymer clay: black, white, red, beige, gold, silver, blue and brown
cutting board/work surface/worktable
pasta machine
clay-cutting blade
floral wire
small cookie cutter
pin or needle
adhesive tape
toaster oven with flat baking sheet
tube of white glue

Figure A

Steps:

1. Soften 1/4 block of brown clay in your hands by rolling and folding. Form a cane and place it in a clay-dedicated pasta machine set on No. 7. Process the clay, and then place it on a work surface.

2. Run 1/4 the amount of beige clay through the pasta machine, using setting No. 5.

3. Place the brown and beige clay sheets on top of each other and trim the edges to form a uniform sheet.

4. Cut the sheet into two pieces, and then place one on top of the other piece.

5. Fold this new set of sheets over three times. The result should resemble wood grain.

Figure D

6. Cut the sheet into seven long planks. Cut again into 14 planks.

7. Cut an extra plank for the middle of the stage.

8. Place seven planks on both sides of the middle plank to form the stage.

9. Process additional brown clay as in step No. 1. Set the stage on the sheet of brown clay. Trim around the stage with a razor blade.

10. Roll scraps of clay in your hands to form a thin round noodle shape. Make it long enough to reach all the way around the stage base. Secure to the base by hand.

11. Cut a small amount of silver clay with a razor blade and roll into very small clay balls to simulate nail heads. Place two nail heads, a little apart from each other, on the end of each plank. Repeat for the middle plank, matching up the nails to middle. The stage measures approximately 2-1/2" x 3-1/2".

Figure E

Pedestal Tabletop

1. Cut out a 1-inch circular table with a cookie cutter out of leftover "plank" clay.

2. Cut a 1-1/2-inch piece of floral wire. Roll the wire up in more "plank" clay to create the table pedestal. Roll a piece of brown clay into a snake and wrap it around the middle of the pedestal.

3. Run gold clay through the pasta machine and cut the base of the table with the cookie cutter.

4. Roll a small piece of black clay into a snake long enough to surround the base. Cut a small amount of brown clay into two pieces with a razor blade and make an X. Place the X over the gold and black base. Insert the pedestal bottom into the X base.

5. Make a coffee cup, using a little beige and 1/3 more of white clay. Mix by hand until the color is blended. Use a pasta machine set on No. 7 to process this clay. Mix a piece of brown clay and with very small amount of beige clay to make the coffee. Wrap the flattened off-white clay around the coffee to form the cup.

6. Cut a "brim" with a razor. Try to form the bottom with a pronounced taper to simulate a real cup.

7. Form the cup handle from a small piece of off-white scrap clay. Hand attach it to the side of the cup. Place a small piece of rolled and flattened off-white clay on the table top, just to the left of dead center for the proper effect of a cup saucer. Now cut the bottom of the cup and place it on the saucer centered with handle facing toward the poet.

8. Place the tabletop and cup on top of the pedestal. Place the table onto the stage, allowing space for the poet's stool and microphone stand.

Figure F

Microphone Stand

1. Roll black clay into a small ball. Flatten the ball, and place it on the stage close to location of the stool.

2. Cut a 1-3/4-inch piece of floral wire and cover the wire with a thin layer of silver clay for the microphone stand.

3. Mix a small amount of white clay with a small amount of silver clay. Mix to blend then wrap it around the upper third of the microphone stand. With a razor, cut the top and bottom to make the stand adjustor. Smooth the surface by gently rolling it on a flat clean work surface.

4. Form a Y-shape with black clay and place it on top of the stand.

5. Roll white clay into a ball to form a microphone. Set it down on the work surface. Roll silver clay to form the handhold portion. Form the tail end of the microphone with black clay. Put the white ball on top of silver clay and add the black portion. Cut a little piece of gold clay with a razor to form a small rectangle and a dot of black clay for the on/off switch. Using a pin or needle, poke small holes in the microphone's white ball portion to make it resemble a screen on top of the microphone. Place the microphone on top of the stand; place it on top of the black base on the stage. Point the microphone toward the poet.

Figure G

Bar Stool

1. Cut floral wire into a 2-1/2 inch support for the poet and stool. Cut a 1-inch piece of floral wire to make the support for the stool backrest. Cover the back support wire in a medium layer of gold clay to support the weight of the backrest.

2. Roll 1/4 block of brown clay in your hands to soften. Using a razor, cut a large piece of the warmed clay and roll it into a ball. On the work surface, roll the ball into a 1-inch round chocolate kiss form for the stool base.

3. Roll a piece of left over warm clay into a medium C-shape. Set this aside for later use.

4. Use brown clay to make the seat 1" x 1" x 1/4" thick. Shape another piece of brown clay to form a stool back 1" x 1/2" x 1/4" thick. Make a gold clay snake and wrap it around the base of the stool.

5. Use a small amount of gold clay to make a snake for the detail on the brown C-shape. Roll a gold snake and wrap it around the lower third of the 2-1/2 inch support wire. It should resemble a coiled spring.

6. Push the wire with the "gold spring" side down into the chocolate kiss shape. Attach the C-piece to the top portion of the chocolate kiss just before the gold spring.

7. Line up the support wire to go through the bottom of and the center of the stool seat. There should be wire sticking straight up through the stool seat now. Attach the 1-inch gold covered seat back support toward the back of the stool seat. Push the seat back onto the top of the gold seat support. Place the stool on the stage facing the microphone.

Figure H

Legs/Pants/Shoes

1. Hand-soften 1/4 block of black clay. Make a tapering rectangle with the smaller end toward you and use a razor blade to cut the rectangle almost in half. Round both to form legs.

2. Define the shoes with a combination of a pin and a razor blade. Define the hips and waistline and cut the top off to define the top of the pants.

Figure J

Shirt/Arms/Book

1. Process 1/4 block each of white clay and black clay through the pasta machine. Trim the black and white clay with the razor blade to make them uniform in size. Cut the sheets in half. Lay one on the other and cut the clay in half again.

2. The clay should look like stripes on the sides. Cut a long stripe to reveal the pattern. Then cut it in three pieces, one large piece and two equal sized smaller pieces.

Figure N

3. Cut a 3-inch piece of floral wire and cover it in beige clay. Keep the wire straight. Form the arms and hands with your hands and cut the excess clay off.

4. Make fingers by using the razor blade and add detail with a pin or needle. On the poet's left hand, curl the fingers over to form a fist, and then lay the thumb over the top to look natural.

5. Cut a large piece of the black and white clay in half so that the pattern remains intact on either side.

6. Place the beige arms in the top middle of the two black and white halves and press the two halves together around the arms.

7. Wrap the sleeves where the shoulders would come out of the shirt. Make sure the seams are under the arms. Hand-form the details on the upper body, giving the appearance of normal musculature.

8. Roll white clay into a snake for piping for the sleeve cuffs; bottom of the shirt and for the collar.

9. Make the watch using a very small amount of brown clay, roll it into a short thin snake and wrap it around the wrist.

10. For the watch face, place a small dot of silver clay on the brown clay wristband. Use a very, very tiny sliver of black clay, hand roll it into a very tiny snake and put it on the watch face on the wrist.

11. Form the right hand open to hold the book.

Figure O

12. To make the book, roll some gold clay into a ball, and then process through the pasta machine.

13. Cut a 1-inch rectangle; press a crease in the middle to shape the bookbinding. Process the white clay through the pasta machine on setting No. 5. Cut the sheet into three 1/2-inch pages. Lay the sheets into the book, center so the pages resemble an open book. With the blunt side of the razor blade, push the middle of the pages into the binding. Scratch word lines into the pages with the sharp side of the razor blade. Do not place book into poet's hand yet.

Figure P

Scarf/Face/Hair

1. For the scarf roll a small piece of red clay in your fingers and arrange it around the collar.

2. Roll beige clay into a ball, then into a balloon shape. Form the neck from the narrow part of the balloon. Make the chin form a V. Roll a small scrap of beige clay into a teardrop shape for the nose. Make ears from beige clay. Place them on either side of the balloon head. Poke two holes where the eyes should go with a pin and form a hole in the shape of a teardrop, but formed sideways with the tops facing the ears.

3. To form the eyes, roll white clay into a ball and cut the ball in half with the razor. Roll the halves into two small, even-sized balls. With the pin or needle poke the ball in the center and insert the balls in the holes. Roll tiny bits of blue clay into two very small balls. With a pin place them in the center of each white eyeball. Roll a tiny bit of black clay into a ball, cut it in half with a razor and roll it into two balls. With your finger, lightly press the black dots into each eyeball center.

Figure Q

4. Condition brown clay in the pasta machine on setting No. 3. Cut the sheet into thin strips with a razo. Hand roll the strips into very thin strands and arrange around the head for hair. Trim. Make a C-shape with a strand of brown clay to form a mustache. Form a goatee with another scrap of brown clay. Place them on the face. Make lines in them with a pin to depict the strands of hair. Form eyebrows with small pieces of brown clay.

Figure R

Beret

1. Roll a ball of black clay and flatten it, arrange it on the poet's head, add a small black clay ball on top and partially flatten it to create the beret.

Prepping to Bake

1. Check to make sure that the book fits in to poet's hand, but do not attach it yet. Attach the poet's head to his body.

2. Seat the poet onto the stool guiding the support wire through the body — being sure not to have it poke out through the sides. Bend the left arm in toward the chest to show his passion of the reading. Have the right hand and arm out in front to show him reading from the book. The book will be baked separately.

3. Preheat a conventional oven to 270 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Place the stage, with the microphone stand, coffee cup, pedestal table and poet with the stool on a baking sheet.

5. Place the book, pages side down, on a baking sheet as well, but far enough away from stage as to not stick while curing.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, checking, and turn the polymer clay sculpture piece every five minutes, to ensure though curing.

7. Let the polymer clay "The Poet" sculpture cool on sheet on compatible surface to dissipate heat.

8. When cool, use a little white glue on the book and attach it to the hand. Use a little adhesive tape to hold the book in place. Let it set for at least an hour. Pull the tape off.

Web site: www.bloomingclay.com

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