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Topic: Sign with Polymer Clay Bears - Tutorial with Oodles of Pics  (Read 6565 times)
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Artisan82
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« on: December 31, 2009 10:45:52 PM »

My parents just built a new house.  My dad wants to build a bar in his basement rec-room and call it the "Bear-Foot Bar".  For Christmas, I made him this sign out of some wood I pulled out of the lake and super sculpey.  I'm not sure what posessed me to take so many progress pics... but here's my first really detailed, long-winded tutorial on how I made these bears:



Choose a piece of wood for your sign as I mentioned, I used a piece of inch-thick old wood I found in the lake.

Cut a semi-circle of inch-thick wood as the base of the bear.  I traced a CD, cut out the entire circle with a scroll saw, and then used a miter saw to cut the circle in half.  (Actually, I used a little less than half of a circle for each bear to get the look I wanted.)



Cover the up-side of the base with polymer clay.  My sign will hang on a wall, so I only covered the parts that would show.



If youre patient enough, its good to leave the project for an hour or two at this point.  Because youve softened the clay when spreading it on the wood, it is sensitive to stretching.  Walking away from the project base to give the clay some time to cool off makes it easier to build upon.

Start adding detail to the bear by making the back leg.  Make a big sausage for the hind half of the bear (left).  This sausage will be the bum and the leg of the bear.  Smooth the sausage into the base of the sculpture (right).
 


Make another, longer sausage for the shoulder and front leg of the bear (left).  Smooth the sausage around onto the side of the base (right).  This provides some continuity and a look of strength to the bears shoulders.  Smooth the piece into the base of the bear maintaining the definition of the shoulder (see later pictures).



Ive added a can to my bears hand here (see bottom of post for what that's all about). Roll a ball of clay for the bears head (left).  Push your thumbs into the ball (right).



Pinch in the sides of the head to narrow the forehead (left).  Use your fingers to smooth and round the head.  Round out the snout and smooth down the forehead



Using the side of a sculpting tool or a wooden skewer, press channels into the clay under the snout (left).  Use your fingers to define the underside of the snout and the cheekbones (right).



Use a sculpting tool or a knife, press the outline of the nose into the clay (left).  The nose should be rather large, a third of the snout should be nose.  Use a sculpting tool or toothpick to smooth out the lines into a more organic looking nose (right).



Heres a large picture of the head after smoothing.



Push down a depression in the shoulder for the head to fit (left).  Place the head in the depression, and gently smooth down the joint (right).



Use small bits of clay to add brows and ears to the head (left). Smooth the additions into the head (right).



Add eyes to the bear.  I used 4.5 mm doll-maker eyes.  Although these cant be baked, it is helpful to position the eyes at this point, as the character of your bear is starting to come forth (left).  Using a needle sculpting tool (or a pin, needle, toothpick), score short fur lines into the body of the bear (right).



Leave most of the face (except eyebrows) and paws without scoring.



The last step before baking is to smooth out the score marks and remove the crumbs of clay.  Use a q-tip soaked in nail-polish remover to gently smooth out the lines (left). The nail-polish remover must contain acetone for this to work.  Make sure not to soak the piece.  Remove the plastic eyes before baking.
Bake the bear together with the board at 275F for 20 minutes. If you are using pine, some sap may leach out the board when it is heated.  I recommend using a scrap piece of wood in this case.  After baking, leave the piece to cool completely.  Using a boring tool, clean out the eye holes, as they may have collapsed during baking.



Here are the two baked bears that I made, dry-fit to the sign before painting.  The eyes are just put in place to test the fit.  Remove before painting.



The bear is painted using a dry-brush technique.  Black, dark brown, and light brown paint are required.  Use a mix of the dark and light browns to make an intermediate brown.
First, paint the entire bear black and let dry.  Make sure that all creases are covered with the black paint (left most bear).  Using the darkest brown, load the paint brush, and then remove most of the paint by dabbing on a paper towel.  Dry-brush the dark brown onto the bear using short firm strokes, building up the colour slowly (second from left).  Dry-brush the intermediate brown in the same manner, using slightly lighter strokes, some black and dark-brown should be left showing (right most bear). Finally, using the lightest brown, dry-brush highlights on  the highest parts of the sculpture with light, short brush strokes (second from right).  The dry brush technique give lots of depth and complexity to the colour of your final sculpture.  Using a wet brush, paint the nose black.



Spray the entire sign with several coats of clear-coat varnish.  Glue the eyes into place with super-glue or your favourite alternative.  Use the glue gun liberally to stick the bears to the wood.  I finished the back of the sign with black felt to provide a nice clean finish, and to prevent the sign from scratching the wall. 



Side Tutorial:
I wanted my bear to be holding a bear can.  I thought it would be cool to duplicate a real beer can

First, make an empty beer can.  Do this by purchasing a full beer can, then drink the contents (ha ha).  After rinsing the can with water, use tin snips to carefully cut the top and bottom off the can so youre left with a tube.  Make a vertical cut down the tube and flatten the can.  Put the flattened can on your scanner, and scan it in colour.
Shrink the scanned image.  (I knew I wanted the can to be 3 cm high. I inserted the picture into MS Word, and formatted the picture such that the vertical dimension was 3 cm high.)
Print out your smaller label and cut out.
Roll a big fat sausage of polymer clay.  Roll the sausage just thin enough that the label will just fit around it.  Cut a section of the sausage equal to the height of the label and smooth the cut ends.  Make a dimple in the clay for the can opening. Sculpt a tiny pop-tab, stick it to the top of the can, and then bake.




That's the end! I hope somebody find this useful.  My dad loved his Christmas gift. Cheesy


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Melvinator
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2009 10:53:12 PM »

I love the rustic look this has! Great job on the bears and great job on cleverly duplicating a beer can Cheesy
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craftewoman
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2009 11:14:03 PM »

I wasn't expecting the tutorial which is great BTW. The sign is adorable, and well suited for the receiver. Great job as usual!
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Indiana
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2010 02:45:09 AM »

This absolutely rocks! I just got some Sculpey for Christmas and can't wait to try this out. Thanks so much for the tutorial. You've done a fantastic job (on the tute and most certainly the bear).

Happy New Year!  Smiley
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teachingjonah
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2010 05:52:52 AM »

I love the sign and you did a great job on the bears and the tutorial. 
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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2010 10:04:33 AM »

Really excellent tutorial! (there are seldom ever too many pics for tutorials on sculpting!)... and loads of creativity.  Will definitely add a link to it at my site, once I have access to it again Cry anyway.  Your dad must have been totally beside himself when he saw his gift!

I noticed that the thick hemispherical disk you covered with polymer clay was bare wood, or at least it looked like that in the pic.  If you cover wood again sometime, you might want to paint the wood first if it's bare wood with a permanent white glue (like Elmers GlueAll, Sobo, etc), then let it dry a bit to tack up before adding the clay since that will make the clay grab securely onto the wood even when the wood is porous/bare (a coat of water-based finish like polyurethane or acrylic paint will do the same thing).  Any of those things will also seal bare wood in case there's any tiny bit of moisture remaining in it which would otherwise cause steam bubbles to swell and get trapped under the clay covering during curing (that's not as much a problem for this though because the whole piece wasn't covered with clay).
I assume the glue gun glue will hold well enough since there won't be much stress on the bears but it doesn't have as much "sideways" strength as something like a 2-part epoxy glue or even a silicone type glue like E-6000, so those would be other possibilities. 

There's a neat tool too that some clayers use for making fur which is made from multiple pieces of wire or pins, etc, in a handle that you might find helpful for some kinds of fur... there should be a pic or a description on the Sculpting-Bodies/Tools page of my site for various ones, under the Fur category, if you want to check them out:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm
There are ways for making your own eyes on that page as well (simple to highly-realistic) from polymer clay if you haven't done that yet and want to, under Eyes > Clay Eyes (often pre-baked then put into raw-clay faces).

You mentioned using SuperSculpey as the line of polymer clay you used, but in the pic it looks darker than flesh-colored SS unless it was just low lighting.  Did you perhaps use the gray-colored (and much stronger) SuperSculpey-Firm instead?   And if so, where did you locate it?

(Feel free to post many more tutorials! Grin)

Diane B.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2010 10:11:49 AM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

POLYMER CLAY "ENCYCLOPEDIA" 
http://glassattic.com/polymer/contents.htm
few of my photos
http://s96.photobucket.com/albums/l163/DianeBB
(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
Artisan82
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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2010 07:52:21 PM »

Thanks Diane B.  for all your tips!  Polymer clay is such a versatile medium, there's so much to learn.  I'll definately be bookmarking Glass Attic.  I haven't tried either of the glues you mentioned, and I've heard the E-6000 recommended on other boards too.  I've never thought of making my own tools with polymer clay handles (duh!)  next time I'll try the pin fur tool thing.  I don't actually use polymer clay all that often - usually its just to make teeth and eyeballs for my papier mache creatures.  I do about one or two serious polymer clay projects a year... the bears were definately the biggest project in a while.  The one thing that bothers me about a lot of tutorials out there is that you require expensive, specialized tools - like pasta machines, molds, cutters, wheels, etc.  For someone like me, investing in all these tools doesn't make sense - but I still want to make some awesome stuff with PClay, so I try to figure out my own way to do things.

You're right - the Sculpey I used was grey.  It must be the SS Firm.  I buy it at a tiny little independently-owned art supply shop in the village of Lakefield, Ontario, Canada... no help, I'm sure, if you're looking for a supplier.  Undecided
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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2010 10:24:01 AM »

Quote
The one thing that bothers me about a lot of tutorials out there is that you require expensive, specialized tools - like pasta machines, molds, cutters, wheels, etc.  For someone like me, investing in all these tools doesn't make sense - but I still want to make some awesome stuff with PClay, so I try to figure out my own way to do things.

Totally agreed, but that's one super-great thing about polymer clay.  It really needs almost no specialized materials that can't be found around the house or made from clay.  The major exception would be a pasta machine (and perhaps a long/flexible blade), but the pasta machine just for convenience and time-saving for making sheets, mixing colors, conditioning, etc., since the same things can be done without one (see the category on my Pasta Machines page called No Pasta Machine?...Other Ways, if you're interested in details).  

Molds and texture sheets/stamps can easily be made from polymer clay (and are totally addictive btw... I have 100's  Shocked), and many other tools can be made from things around the house too.  Cutters can also be found in the kitchen as well as purchased (or made from tin strips, etc., and from items around the house), and there are other ways of cutting things out too (dragging tip of pin or blade, etc, stencils, bent long blades, etc).  Not sure what you mean by "wheels" but if you're referring to electric-buffing the clay, you do need some kind of soft buffing wheel if you want to sand/buff to a high gloss (though you can even make fluffy wheels yourself if you have a rotary tool to put them in... just hand-buffing works for a nice sheen though, and a higher sheen can be created in a clothes dryer Grin...some clayers just use clear water-based finishes for gloss too). Things like metallic powders and leaf are usually purchased (but go a lo-ong way), and things like old eye shadows and various chalks, etc., can be used too.  Many people already have some acrylic paint around, and brown is the most commonly used by clayers (for antiquing) except by those who actually paint over the clay.  Etc, etc, etc... there are loads of suggestions for things like that from other clayers and me on every page of my site.  

Quote
You're right - the Sculpey I used was grey.  It must be the SS Firm.  I buy it at a tiny little independently-owned art supply shop in the village of Lakefield, Ontario, Canada... no help, I'm sure, if you're looking for a supplier.

Oh well, thanks for telling me anyway.  When SS-Firm first came out I was happy for sculptors who like to paint over their polymer clay, but it didn't seem to actually be available anywhere locally that I looked (although I thought I'd seen it right at the beginning at Michaels).  It's online though at polymerclayexpress, clayalley, and various art supply sites, etc.  Would like to give visitors to my Supply Sources page good info on where they can buy it easily & quickly if they want to though.  Cry


Diane B.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2010 10:28:05 AM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

POLYMER CLAY "ENCYCLOPEDIA" 
http://glassattic.com/polymer/contents.htm
few of my photos
http://s96.photobucket.com/albums/l163/DianeBB
(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2010 12:08:14 PM »

That is one fantastic bar sign, I love your bears Smiley  you have a lot of talent!
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2010 08:55:08 PM »

Your bears are so cute. I love them.
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