Tag Archives: sculpting

Make a Unicorn with the 4Cats Arts Studio

One of the booths that really drew our attention at the Vancouver Christmas Market was run by the local 4Cats Arts Studio. With multiple locations in the Vancouver area, 4Cats offers painting, polymer sculpting and oven-baked clay workshops for adults, children and families. Their booth at the market offered a wide array of polymer characters you can sculpt yourself, with enough clay inside to make them and detailed instructions.

We bought our daughter a kit for Christmas so she could make her own unicorn. Her artistic inclinations come from her father and since we knew she’d want to preserve her sculpt forever, we also got her the glass dome sold separately. We paid $14.99 Canadian for the kit and the additional dome brought the price up to about $20.

As soon as she opened her Christmas present she wanted to make it, but I managed to put her off for a few days because I knew this build would be a bit of a time commitment. From start to finish, we were ready to bake our unicorn after two hours of work. While the instructions were as detailed as promised, our version didn’t quite look like the box:

Muppet head.

This was mostly our fault, but the instructions on building the head didn’t quite match up with the picture, and the booklet encouraged us to blend in the legs when we might have been better off showing more separation.

The baking instructions were in Celsius but after converting that to Fahrenheit, we baked our figure at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours. To my relief, the horn didn’t fall off.

Unfortunately, we planned badly and the unicorn didn’t fit inside the display dome. The box came with plenty of extra clay, however, so my daughter got creative and made a cat.

One of the ears didn’t make it. He seems a little put out about it.

My daughter didn’t end up with perfect creations her first time out, but she learned a lot about using and blending polymer clay. She’s already asking for more colors and can’t wait to try again.

4Cats no longer offers these kits on their website, but they are offering a long list of upcoming workshops where you can make a similar item in-person. Perhaps they’ll make another appearance at next year’s Christmas market so we can try a different animal.

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter

How to Make a Macadamian Squirrel

If you are reading this on Facebook, you won’t see the pictures. My personal blog is at http://www.askmaridee.com/blog/.

So not too long ago I got the urge to get back into sculpting for real this time. I didn’t give it up in 2003 because I wasn’t serious about it, I gave it up out of frustration. Everything I made would fall apart and I didn’t know why. But the internet was a different place in 2003, and since then, many sculptors have made their way onto the web and willingly shared the secrets of successful pieces. By successful I mean pieces that don’t crack, crumble, shift, slide, flake or burn. Yes I said burn. I found their tutorials and here is the story of how I got back on my feet.

The Beginning

You have to start with a concept. I made a decision when I began sculpting that I didn’t want to make my own concepts. There are a lot of people who can make better cartoon characters than I can. I also decided early that I would focus on cartoon characters. There are a lot of guys out there making monsters and dragons and I don’t need to join them. Scott felt like a Macadamian Squirrel was a good place to start and drew me some turnarounds.

Armature

Armatures are the skeleton of any polimer clay sculpt. My previous armature experiments had been needlessly thick at the joints. A wire cutter and a tweezing tool took care of that. The joints are sealed together with a liquid epoxy that comes out of two tubes and mixes. Discarded to the side you can see an earlier attempt with way-too-thick joints.

Even more sturdiness is obtained with Plumbers Putty. NOT the kind that comes in a tub. That kind never hardens. The kind that comes in a tube. They sell it at ACE Hardware. Going into a hardware store and asking for Plumbers Putty and wire cutters made me feel kind of badass.

Sculpting

Adding the Super Sculpey is initially an additive process. Unlike some of my tutors, there didn’t seem to be a lot of point in adding the clay to simulate sinew and muscle. What I’m making has no connection with reality. I added in a shape that seemed squirrely.

Once I add enough of an initial layer the process is subtractive, using a bunch of tools specific to sculpting. I like a flat wooden stick and a tool I have with a metal hook for scraping away excess.

Some pieces, such as the hat and the tail, needed more added towards the end. When I was satisfied with the shape, special parts like ears, eyes and the nose were applied on top using tiny screws as armatures.

Completion

The final product before baking:

Baking

Sculpey bakes at 200 degrees and a small piece needs about an hour in the oven. Don’t follow the instructions on the box. I used to burn a lot of pieces that way.

Sculpey also bakes a darker color than it begins at and that clues you in that it’s done. I let it cool with the oven turned off and the door cracked open.

Next Post: Pictures of the baked piece and painting!

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter

Project Flamingo

What mends a broken heart? Probably not what I spent today doing, but I wanted to get this project finished. Every year my company holds a massive Halloween extravaganza that nearly everyone participates in. Last year, the IT department put up curtains and blacked out half of a wing into a dark house. They covered cubicles, filled it with black lights and brought to life the Nightmare Before Christmas. This year my department was going to host a Disney parade and I was going to be Alice. In honor of the occasion, I did something I’ve always wanted to do and bought the most authentic dress money could buy from a Japanese cosplay supplier. But I wanted to go one step beyond, and to do that I needed a flamingo. Then we had layoffs right before the big party. No longer having any stomach for the event, I am bowing out that day and staying on vacation. However, I still have the dress, and I was halfway through the flamingo. I’ve got a couple of places planned to use it instead and they’re going to be a lot more fun than being at the office holding a paper flamingo.
The flamingo understructure The flamingo understructure

I started with styrofoam attached to floral arrangement wires. I choose the kind of hard foam florists use and did some carving to make the top and lower half of the beak.

Plaster wrapped second layer Plaster wrapped second layer

With the pieces attached to each other with stakes underneath, I covered the neck in molding wire, and then wrapped the whole thing with plaster wrap.

Neck attached to the body and painted Neck attached to the body and painted

I blew up a balloon for the body and formed the wings out of molding wire. I plaster wrapped the body by itself, and then plaster wrapped the neck attachment. That took several layers to strengthen the neck enough to support the head without detaching from the body.

Added paint detailing Added paint detailing

Final touches: the paint job and some added feathers. I admit, it doesn’t look incredible in the daylight. Plaster wrap makes a rough surface that sanding didn’t really solve for. But it’s going to look spiffy in the dark.

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter