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Polymer clay sheep tutorial

Are you ready to make your first sheep from polymer clay? I know I am. Rather, I've just finished it and, as promised, took lots of pictures at every step.

What you will need:

  1.  polymer clay
  2.  aluminium (cooking) foil (optional)
  3.  coffee (next time, don't throw away those old beans)
  4.  metallic wires (you can try with toothpicks but then the shapes of hands/legs will be more angular)
  5. polymer clay glue (highly desirable, probably replaceable with a white non-toxic glue)
  6.  wiggly eyes (optional)

I've used pasta machine to mix clay of different colors and to roll thin sheets of clay, but it is not absolutely necessary for sculpting this figurine, you can do without it.

1. Condition your clay condition clay

Incidently, I decided to use some old pieces of clay on the inside so I stuk multiple pieces together and started working the clay with my hands. But since it was too cold, I thought I'll take advantage of the heating system in my room: I put the piece in the baggie and pressed it against the heated elements several times. It can help speed up the process but don't overdue it or it will get half-cooked ;)

To get the brown color of clay I took and mixed together green and red ones, you can simply take any other color you like, but in case you're curious (and if not - I'm showing you anyway because I've already made the pictures) - this is how running a mix of colors through pasta machine will help you achieve a flawless blend much faster:

mixing colors clay

2. Making a torso and a head

We should now have enough clay for belly and head. I've rolled a ball of foil to stuff the belly simply to save clay: no need to waste perfecty good clay material where it won't be seen, right? So, in this case I've used the ball inside, covered it with a layer of an old mix of clay and finally, covered the whole thing with a thin layer of good, brown clay, then -  coffee beans. Observe:

step 1

Again, you can simply make both torso and head from one good piece of clay if you have one.

Then, with tools like those shown on the picture above, shape the nostrals (I used color shapers) and cut and shape the mouth (scalpel + color shaper). You can try plastic shapers as well.

Roll a thin cane and cut it in the middle: you now have 2 horns. Curl each one and attach on the head.

2. Making hands and hooves, legs

My choice fell on black colored clay this time. For the hoves, I decided to include little pieces of dark-brown clay on one side. Let's look at pur progress:

step making hands diy

Now, for the long curvy hands, able to withstand some pressure, we'll need 'a skeleton' of sorts: wires. Since mine were way too soft I used two for each hand like so:

next step

Try not to allow too much air around the wire, make the polymer clay wrap it tightly, continue working on each arm until you feel it's a more or less a monolythic piece. It has never happenned to me, but they do say polymer clay can crack if it contains air bubbles. But then, I would obsess about it wither because ... well... so far so good. My creations have been falling from furniture a few times and nothing cracked yet.

Legs were made in the similar fashion, only I made them somewhat thicker. Remember to leave a small piece of wire sticking out - it will go inside the torso. 

3. Gluing coffee onto the torso

I used Sculpey's Bake and Bond, it's handy and does its job. I'm speculating that the white non-toxic glue might be used as well, haven't tried it. Put a little bit of glue on the surface and attach coffee beans, leaving only neck area uncovered (~ 1cm). You will have spaces between the beans anyway, some of them you will use for sticking hands and legs into.

next step tutorial

4. Attaching head and extremities

When fixing extremities and head on the torso, add some glue on the edgees of wires. In this particular case our design permits us to also use pieces of clay to additionally cover the joins: it will help further secure them in place. See this illustration:

leg attached

Careful not to make too big a hole while puching the wire inside the torso, go slowly and don't forget that glue on the wire and a tiny bit on the surface. Before sticking it in, try placing it over, see how it looks, if it will support the figure in the position or will it fall over. If you're unsure, go with a simpler pose like sitting with legs apart.

That black piece on the eyes spot that looks like sunglasses? :D That's just something I thought would make eyes pop out more, so to say. We'll glue the wiggly eyes there after baking. But if you don't have those, make the eyes from clay: 2 little white balls, press them into disks, make even smaller dark balls as pupils. In this case, place the eyes on the figurine before baking.

4. Baking the figurine

"Come on baby, light my fire!" ;)

sheep tanning lol

Always follow safety measures: no baking in the oven you're going to use for cooking, no sitting in the poorly ventilated room beside the oven and breathing. You can either sit there or breathe while baking, choose one ;) What I usually do is start the oven, open windows and leave the room until it is done baking+an extra few minutes. I do however go in to flip the figurines as my oven doesn't have air convection and also because some parts of sculptures always end up closer to the heating element than others and may burn while others get less heat. But that's my cheap oven, who knows...

One little trick you might try if you absolutely have to use your regular kitchen oven is to put your creation inside some pot (in which case it becomes forever your crafting pot only) and perhaps even wrap a cooking foil around it. This should prevent most fumes from lleaving the pot and sticking to your oven. In this case you shouldn't need to flip your thing because in bigger ovens the heat is usually evenly spread.

The thing will be very hot right after it's cooked, hotter than your regular cake so just open the pot and let the thing cool down for 3-5 minutes  before taking it out.

5. Glue the wiggly eyes

And... here's our somewhat camera-shy but definitely a rising star photo model the sheep:

sheep figurine sculpture

Is this sheep cool or what?

If you've enjoyed this monstrously wordy tutorial, please share it so others can suffer as well! Thanks!


Questions, comments, suggestions?