Start With the Elementals


I am tempted to gush about my amazing experiences with the Night Carnival and the Kenosha Art Market last weekend, but it was all so overwhelming, and I have a lot to say. I think that I'll give myself a little more time to digest it before putting it into words here.

That said, after a couple of days of rest, I deemed it time to get back to work. My Mythos Collection went over so well that I feel confident in moving forward with a small series of Elementals that I've been brewing in my head. All of the elemental figures in this group of sculpts will be feminine figures in motion. I'm envisioning dancing and reaching as it relates to water, air, fire, and earth.

For a couple of reasons, I wanted to begin with water. First, my sketch for her is essentially a mermaid, and that will probably be appealing to a lot of people. Second, I connect strongly with water — in particular, Lake Michigan — and therefore feel confident about it. Finally, the organic lines and swirls of Water made it easy to fit her into the general shape that I want the pendants to be.

I'm afraid that I'm doing another not-quite-a-tutorial tutorial on this one. At some point soon, I guess I'll need to do a highly detailed write-up on this process. For now, I'll just try to walk you through some photos that I took along the way.


Simple Sketch and Outline

Make a drawing of your basic design. Remember that it will be flipped, so be sure to face it the wrong way while doing it (or, if you forget, you'll need to use extra steps to get the inverse later) and darken the main lines. Once you've conditioned and flattened clay to the right size (and about half an inch thick) you'll flip your drawing onto the clay and press down on the paper to transfer the image. I use the end of my roller and rub in circular motions.


Cut Lines and Rough Out

Using a craft blade, cut your design to about half the depth of your clay. Start removing the excess from the negative spaces. It's ok if it looks rough at this point, but do watch out for small details. When in doubt, leave a little extra.


Start Detail Work

With smaller sculpting tools, start adding in details along the inner lines and rounding edges of the forms.


Smooth and Add Depth

It's time to begin smoothing out rough spots and defining the layers of relief. Here it helps to add in background details and to make sure to go a little deeper with them. Add definition to the face and other small details.


Add Final Details and Trim

After smoothing, you may want to add in some texture. I made a light fish scale texture on the lower body and added detail to the hair. I then trimmed the whole piece down to a more pleasing shape.





Prepare for a Mold

Condition more clay and roll it out to a little thicker than the baked piece. With chalk pastels, dust the baked piece throughly. (For extra ease of mold release, you can put more directly onto the raw clay.)


Make an Imprint

Press down firmly. Try not to wiggle it too much. Pull straight up. Check to ensure that it's a clean imprint and that it's deep enough. If you're satisfied with it, bake.


Make Copies

Once you've baked and cooled the mold, you can use more chalk pastels and clay to create copies of your original. I like to start with colors that evoke a copper patina, as I'll be adding copper tones on top.


Layer Mica Powders and Make a Hole

Brush on mica powders of your choice. If you're going to need a hole, make one at this point. Be sure not to make it too close to the edge. I also lift the pieces with a tissue blade and put mica powders on the sides and back.




If you notice anything you'd like to tweak about your design or any detail that you'd like to add back in, you can always use sculpting tools to refine the copies before you bake them. I intend to give some extra attention to the arms in this piece in future copies. Still, you have a finished product ready for the oven in, say, 20-ish minutes, rather than in hours. It's a satisfying process.


Looking forward to the other elements!