Sunday, January 29, 2012

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Penis Bone?

Oh, if I had a nickle...

So the story goes that I bought a bunch of raccoon penis bones for stocking stuffers this Christmas (they're good luck charms!), but apparently my enthusiasm surrounding this unique find was outweighed by the actual humans that would appreciate such a gift. So for over a month I've had one last, lonely bone staring longingly at me, dreaming of a purpose. Little chance that the penis bone dreamed of the following scenario...

Is That a Worm in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

- One raccoon penis bone (OMG! Black Mountain Haversack is the best on-line store EVERRRRR! Super awesome customer service and lightening fast shipping!)
- Small amount of mixed Apoxie Sculpt or other epoxy clay of your choice.
- Cup of water and small paint brush for smoothing purposes
- Something sharp to make lines in the clay, like an X-ACTO knife
- A toothpick
- Acrylic paints and painting supplies
- Colored pencils 
- Small scrap of fabric
- Tacky glue

Let's do this!:
1. Use the mixed epoxy clay to make a ball shape at the smaller, weirder-looking side of the bone. You will be using the end part for the nose of your worm, so leave a section exposed for this purpose.
2. Add a little extra clay to make a neck for your worm's head. Use a bit of water to smooth the clay so that there is a seamless transition from head to neck and from clay to bone.

3. Break the toothpick in two and stick each half into the top of the head to make antennae. Smooth clay around toothpick halves.
4. Add details to the face of the worm. I used the end of a paintbrush to make the indents for the eyes and for the space below the nose and an X-ACTO knife to add the mouth and other lines.

5. Wait for the clay to harden. You can start to paint the clay as soon as it's hard to the touch, but a 24 hour curing time is recommended before proceeding.
6. After the clay is ready, you can paint the worm head. I used a white primer coat first before using color. I added several coats of colored paint, but the amount of coats YOU will need depends on what kind of paint you are using. Acrylic craft paint is not as pigment rich as art store paint, so if you are using the cheaper stuff from the craft store, just be prepared for more layers.
7. When your paint is dry, you can decide if you would like to stain your worm. I'm sort of stain crazy, so I did. Mix a tiny amount of black and brown paint, brush it on, and quickly wipe it off with a paper towel. If you get too much on, just add a bit of water to the paper towel and wipe more off. After all of your painting is complete, you can add more detail if you like with colored pencils.
8. Make a little hat for your worm by cutting a little half circle from fabric, wrapping it into a cone shape, and gluing the seam with tacky glue. Glue the finished hat onto the head of your worm and KABAAAM! You are finished!

Somewhere in between one of those steps above you're all like, "For what purpose are we doing this? Like seriously, what the eff!? This is pretty messed up!" Then I'm all like, "Tell me ONE friend of yours who has EVER received a worm made out of a penis bone as a gift?" Yeah, I thought so...

But seriously, what do we do with this when we're done? Good question. Gooood question...

Art! Yes, it is art! It is to look at and to make us ponder stuff. And there is even a precedent for art made with penis bones! Check THIS out!


OMG, these are gorgeous! Loooooove!

So next time you have a spare penis bone sitting around in your studio you can give it a new purpose by creating a unique and one-of-a-kind sculpture! And if you DO make one, PLEASE send me a photo and I'll post it!

Have a bonetastic day!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

YOU CAN SCULPT!: Mysteries of the Sculpting Mediums Revealed!

So, here it is! General info about every reasonable building material that I can think of that is NOT ceramic clay in one exhaustive post. Are there lots of others? Oh, indeed! Add a comment if you've worked with one that you'd like to recommend! At some point in another post I will cover various armature-making methods because I think that would be helpful for someone.

Here we go!

Note: I updated some bogus links on August 4, 2013. I'll try to remember to do this on occasion.

Polymer clay:
For polymer clay, there's really only one awesome option, Super Sculpey. There are other polymer clays, and Sculpey makes lots of different varieties as well (see below), but honestly, I just wouldn't touch 'em. I am completely partial, and I just think Super Sculpey is the best.

What I love: Unlimited working time. Sculpt a bit, grab a drink, sculpt a bit, go out to eat, come back, tinker with it, etc., etc. The only thing that I should point out, if you are working with Super Sculpey over a vinyl toy or a vinyl doll form or whathaveyou, you have about a two week working time before the clay becomes a bit crack-y. The clay's oils will over time start to "soak" into the substrate. Not sure why exactly and I don't want to risk sounding like a dork trying to make up something that sounds smart. Also, if you are going to commit to working with Super Sculpey, you'll need to get a Clay Conditioning Machine (a.k.a. a pasta roller thing) to condition your clay. A must.

What I hate: You have to REALLY watch what you use as an armature. Everything you sculpt upon has to be able to withstand a 275 degree oven. That means NO STYROFOAM! I've also used clay over dolls that sort of got a little melty in the oven and created a seam. After everything comes out and re-hardens, you can fix that stuff with some epoxy clay (see below) but it's usually a big pain in the ass. So yeah, the unpredictability factor is a big negative. And while polymer clay is pretty durable, you can't expect to sculpt long, thin pieces without an armature. It WILL most likely crack if you're an average klutz like me. It all boils down to what qualities in a sculpture medium are important to you. If you like an unlimited working time like me, then polymer clay is your only option.

Hey, Sharon... What about Sculpey Original, Sculpey III, Sculpey Premo, Fimo and that kind of polymer clay stuff? That stuff is great too, it's just a little harder to get squishy and workable. Totally cool though. I would HIGHLY recommend the clay roller (see above) if you are planning on working with these clays as they come in relatively hard blocks. ALSO, it's important to note that the pretty, bright colors can mix together to create yucky, muddy combos, AND there's a high likelihood that your colors can scorch in the oven if you're not vigilant. BUT, many people use this stuff to make pieces that are the total shit! Check out my friend Amy's stuff!

And click HERE to see a piece made using Super Sculpey polymer clay.

Air-dry clay:
Holy crap, I risk getting the majority of the art doll community's panties in a bunch for saying this, but I DON'T GET IT! I just find this material weird and wet. O.k., I have to insert that, like what you order at the bar, everyone has their preference. This stuff just isn't mine. BUT, well over 80% of the doll/figure making artists in the universe use air-dry clay, almost EXCLUSIVELY Creative Paperclay Modeling Material. And don't let the "Paperclay" name throw you off, this stuff's made with ash, talc, water, wood pulp, and preservative (I was super curious and had to look it up - it doesn't say on the package). Let me give you the pros and cons (with an obvious bias)...

The pros are that it sands better than any medium listed in this post AND you can sculpt over literally ANYTHING. Like there is absolutely no worry of a physical or chemical reaction to anything you wrap the material in. Also, it dries over several days, which to ME seems like a con, BUT this can be a bonus if you know how to use the medium and wish to use the varying levels of hardness to continue sculpting upon. That being said, it has great adhesion to itself, and there is virtually no weird, uneven warping. THAT being said, there IS a bit of cracking that usually happens throughout the drying process that needs to be addressed. Smaller cracks can be fixed with just a large gooping of gesso, but in the instructions (and this kills me) it says, "Fill any cracks or seams that develop in drying with a bit of fresh material." Like they KNOW their product will have fucked up results. I think that takes balls.

O.k., now the cons... It feels like very wet, moist Play-Doh, which you're all like, "That's a con?", but I find it TOO squishy. AND because I'm used to working with polymer clay, I HATE the feeling of the clock ticking as far as optimum workability. You HAVE to keep a spray bottle next to you as you work because this stuff starts to harden around the edges super quick. I personally find it hard to sculpt fine detail, and I feel like once you get something just right, all you need to do is breathe and you eff your shit up. Like it took me over 30 minutes to sculpt a pretty respectable ear, a frustrating task if you've ever sculpted one, then I turned the piece over to do something small on the back of the ear and BAM, the whole thing went sort of squishy. Grrr... I also hate waiting for it to dry. I also hate the feeling of the final product not feeling sturdy. Like it's super light. That weirds me out. BUT I for sure think you need to purchase a pack and try it for yourself. Tons of people use it and make amazing stuff!

For a link to one of my all-time favorite doll artists who uses Paperclay click HERE.

Two-part epoxy clay:
And even MORE bias... I LOVE this material! I use the brand Apoxie Sculpt. Again, I do NOT like the feeling of the clock ticking while I'm sculpting (there's about an hour window of optimum workability depending on how warm your studio is), but the tick-tock is outweighed by this product's awesomeness.

This stuff has better adhesion to vinyl toys and other items than polymer clay, and with a bit of water will feather edge wonderfully. After you mix the A and B together the material is quite sticky, but if you leave it sit for a few minutes you're golden. It works about the same as polymer clay and has about the same density. You DO need a cup of water nearby to help smooth out the cracks and whatnot. I like to dip a crappy paintbrush in water for smoothing purposes and to quasi sculpt with. I like the fact that even while it's in it's final hardening stage it can be slightly manipulated.

The only con with this stuff is it's difficult to find in a local retail situation (although in Columbus, Ohio you can get epoxy clay at Hobbyland in the Graceland Shopping Center) and clean up is tricky. You really don't want to get any down the drain and I've had product stuck to my fingernails days after using it.

Click HERE to see a customized toy where Apoxie Sculpt was used.

Papier mache clay:
This stuff is not an ideal sculpting medium, but it certainly has its place. I'm actually making a piece now using papier mache clay, and it's going well so far. Here's the deal... If you buy a pre-made pulp product, the sticky part is usually built in. If you make it from scratch (HERE's a great recipe link!), you have to add the adhesive yourself in perfect amounts or you are doomed. The whole medium is already a crap shoot, but if there's not enough binder/adhesive then you just have a wad of wet paper.

Papier mache clay added on top of a cardboard armature makes for interesting results. The piece will bend and warp creating an unintentional but often super unique/awesome final product. Using the product by itself as a sculpting clay is an iffy endeavor. I've historically experienced a lot of cracking and uneven shrinking paired with little opportunity for fine detail work. BUT, great things are indeed possible with papier mache clay! What brand? I prefer Amaco's Claycrete, but there are others which are equally adequate.

CLICK HERE to see a not-the-best photo of a piece I made using papier mache clay over cardboard.

Traditional Papier mache materials:
I'm a big fan of old-school sculpting methods, so this is one of my personal favorite ways to build. And CHEAP! Ripped up newspaper, paste, armature - BAM! What's the best paste to use? Personally, I prefer wall paper paste, specifically, Metylan Wallpaper Paste. It mixes up into a goo that looks EXACTLY like snot, and a tiny bit of powder makes tons of the stuff! If you cannot find Metylan products in your area, I'm sure other wallpaper pastes will be equally effective. I DO suggest finding one that comes in powder form so you can mix as much as you need for each project. Do I suggest balloons or some item that will shrink over time as armatures? No, I do not. Unless you want to spend hours upon hours building up a gajillion layers of papier mache so that there are no saggy or weird jumbly sections. I'm guessing you've got better things to do with your time.

Here's how I work with this whole deal. I dip my hands in the goo, spread it on the armature, then add a layer, spread more goo, etc., etc. It's super easy to wash off your hands and goes way quicker than any other papier mache method I've tried.

Click HERE to see a piece made using traditional papier mache methods.

Plaster cloth:
This is a cool material that works about the same way papier mache does. Strips are cut and layered, but this time with just warm water to moisten the strips. The warm water activates the plaster which takes just a short time to harden. Same thing about balloons, etc. DOUBLY applies for plaster cloth. For some reason, it seems to perform much better on a stiff armature. I've used it on balloons before and it DID work well, but I did a similar project with a group of folks once, and it was a disaster. The plaster was super floppy in many spots after the balloon collapsed.

Part of the success of this method relies on how well you work the plaster through the cloth as you layer your pieces. You have to pretty much massage the pieces as you go to get the plaster squished throughout the cloth. Which brand to use? I prefer Activa Rigid Wrap Plaster Cloth. It is for sure not the most economical one out there, but I've had the most success with this brand. If you want to try plaster cloth, perhaps start here to get used to the medium and then shop around for cheaper brands as you start to feel confident.

Click HERE to see a piece made with plaster cloth.

Other materials:
  • Amaco (brand) Self-Hardening Clay: Honestly, I'm not sure who buys this stuff. These are those dusty, 5-lb. boxes of clay that you see on every bottom shelf of the clay section of every craft supply store. I think the company keeps this product line due to enough curious school teachers thinking that this will be a great way for kids to make little pots for Mother's Day. Joke's on you school teachers, this stuff is impossible to get squishy enough for ANYone, especially kids, to work with.
  • Plastilina clay: This is the generic term for an oil-based clay that never-ever hardens. As a medium intended for a permanent piece, this isn't an option. This is more like the type of clay stop-motion claymation artists use and what folks use to create mold positives. But I am not an expert, so don't quote this in a book report.
  • Salt dough: Commercially, this is sold as Play-Doh. Not really great for a permanent sculpture that you're gonna put in a gallery or for a piece to sell to a real-live person, but super fun to work with and great for a group project! THIS WEBSITE has a great collection of recipes for dough.
  • Auto body filler: That's right. Bondo. True story: I used to work for a company that manufactured a similar product, and there was an artist who sent in photos of huge sculptures that he created using body filler. It would for sure be a way to skim coat a very large armature for way cheaper than an art store medium. Is it safe? Not really. Can it combust or cause long term health problems? Probably.
  • Stucco, plaster, various building materials: These are another (probably safer) option for coating large armatures. I've used mastic and dry wall putty over cardboard with success. The texture it leaves is rather nice as well. Neither these nor body filler (above) can be sculpted with as a medium on their own, they can merely be used to cover a well-sculpted armature.
What about molds?
Oh, geez... The subject of mold-making stresses me out. I periodically stand in the sculpting section of Dick Blick and just stare with my mouth open at the 20+ options for mold-making materials, and then I have an anxiety attack and run out. It's confusing, and I've never taken a class on this stuff, soooo for total stupids like me, I recommend Amazing Mold Putty. You can make a push mold for various clays with it. I'm pretty sure a baby can use this product.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Late Happy New Year

Oops! I meant to write some brilliant words of wisdom to herald in the new year a lot closer to the day of the new year. But hey, joke's on you, I never had any words of wisdom to begin with! I know, you're all like, "Damn, I was really waiting on something to spark my chakras or chis (or cheese?) or auras or whathaveyou, but hey, I'm not a magician (but I dream that I am quite often!).

What WILL be coming to you shortly in the new year is me bitching about the MOUNTAIN of appendix bills that currently sits next to my computer (or maybe not, I might have gotten that out just now), aaaaaaaand a valuable lesson on modelling media - like just about everything you can think of that you can model with that's not ceramic BAM! in one jam-packed post. In true yaysockpuppet fashion, I often enjoy posting about stuff that I really wish I could find out there in the interwebs. This is (will be) a post that I truly wish had been written (and maybe it has been, but I haven't found one as awesome as mine will be).

Stay tuned!!!