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Never Enough of Skulls and Flowers…

October 31, 2016 , In: Clay, Polymer Clay, Tutorials
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I want to stay true to my intention to give you a little bit insight into my creation process as my contribution to AE. The last time I showed you what kind of materials I love to incorporate into my work like thread, yarn and fabric (“Down to the bare threads”).

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My absolute favorite ones from the last batch I made!

Thinking about what I could show you today, I was actually inspired by all the “Dia de los muertos” ideas shown at this time of the year. Moreover, as you can see in the blog post here at AE yesterday, the gorgeous lampwork skull made by Jennifer Cameron! 

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This is the kind of polymer clay skull I love to create, with weird faces, crocked smiles and in a comical, abstract way!

I made several years ago a little tutorial how to create skulls from polymer clay. To redo this tutorial was for a long time on my to-do list. To combine one of my favorite materials to work with ever (polymer clay) with a small tutorial how I make skulls, seemed  to be the perfect topic for today!

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They can be easily adapted by stamping on them and/or adding some swarowski crystals.

The skulls I create are rather abstract and comical, not realistic ones. There are also a lot of tutorials to create skulls with polymer clay around and what I love about this is: Even though they are all about “skulls”, the results are always unique! I also made them in workshops with friends and every resulting skull had its own charm and personality and looked different! 

What is also really nice about this tutorial is, that you can be a beginner, you don’t need a lot of material and tools and most importantly: You don’t need to be perfect at all and you’ll get good results quite easily!

Material:

  • Polymer clay (white) – softness / stiffness doesn’t really matter. I used Fimo soft (for my taste a little bit too soft, I prefer professional normally) since I had it at hand and this is a project I can use it for 
  • Acrylic paint (Payne’s grey) – I actually recommend Payne’s grey over using black. The impression is that I use black on the skulls but in truth it is a dark blueish grey. It is softer than black and the results look better. Of course, you can also use black or any dark colour like a really dark brown or blue.
  • Optional: Other acrylic paints to paint flowers
  • Optional: Protective gloss usable for polymer clay 

Tools:

  • Your hands! – Sounds logical… but I know too many people afraid of getting paint on their hands! But nothing compares to the control you have with your fingertips!
  • Knitting needle – Or anything else that is long and has a pointed end like a pencil
  • Scalpell – or rafting knife, paper knife, normal butter knife (please not use it again for food), even card board is useable!
  • Emery board – Or sand paper…

davAs you can see: Well used tools and materials!

Steps:

  • Using your hands:
    • Kneat your clay thoroughly for conditioning 
    • Roll a tiny ball
    • Pinch the ball like a tear drop
    • Flatten the tear drop gently
  • Using the knitting needle:
    • Push in both sides to create the jaw region
    • Use the knitting needle as a rolling pin to gently flatten the surface even more
    • Make a tiny impression with the knitting needle where the eyes should go
    • Push the hole gently to the outside (just rotate the needle in the hole) until the eye hole has the right size 
    • Roll again gently over the surface with the knitting needle (the clay will have come up a little bit around the eye holes)
    • Impress two holes for the nose holes (either next to each other or touchung each other like an upturned heart shape) – for a more comic style you can also ignore the nose totally!
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1: Ball 2: Teardrop 3: Slightly flattened 4: Sides pinched in with finger tips 5: Sides pinched in with knitting needle 6: Flattened again, this time with knitting needle 7: Eye holes 8: Flattened again (around the eye holes especially) 9: Nose holes 10: Mouth / Teeth

  • Using the scalpel:
    • Cut a horizontal line for the mouth
    • Cut several vertical lines to show where the teeth are
    • Take care to just go in the clay a little bit with the scalpel and NOT through the clay! We only need the impressions to get paint inside
  • Bake the clay according to the manufactures protocol 
  • Painting:
    • Add a generous layer of acrylic paint on top (get a lot into the eye holes and just use your finger)
    • Remove a lot of the paint on top with your fingers or a paper towel (doesn’t has to be perfect but makes sanding easier later on)
    • Ater the paint is dry use the emery board to remove all the paint from the surface (it also removes any dust integrated into the clay 😉 )
    • Optional: If you have pattern or flowers, you can paint them colourfully
    • Optional: Add protective gloss

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Just adding a generous amount of paint to get in every scratch and corner and wiped off again immediately while still wet.

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Yes, that is the same skull of the left side like in the image above… just with the paint wiped off!

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After the paint is dry, I sand the surface with an emery board. Look at the bright surface! It really makes all the difference.

As a remark that will be probably understandable for everyone who ever worked with polymer clay, yes, there can be a problem with dust and other “stuff” while working with white clay. Uhm… nobody wants that in the finished piece. To reduce the starting amount I always wash my hands several times and dry them using paper towels, not fabric towels! The rest will be sanded off after baking and painting and you’ll have a perfect dust-free surface.

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Since the other images are all taken under “controlled conditions” I thought a “real creating picture” would be good. Fingers are still the best tools to use, especially to carefully wipe away paint from the surface without removing it from the textures!

I love to play with these skulls. You can add flowers on top or just stamp into the clay surface to create pattern. I also love the blink that swarowski crystals can add (don’t use plastic ones since they’ll melt during the baing process). You can drill them to create beads (or carefully add the hole before baking using a knitting needle), glue them on hairpins or bead around them.

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Here I added some flower on top, stamped on a baked skull or coloured the stamped area… Love them all!

Some examples how I used them in the past….

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This skull is a tiny bead. I just added some czech glass flowers and beads (in yellow!) to create a nice and simple necklace. Still makes me smile every time I see it!

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This hairpin was part of the advent calendar I made for my little sister (who is actually way taller than me!). Oh and I sold a lot of them actually to men… for their ties…

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This is a work-in-progress piece. Nearly a year now…? I still love how it is going and I hope posting it here will give me some kind of social pressure to finish it!

Since they are made in an abstract comic style, they always look good! I hope you’ll create some of your own (and I would love seeing pictures of those!). Also they can be done quite fast (I would say one to two hours including baking and drying time) so if you are in need of some skulls for tonight, there is still time to make them!

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These ones have a lot of flowers… and I love how the etched glass looks combined with the skulls!

Okay and here are all from my last batch together…

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All… except one pair…

The tiniest ones I ever made!

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Already used them to create stud earrings…

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Just you get an reference for size (and yes, there is also my wedding ring! We just got married about two weeks ago :))

Until next time!

Claire Fabian

Claire Fabian loves to experiment with materials and ideas. She needs to create to “keep her sane” and the process of creation itself is the most important in her work. She is drawn to weird things, to organic and natural textures and loves a tribal and ancient vibe. She makes beads as well as jewellery, but also loves mixed media pieces and little sculptures. Amongst her favourite materials is polymer clay, ceramic clay, all kind of metals, glass beads as well as everything found in nature. She is also working in research which may explain her desire to experiment.
  1. Reply

    Thank you for this tutorial Claire! I love these little skulls. I will definitely have to give them a try!

    • Reply

      Thank you Cathy 🙂 I don’t now why I make so rarely because they really are so fun to make!

  2. Reply

    Congratulations on your wedding Claire. Lovely tutorial for your adorable little skulls.
    Mona

    • Reply

      Thank you Mona 🙂 I’ll still have to take some good pictures from my wedding jewerly! 😉

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