11 November 2011
It's been a while since I wrote about how a creature comes into being, and so I wanted to share with you the process I went through to make Wee Sophie. Sophie is a beautiful Shih Tzu who lives in Australia, so she's kept trimmed because of the heat. A huge thank you to Kristy who commissioned a miniature version of her beloved pet (along with a couple of mice for her parents!)
First up were the raw materials. Sophie is pure white with pale fawn markings on her back, and she has fawn ears. I used Fimo Soft for the white, and Fimo Classic champagne, tinted paler by mixing with white, for the fawn markings. (I use a glass work surface protector (hence the rather worrying references to dicing, chopping and slicing!)
After conditioning the clay, I created the basic body shape, and added the front legs which are strengthened with wire armature. I made the head separately and added the eyes and shaped the mouth, before joining the two together and securing them with a clay collar which I blended with the side of a knitting needle.
I then worked on the face. Because Sophie is a very fluffy dog, I used lots of thinly rolled logs of white clay, using thicker logs for the fur above the eyes. I lined the mouth with black clay, and added a tongue made with translucent pink clay. The eyes are hand painted glass eyes from Mohair Bear Making Supplies.
After finishing the face, I added the ears. I used triangular pieces of fawn clay, slightly bent in the middle to create more shape. I then added tiny logs of curled fawn clay for the fur. Once the ears were added, she really started to take shape! Whenever I'm creating a creature, whether it's a mouse or a pet commission, I keep a very clear picture in my mind about what the finished creature will look like - that helps me to see how the clay wants to be, and it's more like uncovering the shape that's within the clay.
Next, I worked on the body. To create the impression a lots of fur, I built up the shoulders, chest, chin and rump using balls of clay that I'd pressed out flat. I didn't have to worry too much about blending these smooth, as they would be covered with yet more clay. However, it was important to blend the edges a bit so there weren't any 'steps' of clay which interrupted the smooth line of her body.
The next step was to add the body fur. I added the fawn markings first, and because Sophie is so fluffy, I used short strands of clay which I curled at each end. Then I filled in the rest with white clay, using the same method. It took me about 4-5 hours to get to this stage.
The next step was to 'fluff' Wee Sophie's fur - I use a doll-making needle, which is much longer and a bit thicker than a normal needle (it's one of my favourite tools). To create more of a fluffy effect, I scored the fur quite deeply, and I followed the direction of fur on the real Sophie. Because I was using Fimo Soft clay, it was important not to touch her too much or I would lose the definition in the clay created by the needle, so I placed her on a small glass coaster which I could hold in my left hand and turn easily to score the fur all over her body. I paid special attention to her face, and used much finer and light strokes there.
And here's the finished Wee Sophie! In total, Wee Sophie took about 7 hours to make. And the very final step was of course the most important one - to make a miniature version of her favourite toy, Piggy. Piggy (or Wee Piggy, I suppose we should call him) is small. Very, very small. He's 1.8cm long and 1.4cm tall. Did I mention that he was tiny? This is Wee Piggy next to a 1p coin.
And last, but by no means least, here's the real Sophie - isn't she cute?! Many thanks once again to Kristy for asking me to create her beautiful dog in miniature form!