Thursday, February 2

Eyes made out of coal.......Snowman features tutorial!

Finally....the promised tutorial for making eyes of coal, a carrot nose and a raisin mouth for "Charlie's Snowman"!
I've worked with polymer clays for more than 25 years. I began making tiny items for my miniature scenes...... fruit and vegetables, donuts, cookies, fudge, flowers, birds, etc. etc!! I also liked to make jewelry and that led to classes in clay-crafting at Frank's Nursery and Crafts. Boy, does that date me!!! Franks was bought by Michael's Arts & Crafts and I taught classes there and in our local community ed program in Prior Lake. Kids really enjoyed my after-school clay classes and it was while I was teaching those classes in the late 1990's that I made "Charlie's Snowman" and gave him clay features for a three-dimensional look. The clay is easy to work with and if you have ever enjoyed playing with old-fashioned modeling clay, then you will enjoy working with polymer clay products. The great thing is that whatever you make can be baked in your home oven!
Let's get started..........
First, you will need clay. I use a variety of clay products. I began using FIMO, then Sculpey, then Premo. All have a different texture when you are working the clay and they all have a slightly different look when baked. For the snowman features, I used for the eyes, orange for the nose and a purple mix for the raisin mouth. The orange for the nose is also a blend.  You'll need a little pan or cookie sheet for baking, a couple of clay tools, and some wire.
Step 1. The eyes. Break off bits of the black clay about the size of a pea.
Step 2. Roll them just a tiny bit between your fingers but do not make them perfectly round. Remember that coal chunks are just that .......... chunks. :-)  You will make the "raisins" the same way. Note that I have taken a purple mix of clay and added some black to it. Blend this well and you will get sort of a dark burgundy that reminds me of raisins.
Step 3. The wire is needed so you can string your "coal eyes" on it so that you will be able to sew them to the Snowman's face. The raisins are a bit tiny and a bit of a challenge but make a bunch and you will get the few you need for the snowman's smile. :-)  In the photo below you can see that I have placed a string of eyes and a string of raisins over the top of the little pan. This is so they don't bake "flat" on the bottom. I always do this when making beads for jewelry, although it probably isn't necessary for this project.
Step 4. In the photo above, you can see that I have five chunks of clay ready to make into carrots.  A chunk about the size of an almond is a good start. Begin by rolling the chunk into a ball. Then squeeze one end with your finger as shown in the photo below. The next step is to take the shape and stand it up so that it is flat. Notice the little bit of wire that I shaped that will be inserted into your carrot nose. I am using the clay tool to score lines on the carrot to make it look more real. When you think your nose is just right, push the wire loop into the carrot.
Step 4. Place your carrots in the pan and get ready to bake. Follow the directions on the clay package (generally 275 degrees for ten minutes).
Step 5. Let the pieces cool after you take them from the oven. Your features will be hard and durable when sewn onto your Snowman's face.
If you have any questions, please e-mail me and I will try to answer. I'm not an expert, just have had fun making stuff with clay for many years. I haven't worked with my clay in years. The last time I had it out was about three years ago when my grandson and I made lots of fun critters and stuff. I almost forgot I had this tray of pieces that are "jewelry-in-progress".  I should really finish these! Several years ago, I earned blue ribbons at the county fair on a couple of pieces.  I should enter again. Add that to my "to do" list. :-)
Working with the clay is very relaxing, often therapeutic. For several years, I taught clay-crafting at the Women's Correctional Facility in nearby Shakopee. One student was extremely talented. Most of us can recall playing with modeling clay as children and it was always fun to create some great piece of art!   Next fall, I'll be sharing the how-to for making Christmas ornaments from clay and will share a tutorial for clay Christmas trees here on my blog.
When it comes to tools for working with the clay, I use a little bit of everything..........tiny cookie cutters, a mini grater, scissors, toothbrushes, old hair curlers (great for adding texture to mini oranges), rollers, knives, and a wide assortment of dental tools that my dentist gave me. :-)  I keep it all in this fold-up make-up tote.
When I was teaching, I had a number of books that I would recommend to students. There were over a dozen that I used to have but I gave a few away and kept these favorites..........
Most of these are from the late 90's and early 2000. I am sure there are new books on the market that are just as good. However, these are really good with beautiful projects, great instruction so you could look for them on Amazon or e-bay if they are of interest to you.

That's all for this little tutorial but again.......if you have questions, e-mail me or leave a comment with your question.
Just want to say......Thanks for your well-wishes for my husband. He had a bad flare-up of arthritis in his knee and he's finally better now. He went to work today and I got caught up on stuff.  If it was me......I'd have gone to the doctor.  But.......that's kind of a guy thing I think to "tough it out". Anywhooooo, having him home from work kind of interrupted my project plans. Then a couple other family things needed doing and you know how it just happens. :-)
One thing that's not happening around here is snow. The mild Minnesota weather continues and tonight it is foggy which means it's fairly warm!!  Going to be in the 40's this weekend. Snow and ice events are being canceled because there is no snow and the ice is too thin for safe skating!  Oh, my but Mother Nature is really mixed up this year!  Going to enjoy it as travel is very easy when weather is this mild.
Have a good Friday everyone!  Next post I'll be telling you about something really special going on locally. Back soon..........


Grammasheri said...

Great tutorial Sandi. I love the pieces you made for the snowman, and they sound very doable for beginners. A great way to make our snowman totally ours, from start to finish. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Denise :) said...

How cool this is!! Thank you for sharing this with us!! :)

Mary Grace McNamara said...

Wonderful information here Sandi! What a great idea to make your own features out of clay! I always thought that would be fun to work with, but have never tried it myself. I bet my kids would like it too!

Winter has not been very wintery here either, and we're not complaining! Just wondering when we'll get it, because you know we will!


Snoodles said...

Wonderful tutorial. :) Thanks for all the detail! That really helps. I have a couple of questions, tho. What kind of wire? Florist wire, or something thinner? And do you form the carrot around the wire, or push it in the formed carrot? I am just full of questions! LOL Thanks again!

Sandi Linn Andersen said...

The wire I used is fairly heavy and was something I bought at the hardware store. It's a little thicker than regular florist wire. Note in the photo that I made a "U" shape and I made my carrot first, then inserted it into the carrot shape. :-)

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