Making a unicorn

May 24, 2017

So to break up the monotony of posts about available work I thought it would be fun to show the process of making a sculpture that I recently finished. It's another unicorn!

In the past I would mostly choose polymer clay to make fantasy creature but I've been wanting to try something different. Partly because raw polymer clay makes my fingers break out in blisters and my skin has become more sensitive to it over the years, and partly because I have some other materials sitting around that need used up. One of these materials is this stuff called Celluclay. Let me tell you more about this stuff.

Celluclay is an instant paper mache, basically grey paper pulp and dried glue that you mix with water to make a clay. I have had a bag of Celluclay since I was a kid and somehow managed to not loose it or get rid of it even though i never use it. I never use it because every time I've tried I find it really horrible to work with. It's sticky and lumpy and somehow when I try to smooth it out it always ends up sticking to my fingers more than where I want it to stick. But, not wanting to waste it, I've held onto it thinking maybe someday I'll have a use for it. Don't all artist have extra supplies they never use? Then just recently it struck me! I can use this stuff to bulk up a sculptures form before going over it with a smoother more workable clay.

In sprite of my complaining the Celluclay paper mache does have some advantages. First of it's cheep. You can save a penny by using it under a more expensive clay. Secondly it's strong. Surprisingly strong! I've broken X-Acto knife blades trying to carve into this stuff and have never had that happen with polymer clay.

Enough of that, let's make a unicorn!

The unicorn armature made of wire, aluminum foil, and masking tape Adding a layer of celluclay paper mache over the armature. Filling out the shapes of the unicorns body with more layers of paper mache. Add a layer of LaDoll clay over the dried paper mache to continue refining the shapes.

The smoother clay, the clay I use to finish and detail the sculpture, for this unicorn sculpture is called LaDoll clay. It's an air dry clay that also has paper pulp in it but it is very smooth and relatively non-sticky. I've used this stuff to sculpt ball jointed dolls and find it really pleasant to work with. LaDoll is not a particularly strong clay so it benefits from having the stronger Celluclay form to stick to. And they do stick very well to each other.

The next step, after I was happy with the shape of the unicorn, was to get it ready to paint. I primed it with many layers of gesso and then sanded it smooth, and then repeated that step a few times until I was happy with the result.

It was then spray painted white, even though it was already quite white, to give it an even color. I wanted to keep the detailing on this sculpture fairly minimal and soft so I used just some light chalk pastels for a bit of shading and painted the eyes with acrylic.

After that I sprayed it several times with mate sealant and let that dry before brushing on a bit of gloss for the horn, eyes, and hoofs.

Continue refining the shape of the unicorn in LaDoll clay and add some wire to sculpt the ears over. After the shapes are how I want I add a polymer clay unicorn horn and then paint it over with many layers of gesso. The gesso needs to be sanded to a smooth finish and the horn is covered in tape to protect it from spray sealant. After all the prep work the unicorn can finally be painted with a combination of spray paint, chalk pastels, and acrylic paint. The whole thing is then sprayed several times with a mate finish.

The final step was to add some hair to that bald little unicorn. I chose to use suri alpaca because I wanted something fairly straight but also very fine and soft since I thought it would best compliment the soft and minimal style of the unicorn.
All done!

After making this unicorn I really want to try doing another and I already have ideas about some things I would like to do differently. We'll see how it goes.

The finished unicorn sculpture after her hair is added
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