Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tutorial - Christmas Reindeer...

Hi Everyone,

I'm teaching how to make reindeer next week at Guild and thought that you'd like to learn as well.

Skills required: Beginner

Here's what you need:

  • Scrap clay that's somewhat brownish rolled on thickest setting, 2-3 inches long and wide
  • Brown clay that contrasts a bit with scrap clay rolled on thin setting, same size
  • 5 toothpicks
  • Coppery wire or other wire, about 12 inches, scissors or wire cutter
  • Red clay if making a Rudolph nose, black clay for regular nose
  • White and black clay to make eyes, pea size, or just use googly eyes
  • Something to colour the toothpicks with (I use a combination of Future and Pearlex)
  • Christmas embellishments
  • Optional - Pearlex powder in brownish colours for the body to highlight texture
  • Wire brush or sandpaper for texture
  • Glue (I like Weldbond)

Step 1 - Paint the toothpicks and set aside to dry.

You can paint them gold or brown or any other colour that you want. I simply made a puddle about 1 cm across on a tile with Future and poured some bronze PearlEx into it and then used my fingers to apply to the toothpick. I put one end in some scrap clay to allow to dry. You can see the toothpicks in the photo below.

Step 2 - Form the logs for the body and the head

Layer the thin brown clay on top of the scrap clay and run the two sheets through the pasta machine and three or four sizes down from the thickest setting. This combines the clay into a longer sheet.

Roll this sheet into a log with the good colour clay out. Cut 3/4 inch off the log to make the head. You'll note the jelly roll cane on the inside which simulates the rings on a tree.

Compact the rest into a log that's about 1.5 inches long. These are approximate estimates, you may decide that you want a smaller head, bigger body, etc. Leave it to your taste. The logs shouldn't be perfect - they're supposed to simulate wood.

Shape the nose of the head using a blade. This should be rustic - it's kinda like sharpening a pencil with a knife for those who have done that. Five or six cuts should be enough - it should look like an axe was taken to the log.

Do the same for the chest and tail of the body log.

You can texture the log if you want - use coarse sandpaper or a wire brush and drag it along the body and the head to simulate a bit of wood grain. Bring up the texture with some PearlEx or other powder as an option.

Step 3 - Insert the legs and neck

This step simply creates the holes for the leg and neck. You can remove the legs prior to baking, or you can leave them in. Either way you'll be pulling them out to glue them back in. Make sure that Rudolph stands up on his legs and that the head doesn't make him tip over.

I find that cutting the toothpicks to 2/3 length seems to work the best. But you may decide you want him to look more leggy or more like a dachsund. The choice is yours.

Step 4 - Create the antlers and hanging loop.

The thickness of wire is a matter of personal preference and taste. Thinner is easier to work with.

Cut a piece about 6 inches long and fold in half. Start twisting at the fold like you were twisting a garbage or twist tie. Go about a half inch or so. This is the tallest part of the antler. Take one of the loose ends and about a half inch in fold it again and then start twisting at the fold to make the second antler. Twist the two strands together a few times and start the third antler by doing another fold. Twist the third antler and then continue twisting down the rest of the wire to make the complete antler.

This sounds more complicated than it is - hopefully the picture will show you what to do. On the right is the completed antler and on the left is the start of the second antler.

Create a hanging loop if you want him to hang. Loop some wire around a pencil or other cylinder shape to get the size hook that you want. Twist the ends together like you did for the antlers.

Insert the loop on the top of the head near the back. If you're not sure of the position, put some ribbon or thread through the loop and hold the deer up by the ribbon. He should hang somewhat normally.

Insert the antlers towards the back of the head on either side of the hanging loop or a bit further ahead.

Step 5 - Create the nose and eyes.

Use a bit of red or black clay here if you like. Since this is Rudolph, I cheated and used some miniature plastic globes that are supposed to represent lights that I bought at the Dollar Store. I pushed the ball into the clay and then took it out again so that it didn't bake.

Create black and white eyes if you like, or be lazy like me and give him googly eyes.

Step 6 - Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

I bake the antlers in the deer and take out toothpicks and nose if it's plastic. In this particular case the neck toothpick didn't want to come out of the body and was really firmly wedged in so I just let it be and baked it like that.

Don't worry if the clay cracks. It can on the thicker pieces. But this is supposed to be dried wood which often has cracks.

The picture to the left is before he baked.

Step 7 - Assemble and embellish.

After he's cooled, put some glue on the ends of the toothpicks and insert back into the body. If you're like me the leg holes have gotten quite big with all the manipulation of trying to make him stand.

Glue on the googly eyes, insert the nose if you haven't already, and add something for around the neck. You can make it out of clay if you like or use other Christmas trinkets.

That's it!

All in all, he's pretty easy to make and there shouldn't be too many frustration points since imperfections are expected.

And surprise of surprise I've managed to keep my hobby room clean. Stuff went back where it was supposed to right after I finished with it.




Dlsarmywife said...

OMG these are ADORABLE!!!!! Like insanely adorable! I HAVE to make some of these... they are being book marked until I have my studio set up again! =D

Lea White said...

They are sooooooo cute!

Louise said...

Just love them .They will appear on my tutorial blog polygarage with you permission.I really just put jhe links on different themes.

Elaine said...

Sandy, they're adorable! I craftgossip'd about you :)

I was trying to think up how to do the little cork reindeer we made as kids out of clay and this is just perfect!

dMsmith said...

So sweet!! I love these! May I ask how log you baked them?

Sandy said...

Hi dMsmith - I bake for 45 minutes to an hour, see instruction 6 title. Glad you like them!

Cara Jane said...

cute! thanks for the tutorial