Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not Built in a Day

So it's probably safe to assume that if I'm writing a blog, writing is something I enjoy, yes? This is true. I'm a writer in my spare time, such as it is. As it would happen, I'm writing a medieval fantasy novel. This novel was begun in 10th grade biology when I decided that the four base proteins of DNA (Adenine, Guanine, Thymine, and Cytosine) sounded like cool names. Those four proteins became four witch clans, who rule each region of their country from their castles in the furthest corners.

Reading A Song of Ice and Fire has inspired me to work on the novel again, though they're not terribly similar. My craftiness of late has then also been directed towards some of the items and landscapes of my own universe.

Hence, my first original fantasy craft: a clay model of Cytosine Castle, set in the far north of my imaginary country, which the Clan of Wit and Knowledge calls home.

Oven-bake clay (I used the Sculpey brand, as per a number of blogger recommendations)
Aluminum foil
Small canvas board (for the base)
Spray adhesive (I used Elmer's craft adhesive spray)
Floral moss
Floral rocks
Dowel rods

Step One: cover your work area. I ended up with a combination of foil and paper towels down on the table. I started working on just the square of foil; there is some time required between each step, so you don't necessarily need to have all of your materials on hand, but it's nice to have them close anyway.

Step Two: build your castle out of foil. Oven-bake clay, especially the kind you bake at home, shouldn't really be thicker than 1/2 inch. The outer clay would become too brittle before the inner clay was baked through. Therefore, you first have to build a skeleton for your sculpture out of armature wire or something like aluminum foil. The foil was quick and easy; however, make it dense. I just kind of haphazardly crumpled up foil and left a lot of air in, which made it really difficult to keep shape later when I was smoothing sections of clay together.

Step Three: add clay. Work the clay in your hands until it's nice and soft, then roll into small sheets with the dowel rod, or any smooth cylindrical object. Cover your skeleton with the sheets and smooth creases by blending with your thumb and forefinger. Remember to keep the clay thinner than 1/2 inch. To make rolls, like I've used on the doors and the balcony, roll a chunk of clay out with your two forefingers, rolling on the fatter parts to even them out. For the cones, roll out as circular a sheet as possible, then pinch the center between thumb and forefinger and twist the remaining clay around. To make the ramparts, roll out a circular sheet and roll the edges up, then depress at intervals with a toothpick.

Step Four: bake the clay. Follow the instructions on your clay packaging. The Sculpey clay requires 15 minutes at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1/4 inch of thickness. Even if your clay's a little thicker in some places, I would start at 15 minutes and check on it then. Allow to cool completely, ideally overnight to let it set.

I'm afraid I slacked on the process pictures for the next sections, so bear with me.

Step Five: paint. My castle is white with grey accents, and the stone is "flecked with black." I painted to these specifications as best I could.

Step Six: assemble. After the paint is dry, make sure your workspace is covered, and spray the canvas board with the adhesive. Set the castle/sculpture in its place on the board. Arrange the floral rocks and moss where desired, applying more adhesive as needed. I also drew a banner with the Clan's symbol on it; I glued a toothpick along the top of the banner, and glued this to a thin dowel rod cut in half. This was glued on the back of the board.

And voila! A castle:

This was a lot of fun! I hope to be able to play with the clay a little more, next time using a much more dense foil skeleton. I think that will help add a more authentic, solid look. I'm also going to play around with texturizing options. I used a toothpick to try and add some stone detail, but it would have been painstaking to go over the whole thing that way, so next time I will make use of a stamp or something similar. The coolest thing was the moss. Especially in the last picture, it really gives it an earthy feel, which is nice. Really completes the picture.

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