Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Day of the Dead Character, Step by Step

I always enjoy seeing the process of how people make their art. So, I thought I would share a few photos of one of my pieces in the making. Although I am sculpting a skeleton here, the same method could apply to any small figurine! Here’s how I made this little Day of the Dead geisha skeleton. First is the armature: 18 gauge or so wire with fine wire wrapped around to better hold the clay. I bend the armature into the position I want. I really get the “feel”, or the movement of the figure during this step.

Next is the clay. I make the head separately then add it to the body before baking.

I use a pasta machine to roll the clay thin for the clothing. I cut it with an exacto in pieces like a fabric pattern, then “fit” it on the figure.

I use Super Sculpey, which is strong, yet easy to use and best of all, can be baked in a toaster oven on my patio. The baking temperature of polymer clay varies by brand and by your oven, but I bake mine at about 180 for 20 minutes. This black blob is WHY I have the toaster oven on the patio, and not in the house!

It was my first attempt at making this Day of the Dead snowman ornament,

but my toaster oven had a malfunction and burned it beyond recognition. (By all accounts, polymer clay is safe to use, unless it burns, and the fumes are toxic!) Anyway, you can bake and re-bake the clay as many times as needed to make the body, then the clothing, etc. In this piece the geisha is going to be holding a shamisen, (lute), so that’s a separate piece.

Then it gets sanded and primed with gesso.

Next I start painting the clothing and the facial details. I use craft acrylics.

Now all that’s left is the hair. I use either mohair or viscose for my figurines, and E6000 to glue it on. E6000 is the strongest glue on earth, in my opinion, (but better open the windows and turn on the fan while using it!) So, here is the finished geisha skeleton.

Thanks for stopping by! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!


  1. Very interesting! Oh - I love the snowman - gonna have to have one (or more) of those! ;-)

  2. Hi Gayle, thanks for the comment, and of course, I'm happy to oblige!!

  3. So cool to see how you create these! And I'm so happy you decided to try the snowman again, and I didn't get the FIRST snowman you made!! :) Nice blog, I'm glad you started it.

  4. Thanks, Christine! Yeah, I don't know what happened but that was a TOASTED piece of clay! Thanks for checking out the blog!