How to use Polymer clay to make Art Dolls | Ashley Hills | Skillshare

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How to use Polymer clay to make Art Dolls

teacher avatar Ashley Hills, Polymer clay sculptor and painter

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (37m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Concept sketch

    • 4. Choosing clay

    • 5. Basic tips

    • 6. Insider tips

    • 7. Eyes

    • 8. Sculpting time

    • 9. Material

    • 10. Pattern

    • 11. Sewing tips

    • 12. Putting all together

    • 13. Painting

    • 14. Conclusion

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About This Class

Follow along with Ashley as she breaks down the steps of making a multi-media art doll. This class touches on such tips as: her personal favorite materials to work with, insider tips for working with polymer clay, and a step by step break down from concept sketch to finished art doll! This class is perfect for people who love crafty projects and aren't afraid to try new things! Previous knowledge in sewing and sculpting will make this project easier, but not necessary. By the end of this class you'll have your own finished work of art to share on display or be the perfect personal gift!

Needed Materials:

  • sewing supplies such as needle, thread, scissors, and material of choice
  • pencil and paper
  • polymer clay and tools of choice such as fingers, needles, dental tools, nail tools etc. Translucent liquid sculpey, and thin guaged wire if desired
  • oven and oven thermometer
  • acrylic paint and brushes if desired

Meet Your Teacher

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Ashley Hills

Polymer clay sculptor and painter


Hello all you wonderful creative people!! I'm Ashley, you can also call me Ash. :) I've loved art my whole life, and have been sculpting nearly non-stop for 6 going on 7 years now. I'm so excited to be able to share some of my experience with you all!! I am a firm believer that every single person is artistic in some way, you just need to find what medium lets you express yourself the best. Let's see if clay/multimedia is your niche! 

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Ash a little bit about myself. I've always loved doing art. See things my whole life. More recently, I've been sculpting with polymer clay for going on five years now. I just fell in love with the medium when it was introduced to me. So the past year I've been experimenting in how I can incorporate polymer clay in multimedia does. Let me tell you, it's a delight. One thing I specifically love is the freedom. You really can make anything into nerd doll, any color, any size. Another thing. I don't know if you guys have ever had this problem before, of getting bored or kind of in a rut with certain mediums, but I have found that with Art Dells, it's almost impossible because you're using so many different types of mediums and skills. Um, anything from drawing, painting, sculpting, sewing. It goes on and on and on. Whatever you're in the mood for some aspect of an art, dull will be applicable. It's awesome. I love it. So what do you need to start on this artistic adventure? The next video will go over some of the supplies you might already have on hand, or that you'll need to pick up 2. Supplies: So let's talks. Applause. If you've done sewing before, I mean you barely need anything in the realm of sewing needle, thread, scissors, your stuffing of your choice. You refer of your choice, which we'll talk about more later, those air basics that you probably already have in your home. Sculpting and painting a bit more complicated painting. Most people have acrylic paint. If you've ever dabbled in in artsy painting of any sort, you can get this from the dollar store or cheap section of any craft or just plain acrylic paint. If you dude and you may not even decide to paint details, it's up to you. If you do decide Teoh paint Details. Dura Clear Burnish Americana. Brent is my go to There we go that that's all the information you for painting, pencil paper and parchment paper necessary for your concepts. Cut. She's our glass eyes that I personally use. We'll talk more about them later, and hot glue Gun is my personal choice for glue, for putting it all together at the end. Now sculpting. There's a few things that aren't pictured here that are necessary and not necessary, but can make your life easier so not necessary is having a rule either a rolling pin or personally. I use a pasta machine to blend colors. Soften it, stuff like that. If you don't have that, that's okay. You can need it by hand. It's a bit more work, but it's totally doable. The other thing is, you need an oven to bake your Cleon and necessary. Necessary is having a thermometer because ovens can run hotter or colder than they actually say. And that could be the difference of burning your piece or under cooking at which can make it brittle, so thermometer to make sure your oven is true to temperature or if it's not knowing how much of a difference so you can compensate very necessary polymer click. This is my brand of choice, Primo. I'll explain why later. Translucent Liquid Scope E. Again, I'll explain what I use for that later. 10. Flow for the base of the head. This is corn starch. Interesting. I know. Oh, explain why and then these tools. Here are a medley of different things. Needle tools, Exacto, knife dotting tools, which are used for nail art. Silicone tip tools. This one is for it. Nail art. This one is specifically for sculpting. This is a dentist tool, more more needle tipped. This is actually a technical. This is almost the only technical sculpting tool in my holding and dotting again. You can find these at craft stores or online. I personally love june dot com, but these air preference you can just use your fingers. You can use anything you have around the house to sculpt. 3. Concept sketch: So you have all your supplies ready, laid out, you're ready to go raring, and the dreaded question comes into your mind. What do we meet? Have no fear. Ashley is here. Oh, dear. Anyway, here's a few tips that will help you get past that hurdle. Start simple. Do you have a favorite animal? Is that your pet that if you don't, do you have a favorite color? Start with that, and then okay. If you have a favorite color state screen, what animals are naturally great or if you have a favorite animal and a favorite unnatural color, say, blue hippopotamus, go with it. It doesn't matter. It's your baby. Do what you want, Okay? Also, what I'd find a super helpful is when I choose an animal that I want to do, look up loads of reference photos, different angles of the face so you can make sure you get the structure properly. You want to start with breaking down the realistic aspects, what makes that animal identifiable, and then you can put your own spin on. It's all part of the process for me. I have a weakness for puns, so for this tutorial, I will be going step by step with you guys making a bun Nana a bunny banana? It's, but I promise it's funny anyways, in order to start that process, I looked up reference photos of different bunnies. Bunny poses bunny faces different angles, and then I decide how realistic or how stylized I want to make it. So I want to exaggerate. Certain features make larger eyes smaller nose eccentric center. And then, since it's gonna also be a banana, I look up reference photos to make sure I get banana colors, right? Textures? What does the flesh on the inside look like? What does appeal? Are there different discolorations that I want to add in to add more character to my piece , stuff like that after you've looked up loads of screenshots of bunnies and bananas and tried terribly to not get distracted but failed miserably, then it's time to do your concept sketch. So you want to decide what aspects of the animal you want emphasize. If you want to go for a realistic approach or more stylised so this is super rough draft. This is you just trying to kind of make the bunny that's in your head or animal or whatever you're going for come alive. So as you can see, I am not going. Teoh concern myself with the being of good drawing per se. I'm just gonna focus on getting down the aspects that are important to me. So I decided I want to do banana leaf years in a banana leaf tale like the plant I'm going to do the chin and belly in white, textured like the fruit. And then the rest of it will be yellow like a peal. Of course, the knows I'm gonna color green just like a tip of a banana. And then random dark spots, just like every single banana always has. Then next what you want to do, is it? Clean it up a little bit, clean up your sketch and do it to size. This will kind of be your pattern that you're gonna be coming back to time and again 4. Choosing clay: So what Clay should use Now. I'm gonna be a bit biased and tell you prima, but I'm gonna explain why it actually gets down to strength. And it's easy to find. You can get it. Hobby lobby Michaels. If you don't have those stores in the area, you can get it online quite easily. It's not terribly expensive. It keeps its color through the baking. All those things are great. But the most important thing is its strength. And I'm gonna show you what I mean by that. This is a fully baked piece. See that? See how flexible that is. No stress cracks, no cracking, no breaking nothing. This is so important for me. And I assume everyone that if you put hours of work into the beautiful piece that you want to keep forever, you don't want to be worried if it's dropped or someone's a little rough with it or it gets in a bind. You don't wanna be worried about it. You don't want to have that. So with Primo Clay, I find it iss so strong and you can see the ear is no worse for wear. I just threw it all around my desk. It's no worse for wear. So the strength This is the strongest clay that I have found in all of money testings, and that's why I suggested. 5. Basic tips: so basic tips. Again, I'm going to re emphasize just how important it is to test your oven temperature. Some sculptors I know even by one of those turkey cooking temperature gauges and keep it in the oven adult times. That's how important it ISS. If you under bake it, it will not have the strength that I just showed you on the other screen. If you overbake it, it will be unrecognizable. The other thing is, it's 30 minutes per fourth of an inch for pre Moakley. Another important thing is to measure your piece before you bake it the thickest point. So this is hollow because I used tinfoil, so it's about 1/2 inch, so this piece should be baked for a full hour. Seems like a lot. Listen to the instructions there. Correct. If your piece seems like it's going to be quite large, always use a tin full base. You don't want it to get over an inch thick, because that can cause problems with baking cracks, not breaking thoroughly. All those things. Tinfoil is your friend. If you're making big pieces and with tools, you can be creative for textures. You can use anything you can get your hand on. Use a toothbrush, use rocks, used straws to make scale patterns. Anything you want, you do you? 6. Insider tips: not time for some insider tips, things that I have personally found over you. Gurgling trial and error. One of the biggest things that people complain about when sculpting starting out sculpting politically is fingerprints. Now, my easy insider tip is this little bowl of cornstarch I put in a bowl just for easy access to make clay that is too soft, easier to handle. Or if you're finding your leaving loads of fingerprints in your work, simply take a little bit. Lightly dust your fingertips and then you can work with the client. You can smooth out clay like this with your powdered fingers and, uh, boo, no fingerprints. Just like that. Now the other cool thing is, you can actually bake your things that you don't want a flat back Say you wanted this to be a perfect ball, but a perfect ball. You can actually take a little pile of the corn starch. Put it on your baking tile or baking surface whatever you're baking on, and put it in the pile of corn starch that will keep your piece from having any flat back when you're baking. Super useful. Tip. Another thing that I like to do to strengthen my piece is I use very thin gauged wire and translucent liquids. Gopi. So if it's a long, slender piece that I'm doing details or tail or little tiny horns or something, I would poke my needle tool into the clay, puts um TLS on the wire and then insert it. And that adds some really good strength, really good integrity. Even though this clay is already very strong, that just gives it its added, so to speak. The other tip that I have found really useful is using translucent clay. This is amazing. Not only doesn't make your colors go further, but also and adds depth a bit of translucence. It's not as opaque, which actually gives your peace more realistic. Look not not a flat look. There's more depth to it, so I almost always mix half translucent, plea to the same amount of colored click, and the final little bit of tip is when I'm attaching one piece of clay to another. I usually make little score marks like so onto both sides of the pieces that will be on each other, and I just add a little bit of translucent liquids. Go beat like tiny little duh at the end of my needle on it and then attached. And then you can smooth down the edges to make the edge nice, but that adds so much strength to your piece as well. 7. Eyes: next part is exciting. Loads of people have questions about eyes. How do you do the eyes? The great news is there are millions of ways to do eyes. Everyone can have their own way of doing it. Some people use round beads. Some people make it out of polymer. Clay and I personally have been experimenting with glass eyes. I bought these glass Kabash owns online. You can find them anywhere just by typing in the size you want. Flat back glass kabash ons and I simply paint the back with acrylic paint, whatever type of eye, color and shape I want. And then these Congar Oh, through the oven. So I embed them directly into my sculpture so you can use any material you want for eyes. Just make sure that it can go safely through the oven for the purpose of vis tutorial. I'm gonna be showing you how to make polymer clay as cause if you are doing this tutorial, I know you have polymer clay, whereas you may not have these other types of eyes for the concept. Sketch is you're gonna want to bring it up because you can see approximately how big you want the eyes. Take a piece of polymer clay and use your exacto knife to do it as close in half as possible and then simply roll them as smoothly as you possibly can. And we're going to be using the tip that I mentioned previously in making a little pile of corn starch powder on your baking tile or baking sheet, and Priebe achingly so you're gonna bake them at the same temperature to 75 but you're only gonna bake them for 15 minutes. This what this does is makes it hurt enough that it will keep its form while your sculpting around them, which is invaluable. So take a little pile of this so they don't get flat backs if you want, but half of them are going to be embedded in the head anyway, so it doesn't technically matter if they have flat backs. But if you don't want flat backs, put them in a pile of corn starch, baked them for 15 minutes at 2 35 Take them out, let them cool. Be patient, it's worth it, and then you'll be sculpting them into your piece, and then once you're all done, then you can paint using the same acrylic paint to have a nice three d. I effect 8. Sculpting time: this part of the lesson needed to be sped up because of how long the footage is all voice over. So you know what's happening, but feel free to watch it back in slow mo or closer to real time. So you start with tinfoil. Your want to make it about half the size of what you plan the head being. In the end, you'll be covering it with a thin layer of clay, and then that's when you start building your shapes on top. I like using rough blobs, rough shapes, as you can see to build the basic facial structure cheeks, nose, eyebrows, tune, smoothing it as you go with your needle tool fingers. Silicone tool. Whatever you have on hand. This is where you could use the technique where you use a needle toe. Finley's makes score marks and add a thin layer of TLS or translucent liquids will be to further strengthen these layers. I didn't for this tutorial, but you definitely can't. Then, once you get your basic facial structures, shape size, you want to go over it and make it a smooth as possible before you start adding any details . That way, you could make sure you have the shapes, the basic shapes, exactly how you want. Then you can start adding details, like knows, dense I cavities, etcetera. So with the I cavities, keep flipping it back and forth to make sure they're lined up properly. And then you can add the eyes, whatever material that you decided to use, then we can move on toe Other details, such as islands. I wanted to accentuate the nose a bit more and end up adding more to cheeks as well. I always suggest doing the face first because the most amount of detail will be going into the face. That's your real focal point of your whole article. It's so much easier to make the limbs match the head proportionately than the head. Match the limbs. Just take my word for it. That way to you. Don't feel restricted as your sculpting your head. You can feel free to expand where you feel it needs to without worrying about the limbs matching it because you'll be making the limbs match. The end had result. Okay, back to details. As you can see here, I'm adding islands now, just by doing very thin snake attaching it to the top and bottom to size and then smoothing it out with various tools. I find islands actually make a huge difference for bringing a piece toe life. You can either do chunky ones to give a more baby po d look cry baby thin multiple toe add depth could have so much fun with islands. These do take me a while to do just because I'm fidgety and a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to islands. And also, I find it can be hard to work around because you're handling your piece so you're trying not to squish details anyways. You'll get used to it. Just try to be aware of where your fingers are, so you don't end up scratching pretty details. So as you can see, I've added more two cheeks cause I wanted to add a bit more depth. Once you're happy with your facial structure, then you can go in and add details such as mouth, nose whiskers, stuff like that, smoothing out as you go love. It's amazing just how much of a difference these very simple, dense make dimples here lines there and boom, it's a bunny face. This is texture that I'm adding to look like banana flesh to the bottom of the chip and whisker Dunn's, and we're ready to move on to the feet. A little trick to making your limp symmetrical is rolling out two balls of clay, one larger than the other, since back legs air, usually larger than front legs, then carefully cut it in half is perfectly. It's possible you can roll it up and compare in size. Shave off a little bit if you're worried about it being exact, but that will give you a really close two symmetrical limbs. I also like doing both back legs and then the front legs so you can compare side by side. You can trim a little bit like I had to do here to make them match visually and physically , the best as possible. Now, this is where you can have fun. You compose the legs every what this guy is in a sitting position. So I made them bent with the toes folded over. I really love how these feet came out, actually, but you compose them however you want. If you want them to be standing, laying down playful, angry, anything The next thing you need to decide is if you want them stationary legs or movable. I'm making the moveable. So I made little dent and a hole all the way through. If you want them stationary, just make some score marks on the side that will be attached to the body. It will make it a bit more firm for attaching. Can't wait to see your work and progress. 9. Material: So let's talk body materials. You can literally use whatever you want it whatever matches your subject. A friend of mine found it at a thrift store that matches my subject perfectly. The bright yellow with the creamy. It's begging to be a banana, so I'm using a stuffed animal for this one. I have some recycled leather. Thrift stores are your friend Secondhand stories. You can find blankets, which is my other favorite. Micro fiber blankets. You can get them for like, three bucks. It's a huge blanket, and they are tiny fibers that usually match the small art. Dull stature perfectly. They're soft. They come in all the beautiful colors you can imagine. The Onley little note of caution is before you buy it, just try and pull little pieces of fiber out. If they don't come out, it's perfect. Grab it. If it does, leave it on the shelf. It doesn't matter how cheap it is, because if it's shedding all the time, eventually you're gonna end up with a bold art dull and it's just not worth the hassle. But again, you can use whatever you want. This is what I've personally found. I love using But you can cut up in old favorite T shirt. You can use ribbons. You can use sequins. You can use whatever you feel. Matches your subject. 10. Pattern: So now you finished sculpting the head and limbs and anything that you're gonna want sculpted in polymer clay hopefully shared it already in the class projects. I'm so excited to see everything that you guys have made. Personally, I made the ears and tail out of recycled leather because I wanted a nice leaf organic shape and feel Look to it Anyways, you're going to take you're finished, sculpt. I'm using parchment paper because I find it a bit easier for the stage. And what you're gonna do it is layout on the parchment paper approximately how big you're gonna want the body. If you're going to touch it directly to the body, you don't need to affect her in the neck and making this one a very simple round shape. Next, what you're going to do is add a boat half an inch border doesn't have to be exact, just a rough border. This will give you enough room to him properly without friending or anything like that. Then the reason why I love during this with parchment paper is you can fold it over and see easily through the paper to chase the other side. So roughly this big. This with the border. Thank you. You have your pattern now you can transferred to the set if you want. That's both of easy side. Now, to make this a usable sewing pattern, all you have to do is cut along the dotted lines, so to speak, the extra half inch border that you gave yourself. I'm actually just going to use the very foot of the teddy bear like so Because if it's perfectly so, I'm personally cheating because I'm just going to cut off the end of this and do a little him seem in the back. But if you're using a flat materials, gonna want a pendant to the material cut out along the edge, and then we're ready to so 11. Sewing tips: if you're familiar, how to So you don't need to watch this video. This is just a very quick, simple how to do nice clean sewing seams on your art doll. So as I mentioned in the previous video, I won't be following these steps for mine because I'm just using the end foot of a teddy bear. But if you're using a flat piece of material and you want a nice finished scene, you're gonna want to fold it. Say you want it lengthwise inside up. Start your seem but half a niche quarter inch from the edge and do very simple needle work . It doesn't have to be anything fancy just in and out with the thread all along the edge until you get to the neck or head opening. Then you're gonna want to tie it off, not it a couple times. Then you're gonna work the material. It might take a little finagle ing, but you're gonna work the material until it's right side out. Then you will have a beautiful seem. No, no, rough. Seem a tall, and you're going to stuff it with your stuffing of choice poly. Fill anything like that and then I'll explain how to hide the ugly end in the next video 12. Putting all together: So now we're ready to bring this baby toe life. This is my favorite parent to put all the pieces together. So you're left with this where the neck will be that you want to cover up, which is super easy, because that's directly where your head is gonna go. So what I used for attaching stationary pieces such as the head or limbs if you don't want them to move or ears tail anything that that is stationary hot glue gun all the way, it is the best. It is strong that for attaching wires to the ears personally, I like using LePage. Or it's also called Loctite in the States Superglue Gel control. As long as you find a superglue that specifically mentions gel, that's gonna work for you beautifully. So what I'm going to be doing in this next little piece is attaching the wires to the ears . Until so while those dry, we can start putting the head together, Which would I like to do? Let's take the hot glue gun and do a nice ring around the inside of the head. As you can see, I removed the tuneful that was in the cavity, a little bit on the edge because you're gonna want to cover it with the fibers. So and simply squished directly over the open part of the cavity can push the for around the edge because that will help cover any Seymour glue. Just kind of hold it in place for a moment. Make sure it doesn't pull away while the glue is still hot. Next is limbs. I'm going to be sewing the zone. If you're using movable limbs, I find beads air. The easiest way to do so and also using a beating needle just makes it very easy to use. I like to string it back and forth a couple times through the body. I took a quick moment to attach all the limbs. They didn't have to see that monotonous thing going. No, it's time to attach the years and choose where you want them to go in and poke. Try to poke down as faras you're gonna need to go. Could be Hey, smooth. This shouldn't no gonna pull them out just a little bit, Do you? Little dot of hot clue the base pushing cover that glue is for And there's the money years then to touch, too. So your art dull is now all assembled. Cap it ISS. So at this point, you can decide if you want Teoh do some painting accents. Personally, I'm going to do a little bit on the nose, chin pause, stuff like that. So I do some little simple painting tips in the next video. 13. Painting: So now it's time to paint accents on your piece. If you decide to again, I use very cheap crafters. Acrylic deco art can get at the dollar store or Michaels and I always water down a little bit, going to be using simple paintbrushes, nothing special and the same dotting tool that I used in sculpting. So to start, I'm just going to add a bit of water. Each of these colors that amusing, amusing green for nose and toes, different accents wait for the chin to mimic banana flesh and brown for random spots, just like bananas tend to have gonna first do the weight chin. Add water to help it go on smoother. Don't get the same thick brush strokes I find when you add water. No, technically, you can do this before putting your doll together. And then you don't have to worry about painting the for or anything. But I am always too impatient to put it together. And also, personally, I like doing it while it's on the doll because you know exactly what areas you need to paint in what areas you don't, and then it's also directly against the first. So you can much the color. You can use paint to emphasize areas with shading, make things stand out, such as whiskers knows most, or just add more character in detail. You can use clean water to help the edges blend of it better. This boat next step is spots I'm going to water down of art because because the more translucent effect. So don't be afraid to experiment right now. I love how the clay looks, but I feel like the fair, the yellow fares falling a bit flat, so have fun. Grab some paint, water, dental bunch and try painting on the fair. Why not? And there you have it at this stage. Once it drives, you can seal it with very clear, ultra matte varnish from Americana. They also make glassy options, or, if it's going to be mainly a display Adam, you can skip that step and then just patiently wait for it to dry. And then it's done. 14. Conclusion: And that is how you make an are dull. Thank you so much for coming on this exciting artistic journey with me. I am so excited to see what you all create with me. So please post finished photos below. I cannot wait to see what your creativity has blossomed. I have also so many different things that I'd love to elaborate further on sculpting processes, how to get the rip portions, other tips. So if you guys would be interested in getting the updates for future classes, just follow me and you'll get notified when I upload another cost. Can't wait, and I'll see you guys saying bone.