Before The Sculpting Begins

Share this post

The single most important tool/resource to creating magical creatures is an active imagination. The second most important is patience, and lots of it.

That being said, with my magical elf currently in progress, I’d like to backtrack for a bit into the pre-sculpting phases to give you a quick peak at what goes on inside my studio (and my head? nah, too complicated).

Sculpting a magical creature can take hours, if not days and weeks. But that is just part of the process. Before we embark on the magical journey combining sculpture and blogging, follow my on this quick detour into the background and behind the scenes.

Dreaming – The PRE-Planning phase

I am a dreamer, so this phase can take days, weeks, even longer, but we’ll dream about that another day. Once a dream is vivid enough to work from, the planning begins


The planning phase still takes a decent amount of time. Going into a sculpture blindly can yield interesting results, but is not always ideal.
The planning phase is about deciding on the creature, pose, costume, props, and anything else desired for the final process.

My magical creatures are inspired by a combination of the things I see, hear, read, dream… but I still need a model to sculpt from. If it’s something small like my little Sock Monkeys I can go right from my imagination or a quick doodle.
If I am sculpting something more complex, especially of human form, I prefer to use ‘models’. These usually come from my favorite online ‘Modeling Agency’ linked below

magic sculpture models

Tools and Supplies

The next important step is an inventory check to make sure I have all the proper (or make-shift) tools and material required. The photo below shows an overview of everything to be utilized for the duration of the process. Missing from this photo is my ruler, convection oven, baking rack and baking pan.

my clay sculpting tools

A quick overview of the tools featured starting from the left:

  • lamp: I need bright light focused on my work to help me see/sculpt tiny details
  • baby wipes and rubbing alcohol: to remove staining clay color from my hands and clean my tools and work area
  • Laptop: this is my lifeline to the world, quick checks for poses, ideas, costumes, models and more
  • aluminum foil: helps build up a strong armature (skeleton) or core for larger projects
  • Different Guage wire and wire tools: to build a strong armature (skeleton) for larger sculptures

Right Side

  • Clay: Premo Sculpey is my primary and favorite. Super Sculpey, Original Sculpey, Living doll: for flesh tones, Granitex sculpey for the ‘fabric’ or ‘sock’ effect in jeans, and of course my Sock Monkeys
  • Pasta Machine: to mix, smooth, and roll clay (NEVER use clay tools for food)
  • Plexi-glass: My favorite smooth and sturdy work surface
  • Variety of sculpting, smoothing, rolling and cutting tools: used for sculpting, smoothing rolling and cutting (what else?)

WHEW!! that looks like a whole bunch of tools, how on earth do I remember to use all of them? In truth, I hardly ever do. Below is a photo of my FOUR favorite non-conventional tools. If all else were taken away, these would be enough to sculpt just about anything.

my favorite clay sculpting tools

No, you’re not blind, you count three, I count 4

4 = the ink-well of a standard BIC pen. Its small diameter, tube strength and flexibility make it the ideal smoothing and rolling tool

3 = A tapestry needle with a sculpted handle. The needle portion is great for peircing, connecting, rolling smoothing and so much more

2 = X-Acto knife blade with a hand sculpted handle. The small sculpted handle makes it easy to hold and control for tiny figures. Good for cutting, shaping, smoothing, shaving and more


1 = MY HAND!! No Joke!! My hand is the best tool I have. The combined softness and firmness of the hand allows for for holding, shaping, smoothing, blending. Using my fingers to ‘sense’ as I work allows me to use the right amount of pressure, pull force… Sometimes I wish I had smaller fingers because a man-made tool cannot be as effective as a human hand.

And let’s not forget a simple metric ruler. Yes, math is required for sculpting. Proportions are very important when sculpting realistic creatures. They are even more important when the creature is posed so that you cannot measure directly. And so the sketch gets marked, feet turn to inches, ratios are converted, and I’m ready to begin
(If I stop dreaming long enough to start working)

MagicByLeah e-Newsletter

How does a polymer clay fairy get its wings? Which tools are used to create a micro-mini mermaid? Click HERE to sign up for the MagicByLeah email Newsletter and stay up to date with my latest sculptures and progressing magical creatures


  1. says

    It’s been about five years since I’ve sculpted but my favorite way to make fairy wings are, use white floral wire to make the frame, take tissue paper scrunch it and then smothe it out. Spray it with a little water then take your water color and dab in on the tissue till you like the effect. Let dry and place it over the frame and using white glue attach it to the frame. They come out so pretty.

    • MagicByLeah says

      Your technique sounds so pretty Mary. I can just picture that magical frail looking wing. I would love to see some photographs of your wings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *