Micro Miniature Polymer Clay Cardinals with Birdhouse in Winter Snow

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Micro Miniature Polymer Clay Cardinals in Winter with Birdhouse In BottleTo keep myself motivated this year I hope to enter at least one polymer clay challenge or contest each month. I entered 2 in January (can’t share the second one till voting is over).

It’s not about winning because I’m competing with amazing pro sculptors. Instead it’s about thinking outside the box and coming up with new ideas.

Challenge Theme: Frosty Winter Story through My Clay Fantasy team.

Of course I thought about snow, but WHAT about the snow?

Fairy? Not confident I could pull it off.

Cold creatures like polar bears? Maybe…

And then it struck me.

Birds in the Snow.

I love birds. They’re quire magical and their interactions certainly tell a story.

Tools and supplies to follow along:

You can pick these up at your local craft store, or purchase using my amazon affiliate links below. (If you go through my links I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you)

The Challenge:

The obvious challenge with this project is sculpting on such a tiny scale. But I love micro sculpting.

The second and actual challenge is getting everything into the bottle. Not only is the bottle so tiny and hard to work in, but the bottle neck has a much smaller opening making it difficult to get the clay inside.

But I didn’t let it deter me

Sculpting the Micro Miniature Birdhouse

Polymer clay requires support, no matter how tiny. I created a tiny wire armature with a loop at the bottom to rest flush in the bottle, and another loop halfway up to support the birdhouse.

I wrapped the armature with thinner craft wire to give the clay something to ‘bite’. I’ve found this technique helps prevent the clay from twisting and sliding on the smooth wire.

Click on the image for a more detailed and magnified view.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse wire armature Cardinal Winter Birdhouse wire covered armature

The log pattern was created following the same technique used in my Blue Wood Fairy Door but with a mix of black and brown clay.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse wood colorsCardinal Winter Birdhouse wood snakes Cardinal Winter Birdhouse wood pattern start Cardinal Winter Birdhouse wood grain pattern

Once patterned I cut tiny little logs and attached them to the 4 sides of the birdhouse.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse adding logs Cardinal Winter Birdhouse log covered

The shingled roof started with a small square of light brown clay covered with tiny ‘squished’ square shingles. I cut the clay into squares and then used my finger to smooth and slightly round the edges.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse roof Cardinal Winter Birdhouse roof shingles

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse adding roof shingles Cardinal Winter Birdhouse ready for next step

I added the log pattern to the wooden ‘pole’ supporting the birdhouse.

Sculpting Inside A Tiny Glass Bottle

Frustrating would be the best term to describe this phase.

I nearly gave up a few times.

If I sculpt another bottle scene again I will have to rethink my approach.

I added a ‘grass’ base to the bottom of the bottle so that the birdhouse base has something to grab and remain secure.

But the grass refused to stick to the bottle.

I finally got the green clay to stop moving by adding a drop of liquid sculpey and working it in. The liquid sculpey made the glass more ‘sticky’ and finally gave the green clay something to adhere to.

Unfortunately the birdhouse was too wide and the shingled roof wouldn’t fit into the bottle. Using my fingers I squished the sides together till it was narrow enough to get in.

Using my pliers I held the top wire and pushed the birdhouse armature into place.

But once again I had trouble getting the green clay to stick. And I needed this second layer to hide the bottom wire loop.

I created a flexible ‘tool’ out of wire with a loop at the end for  pushing on the green clay. This allowed me to work around the birdhouse inside the tiny bottle.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse grass covered bottle Cardinal Winter Birdhouse wire bottle tool

Unfortunately I hit the bird house twice and distorted a few shingles.

Next time I’ll bake the pieces before inserting them into the bottle.

A Snow Covered Disaster

To create a thick semi-liquid snow I mixed white clay with liquid clay in a tiny glass jar.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse mixing liquid snow


I aimed the snow over the side of the birdhouse to land on the ground. However, my liquid concoction glooped together and hit the front of the birdhouse AND glass bottle at the same time.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse snow on birdhouse Cardinal Winter Birdhouse snow on bottle

I was so frustrated, I seriously considered calling it quits…

So I walked away!

Sometimes the best thing you can do to improve a sculpture or piece of art is to walk away. Clear your mind, do something else, then come back.

Cleaning the Snow

I scraped off most of the snow using my new wire tool. I used the loop to push the snow down onto the grass.

I then did my best to clean the sides of the bottle with a small paintbrush dipped into rubbing alcohol.

Half an hour later and the project lives on

Sculpting Micro Miniature Cardinals

Cardinals are such beautiful creatures.

I often see bursts of red accompanied by loud chatter when working in the garden. And when they take flight can’t help but to stop and watch.

My biggest problem when sculpting on such a tiny scale is to NOT get carried away. I was really tempted to try perfecting every color mix and detail but knew (from experience) that it would take HOURS!

The trick with these tiny creatures is not to squish them in the process.

The Female Cardinal

Female cardinals are less vibrant in color, ranging from tan to brown.

I shaped the birds body on my fingertip – complete with feathered crest at the top of her head. This process warmed the clay enough to make it stick. Using my sewing needle tool I shaped and added features one by one.

Starting with the tail,

followed by wings,

and finally facial features.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse female cardinal body Cardinal Winter Birdhouse female cardinal wings

I debated baking her before adding to the scene but was afraid she’d burn in the oven.

Then I was afraid I’d lose her on my messy worktable.

I compromised by using a toothpick to gently place her on the snow covered ground inside the bottle.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse female bird Cardinal Winter Birdhouse female bird in bottle

The Red Male Cardinal

I sculpted the red cardinal in the same manner starting with a red body and brownish red wings and tail.

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse male bird body Cardinal Winter Birdhouse male bird wings and tail

Cardinal Winter Birdhouse male bird hand view Cardinal Winter Birdhouse male bird complete

I placed him on the top of the snow-covered birdhouse.

I threw in some glitter to make the snow sparkle.

Polymer clay Winter Cardinals top view

Then tried to get detail pictures for over half an hour.

Overall, this was one of my more frustrating projects but I really do like the little details. Perhaps next time I’ll sculpt a micro miniature scene to fit a glass BOX with a full side opening to prevent some of these mishaps.

But did I mention that I love the tiny birds? They are THE SMALLEST SCULPTURES I’ve done to date.

Polymer clay Winter Cardinals Rear View 2 Polymer clay Winter Cardinals Rear View Micro Miniature Cardinals with Snow Covered Birdhouse Micro Miniature Polymer Clay Cardinals in Bottle

What about you? What’s the smallest thing you’ve ever sculpted and what did you find most frustrating about the process? Let me know by leaving a comment below

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  1. Donna says

    Since I’m a type 1 diabetic, I save my insulin bottles, I can use the empties and the syringes would work great to drip the snow. This project is perfect and a positive way to look beyond the supplies. Will try.

    • MagicByLeah says

      That’s brilliant Donna, I didn’t think to use a syringe but it’s a great idea. I’m sure I can find one at the local pet shop (pet feeding) or medical supply shot. I like how you think 🙂

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