Polymer Clay Mermaid Challenge Head

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Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay head before and afterDid I mention how much I absolutely love the apprentice program by the Professional Doll Makers Guild? If I haven’t mentioned it already, I absolutely LOVE IT!

As a beginner ‘realistic’ sculptor I often have questions. I’m still getting used to anatomy and general sculpting features. Being able to ask questions and get feedback every step of the way helps me understand my weak areas despite not being able to catch it on my own.

Even more exciting is the new challenge – to sculpt a full figure mermaid.

Safe to say this takes me WAY WAY WAY out of my comfort zone having never sculpted a full figure before. Unless you count this little mermaid.

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay squished headHeads and faces are tricky! This is one of the first things you see when you meet a person, and this is the first thing I work on for my dolls. But faces are so unique and complex that it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right.

In fact, I squished the first face attempt despite working on it for hours. Shared the progress Instagram

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)

I chose to use 100% prosculpt for this project. Prosculpt was created by a doll maker FOR dollmakers and touted to be a superior clay. I’ll see this project through and then determine if I like it better than my previous go to: living doll and Premo Sculpey.

Mermaid Head: Take 2

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay starting the headI experimented with a new armature format for this head. Instead of sculpting on wire I sculpted on a stick. This will allow me to slide the head onto a wire armature after baking.

I started with the basic shapes focusing on the skills learned from my previous mentored face sculpt. I sculpt very slowly and tend to get lost in the details I complete.

I added ‘fake ears’ to get an idea of how she’ll look with ears. I plan to add these much later.

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay first head front Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay first head right side

When I finally kinda/sorta get the details right I can’t see past the flaws and simply want to MOVE ON!

That’s what makes this process so challenging.

  • Shorten the nose
  • Move up the mouth
  • bring down the forehead

This is just some of the tweaks I made over the next few weeks.

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay removed mouth Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay mouth redone Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay mouth redone right Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay mouth redone left

My biggest takeaways in this process:

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay move improvements1- Take Progress Photos Every Step of the Way

It’s hard to identify flaws when holding raw clay in your hand. I don’t know how, but the very same face on my cell phone camera suddenly looks so different. Asymmetry and misshapen features become so much easier to spot

2 – Work With Reference Photos

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay improved head rightInstead of going off a tutorial or random idea in your head, fine a reference photo to follow and work very hard to replicate the features. I use google and simply type in words like “female headshot” or “face model”
But it’s not enough to look at the photo, the key is to compare photos of your work to the model side by side. This exercise helped me identify when features were too wide or narrow, high or low, or just plain… off

3 – Don’t Be Afraid to Undo/Redo

I hate redoing something I’ve already done. But sometimes the first try doesn’t come out right. See that as a ‘warmup’ and figure out how to redo it better. It’s ok to redo the mouth 3 times if this means your final mouth is 3 times better

mirror for checking polymer clay features from both sidesNew Mirror

I also invested in a new standing beauty mirror. While I still find this step uncomfortable, sculpting with a mirror will help you see both sides of your face sculpt at the same time. This helps ensure symmetry of features from the start.

Lint Lint Lint

Unfortunately, this is still a big issue. I tried very hard to maintain a clean working environment and meticulously removed as much lint and fibers from the face as possible. I gave up on the back of the head since it’ll be covered by hair anyway.

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay baked head Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay baked head right Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay baked head left

I also didn’t pay much attention to moonies before.

moonies are caused by tiny bubbles of air trapped in the clay. This happens when you condition clay by folding pieces over, or by simple adding more and more clay. The air is hidden in the raw clay but expands in the oven when exposed to curing temperatures. The expanding air has enough pressure to force its way out of the clay forming little cracks in the process.

I haven’t really experienced this before when working with Premo sculpey and living doll. I also haven’t worked this hard on something before. Is it a result of using prosculpt over sculpey or the technique itself? I’m not ready to make a decision.

Mermaid Challenge Polymer Clay preparing for the armatureWhile there are many options for fixing it I’m choosing not to fret the flaws and focus on the wins. I don’t plan to sell this sculpture and therefor do not risk disappointing any collectors.

Next up: The Mermaid Armature

Stay tuned

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Comments

  1. Michelle says

    Your doing very well leah! Keep up the fab work and of course taking time for yourself is crucial..enjoy your journey and keep the updates coming, looking forward to more pics of your work!
    Michelle

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