Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Skull Madness: Sugar Skull tutorial

Hola hola, mis amigos! I love skulls--and as I tell my kids: they aren't scary, they're necessary or we'd all have heads like jellyfish. I also love bright colors and patterns, so naturally sugar skulls appeal to me on a fundamental level. Like when you were six and would geek out over My Little Ponies or GI Joe.

I have thus far come up with two variations on polymer clay sugar skulls, but give me time and I'm sure I'll make more. ARE YOU READY TO GET CRAFTY?

Supplies, for Sugar Skulls two ways:

Polymer Clay--I used Sculpey Brand Premo clay--white and one other color of your choice.
A cutting tool
A needle tool (or a needle and a pencil)
Jump rings (10mm size)
Pin backs
Acrylic Paint (black,plus 3 colors of your choice)
Paint brush--small round (like a 2 or 3)
Fine tipped permanent pen in black
Rubber stamp with floral pattern
Oval clay cutter (like a cookie cutter but smaller)

First you'll need just your clay, cutting tool, needle tool, and oval cutter. 
Put the oval cutter aside, because we're going to get handsy and make dimensional skulls first. 

Take 1/4 of your clay block (it's pre-scored, so just cut along that indentation) and soften it up. You can work it with your hands until it's squishy, or if you have a clay roller you can use that. Once your clay is good and soft, roll it into a ball.

Then kind of pinch one end to make an egg-shape. Lay that down and cut it in half lengthwise. 

Now you have two skulls! One to wear, one to share. 
Flip them over and roll the cut edge towards the back.

Once your edges are rolled, flip it back over and kind of smoosh it with your thumb to flatten the front a bit.

 Below I have drawn a rough sketch of facial dimensions. The eye sockets will be about 1/3 from the top of the skull, and the mouth about 1/3 from the bottom. Don't get crazy with measuring though, you can just eyeball (ha!) where you want your eyeballs.

Use the back end of your needle tool to press 2 indentations where the eye sockets would go.
Use the needle part of your tool to make a mouth.

And again, use your needle tool to make teeth lines. 4-6 lines work best--we're not going for anatomical authenticity here.

Now look at your skull--how cute! If you like you can smooth out any rough edges around the eyeballs.

Get out your jump rings--the 10 mm ones.

Take one and smoosh it down into the top of the skull.

Use your needle tool to close the hole made by the bottom of the ring. This will make sure that you don't lose your head later.

Admire your handiwork. Set him aside to wait his turn in the oven. Go ahead and make your second skull. I'll wait....

Now, Sugar Skull method number 2! (or Numero 2, if you prefer)

Take about half the amount of clay that you used last time, and roll it out to about the width of a nickle.

Get out your oval cutter and cut an oval. Use the cutter, slightly staggered to cut away the bottom portions of the oval. I've found that having a chin segment that's thumb-width is about right. Also, I had to do this at least 5 times before I figured out where to cut. It's OK if it takes a few tries.

Use your needle tool like you did before to make eye sockets and teeth.

Roll out your second color of clay to the same width.

Play around with placement of your skull. I eventually settled on a tombstone-like shape.

I used my cutting blade to cut that out. DON'T SQUISH YOUR SKULL ON THERE YET!

Pull the skull off and place it to the side. Get out your floral stamps and randomly stamp on your dark clay. 

Now flip over your stamped clay and get out your pin back.

 Place the pin back on the clay, opened.

Use scraps of leftover clay to hold it in place. 
Make sure you can open and close the pin!

Now flip it back over and put your skull back on the front. Awww.

Bake your skulls in a 275 degree oven for 40 minutes. 
Let them cool after baking.
Have a snack.

Get out your paints, paint brush, permanent pen, paper towel.

First things first, paint all your eye sockets black. Also, paint the teeth lines black.

NOSES! They are just tiny upside-down heart shapes. The easiest way to draw them is to flip the skulls upside down and draw the hearts right side up.Paint inside of the noses black, too.

Take your permanent pen and DRAW*. It's traditional to do floral shapes around the eyes. But you do what you feel moved to do.

Next, use your pen to connect all of your vertical lines and make teeth. The tops of teeth are rounded, not square, so use your lower-case-m writing skills here.

Same thing for the bottom teeth. Cursive-lowercase-w writing skills. (Do they even teach cursive anymore?)
Repeat for all your skulls, regardless of size.

Get out your paints and paint away. Paint your flower petals, paint lines around your teeths. Paint hearts and stars and spiderwebs. Paint all the Lucky Charms shapes on there!

Do some scroll work swirly stuff. Paint lines or dots around the edges.

With these two techniques, you can go skull crazy. And I heartily recommend that you do! 

* I have found that permanent pen takes a while to dry. If it smears, take a damp paper towel and wipe it off. Also, it's probably a good idea to seal your paint with a matte sealer after it's completely dry--like 24 hours later. 

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