Monday, January 17, 2011

Satyr and Nymph (Curing/details)

Today we will look more closely at curing the figures.
I have a convection oven in my studio just for artwork.
The first thing I want to do is see how the figure will fit into the cool  oven. In this case the figure must sit on the floor of the oven. As the oven is preheated, I will prep the figure. I want to cure in the position the finished piece will have so the tension on the support rod stays consistent. If he will not fit standing up, you can cure on a bed of fiber-fill as well.

To keep the thin parts from scorching I will cover then with a tent of foil or wet paper towel. Either works fine and causes no problem when they come in contact with the clay. Be careful not to damage the delicate parts as you tent them. Here I have used both methods of tenting.
The oven is now up to temp (275 degrees) and the figure is carefully inserted. He bakes for 20 minutes then the tenting comes off and he bakes for 10 minutes more to assure that the tented areas are cured.
As soon as he is cured he does the Swedish thing and runs out into the snowbank to cool off. This rapid cooling helps keep the figure from developing a stress crack down the spine.
Really, it works, trust me! If you have no snow, the cold temperate outside works just as well, just sit him outside for about 30 minutes. An ice bath works well but you need to be sure that water is not trapped inside after the cooling process.
Here he is all cured. No difference in color between the head, hand, and torso.
**** Now the limbs and torso are superheated with the paint stripper (heat gun). Holding the gun about three inches away from the clay, I move back and forth over each limb for about one minute. After curing in the oven the clay surface should look dull. The heat gun will bring the temperature of the clay up a few hundred degrees in about 30 seconds. The surface will start to turn shiny again and look like vinyl. This is what we want. If you continue to cure with the gun, you will scorch the clay. Try this on scrap pieces before you try it on a sculpture!

The hooves are painted with Liquid Sculpy to act as a wetting agent so the new clay will stick to the cured clay better.
I have barely mixed black and translucent clays together to use as the final hoof material. The clay has veins of black and translucent which will mimic the natural look of hooves and horn.
Horns are also wet down and covered.
Horns and hooves are cured with the heat gun until they are shiny.

The last thing to do before we paint is to apply the nails. Wet the nail beds with Liquid Sculpy, apply a small bead of translucent clay to the bed, then flatten the nail and trim off any excess clay. Cure with the heat gun.


  1. wow ! that was suprising ! a cool treatment ??? that is something new and i have to try it !!! i was always avoiding even opening the oven before the sculpt cools down naturally because as soon as i open the oven moonies appears all over the sculpt before my very eyes...... i thought it is due to the change of temperature and also to the air trapped inside... but it seems i get the moonies more often now when i sculpt better than when i was starting and i dont know why...

    I also have a question about baking the sculpt. Do you sometimes bake unfinished sculpt and then add legs and hands or do you always bake the complete piece? i ask because i find it extremly difficult to keep the sculpt clean and smooth and not to damage the shape i want. On the other hand adding big parts like leg is always hard for me to "rub" it in, to attach and smooth. Thank You !

    Your blog is awesome !

  2. Mark, do you superheat the head and neck area?

    Thanks Darel

  3. Oh YES !!!! i would greatly appreciate the post about it and i feel it would be beneficial to many others who are struggling with "smooth transitions" and applying layers of clay without distroying the shape.This post will be just PRICELESS.

    And thank you so much for your comment about moonies and reworking the sculpt, YES!!!!, it makes sens !!! how odd,it never came to my mind !!!!!!!!! wow.. now i know , thank you :)

    Great Respect

  4. I would be terrified to put a piece so close to the heating elements in my oven. Any suggestions short of making a smaller sculpt? Mark, btw, this piece is breathtaking even before it's painted. Will you show us how you paint your eyes and tell us what type of paint you use on the glass beads. I'm getting ready to start painting my sculpt from the first tutorial and sure don't want to ruin it now. Thanks for all you're sharing!

  5. Amazing--I gotta try this. I always thought stress cracking happened because of cooling too fast!

  6. Mark how can we contact you about your barn classes? I am interested in 2012. It is going to be my 60th Birthday present! I will be flying in from Australia. My email is

  7. When I first started sculpting, I gave all my characters an ice-water plunge, but then I was advised against it by some others, it so I stopped. But I always felt that it somehow strengthened my clay; even cheap clay didn't seem to break very easily after I did that. And I never had cracks or moonies when I did this.