Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Paperclay Ornament Tutorial: Part 1

Paperclay Ornament Tutorial : Part 1

 If you have been wondering how I make my paperclay sculptures, today is your lucky day!

I'm going to show you a quick walk through of a project I am working on! Hope you enjoy! But please also remember to be creative and not to use my exact characters or anything since they are my original copyrighted designs. Thanks! :) 

First, the supplies you will need:
- Paperclay
- Zippy Bag to Store Clay
- A bowl that won't be used on food anymore for your water
- Water in that bowl
- paper/styrofoam plate or something for paint pallet
- Toothpicks and/or Dowel Rods
- Acrylic Paint
- Paint Brushes
- Wire cutters or Strong scissors to cut through your toothpicks/dowels/wire
- Craft Glue of your preference
- Wire or Eye-Loop Screw things (for ornaments only)
- Some sort of String (for ornaments only)
- Varnish
- Optional: Glitter
-  Optional: Sandpaper
- Optional: Styrofoam or Tin Foil
- Optional: hot glue gun or strong glue depending on needs

So let's get started! Today I'm going to be making 3 ornaments.
 One quick tip- while working with paperclay, be sure to keep any extra clay that you are not using at the moment in a tightly sealed zippy bag or air tight container. This is an air-dry clay, so it doesn't take long for it to harden to the air. You will probably need to kneed in some water in with the clay while you are working with it as well.

Ok one thing you need to know when working with paperclay is that you can work in layers! I usually make the most basic part of my characters first and then add the details after the first layer is dry. Then after the details & everything have dried you can start painting & such.

 So what I'm going to be making is a set of 3 girl ornaments. As you can see from the picture above, the first one on the left is my sister and my idea is to have her wearing a skirt and holding a hot chocolate. Then the middle is my mom and she is going to be holding a camera because she is a photographer :). Last is me and I'm thinking of having me hold Spanky (my cat).
So those are my ideas for them, though the ideas will probably evolve and change some before they are done!

To start, we need to make the base of the characters. I have 3 ways that I like to do it, and I usually just pick what is fastest and I have on hand:
1: You can do a body that is completely clay. This is technically the easiest..Though please keep in mind, the thicker it is, the longer it will take to dry. If it is too thick it may take forEVER and possibly not even dry at all. Also, it takes a lot of clay, so you have to keep the costs in mind.
2:  You can cover styrofoam with clay for some or all areas of the body. This is probably the best way that I have found because it is easy to stick things into styrofoam. Also, the styrofoam will keep the piece extra light which is great for ornaments. But you have to remember that styrofoam can be pricy and you may have to shape it into a special shape if the generic spheres, eggs, cones, and blocks don't work for your project.
3: You can wad up some tin foil, wrap it in masking tape, and then cover that in clay. This works well for large pieces that are oddly shaped. I don't like to use foil for areas that need things sticking into them.. such as my arms, ornament loops, legs, etc. Its just hard to stick things through the foil and can mess up your piece if you try too hard.

ANYWAYS, having said that, for this project I decided to cover some tiny Styrofoam balls for the heads and then the body is solid clay.

Once making the basic head body shapes, I attached them with some white glue. 


Then I smoothed the seam out with toothpicks, my fingers, and some water.

Next I wanted to make the legs out of toothpicks. So I cut the sharp end off of one side of my toothpicks with some strong scissors.

It's fine if one end is still sharp because it will be stuck into the clay. I wanted the bottoms to be flat for the feet. 

 Now just dip the sharp tips of the toothpicks into the same white glue as before, and stick them into the body at the desired placement.

(be sure to wipe off any excess glue after sticking in the toothpicks)

The only other thing I am going to add right now is a little nose for each of them.

I like to work in layers so that I can work on little pieces of the design at a time and then I don't have to worry about messing up any of the pieces before they dry. 

*** Before you stop and let your pieces dry for the day --- Be sure that you have all the necessary pieces done for the type of sculpture you are making.. *** Because once the clay drys, there is no going back! :)

For example: do you need to stick anything else into the body or head? If i make my arms out of wire then I will add them at this stage just like i did with the toothpick legs. (however, with this piece, I am going to make the arms out of clay, so this can be done later.)

Also- for an ornament, you will probably want to stick in a little wire hook to hang it by at this stage. I make my clay very thin on my styrofoam, so I plan to add my hanger when I add my hair so it doesn't get messed up, but if you are a beginner, you will probably want to put it in now to save any frustration down the road.

So once you have EVERYTHING done that needs to be with the base of your piece you will let it dry overnight. If you lay it on a flat surface then you will need to flip it over after awhile so that both sides can dry. You will know when it is dry because it will be a lighter color and hard to the touch.

*Please also note, that if you wish, you can make your entire sculpture all at once instead of doing layers with dry-time in between. It's really just personal preference. I just prefer the layering method, myself.*

Want to see the rest of the tutorial? Click on the desired step below:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Find out more about me and my work by visiting my website.


  1. When you talk about attaching the head to the body with glue, do you do this when the clay is still wet? Also, when you smooth the seam, do you add more clay and do you do that before the glue attaching the head/body is dry?


  2. Really good tutorial...thank you for sharing!