This is such an easy project, you’re going to love it! You can vary the look by just using different colors of clay and by adding new embellishments, so you may just have to make a flock of them! First of all, what’s ‘steampunk’ anyway? It’s a look – imagine a mad-scientist/adventurer from turn-of-the-century Victorian London … think of how his clothes and instruments and flying machine would look -- that’s steampunk! So to make something in that style, you’ll use lots of metal embellishments like little watch gears, brass screws, that sort of thing. This lil’ blob bird gets his steampunk styling by adding metal beads and watch gears. *Christi Friesen is an award-winning artist working in embellished polymer clay. She is the author of nine books on creating with polymer, and many more articles and projects. You can see more of her work at: www.CForiginals.com.
You're going to need a ball of clay about the size of an avocado pit. I think it’s more fun to mix it from several colors to get marbley swirls! So grab whatever steampunky colors you like (I recommend choosing from the options listed) and mix them together to blend and condition the clay. Do this by rolling, folding and twisting repeatedly until the clay is soft and flexible. Or run the clays through a pasta machine to get the same result.
From your swirly clay blob, pull off enough to make the body – this should be a ball about the size of a large hard-boiled egg yolk. Roll the ball nice and smooth (and just set that extra clay aside for now).
Form the ball into a teardrop shape by rolling it between your palms. It helps if you hold your hands in a “v” shaped wedge, so you can squeeze just one end of the ball to make the pointy part of the teardrop shape. Yup, just like that.
We’re going to pull the head right out of the body! Gently grab the clay at the fat end of the teardrop and squeeze gently to pull a wad up! This is the neck and the head.
If the whole thing looks like an elf shoe at this point, you’re doing it right! If the pulled up blob looks too pointy for a head, you can fix that by pressing down on the top of the wad to fatten it up a bit.
Now make a beak by gently pinching and pulling clay out from the front of this head blob. Pretend you’re making a little tiny ice cream cone. Great!
Set the bird shape down on your work surface and press down just a little on the curve of his back to make him stand up. There! Doesn’t that look birdish so far?!
Let’s add the eyes! I like to use dark, round glass or stone beads for eyes – they’re shiny and really add a lot of personality. You can just push them into the clay, but they may not stay in after baking, so it’s best to add a hooked ‘tail’ of wire so they’ll stay embedded. Use 28-gauge wire (about 2 inches) to thread through an eye bead. Pull the wires together and hold them with pliers. Twirl the bead with your fingers to twist the wire.
Use wire cutters to snip off the excess wire, leaving a ‘tail’ about a quarter of an inch long. Use the pliers to bend the tip of the wire into a hook (like a candy cane). Repeat this process for the other eye bead.
Press the eye beads into the center of the bird’s head, one on each side. Hey! He’s looking at you!
Time for embellishments! Stack some nifty beads on a headpin – especially nice and steampunky are bead caps, beads with gear-like notches, any metal beads or beads with metallic coatings. Create a stack of embellishments for the crown of his head and another, slightly longer one for his tail.
With wire cutters, snip off any excess headpin to leave about a half inch, then use pliers to bend a hook in the end. Press the shorter bead lineup into the top of his head. Press down firmly so that the beads embed slightly into the clay and the headpin is tight against the top bead.
Press the longer bead lineup into the tip of his tail. Once again, press down firmly so that the beads embed slightly into the clay and the headpin is tight against the top bead.
Ok, all we need now are wings! Use that clay you set aside to make two small teardrops.
Flatten the teardrops with your fingers.
Press the teardrops onto each side of the body. I like to have the pointy ends sticking up, but you do whatever you think looks best for your bird.
To make the beak look more beaky, use a paintbrush to dust the clay with a coating of mica powder. Use gold or russet colored powder (depending on which looks best on your bird).
If you have watch gears, press them into the sides of the body where the wings attach. Since it’s difficult to attach a wire ‘tail’ you can just press them in place and then after the bird is baked, pull the gear off, add a drop of glue and press it back on. Tah dah!! All done – doesn’t he look sweet?!! Time to bake. Preheat your oven to 275ºF (130ºC), and bake your bird until tender… no wait, I mean for 45 minutes. Let him cool completely. Wasn’t that fun? Great! Let’s make some more!!!
2 round beads: stone or glass, in a dark color like black or blue (for eyes)
28-gauge wire, 3-4" (to attach the eye beads)
2 headpins: any color or style, 1.5-2" (to add the embellishments)
Steampunk Embellishments: watch gears, metal beads, metallic glass seed beads, metallic crystal beads, metal bead caps, etc. (NO plastic embellishments!)
Mica Powder: gold or russet color
Glue: any glue that works with plastic & metal, like PolyBonder™, E-6000™ or a super-glue type (cyranoacrylic glue)
tools: wire cutters, pliers, paintbrush (to apply the mica powder)