Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Paperclay Funny Bird Tutorial

I've done a lot of clay work. Paper mache' too. But when the two are combined,
it's the best of both worlds. No more layering strips of paper. No more baking or

So, while I am relatively new to Creative Paperclay, I have to say that I'm in love.

I just designed and created this little bird figure that I would like to share with you.
This is my first tutorial, and I'm in a bit of a rush, so bear with me.
For this project, you will need:

3" styrofoam ball
2" styrofoam ball
1 1/2" styrofoam ball
1" styrofoam ball
(or you can substitute balls of foil, if desired)

2 thin bamboo skewers, or stiff wire, like from a clothes hanger
an additional piece of stiff wire, about 8" long
aluminum foil
Spanish moss for the nest
acrylic paint
masking tape -1" is a good width
white glue -like Elmer's
hot glue, and gun

(You can find this at Hobby Lobby and Michael's)

Step ONE:

Cut the 3" ball in half to make the base for the statue.
Cut the 1' ball in half to make the tail. You will only need 1/2 of each ball for this project.

Then build the armature of the bird using the 2" and 1 1/2" balls, by inserting the skewers as shown below. The top of the head should have the two skewers perfectly lined up in the center, and about 1/2" apart. See the two tallest head feathers in the photo? Those are the two skewers, covered in paperclay.

Take the 1" ball half, and tape it to the back side of the bird, down low for his tail.

Bend the piece of wire into a flat armature for the branch, then wrap foil around it to
make it into a cylindrical shape, about as thick as a pencil. You can create a forked appearance to your branch, by bending the wire in two narrow loops at one end.

I like to cover everything with masking tape before covering armatures with clay. Your choice, of course.


Step TWO:

Cover the bird armature with a layer of clay. I coat mine with glue to assure sticking. The clay should be about 1/5 of an inch thick. I am a polymer clay artist, so I have a pasta machine devoted to clay. It works with paperclay too, so if you want to use a pasta machine to roll your clay flat to cover the armatures, use the third largest setting.

Make sure that you cover the two skewers and shape them as you like. I made mine flatter on the front and back. You can make the beak now, or later. Use something like the eraser on a pencil to make indentations where the beak parts will go. You can attach the beak either before drying, or dry it separately, then glue it on later. You can indent some feathers in his chest with a fingernail, or the end of a straw, etc.

While the body is drying, you can make two wings from paperclay. I have an example below for you, or you can design them your way. You can use household items to make indentations for the feathers. I used a thin straw, and a flat sculpting tool.

Also make the tail feathers, and set them aside. I did a group of three, which are painted blue and red in the photo above. Make the feet by indenting two places in the edge of a small disc of clay.

If you are very steady with your hands, and feel confident, you can apply the feet, beak, wings and tail feathers now, with the use of a bit of glue, paperclay, or both. You will have to have a sturdy place to set him aside, so he won't get knocked over while he's drying. Otherwise, you can attach them later, and let him dry in about any position.

You can also either add the shorter head feathers before he dries, or wait to do it when you can hold onto his dry body while you work. Either way, you need to make three upside-down teardrop shaped feathers to add around the two tall feathers on his head. Smooth them out at the bottom, like an inverted V, so they will look like they are part of him, not just sitting on his head.


Make the base by covering the rounded side of one half of the 3" ball with clay. You can cover the bottom as well. Or you can glue on some felt later. Smooth it, and set it aside to dry.

Step FOUR:

Take some long strands of Spanish moss ( about an inch wide), and twist them to make a loose rope-like strand. Not too tight. This is the nest, but it will be shaped like a donut.

Also at this time find something like a piece of styrofoam, that is about 1/2" thick, and about the same wide. Like the size of a die out of a game. This can be made form the clay too, but I like to re-use things, so I used a piece of styrofoam packing material. All this piece does is serve as a rest for the bird's butt, to raise him up level with the branch his feet will be on. You'll cover it with bits of moss to hide it.


Step FIVE:

Cover the branch with a thin layer of clay, leaving the forked ends bare to add leaves. I added a wire extension so that the top leaf would be higher. Use a butter knife or sculpting tool to create lines in it, like bark. Add a few leaves stuck on the ends of the wire and one or two here and there. I let the two on the ends of the wire dry on it, but I made the middle leaf separately, and glued it on after drying and painting. Your choice.

Step SIX:

Assuming that everything has been assembled, and is now dry, you can sand lightly, if desired, then paint in your choice of colors. I painted the base sky blue, and added leaves to give the appearance that the nest is in a tree, but you could make the base any solid color. I painted the branch and leaves a darker color, then dry-brushed a lighter color over that to show the textured details.


Heat your glue gun. Assemble as shown in the picture above, by gluing the nest on the base, leaving the center of the moss ring open, like a nest.

Then set the branch in place, making sure that it makes contact with the base, You don't want to glue it on the nest so much, as you do the base. You need stability to set the bird on it, and don't want it tipping and tearing off the moss. So, position the branch where you want it, and hot glue the back half of it to the base, leaving most of the opening in the moss for the bird.

Then set the bird with his feet on the branch, but don't glue him. See where you need to put the square riser piece to support him. It will probably be right in the center of the opening in the moss, but it might need to be back some. Glue it directly to the base when you know where it needs to be. Then add a little more glue around it, and tuck some scrap moss around it, but not on top.

Put glue on the bottom of the bird's feet (lightly) and on top of the riser, then quickly set him in position and hole him while the glue cools.

You can glue felt to the bottom if you wish, and didn't cover it with clay. You can also put it on a wooden decorative base, like you buy at the craft store.

You can visit the Creative Paperclay blog at:

1 comment:

  1. I love this bird. I didn't realize that you painted it when I first saw it. Amazing job. I'm going to have to try this paper clay.