The majority of my recent sculpture was done with polymer clay. This is fairly simple to use; the consistency and colour being very much like Plasticine. The big difference is that Polymer clay is baked in a regular oven at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
These figures range from about 5 to 10 inches in height. Unfortunately, they are a little on the fragile side, owing to the brittle nature of the clay. Other materials supplement the clay; I have used stiff wire, wooden sticks, string, paper, clear plastic and flexible computer wires.
The Earrings and brooches, etc., are all owned and worn by their (hopefully) proud owners. Larger views of these are also available underneath the figures.
The polymer clay brands that I use are Fimo Classic, and Sculpey III. Fimo is my favourite, since it’s fairly hard, and takes a lot of handling without losing it’s shape. Faces, arms and legs need to keep their shape until it’s oven time.
Sculpey, on the other hand, is much softer. This comes in handy for larger shapes, such as bases and backdrops. Flattening out a large section for a wall, for instance, is so much easier with Sculpey.
Both products come in a various colours, and styles, and cost between $2.50 and $3.50 (Canadian). The styles include translucent (more like candle-wax translucent), pearl, metallic, luminescent and even glow-in-the-dark! You can mix Scupley and Fimo together, despite the differences in baking times and temperatures. (If you like, take an average, but I find there is a lot of latitude in the baking specifications.)
I have tried special sculpting tools available from hobby stores, including rubber molds for faces and hands. These are all well and fine, but I usually end up using my own customized tools. Basically, I look for common household items that will help me achieve a desired result. As for as I’m concerned, there are NO rules about this - whatever works - works.
Here are a few of my more successful shaping implements:
Shoe polishing brush - great for rough textures, such as stone & brick.
A plastic roller. For flattening very light coloured material, you should use a layer of wax paper, since the roller tends to get covered with clay.
Tweezers are good for adding on tiny pieces during the finishing stages.
A pair of needle-nosed pliers for bending and cutting wire.
The utility blade. It’s used for making clean cuts, scraping and cutting the hardened clay, and you can even use the back of the blade for scoring lines into the soft clay.
Rounded wooden ends of worn-out paint brushes. Used for shaping, smoothing, poking, etc.
An ancient analog device, the compass … I guess this could be anything, but the point is good for detail work, and the shaft helps smooth/scrape soft Fimo onto the already hardened material.
My fingers. Yup - mother nature wins out for over-all sculpting versatility. I’m kind of surprised that I can't find anything better, or more accurate, than my own fingers. One thing, though - closely cropped fingernails are a must!
Also of necessity, especially for highly detailed work:
Close-up visual aids. I have a piece of head gear, where the magnifying lenses flip down. This is okay, but is hot and rather uncomfortable. Also, you get a BAD case of hat-head!
A jewelers light/magnifying glass is ideal, but a bit of an investment. When you’re ready for close in work, you simply swing this in front of your face. You are zoomed in quite a bit, so it helps to view your project normally, just to keep scale and proportion accurate.