Polymer Clay
Why does everyone love skulls - that I don't know. I kind of like them, too, so here is a lesson on how to make skulls out of Polymer Clay.

The clay used is glow-in-the dark because it has a nice bone color. And when you bake it really well (even if it turns slightly yellowish) it contributes to the true bone look of the skull.

The tools you need are a clay shaper and a pin. The back of the handle of the clayshaper is quite important, because it is used to make the eyes of the skull. Of course you can use any other tools that seem to do the same job.

Make an egg-like shape or simply a ball rolling the piece of clay between the palms of your hands.
Imagine that the ball is divided into two equal parts - lower and upper. Gently squeeze the lower part between your thumb and your index finger. The part of the ball between your fingers is where the skull's chin and teeth will be while the upper part is the cranium. Whether your skull will have an elongated or round face or a bump very much depends on the type of shape you start with (ideally round, slightly elliptical, egg-like etc.) On the right, the skull after the first squeeze.

The second major squeeze is in the perpendicular direction. Place your index finger on what will be the face of the skull and the thumb under the chin. If you make sure that you exert the pressure not with the tips of your fingers, but at the first knuckle of your index and your thumb, then the tips of your fingers will be more controllable. In other words if you press the first knuckle of your thumb and finger against each other, the tips of thumb and finger become a valuable tool to pinch the clay with. Where your fingertips join together is where the clay "forms an edge"
By now you should have 2 dents - two on the sides of the skull. The face and the under-the-chin area should be slightly flattened and at a certain angle, too.

Squeeze the face area some more. What gives the skull-like look is the contrast between the narrow mouth-chin area and the round wide cranium.
Put a finger on the skull's face and press in with the nail of your thumb on the back of the chin towards the face. Now you have two more or less distinctly defined areas - the big round ball-like one and the smaller one where the mouth and teeth reside.

Give the lower jaw a sharper edge by squeezing between the index finger and thumb.
Next step is the nose. It is a reversed V-like hole made using the needle in the center of the face, more to the lower part of the skull than to the upper, but by all means between where you think the forehead and the teeth should be.
Now the eyes - make two holes on both sides of the nose area with your pin, but slightly higher than the nose. Make sure they are some distance from the nose, as they will be widened.

Widen the eyeball hole by twisting the pin around. All eyes are equal, so do this twice.<G>
Now stab the rough eyeball hole with the back of the clay shaper (left). That should make a nice big round hole. Make sure that it's pretty deep. Repeat this action on the other eyeball. Look at the face of the skull, and exert some pressure while the stick is in the eye hole in direction "8 o'clock". That should contribute to making the cheek bones more prominent (right).

Make two balls sufficiently small to sink to the bottom of the eye holes. Put them in there.

Now, using the pin, poke a hole in each one of these balls to promote them to eyeballs. Technically, of course, a skull shouldn't have eyeballs, but we make them anyway because they give it more personality. It's worth it on the whole.

Now the mouth: stab the mouthless skull under the cheek with the pin.

By carefully pulling the pin you make the mouth line - the line which is formed between the lips in other people.

This particular skull is sulking, but by varying the line you can vary his expression. You can make it very deep and separate the lower jaw from the upper, and maybe have him sticking his tongue out.

Again using the pin, make small marks vertical to the mouth line. Those are the teeth. This is a basic skull, but of course, you can make teeth separately and attach them to the lower and upper jaw.

Now look at the skull. For a basic skull, this is finished. But don't you think the skull needs it's smile to be emphasized?
(Optional Step Follows)

Let's give the lower jaw some more edge, especially to its back parts. Make a small V-shaped wedge of clay.

Attach the V-shaped wedge to the skull at the corner of the mouth line. Now repeat the process on the other side of the skull.
Smooth the edges of the wedge into the skull's surface, and you have now have a sharper and more "boney" look to his smile. (left)

Last step: make a sinuous line on the top of the skull. Oh, well. You can omit this stage.<G> (right)

Remember, Skulls look good on black!

by Dinko Tilov
All Artwork & Text ©February, 2001

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