Text and Illustrations by Sue Heaser
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Polymer clay such as Fimo or Cernit can be used to create
extremely delicate, openwork structures. These little cages illustrate
this technique, mimicking basketwork or wire. They are in the scale of
1:12 or approximately 2 1/2 inches high. The coin in the photograph is
an English pound.
Birdcages were often highly decorative in Victorian times and
have become very collectable today. From the eighteenth century onwards
when Louis XV commissioned elaborate cages for the orangery at
Versailles, birdcages have been used as much as articles of decoration
as for their intended purpose. These miniature polymer clay birdcages
are somewhat simplified from the Victorian designs but give the flavour
of those beautiful structures in basketwork, wire or gilt. I have made
a polymer parrot (Poly?) to live in the cage but many cages were
displayed purely as ornaments, sometimes containing a plant or draped
You can use the instructions below to create your own beautiful Victorian birdcage--you can even make it a group project by employing tools like http://conferencecallsunlimited.com.
- Polymer Clay:
- Cage: White, ochre.
- Parrot: golden yellow, blue, white, black.
- Fine wire.
- A large marble about 1 inch diameter.
- A strip of thin card formed into a cylinder and stapled, for the marble
to sit in so that it does not roll about while you work.
- A small glass bottle or miniature jam jar with the same diameter,
approximately, as the marble. A roll of cardboard, stapled together,
can be used instead.
- Aluminium foil.
- Gold acrylic paint for gilding the cage if desired.
- A board to work on. A smooth melamine chopping board is ideal,
or else a formica table mat.
- A craft knife or vegetable knife.
- A large wool needle.
- A baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment.
- Nail varnish remover or baby wipes for cleaning hands and the
- Work each piece of clay in your hands before use to soften it.
Soften Fimo with "Mix Quick" if preferred.
- Avoid poking and patting the object you are making; only light
pressure is needed to effect a join. Keep hands clean - wipe with baby
wipes or nail varnish remover before starting.
- Bake polymer clay on a baking sheet lined with baking
parchment. Place in a pre-heated oven for about 10 to 15 minutes at 265F / 130 C.
The Cage Dome
Sit the marble in the top of the cardboard "egg cup" and cover
it with foil. Smooth the foil down as much as possible. You must be
careful only to use the top half of the marble or you will be unable to
remove the cage dome after baking.
Roll out a long sausage of white clay, just over 1/16 in (1.5
mm) thick, keeping it as even in thickness along its length as possible.
Lay two pieces of this in a cross on top of the marble, pressing them
together in the centre and letting them hang down. Press them lightly
onto the foil where they will stick enough to hold them in place.
Now roll a thinner sausage of white clay and cut lengths to
apply all round, radiating from the top and pressing them down. A total
of 16 bars all round is enough for a simple cage. Trim off the
bottom ends of the bars in a straight line using the "egg cup" as a
guide. Apply a thicker sausage of clay all round the bottom, pressing
it onto the trimmed ends of the bars and trimming and butting the ends
Make a finial by pressing a 1/4 in (6 mm) ball of clay onto the
board and impressing it with the end of a pencil. Press this onto the
top of the dome, covering all the upper ends of the bars. Make a small
cone and press onto the centre of the round. If you wish to hang your
cage up, make a horizontal hole through the finial with a needle.