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Spooky Woods

I call this image ‘Spooky Woods’. It reminds me of the winter woods around our house. It’s related to this post about sculpture and it accidentally happened in my studio. Want to know what it is? I explain at the bottom…

As an illustrator and graphic designer, I am drawn to the 3 dimensional forms of sculpture but… have not spent much time experimenting with any of the traditional medium. That is, with the exception of Sculpy… when Ben and Sam visit.

Sculpy mini food

We can sit for hours and create miniature worlds of food… or dogs… or whatever! The boys (eight and six) have that endless energy and natural creative that hasn’t been spoiled yet by ‘I can’t’.

Ben and Sam are my grandboys who live near Atlanta, Georgia… so the opportunities are not as numerous as we would like. But, when we get together there is always some sort of art project going on… and Sculpy is a favorite. The polymer clay in the small rectangular packages that is available in every craft store… in black, white and a rainbow of bright colors, subtle colors, pearlized colors… are a wonderful way to introduce “thinking in 3D” for art projects… self expression and even serious sculpture. We’ve made bracelets and rings, miniature hotdogs, pizzas, hamburgers, boxes of candy bonbons, rubber ducks, superheroes, dogs and pirates! A quick 15 minutes in the oven for the still pliable Sculpy figures and they are permanently hardened. Occasionally, a bit of craft glue is necessary to repair two pieces with a weak bond but Sculpy is pretty indestructible at that point.


This material was fun to work with… although, I’m sure some fresher foam will be even better as the texture was something that was uncontrollable in the dried out stuff. You can see that the weird guy face that I made is so much smoother than the rest. That piece was the closest to the original texture of the foam. I’m more organic in my chosen forms and Rog is more… well… architectural, naturally. The flower shape is about 8 inches across and the leaf 12 inches.

What happened beyond the Sculpy projects is the interesting part for me. I found myself thinking in 3D more and more often. When a nephew, Rog, an architect, was visiting we broke out a few packages of a different kind of foam product that was left over from a project a few years ago and spent an afternoon pushing around the half dried out foamy stuff, making what ever popped into our heads. I have to find more of this white stuff. It was fun to work with and although what we had was pretty dried out, there was enough of a feel for what it would be like fresh to make us want to try again. When I find this again I’ll add the name here.


Wax block

Wax block from the foundry – This stuff is so hard you can sand it. But, it melts really well and stays pliable a long time. It does burn if you touch it in a liquid state. You learn quickly when it can be touched!

Melting pot of wax

Once it’s off the burner, it starts cooling and is soft enough to work with… but the liquid wax is hot, sticks to the fingers and will burn… smells, too… lovely stuff.

What I really would like to do is make working in the dark red/brown sculptors wax work for me. I wrote a few days ago about melting some of it that I got from the Boston Foundry during a visit. It’s not easy to work with but it’s a matter of finding the right tools and learning how to keep the wax pliable enough to get the shapes and textures one wants. I’ve been melting the rock-like wax on the stove in the kitchen and carrying it to the studio where it sits on an electric buffet hot plate. I really don’t want to be transporting molten wax over the carpeted areas of the house… just in case the unthinkable would happen… so, today I went looking for a one burner hot plate and came home with a rice cooker. One burners are a thing of the past I was told however, I will be keeping an eye out in the consignment shops and places like salvation army. Meanwhile, the rice cooker has both a removable inside a hot setting for melting and a keep warm setting which may be sufficient for keeping the pliable red wax at the right degree of softness without burning my fingers. A call to my sister who is a dentist to get her opinion on sculpting with the electric pen tools that they use to sculpt teeth models for crown patients was productive. Lots to consider… meanwhile I’ll continue to push and pull and dig at the wax with the few tools I do have. The great advantage of the wax for small pieces is that the mold making process is eliminated along with the time and expense of making the mold, pouring wax in the mold and re-sculpting the wax sculpture before you can go on.


A rough wax ‘sketch’ of a mermaid sitting on a real rock. The refining of the lines begins with heating the tools over the flame and melting the wax surface to remove areas that have too much wax… and building where there is too little. Then working the surface to get the textures of the skin and hair. I’ve tried to confine my mess to a large jellyroll pan on my drawing desk.

•The image at the top that looks like a winter forest? Some of the wax melted between two pizza pans that I had sitting on a buffet hotplate. While the wax was liquid, I pulled the pans apart and that is what I saw. Cool!

It’s absorbing and compelling learning a new thing… a new technique… a new skill. We must be students all our lives… regardless of our interests and/or skills and past experience. Pick something you’ve never done before. Read about it. Then go and do it! Your brain will thank you for it!! Cheers!

© Susana Weber and Tattoo Communications, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susana Weber and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.