Mini Halloween Pumpkins
- baking sheet
- cotton swab
- rubbing alcohol
Simple guidelines for creating little pumpkins from Super Sculpey. Follow the steps below. Click the links for details and images.
Part 1: Roll the Sculpey & Crease
The first thing to do is roll the Super Sculpey (polymer clay) into little balls. To cut down on the amount of Sculpey each pumpkin requires, you could roll up tinfoil into a ball first and then coat the tinfoil with Sculpey. Since the pumpkins are so small, and I vary the depth of each carving, I do not use any armature as a base.
If you DO decide to use an armature, make sure it's something that won't melt in the oven! So no styrofoam or paper please. Stick with tinfoil.
As Sculpey warms up, it gets soft. When it's soft, the form of the Sculpey will dent and move with the slightest pressure. This can make it difficult to keep any desired shape.
The heat from my hands - especially after rolling out the initial circle - makes the clay so soft it's impossible to work with. To work around this, I roll out a number of little balls and then put them in the fridge for a while to cool off and harden.
The next step is to create the pumpkin creases. You can use any tool to do this (a butter knife, a thin wooden shish kabob skewer, a pen lid...anything thin and solid).
I make an indentation all around the ball, connecting back to the start to form a ring (creating a crease that divides the ball into two halves). Starting from a point on the first ring, I make a second ring around the ball once more, making four section.
You can see how it looks in the picture of the two pumpkin bases (the one on the left shows the pumpkin split into four sections using two rings).
I repeat this process two more times, splitting the existing sections in half (as shown in the second image).
By this point, the Sculpey has warmed up quite a bit and allows me to push the sides into more interesting shapes. Before I can move onto carving, I have to cool the clay once more. Back to the fridge!
Part 2: Tools, Faces & Stems
You don't need to buy tools, but they do come in handy. I have three in my collection.
The one on the far left has a simple sharp point. I might use this for tiny holes or to shape the inside of a small area that's been carved. I actually use this tool the least, especially when it comes to the pumpkins.
The one in the middle is my favourite. It's a miniature steel version of the many 'doll eyes' tools for sculpting. On either end is a tiny steel ball (one side bigger than the other). I love this little tool. It's great for pressing circles into the clay. If you gently work it in a circular motion, you can create interesting eye socket/mouth shapes. You'll need to experiment with it on your own.
The one on the right has two blades on either end. One is flat, the other is curved. I use this one for straight lines (like triangle eyes) and to secure bits of clay to a sculpture. More on that further down.
Now for the fun part: sculpting the faces. You don't have to actually remove the clay from the shapes you're creating for the facial features, though doing so will save you a bit of clay. Instead, you can simply press into the ball.
Don't worry too much about 'sculpey crumbs': little teeny pieces of clay that stick to your piece as you work. We'll deal with them later. What's important is getting the shape you want for the face.
You may need to go back and fix some of the creases for the pumpkin sections.
Time to make the stem. Take a little bit of clay and roll it between your fingers until you make a thin little worm. Cut the worm into short pieces (your stems).
Place a stem onto the top of the pumpkin, using enough pressure so the stem will stay in place if you let go.
Using something with a flat edge, gently press the edges of the stem into the top of the pumpkin so they join together.
You can also take a moment to scratch some vertical lines for texture into the stem for a 'wood grain' effect.
Once the pumpkin looks how you want it to, you're ready for the next step of smoothing the surface and cleaning up crumbs.
Part 3: Smoothing, Baking, Painting
You can't see them, but somewhere on that pumpkin are your fingerprints (unless you wore surgical gloves while sculpting). They will show themselves when you start to paint. So how do you get rid of them? Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol 99%).
Pour a little bit of alcohol (you won't need more than a teaspoon) into a container. Using a Q-tip, you are going to swab the entire surface of the pumpkin.
I start with the face. This way, I can pick up the pumpkin and angle it as needed. The alcohol will soften the edges of the carvings. It also assists in removing those 'crumbs' I talked about earlier.
Don't let the alcohol pool in the crevices. It might eat away more than you want it to.
DO NOT touch the pumpkin with your bare hands once you've moistened the sides with alcohol. If you didn't have fingerprints before, you most certainly have left them now.
Transfer the pumpkins (I use the Q-tip and a spatula) to a tinfoil-lined baking sheet, and put them into the oven.
The instructions on the back of the Sculpey box tell you to bake the sculpture at 275 F (times vary depending on size). The problem with this is at that temperature, the Sculpey releases an unhealthy gas that stinks up the kitchen. To avoid this, a friend and fellow artist taught me to lower the temperature and increase the baking time. I bake my pumpkins at 200 F for an hour and a half.
When the timer goes, simply turn off the oven but leave the pumpkins inside as it cools.
You should wait a few hours before you paint them (ideally, wait until the next day). This will allow your pumpkins to cool completely.
Paint and enjoy!