Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sculpting New Birds

As I begin work on a new commission bracelet destined for down under, titled Australian Moons, I'm back to sculpting tiny birds directly into silver.

Northern Saw Wet Owl from wmburkhardt.tubmlr.com
After years of practice, I can make plenty of generic birds with no guidelines. But sometimes I want a bird of a particular type or in a specific pose, as I plan for how the pieces will be combined with branches and leaves on the surface of the jewelry. In that case I usually search online for an image that captures my vision. The adorable northern saw-whet owl shown above was taken from a Pinterest board provided by the client.

polymer and silver clay versions of the saw whet owl
If I've been sculpting a fair bit recently, I can usually work directly from the photo into silver clay. If it's been some time since I worked on birds, or if it's a new bird I haven't done before, I may need to practice a bit. To find the best way to do the simplified model in clay, I may work in polymer in a larger scale before moving to silver. This lets me work without worrying about clay drying, which is the biggest working issue with silver clay. I can smooth and refine and work out the steps needed to get the look with maximum impact using minimum marks and available tools.

blue fairy wren
Another request for this bracelet was a blue fairy wren, which I remember being totally captivated by on my visits to Australia.

silver clay fairy wren
The first version of this wren wasn't fat enough, but this wren has been celebrating Thanksgiving far too much. Also in today's collection headed for the kiln after some refinement: a rufous hummingbird and a green headed tanager. Hopefully I'll have enough birds to start working on the treetop scene layout tomorrow.

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