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Making the Morning Star sun sculpture with paperclay and recycled materials

You may have noticed by now my interest in stars, moons and suns. After doing a few moon sculptures, I decided it was time to make a sun wall sculpture.

So I dug through my stash of odds and ends and pulled out a few pieces that inspired me. This silver tray came from a thrift store and I thought it would look good to frame the sun sculpture.

recycled silver tray front

Tray front

recycled silver tray back

Tray back

And I thought these plastic stakes would make interesting sun rays, along with free paint sticks from the hardware store.

recycled plastic stakes

Recycled plastic stakes

recycled paint sticks

Recycled paint sticks cut into 4 pieces

Making a sculpture starts with a sketch

Having decided on that, I began to sketch a face. This time I wanted to use my grandfather as inspiration.

He was my paternal grandfather who died when I was a child. He was an Armenian immigrant.

I remember going to visit my grandparents and he was usually sitting in his chair, wearing a vest and smoking his pipe. I loved the smell of his cherry tobacco. He seemed like a very gentle soul to me.

Somehow I only ended up with a couple of his pictures, but I did the best I could with the sketch.

My Armenian grandfather after coming to America

old grandfather

Grandpa as I remember him. My aunt’s photo wall.

And here’s the sketch.

sun face sketch

Sketch done on white paper

Then I transferred it onto wax paper. I use this as an overlay for accuracy while I’m sculpting.

sun face sketch

Sketch done on wax paper

Building the base of the sculpture

I always use layers of cardboard glued together with hot glue and Aleene’s tacky glue for the base. This saves on paperclay.

Cardboard used as base for sculpture

Cardboard used as base for sculpture

Cardboard base inside metal tray

Cardboard base inside metal tray

After that I carved out sections for the features. I have to admit, this looks a little creepy.

Features carved out on cardboard base

Features carved out on cardboard base

Sculpting the sun face with paperclay

Now it’s time for me to play. I just add bits of paperclay here and there. At times I need to allow the clay to dry somewhat before continuing.

Here are some photos showing the progression.

sun sculpture in progress

sun sculpture in progress

sun sculpture in progress

sun sculpture in progress

sun sculpture in progress

Painting and embellishing the pieces

I always like to put a dark wash on the clay to emphasize the texture.

Sun sculpture with black wash

Sun sculpture with black wash

Then I dab on layers of white paint. I highlight and define the features with acrylic paint in black, light blue, metallic gold and metallic silver. The face was accented with a variety of glitters and then varnished.

Sun sculpture with paint and glitter

Sun sculpture with paint and glitter

The plastic rays were painted metallic gold and covered with a glitter coating.

The paint sticks, after being cut and shaped, were painted light blue and metallic silver. The blue ones were accented with blue glitter and the silver ones with a strip of silver sequins.

Paint stick sunrays before painting

Paint stick sunrays before painting

Here’s a picture of the rays after painting.

Sun rays with paint and glitter

Sun rays with paint and glitter

The silver metallic starbursts shown in the photo above were made from vitamin packets. I love to save bits of mylar packaging.

Mylar vitamin packets turned into sunrays

Mylar vitamin packets turned into sunrays

Assembling the sun sculpture

I cut out a piece of cardboard for the backing and painted it black. Then I glued and wired everything together to make it very secure.

unassembled pieces before painting was finished

Unassembled pieces before painting was finished

The final Morning Star sun wall sculpture from recycled materials

And here he is…my beautiful Morning Star sun sculpture, now in my Etsy shop.

The Morning Star sun sculpture

The Morning Star sun sculpture

Morning Star sun sculpture in my bedroom

Morning Star sun sculpture in my bedroom

Making a moon art sculpture with paper clay

This tutorial shows how I made a heavenly crescent moon art sculpture for a client using paper clay, simple craft supplies and common household items. The techniques I share can be used to create sculptures in different shapes and sizes.

You’ll see step by step how the project progressed from the initial sketch to creating a foundation, building the moon sculpture in layers and then painting it.

Supplies for the moon sculpture

supplies for moon art sculpture

Supplies for moon art sculpture

These are the things I used for this project:

  • Creative Paperclay
  • Corrugated cardboard and heavy paper
  • Wire: tie wire, 22 and 24 gauge dark annealed wire
  • Glue: hot glue and Aleene’s Tacky Glue
  • Wire cutters and needlenose pliers
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Paint and brushes
  • Satin varnish

The moon sculpture starts with a sketch

sketch of Muse in the Moon by Lynda Makara

Sketch of Muse in the Moon by Lynda Makara

Whenever I’m making a sculpture, I often start with a sketch. Because this was a commissioned piece, my client had to approve the sketch.

She wanted a woman in the moon with a knowing look, dainty features and real eyelashes. And she wanted to be able to hang it from the ceiling.

The dimensions for the sculpture are 9″ in diameter and 2″ in width. I actually took a 9″ paper plate to trace the outline for this full size drawing.

Paper patterns made from the sketch

paper pattern for moon sculpture

Paper pattern for moon sculpture

I wanted to keep the original sketch intact so I traced it onto heavy paper, cut it out, then made another smaller piece to use as a template for cutting cardboard in the next step.

Making the foundation out of cardboard cutouts of the moon

cardboard foundation for moon sculpture

Cardboard foundation for moon sculpture

Every sculpture needs a foundation to make it sturdy and to use less clay. For a piece of this size I like to use corrugated cardboard from old shipping boxes. You most likely have a few lying around if you happen to do any online shopping.

The thickness of the cardboard makes the shape bulk up faster. I cut out six pairs of moon shapes but only ended up using five. Each layer was a little smaller than the last. The layers get glued together.

Using wire to create a hanger and add support: tie wire and 22 gauge wire

embedding wire hanger inside sculpture

Embedding wire hanger inside sculpture

I use tie wire a lot in my artwork because it’s strong but not too hard to bend.

Here it’s being used to make a hanger that the moon will be suspended from. I wanted to embed it into the center to make sure it would stay in there forever and not get pulled out. I also wanted to reinforce the crescent tip.

Then I cut a piece of 22 gauge wire to bind the tie wire at a certain point, shown in the next step.

Wrapping the wire hanger with 22 gauge wire

securing the wire hanger

Securing the wire hanger

I used this 22 gauge wire to bind the tie wire together at the point where it would project out.

The tie wire started at the crescent tip, went down toward the middle, then came back up near the top.

Gluing the layers together using hot glue and tacky glue

Wire used to reinforce the ends: 24 gauge wire

wire for reinforcing cardboard frame

Wire for reinforcing cardboard frame

Dark annealed 24 gauge wire is strong but bends easily around shapes.

Wrapping the ends with 24 gauge wire

wrapping ends with wire

I wanted to reinforce the ends with wire because they were going to be so thin. I wrapped in one direction, from left to right, then back the other way.

Finishing the wire wrapping

wrapping ends with wire

To finish wrapping, the ends of the wire were twisted under in little loops then secured with hot glue.

Both ends wrapped with wire

both ends wire wrapped

Both ends wire wrapped

Comparing the wire wrapped cardboard form with the paper pattern. So far so good.

Wrapping the cardboard moon with strips of paper

wrapping cardboard form with paper

Wrapping cardboard form with paper

Strips of wet paper were wrapped around the cardboard and secured with a little tacky glue. I wanted to cover the crevices to be able to use less clay.

cardboard moon wrapped with paper

Cardboard moon wrapped with paper

After wrapping with paper, I let this dry for a little bit before covering with clay.

Tip #1: Keep it fresh

When working with clay, pull out a small piece at a time and leave the rest in an airtight container or plastic bag

Covering the cardboard form with clay

covering the cardboard form with clay

Covering the cardboard form with clay

Here I’m using sheets of clay that were pressed out with my fingers to achieve a somewhat lumpy texture for the moon.

Tip #2: Keep water on hand

Use water to blend pieces together

Carving the fresh clay

carving wet clay

carving wet clay

Paper clay can be carved wet or dry. Here I’m using my knife to thin this section.

Cardboard form covered with first layer of clay

first layer of clay applied to cardboard moon form

First layer of clay applied to cardboard moon form

I let this harden overnight.

Tip #3: Bake it

If you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the drying process by placing the piece in a 200 degree oven for a couple of hours.

Second layer of clay with more texture added

second layer of clay with more texture

Second layer of clay with more texture

The second layer has a lot of bumps and craters scattered about.

Adding craters to the moon sculpture

adding craters to the moon

Adding craters to the moon

I used different sized dowels to make the craters while the clay was fresh. The one in this photo is a 1/4″ dowel.

Nose added to moon face

nose added to moon face

Nose added to moon face

I added a rectangular blob for the nose and blended it onto the dried clay. You can see the wet part is darker than the rest of the moon.

I shaped it with my fingers until it matched the shape of the nose on the paper pattern. Then I used a small rounded dowel to define the sides of the nose and make nostril impressions. The end of a small paintbrush would also work.

I did one feature at a time and let it dry to avoid messing up what I had just finished.

Adding the mouth

adding the mouth

Adding the mouth

To make the mouth I rolled out a small clay snake the length of the mouth. I used my knife to shape and blend it in. Then I used the knife to separate the shape into two lips.

Front view of moon face with nose and mouth

front view of moon face with nose and mouth

Front view of moon face with nose and mouth

In this photo you can see more of the details in the nose and mouth.

Moon face with cheeks added

moon face with cheeks added

Moon face with cheeks added

To make the cheeks I rolled a small ball of clay, flattened it out a little and blended it in. It took a bit of time to make sure both sides were even.

Moon sculpture with eyes added

moon face with eyes added

Moon face with eyes added

Just before I did the eyes, my client decided she wanted them closed.

I used a small ball of clay for the eyes. I added a snake above them for the eyebrows. I blended everything in and made the eyelid crease by pressing in with my fingers. Then I cut a groove into the lid for the eyelashes to be added afterwards.

Template for the closed eye

closed eye template

Closed eye template

I drew this template on wax paper and used it as a guide to make sure the eyes were the same on both sides.

Front view of moon face before sanding

front view of moon face

Front view of moon face

Here is the moon with all the major sculpting completed.

After this picture was taken, I used my X-acto knife to refine the features and fine sandpaper to smooth the surface. The texture goes from smooth in the center to increasingly craggy the further it gets from the face.

Tip #4: Save your clay

Clay can be reused even after it’s dried. Put discarded chunks back in the container/bag along with a little water. It will soften up again.

Sanded face ready to paint

Painting and finishing touches for the moon sculpture. Colors used: true blue, cobalt blue and white.

Project completed. Meet the Muse in the Moon!

lady moon sculpture by Lynda Makara

Lady moon sculpture by Lynda Makara

My client was delighted!

Want me to make something special for you? You can get in touch with me through the Contact button at the top of the page.

The Muse in the Moon from different angles

More of my paper clay creations to inspire you

Related project

Sleepy Moon paper clay tutorial

Zombie Halloween ornaments made from clay

Remember all the fun you had with Play-Doh when you were a kid? Well, your inner child can still have fun making things from clay. And with zombies being so popular, why not make your own ornaments.

Zombies are a good beginner project because perfection is not necessary. In fact, the more cracks and irregularities the better. Add some scary eyes, a deathly pallor and a little bit of gore, and your zombie ornaments will come to life, so to speak.

I’ll show you step by step how to make a zombie cat, skull with exposed brains, mummy and zombie girl.

These ornaments are just right for a small Halloween tree, but they can also be made into earrings or pendants.

Supplies for making Halloween zombie ornaments

Creative Paperclay

creative paperclay

Creative Paperclay

Creative Paperclay is an air dry clay that’s soft and pliable right out of the package. It’s easy to join pieces together by smoothing out the seams with a little water.

After the clay is dried, either by air drying or baking in a low oven, it can be carved, sanded and painted.

Paperclay needs to be stored in a ziplock bag to keep it fresh. I also add a few drops of water inside.

Sculpting tools

tools for making clay zombie ornament

Awl, X-acto knife, old Papermate pen

Very few tools are needed for sculpting. Your hands are the main tools.

The other necessary tools are an awl or ice pick for making holes, an X-acto knife to cut the clay and carve features, and an old ballpoint Papermate pen for stamping eyes and making small holes.

Wire and tools

wire and pliers for clay zombie ornaments

Wire, needlenose pliers, wire cutter, hot glue bun

These tools are needed to make the wire hangers for the ornaments: 24 gauge wire, wire cutters, one or two needlenose pliers and a hot glue gun.

(When it comes to wire, the larger the gauge, the smaller the wire.)

Other supplies

You’ll also need assorted acrylic paints, brushes and glitter gel (optional) for embellishing.

Instructional videos for sculpting with paperclay

Before continuing with this tutorial, I thought it would be helpful to see how easy it is to work with Creative Paperclay. Even if you don’t watch the full 14 minutes, you’ll pick up enough tips and inspiration to begin making things with clay. But I highly recommend watching the videos all the way through.

The first video shows how to sculpt a dragon. It’s simply amazing! The only thing I want to mention that isn’t made clear in the video is that she moistens her fingers with water when building up the clay.

The second video shows how to paint the dragon. I think you’ll enjoy them.

How to sculpt Halloween zombie ornaments

Each one of these cute ornaments begins with a small round ball of clay.

Zombie cat

Skull

Skull “brains”

Mummy

Zombie girl

Bake or air dry the zombie ornaments

After sculpting, the ornaments will air dry in a couple of days or just a few hours in a low temp oven. I put mine in the toaster oven set to about 100 degrees. Turn them over from time to time so the underside dries.

When the ornaments have dried, it’s time to make and add wire eyelets.

How to make wire eyelets for the zombie ornaments

For this step you’ll need to gather up the 24 gauge wire, wire cutters, one or two needlenose pliers and a hot glue gun.

Shaping and gluing the wire hangers

How to paint, embellish and finish the zombie ornaments

Paint the ornaments

I used regular acrylic paint (such as Folk Art) to finish the ornaments. First I used a black wash (watery black paint) to emphasize the cracks, indentations and features.

After that dried, I painted the ornaments using just a dab of paint on the brush to keep the paint from running into the cracks that I wanted to keep black.

Refer to the pictures below to see the colors used for each ornament. Let the paint dry.

Seal the ornaments

For this step you can use either a satin varnish or watered down white glue. I chose to seal the ornaments with watered down Elmer’s glue for a matte finish. The consistency was like skim milk.

I held the ornaments by the metal eyelet with needlenose pliers while applying the watered glue, then I strung them on a length of wire to dry.

Embellish the ornaments with glitter

This step is optional but I highly recommend using liquid glitter to highlight the eyes, nose, mouth, brains, etc. After the glitter is dry, you can make hooks for the ornaments.

Make ornament hooks

To make the hooks, cut off about 1″ of 24 gauge wire and bend into an S shape around needlenose pliers. Then put one end into the ornament’s wire loop, squeeze closed with the pliers.

These are all the zombie and monster ornaments I made from clay

assorted clay zombie and monster ornaments

Assortment of zombie and monster ornaments made from clay

These ornaments were made for a small tabletop tree. You can see I made Dracula and Frankenstein ornaments in addition to the zombies.

My Halloween tabletop tree decorated with zombie and monster ornaments

zombies and monsters tabletop tree by Lynda Makara

Halloween tabletop tree with zombies and monsters by Lynda Makara

Check out these websites for more ideas and info on making things with Creative Paperclay

Folk art sheep sculpture made from clay

Meet Sheena the sheep, an adorable 3″ tall folk art sheep sculpture made from paperclay.

I’ve always loved sheep. They have the most delightful faces and magnificent shaggy wool!

Over the years I’ve made many sheep cloth dolls. But I wanted a little sculpture to go with my miniature spring and Valentine trees, so Sheena the sheep was born.

Just imagine how cute it would be to make a whole flock of these little sheep! I’m going to share some of the techniques involved so you can make some for yourself.

Supplies used to make a mini sheep sculpture

  • Creative Paperclay
  • Some junk mail
  • Foil
  • Tie wire from the hardware store
  • Needlenose pliers and an awl
  • Old garlic press to make “wool”
  • Hot glue
  • Acrylic paint (white, black, brown) and small brushes
  • Satin varnish or white glue
  • Sparkle glaze

How to sculpt the sheep

To start off with, make a round ball for the body from a wad of junk mail. Wrap the ball in a piece of foil. You could use a styrofoam ball, if you prefer, instead of junk mail.

Next, cover the foil with a thin layer of paperclay. Make smaller balls of clay for the head and tail, blending the seams into the body with your fingers and a little water.

How to add the sheep’s legs and wool

Punch holes in the bottom of the body for the wire legs using an awl. Let the sheep sculpture air dry for a day or so, or put it in a warm toaster oven for a few hours.

When the sculpture is dry, cut pieces of tie wire about 3 to 4 inches long for the legs. Curl one end of the wire for the feet using needlenose pliers. Hot glue the other end inside the sheep’s body.

To get the texture of the wool, put small bits of paper clay through an old garlic press (see below), squeeze some out, cut it off and apply it to the body, head and tail, leaving the face smooth. Dampen the dried sculpture with a little water first to make the wool stick.

Be sure not to press too hard when sticking wool onto the body. (This is a technique I’ve also used for making santa beards.)

Let the sheep dry again.

How to paint the sheep sculpture

Paint the face black and paint the body using several shades of white paint.

I actually start with a brown wash to emphasize the details, then go back over the wool with white paint. I used a very tiny brush to paint the details on the face.

When the paint is dry, apply a coat of sealer or watered down white glue for protection. Let dry.

Apply a thick coat of sparkle glaze all over the wool, with touches on the ears, nose and mouth.

closeup of sheep's face

Closeup of Sheena the sheep

The finished sheep sculpture

sheena the sheep

Sheena the sheep

And here she is! At just 3″ x 3″, just the right size to display with small tabletop trees like these:

sheep sculpture on display

Sheena the sheep with my tabletop Valentine and spring trees