A New Mask at Last

After Christmas I carried on with the cold porcelain, and I really think it has potential. You can add fresh porcelain directly on to a piece that’s already dried for a start. Here’s the Krampus face from the last post with a few more details. Now I just have to figure out how to paint him:

Cold Porcelain Krampus

I also used it to make part of this wand for a Harry Potter event.  I found a straight (ish) twig in the garden, dried and trimmed it.  I added details with cold porcelain, a glue gun and a marble, then painted it all black.  I then re-painted it to look like wood again and added some gold paint details.  Quite fun, give it a go!

Harry Potter Wand

… and some other little bits and bobs still in progress. I’ll be combining it with mask making next. Watch this space.

I finally found time (and a clear work surface) to make another mask sculpt this spring- my second since returning from Florence.

clay mask sculpt Clay Mask Sculpt


I had a few different ideas about what I wanted it to look like. I’d like to make a mask with rabbit ears soon, but for this face I felt the horns were better suited.

Mask design ideas

And here it is so far: cast, papier mache’d, popped out of the mold and trimmed.  Next stage is painting and finishing, along with another two devil masks and a lil Cthulhu who are all at the same stage.

Horned Mask

Cold Porcelain

On the run up to Christmas I had a vague notion of making some Krampus ornaments for the tree. I started looking into resin casting and lost wax techniques, got excited, and then realised they’d take quite a bit of research and investment in materials before I could try them. Option 2 was to create a mould from a sculpt and then use some kind of air-drying clay to produce cheaper copies. However, all the air-drying clays and paper clays I’d tried in the past were a bit rubbish. Then I stumbled across ‘cold porcelain’ which looked for all the world like some kind of air-drying sculpey, but made from cheap common household materials. Must be worth a go, right?

I tried this recipe: http://www.puffylittlethings.com/homemade-cold-porcelain-clay/ which uses corn-starch, PVA, oil, and lemon juice or vinegar. It’s worth watching the video beforehand so you know what to expect: my old 800W microwave took considerably more fifteen-second zaps than the recipe says to get the gloop to the right consistency. After seven or eight I took it out of the bowl and started trying to knead it, but despite liberally dusting everything with corn-starch it immediately stuck to my fingers in a gloopy mess and refused to behave. I gave up, washed my hands, and came back to watch the video again because I was so worried that it just wasn’t working. It’s worth persevering though: I zapped it a few more times and then tried to ignore the bits that stuck to my fingertips while I kneaded the lump for 10 minutes or so, and at the end I had something like a very soft sculpey. I didn’t manage to get any photos of the process (hands covered in the stuff) but I’ll have a go next time.

Cold Porcelain Experiment 1I started small and made a lump-with-rabbit-ears to see how the stuff behaved. I followed it with a tiny rose: adding a bit of acrylic paint in to give the colour. It didn’t work brilliantly. The main problem was that the cold porcelain was too soft so the petals started to droop as I worked on them and I ended up with a slightly bloopy rose. Still- it dried fairy quickly and the result was quite strong- something like super sculpey but without that brittle feel.

CP Heads

A little experimentation later I tried sculpting a couple of heads. Turns out cold porcelain’s great for ears and horns. The chap on the right turned out quite well, but in the background you can see my second attempt which looks a bit like a grumpy axolotl with horns… For these larger pieces I found the air-drying nature of the clay a bit of a drawback. As I worked, the outer layer dried to a leathery consistency but underneath the CP was still very malleable, resulting in a face that slowly squished and distorted the longer I held it in any direction. The leathery outer layer would bunch and wrinkle, and it was nigh impossible to fix once it’d happened.  Hence axolotl-face there.

Cthulhu Cold Porcelain

I also tried using one of my old Cthulhu silicone moulds to see if I could use CP that way. Air-drying inconsistencies struck again as the base (the only part exposed to the air) dried and warped while the rest stayed wet. After a day nothing had changed so I carefully extracted him and let him dry outside the mould before giving him a coat of paint. He’s cute in an artefact weathered-by-time kind of way.  I think CP + moulds could work, but the moulds will have to be shallow to allow the air to get to as much as possible.

The warping seems to be a pretty major problem unless I want to start producing wrinkly monster dolls (not impossible, but also not quite what I was planning). I started making another face for a krampus-esque visage, but after a few minutes he started to warp and go bug-eyed. I stopped, leaving eyes and nose on a head-shaped blob. A couple of days later I came back and tried adding to the cured CP. I expected it to detach as it dried and shrunk, but surprisingly it seems to work. Here’s the result so far- he still looks pretty weird as the first half warped, but as an experiment it’s definitely been useful:

Krampus Cold PorcelainI’ll be playing with this stuff a bit more in the new year… I think it has potential.

Drawing at the Craft Fair

One aspect of the Ipswich Library craft fair I rather enjoyed was having an afternoon sitting still.  That might sound a bit odd, but I rarely get any length of time to just sit around.  Outside the day job, my free time is usually spent on the ‘second job’: graphic design and formatting images and text for Zazzle and Cafepress.  Any moments beyond that I can be found dashing about town, seeing people, being attached to my computer emailing people, and trying to be president of a social/charity club.  So, I took a sketchbook to the library and spent a good part of the afternoon doodling, which was almost blissfully relaxing!  I’d forgotten how much I used to draw at school, where breaks and lunchtimes turned into just such free moments and the computer rooms were always occupied by people playing games and thus inaccessible.  I would insert some flimsy promise about setting aside more time to draw at about this point in the post, but I really don’t know where I’d find that time.  I’ll have to content myself with carrying a notebook with me, just in case I stumble into a blank hour by accident.

Being a Christmas craft fair, the Krampus was the subject of quite a few of the doodles.  I’d started cutting a lino block a few days earlier with the aim of hand-printing some Krampus cards, but didn’t manage to finish it in time for the fair, so hopefully I’ll have some to send out in time for next year.  I also sketched out some layouts for some hare-themed lino prints and wintery scenes, so (alongside the actual craft fair) it was a productive day all round.

Doodles from the Library Craft Fair
Doodles from the Library Craft Fair

I’ve not tidied them all up yet, but here’s one using the little Krampus over at Zazzle:

Gruss vom Krampus Christmas Cards at Zazzle
Gruss vom Krampus Christmas Cards at Zazzle

I’ve been interested in the Krampus and other Germanic traditions ever since visiting Austria a couple of times many years ago.  We went to two museums: one contained a photographic gallery of the region’s traditional costumes and performances, and the other was filled with wonderful artefacts, including a room filled with huge, hairy, horned monsters, taller than a man and intended to be worn as costumes during such performances (I nearly jumped out of my skin the first time I stepped through that door, they had such a looming presence in the room).  Unfortunately my german was not good enough to make sense of all the descriptions at the time, but I believe I took photos in the hope that one day I’d be able to read them.  I’d love to go back at the right time of year and see them in action!
For more information about the Krampus and the sinister side of Christmas, visit Krampus.com.