Ever since I got back from my Model making course at Pinewood Studios (sounds so fancy doesn’t it) I have wanted to do a bit more sculpture, if I lived in a perfect world I’d work on massive sculptures, but I just don’t have the room or resources to do that.

But what to sculpt… I love David Bowie, one of my all time favourite films is Labyrinth, and the title of this blog post kind of gives it away, so I decided to try making a Jareth bust. I had managed to source some Monster Clay a little while after my course, but not done to much with it, although I loved the fact I could just restart and go again…

I had started to sculpt my whole fantastical animal in Monster Clay, but I then decided I wanted to make it as a proper stop-motion puppet (another blog needed for that!).

Then I kept seeing this super curvy lady who had an incredibly tiny waist, so I started to sculpt her with the intention of casting the ‘underbody’ of another stop-mo puppet in foam from it, but I could never re-create her incredible figure.

So unhappy with them both, they spent some time in plastic and I am now deconstructing them.

Putting the plastic on, keeps dust and muck out of the Clay

But I found it a useful process to actually work with the Monster Clay,

I didn’t have a hot gun, or blow torch and trying to warm the surface of the Clay up with a normal hairdryer was not successful, but worst of all it kept blowing everything on my desk about. I don’t have a sculpture studio so found this quite maddening to use. I also found that my tools were somewhat lacking, so these sculpts got mothballed whilst normal life carried on.

Then Covid 19 hit.

Sat at my homedesk a lot more, I started to look up Monster Clay techniques, tools and tutorials. I discovered that Francesco (tutor on the prop modelling course) was doing Monster Clay lives on Twitch, so sat watching those, alongside other YouTube videos for good research before I got started.

And eventually got down to making the armature for my Jareth.

Carving some foam to make filler for the head

Hot gluing the foam head former onto the wire and baseboard

adding foil to pad the shoulders

So using the foam and foil on the wire is just to bulk out the inner of the model, it makes it lighter and cheaper than working on a solid block of Monster Clay.

I had already made a moodboard of images from the film, showing hair, face and profile, and choosing which ‘Jareth’ costume I would be trying to create. (top left)

Bowie – Jareth Moodboard from various stills and promo images

To get the clay super soft and mouldable, I heated the large tub in the Microwave (it’s non toxic) and then started to add substance to the skeleton.

you can see how warm the clay is at it looks quite shiny at this stage, I was just using a plastic loop tool to pull the soft clay out of the tub.

Clay Loop & Ribbon Tools - The Compleat Sculptor

loop tool – mine was a plastic one found at my local craft store

Then I needed a little more precision to try and get some basic facial structures in place, for this I was using my Christmas Present of metal carving tools…

12PC-WAX-CLAY-SOAP-CARVER-POTTERY-CRAFT-TOOL-SET-MODELLING-CARVING-SCULPTING

12 piece Wax/Clay carving set

trying to get the brow shape and frown right for my chosen image

Making sure to keep checking my reference images I then worked on the mouth and a little more work on the nose and brow, looking at it from all angles…

From some angles I was really pleased with it, but I was starting to want some better tools, finer with more precision, the metal ones I was using to carve with just weren’t fine enough, I also wanted some of the really small tools, like mini loop tools that I had seen quite a few of the online tutorials were using.

I started to look, but wasn’t having any luck until I discovered they are actually called Sgraffitto tools, used for making intricate patterns, traditionally on clay pots.

I bought these online/ebay because they were the closest to what I was after before I discovered Sgraffitto!

And whilst on Ebay I bought myself a chef’s blowtorch too, just make sure you have the right gas/fuel to go in it as they don’t like to sell the little ones with gas ready to go!

So with newly acquired tools, I continued on, and for some reason decided that I would add in some glass eyes as I was finding it tricky to make the eyes look ok, just in Monster Clay.

Adding in Glass eyes

I didn’t want to fiddle too much more with the face, I was fairly happy, so moved onto making the elaborate collar. Monster Clay came into it’s own for this.. one of the qualities of Monster Clay is that it can be totally molten and then ten minutes later, quite solid and rigid, so I only needed to prop the collar for a little while until it held it’s own weight.

I rolled out a piece of clay on a board and shaped/cut it to size whilst it was soft and flexible, trying it in position and adjusting and then as it hardened applied it onto the shoulders with more of the very soft clay

It wasn’t until I re-watched the film and kept rewinding and forwarding that I realised that the collar is even more elaborate than I thought, so I need to add another point here and it looks like bones hold it up in the film… more work to be done!

My working desk

Adding details to the chest area, such as clothing, and refining the collar

I think my most used tool is my retractable craft knife I’m finding it amazing to be able to really carve with it on the Monster Clay (once it’s set really hard of course).

Up to this point I’ve been quite happy, finding that I’m managing now I have most of the tools to hand.

I even find some websites on how to make my own Sgraffitto tools, awesome! I’m still watching and trying to learn though, I’m not quite sure how to get the right texture/finish on the face, but I’m enjoying the process.

But now I’ve got to think about the hair….