Clay Dragons with Mini Mythicals
By Michele Thymmons and Heather Smith, creator of MiniMythicals
Have you ever seen dragons so unique, so different, that you realized who the sculptor was? This is Heather’s dragons at MiniMythicals. And it is understandable why they are so unique when you see where Heather gets her inspiration, from the deserts surrounding her in Arizona and the myths and legends of ancient dragons there. Thunderbird, Quetzalcoatl, Piasa, the seven-headed dragon, Dragons of myth and legend of the ancient Native Americans to include the Mayans and Aztecs, Cherokee and more! Step into the amazing world of the Mini Mythicals and see for yourself if the legends are true.
My name is Heather and I live in Northern Arizona with my husband and two kids. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a minor in art back in 2009. I taught English Language Learners after I graduated but soon found myself unemployed and unable to land a new and steady job.
Art and music have always been my preferred creative outlets. I have taken art classes for as long as I can remember and even took extra classes after I graduated in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. After I had my son in 2014, I was looking for a way to earn an income while staying home with him. I started designing customizable invitations and opened my first Etsy shop soon after.
During the holiday season of 2016, I came across the polymer clay dragon community while shopping for Christmas presents. My husband suggested, since I’m crafty, that I try to make clay dragons for presents instead of buying them. So in October of that year I created my first one. And it was a train wreck, definitely not worthy of a Christmas gift for anyone! But it did start a new obsession - I started crafting dragons every day.
I was posting pictures on Facebook of my newly discovered past time when friends started commenting about how I should sell them. Good thing I listened and gave it a shot because it just took off from there! I watched online training videos on how to effectively use Instagram and Pinterest for marketing my product. I learned how to create my own website from scratch. I learned how to create an online presence for myself. And MiniMythicals was born!
As of now I have been creating mythical creatures for almost two years. Even though I started out making dragons, my business has evolved into so much more. I now have an entire little fantasy world call Esairys in which you can discover nessies, unicorns, phoenixes, griffins, and my original species the dragonessie. Custom hybrid creatures are also found here, things from butterfly dragons to mermaid griffin creatures with antlers and tentacles.
I am extremely grateful and humbled that I was able to create MiniMythicals. It is my passion and I enjoy every day that I get to work from home, being creative and artistic. It is my calling and I can’t believe that it’s actually real life!
Some of the resources that have helped me:
DeviantArt is one of my favorite places to find inspiration. I like to browse fantasy art and other sculptures, not just polymer clay. Though copying someone’s work is never okay, artists often find inspiration from other artists color palettes, textures, and techniques.
I also use Pinterest and Instagram in the same way I use DeviantArt. There is an entire community of Instagram artists that is so incredible. I am constantly inspired by the art on IG, not to mention the kindness and moral of other artists. Their support is amazing and I often receive suggestions that challenge me and make me a better artist. Make sure to use the hashtag search feature to find the type of art that you’e looking for! Search for materials and subject matter (such as #polymerclay, #unicorn, or #fantasyart)
I searched polymer clay dragon on YouTube when I first started. Here are some of the videos I watched (though I may or may not use the techniques in these videos):
Articles on baking polymer clay:
I’ve had every issue in the books when baking polymer clay- cracking, burning, crumbling- so I have Googled this subject many times!
Polymer Clay Tutor on YouTube taught me how to make gradient blends with polymer clay. My favorite and most watched is the video on skinner blends.
Favorite tools and materials:
Premo by Sculpey polymer clay
Polymer clay tools
Polymer Clay Oven
You can also use your regular oven. But we moved and I needed something without temperature spikes, and this little oven works great!
Dust on unbaked clay for best results.
Imperia pasta machine
I use the pasta machine to mix my colors and create gradients.
Tools: Xacto knife, jewelry wire, wire cutters
Rubbing alcohol and q-tips for cleaning pre-baked clay
*My personal tips:
Bake on a porcelain tile, covered by a sheet of paper or cardstock. This helps hold the heat toward the sculpture and the paper makes it so there aren’t shiny spots from the tile.
Bake at a slightly lower temperature, for longer time. Polymer clay won’t burn unless the temp is too hot. I bake at 230 degree Fahrenheit for one hour.
Use stronger clay. I started out using Sculpey III clay and I had breaking problems more often than I should have. Then, I switched to Premo and Fimo and those issues have decreased to almost non existent.
Attach smaller pieces and appendages with jewelry wire to keep them from breaking.
Clean the unbaked clay with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. You will need a few q-tips, or if you’re cleaning white clay, a billion q-tips!
Note - This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.
Everyone creates, designs, and learns things differently.With this in mind, I’ve tried to include a variety of articles/resources below and will continue to add more even after the article is published. Most of these resources are free but others include classes or resources that are paid.
Myths and Legends of Native Americans:
Dragons: Myths from the Americas delves into a number of the myths surrounding ancient Native American tribes and their legends. The various Thunderbirds are often called dragons as well and their stories can be found in this site. Even Quetzalcoatl from ancient Mexico with the Mayans is said to be a dragon who ruled the weather but in his god form connected man to the heavens. Crazy fact about Thunderbirds - there are many claimed sightings even within the last couple of years! And some have been described as reptilian in nature - modern day dragons maybe?
Native Languages of the Americas: Tsalagi/Cherokee Legends, Myths, and Stories has several legends told here from the Cherokee. Links can also be found for the Iroquois and Creeks as well and many other tribes. Some of the legends here include the Uktena, a dragon-like horned serpent, and the Tlanuwa, giant mythological birds of prey with impenetrable metal feathers. Each tribe has their own culture, some are water dragons, some earth dragons, or sky dragon.
Native American Monsters of Myth and Legend is a comprehensive lists of Native American Monsters from various tribes and also includes some of the legends as well as books highly recommended for further reading.
The 10 Most Terrifying Native American Legends delves into 10 different Native American Legends spanning from the Mayans to the Arapaho to the Navajo and others. One from the Cherokee specifically depics the Uktena - a horned serpent that was called a dragon-like behemoth. It is believed to have started out as a human but took the serpentine shape for vengeance against those who did them wrong.
Mysterious Piasa Bird - Native American Dragon That Existed Thousands of Moons Before the Pale Face Came delves into the history of a mysterious giant Piasa bird that can be found in the Native American legends. This bird can be found drawn or carved in multiple places throughout the U.S. and is thought to be related to ancient Japanese dragons. There is even an ancient cave found filled with human bones along with sightings of a giant bird in the area.
Tolkien’s death of Smaug: American Inspiration Revealed describes how Tolkien had a fascination of Native American culture and language. Surprisingly, he also used their myths as a source for Smaug and other Middle Earth details to include Elvish.
US Sculpture Courses is a list of 137 institutions within the United States that offer Sculpture courses.
International Sculpture Courses is a list of 156 institutes offering sculpture courses worldwide.
USNews Ranking of Sculpture Schools ranks the top schools in the US for fine arts and sculpture programs.
Sculpting Schools and Degree Programs is a great article that describes the different types of schools and degrees as well as what courses to expect and what options there are for majoring in sculpting. You can also find a list of the actual schools as well - online and physical.
Thank you for joining us for this 7th Maker Feature! Check out Heather’s website and Etsy shop for more amazing dragons and other mythical creatures. You can also read more about her and other dragon makers in the article 29 of the Most Talented Dragon Makers on Instagram Other maker features can be found here about sculpting, pattern writing, blog creating, and wood carving. I’d also love to hear from you about what types of resources you want more information on as well as Makers you would like to nominate for a Maker Feature! Please email (email@example.com) or leave a comment on this article! Looking forward to hearing from you and have a great day!