Clay Dragons with Dragons of Whimsy!
By Michele Thymmons and Vered Gillman of Dragons of Whimsy
Have you ever watched a movie or TV show like How to Train Your Dragon, Dragon Heart, Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Eragon, the Never-ending Story, or Game of Thrones, and wanted your own dragon? They are creatures of myth and legend, yet we are fascinated by their power, terrible beauty, strength, and ferociousness. At least I know I am :) Which is why I am very excited to start this two month series of Dragon Maker Features!! Over the next two months we will have several Dragon Maker Features and I will also write an article or two about crochet dragons, delve into their myths and legends, give you resources to capture your own dragons, and I will even make one (or more :) myself!! This Maker Feature group are all amazingly talented artists who use clay to make their dragons and other mythical creatures come alive!
We will be starting this series with the Dragons of Whimsy, a magical and enchanting land, where Vered has captured her vision of dragons in clay and made them come alive! Her dragons are caught in a variety of poses and environments, from those that are found sleeping on treestars, flowers, and leaves, to those that stare up at you with big beautiful eyes. Her Draegonlings are adorable little ones sleeping, and her galaxy dragons are heavenly :) Have a dragon in your mind that you want captured? Vered can create one for you as well! In this Maker Feature, she describes her journey and some of the resources that have helped her to hone her craft.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved anything magical and mystical. In fact, I find myself utterly enchanted by really anything in the fantasy genre as a whole. Whether I was binge reading novels about hidden magical worlds, concocting costumes for fantastical cosplay, or creating whimsical paintings, the realm of fantasy has been my lifelong passion and pursuit.
My artistic endeavors actually did not start with clay dragons, though. For years, my medium of choice was paint. My walls and my closet are filled with acrylic paintings whose subjects are mainly surreal whimsical trees and reimaginings of animals and nature. For a long time there was never anything more exciting than the two-for-one canvas sales which meant I could paint and paint to my heart’s content!
It wasn’t until 2016 that I first discovered polymer clay. I was planning my enchanted forest themed wedding, but being on a tight budget, I turned to the DIY route for almost everything. I was meticulously looking for the perfect guest book, and couldn’t find anything that was just right. My search eventually led me to fantasy book covers made from polymer clay. I started researching and decided right then that even though I had never used polymer clay, I was going to make our wedding guest book out of it. So after a full day of watching tutorials, I went to the art store, bought a bunch of supplies, and spent another full day making our perfect wedding guest book. Looking back now, there are things I definitely could have done better (like baking it longer!) but it will always be perfect to me because it is inevitably what led me down this path.
After a lot of experimenting, I eventually ended up making dragons because, well, I love them so much. The wonderful thing about creating dragons is that, since nobody knows what they actually look like, the sky’s the limit! For me, personally, dragons are elemental beings, and so I mostly get my inspiration from nature, and look for her subtleties everywhere I go.
My advice to anyone who wants to start using polymer clay is, first and foremost, be true to yourself, and simply make sure that you are making things that you love and that make you happy. If you don’t know what you want to make or where to start, look to your favorite artists and notice the way their art makes you feel. Take that feeling and turn it into something original and unique of your own design. Start small and simple and build up - it can be really frustrating and time consuming when you are learning, so make sure you enjoy the process and what you get out of it. Keep at it and you can’t help but improve. Above all, keep creating, keep dreaming, and keep making magic!
Resources that helped me:
Polymer Clay Tutor: She is a wealth of knowledge! She has tutorial videos for so many polymer clay techniques, including how to make a skinner blend without a pasta machine! I used her skinner blend technique for my Sleeping Beauty Dragon.
Creative Rachy on youtube, specifically this tutorial found here:
This is a great tutorial for tips and tricks for people just starting out with polymer clay. I watched this one when I was just learning about the medium. It has some tips on how to mix colors, baking, correct temperature, and what to do if your clay is dried out. It really helped me out a lot in the very beginning of my clay journey.
This youtube tutorial from Artzierush found here. I watched this tutorial before I even attempted to make a dragon. What I love about this particular tutorial is that she guides people into figuring out how to make their own design with their own ideas. She also discusses some basic anatomy tips.
Dragons and Beasties, specifically this tutorial found here:
I watched this tutorial when I didn’t even know how to begin sculpting the general shape of a dragon, and she guides you through from armature making to finished dragon.
The Blue Bottle Tree has so many amazing tips for using polymer clay for beginners. I pretty much read through all of their beginner articles when I first started out, from how to buy clay, how to bake clay, to products not to use in on your clay.
If you like this, you may also like:
Everyone creates, designs, and learns things differently. With this in mind, I’ve tried to include a variety of articles/resources below and more will be added to other articles of the Capturing the Dragons of your Dreams Series. Most of these resources are free but others include classes or resources that are paid. Starting with myths and legends (no dragon series would be complete without including different true worldwide myths and legends as dragons can be found everywhere!) and then delving into clay sculpting and where you can find these resources will be the three types of resources in each of these articles.
Dragon Myths and Legends From Around the World:
10 Mythical Dragon Entities from Different Cultures describes 10 different dragon myths from Egypt, Georgia (the country), Bhutan, Scandinavia, Mesoamerica (South and Central America), Sumeria, Greece, Scotland, India, and ancient Iran (Persia). Each of these is shown in picture and described as they are known in culture and history. Did you know that the Druk (Bhutan) is also known as the Thunder Dragon and is the reason why the Bhutan leaders have the title Thunder Dragon Kings? Pretty cool. :)
Where Did Dragons Come From? by the Smithsonian Magazine. Ever wonder where dragon myths may have originated from? The Smithsonian delved into this for their article for the Chinese New Year - Year of the Dragon (2012). Some of the these explanations include dinosaurs, nile crocodile, goanna (Australian large, predatory animal), Whales, and even the human brain - huh? Interesting to see what the ancients could have used to explain the unexplainable.
List of Dragons in Mythology and Folklore literally lists out the various dragons divided into region (Asian and European only) as well as an even longer list of other dragons. If you’re truly wanting to delve into dragons of myths this is an extensive list to start with :)
Top Tips for Beginner Clay Sculptors gives 10 tips from a variety of clay sculptors on how to set up and start sculpting your own clay pieces whether it be human, characters, dragons, etc.
Beginners Guide to Sculpting in Clay describes how to start with water-based clay and lists our five useful tips to work with clay. The last of which is to find a local studio that may have classes to help with techniques and working with clay hands on.
Learn Sculpture is a series of videos by Chuck Oldham (posted 6 years ago) that walks you through his methods for creating sculptures of animals and people.
Bluprint has a number of courses and patterns available online and range from how to create silver metal clay , fairy doors , beads , jewelry , and canes for cutting and use in sculptures or jewelry. Some of these are free while others are a small amount (less than $10). I have included links (affiliate links - which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.) on each of the items above so you can start your journey to make your own clay sculpture. In fact, this link will allow you to save up to 30% on all craft supplies!
Where you Can Purchase these Materials/Equipment:
Consumercrafts has a wide variety of clay brands from plast-i-clay , sculpey , craft smart clay , and other smaller brands. You can also choose from modeling clay , oven bake clay and other types of clay. Equipment needed to create your clay sculpture such as clay tools can also be found on the website. The clay comes in so many colors that you may not have to paint, just use the clay. I have included links (affiliate links - which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.) on each of the items above so you can start your journey to make your own clay sculpture.
If you prefer to actually touch and see (maybe even smell :)) these items and discuss them with someone physically, most of your local craft stores have some of the types of clay described above as well as the equipment. These stores can include Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, sometimes even Staples, CVS, Target, Walmart, and other grocery stores may have modeling clay or other types of clay and the equipment needed to craft the base/foundation of the clay sculpture you want to capture.
Thank you for joining us for this fourth Maker Feature and the start of the Dragon Maker Series! You can find more of Vered’s dragons at her Instagram and her Etsy Shop to get one of your own. You can also read more about her and other dragon makers in the article 29 of the Most Talented Dragon Makers on Instagram.
You can find other maker features here about sculpting, pattern writing, blog creating, and wood carving and you can find tutorials for Tailwind, blocking your handmades and more here. 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!