Sculpting Half an Alligator

Years ago, I got this necklace from my grandparents and it’s been one of my favorites. The animals are Zuni fetishes, protective spirit carvings. These little guys are carved out of different kinds of stone, and are somewhat fragile. I’ve glued four or five back together after accidentally dropping it, or getting swatted at by one of the cats. Mostly fish and birds, too…figures. The last time I wore it I realized I was missing the front half of my alligator. Whatever kind of stone it was, there was a darker vein running right down the middle that kept its rear half attached. But no front!

I decided it would be easier to recreate the front half, rather than find a new fetish and figure out how to remove the welded clasp and successfully re-string it. I’d done a little sculpting with oven-curing plasticky clays like Sculpey or Fimo, though not nearly as much as my sister Tiffany did with her fairies and beaded necklaces. I picked this Polyclay set for the mix of colors.

Three tips if you’re going to work with this stuff. One, wear gloves or you are guaranteed to leave fingerprints. Two, it looks a little darker once it’s baked. And three, don’t leave your nice smooth clay-sculpting tools out at cat-height unless you’re looking for feline dental impressions.

Sculpt time: a leisurely two hours, while watching the Mythbusters demolition special. A light wash of white acrylic paint, and some gloss varnish helped correct the appearance. It wouldn’t be enough to fool someone studying it closely, but is pretty passable as the total alligator. It certainly helps make the necklace whole again.

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1 Comment

  1. Had I known you were on the lookout, I could have picked some up for you when I was in Albuquerque.

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