Studio Musings

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hedgehogs and Oak Leaves

Art Bead Scene caught me with their challenge this month.  How could I resist an illustrated still life entitled "A Hedgehog in a Landscape"?  Painted by Giovanna Garzoni (1643-51), one of the first woman artists in her field, this piece is a collection of some of my very favorite things.  This time of year, every trip outside my door is a chance to collect (or photograph) brightly colored leaves, mahogany colored buckeyes, and the prickly outer hulls of chestnuts.  A hedgehog in the garden would be just perfect. 

Since I'm unlikely to find a hedgehog in my garden, I thought I'd create my own little critter, and treat myself to an artist play date in the process.  So I broke out the polymer clay supplies and set to. 
wood & aluminum forms, cooked poly clay, painted & waxed

I'm a poly clay dabbler at best, so wasn't trying for anything fancy here, though I did manage a couple of nice Skinner blends. Started with aluminum foil crunched into the approximate shapes I wanted (I used my cat's toy mice as a reference), then pulled out some wooden beads, too.  If I was going to the trouble of pulling out all the supplies, might as well make a few different things.

While they cooked, I played with some wire, creating oak leaf charms.  They got better as I worked - my first wraps were pretty 'rustic'.  (Kinder word than 'crude').

Once they were out of the oven, I had a little fun with acrylics and finished them with a wax varnish.  I'd carved oak leaves into one of my beads, which left little clay burrs around the edges.  400 and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper took care of the burrs without disturbing my design,but left the surface looking rather dull.  The acrylics and varnish took care of that  beautifully, giving the bead a deep lustre. 

Then it was time to stitch my hedgehog his coat. 

A right angle weave 'coat' with a pink underbelly
Stitched the belly flat using right angle weave, then tied it onto the hedgehog with bead 'ropes'.  The bottom-left photo above shows my "bondage" hedgehog.  :)  Then I filled in between the rows, using increases and decreases as necessary to fit the curves.

 And here's my little guy with his new coat!  I'd originally thought of adding an extra layer of bead work on top to give him a really spiky look, even started in on it, but decided I liked this better.

I glued his eyes in last - they're size 6 seed beads.  With the addition of a pin back on his belly, he's ready to travel.  Though he'd make a great pocket pet as well. 

And what did I do with the rest of the beads, and the leaf charms?

Oak Leaf lariat with poly clay beads & freemotion leaf

I used a couple of my beads in this lariat, along with some machine wrapped cords and an oak leaf I'd made with free motion embroidery ages ago.   Fun to see how my different areas of work can come together. 

I also have plans to turn the rest of my wire leaf charms into earrings, next play day. 


  1. what an adorable little critter! he has such charm. your leaves and lariat are fantastic. such a great fall feeling. i am so glad i am here :-)

  2. Oh Miss Karen! I am so glad that you were able to post this about your adorable little hedgie. Too cute! Thanks for joining in the ABS fun!
    Enjoy the day!

  3. Oh heavens! Wait til I show Gracie your hedgie! She was already in love with the picture from this months challenge. She is awesome at creating little clay figures, but we haven't tried paints or varnishes at all yet. Any tips you can pass along would be appreciated. You did a fantastic job on the clay, and the wireworking. Go Karen!!

  4. I am SO in love with your hedgehog!!!!! TOO cute!!!! I found you through ABS, and have to follow you. Love your pieces!

  5. I love all the beautiful colors of fall in this lariat. And I enjoyed reading about the process of your polymer/beaded hedgehog. So sweet!

  6. So glad you posted - love the color and the process! Cute cute hedgehog!

  7. Thanks everyone! I had a great time working on these challenge pieces - an nice break from my usual work.

    Shirley - not sure what tips I could give for working with acrylics. I used mars black and burnt umber to darken some of the crevices - applied with my finger (lovely mess), then wiped back with a paper towel and baby wipes before the paint dried completely. Baby wipes remove more than a paper towel. If you wipe away too much, you can always try again. I applied and wiped away several layers before I was satisfied.

    I also used a quinacridone burnt orange on two the beads in my lariat, which is what gave them that rich chestnut color. Since the color's transparent, I applied it after I'd worked the black into the crevices.

    I finished them all off with a wax varnish applied very carefully with a fine bristle brush so that the brush strokes wouldn't show.

  8. Karen I love your inspiration piece! That hedgehog is adorable! The wire work is awesome... great job! This is Marian Hertzog from Ms Place... having trouble with commenting as me!