About the Process...
Kerri Pajutee's miniature animal sculptures begin as a scale sketch template combined with reference photographs. A hard-copy template helps keep her sculpture in correct proportion as she hand-builds the initial form in BeeSputty polymer clay. Each sculpt, large or small, is formed in stages, employing both addition and subtraction techniques. When replicating larger animals such as a 1:12 scale burro (as shown in the photos), a skeleton of copper wire and aluminum foil wrapped in masking tape is required to fill out the bulk of the body prior to adding layers of clay. This method keeps the clay 'skin' at a consistent thickness during the build-out and helps it cure uniformly in the oven. Smaller sculptures do not require a full armature, and are only ‘reinforced’ with fine gauge wire inserted into the legs, neck and tail.
After the clay animal form has partially cured in the oven, micro tools such as scalpel, burrs, and carbide scrapers are used to carve and refine conformation detail into the leather-hard sculpture. Eyes consist of polished rounds, no-hole beads or crafted in UV resin, and are inset securely into hollowed sockets. With major refining complete, the surface is smoothed with sandpaper and a paintbrush dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol. The sculpt is then baked a final time to completely cure the clay.
Once out of the oven, the sculpture is allowed to cool, and is given a bath of warm soapy water to remove any residue. Next, the animal figure begins to come to life with the addition of paint (Genesis heat-set or acrylics), and is permanently ‘dressed’ in a lifelike coat of natural fibers (i.e, alpaca, wool, cashmere, mohair, cotton or silk). For birds, the addition of tiny cut-to-size feathers are combined with thread flock.
The texture and length of coat determines the type and amount of fiber used in the application. To replicate medium to long coats, small chunks of fiber are methodically applied to the sculpt (layer by overlapping layer) with tweezers and glue. For short coats, a 'flock' (fiber that has been cut to a powder-fine consistency) is gently pressed onto the wet glue surface using a fingertip. Once fiber application is complete, the coat is trimmed and shaped with razor-scissors. Patterned coats including spots, stripes, or rosettes are added using professional artist inks. As a final touch, the coat is sealed with a fine mist of artist fixative to set the fiber and minimize shedding.
The entire process from inspiration to final scissor clip is tedious, exacting, and requires numerous hours to complete, but, the time investment is well worth the effort. The difference between 'good' and 'great' lies in the details.