The sculpture I had in mind was fairly large, so using polymer clay would be too expensive. I decided to use cold porcelain clay instead.
The best cold porcelain clay recipe that I have found is from Sangeeta Shah. The material is all readily found at my local walmart. It doesn't crack after drying like some other clay recipes that I have used, and is easy to make in the microwave. The clay dries to a hard leathery consistency that is surprising tough. I also use it to make gorgeous clay roses.
Materials for making the cold porcelain clay:
Aleen's Original Tacky Glue 16 oz bottle - Walmart $3.88
Cornstarch - 2 cups
Baby oil - 2 TBS
Tempera paint - I used powder but recipe calls for 1TBS liquid tempera.
lemon juice - 1 TBS (I used bottle lemon juice)
Nivea Cream - about 1TBS for kneading the clay plus additonal small amount for applying to the storage bag.
Microwavable bowl - I used a large 2 qt measuring cup
Acrylic paint - various colors for painting clay
Wire - for creating the tree. I used a large spool of electric fence wire that I had lying around.
All purpose joint compound - I bought a big tub of this at Walmart for about $3
foam block or styrofoam for elevating the tree.
Aluminum foil for the base.
Varnish - to add shine and protection. I used Varathane Polyurethane high gloss. Spray gloss works just as well.
COLD PORCELAIN CLAY RECIPE
Recipe from http://www.figurines-sculpture.com/cold-porcelain-recipe.html
Mix well all ingredients except for cold cream.
Microwave for 30 sec interval, stirring after each one for total of 3 minutes. The paste is 'done' when it is clumped together with just a bit of creamy glue at the bottom. See Sangeeta's youtube video for more information.
Spread 1 TBS nivea cream on a surface and put the hot paste over it.
Knead the paste for about 7 mintes. Per the website, the hotter the paste the better as well as kneading longer.
I split my porcelain paste into 4 pieces and rolled it up tightly into a log. Spread some nivea cream all around the log.
Cut 4 pieces of saran wrap and put little nivea cream in the saran wrap before wrapping the paste in it. Put the 4 wrapped log in a ziplog bag and placed it in the fridge for 24 hours. The website doesn't say to refrigerate but I found that it speeds up the cooling process. After 24 hours the clay is ready to use.
After that time, I store the clay in a shoe box. The clay keeps well for several weeks. When working with it, however, leave the clay in a bag as it can dry out quickly unwrapped!
Step 1: Create the Tree
Take 3 of the twisted strips and twist the 3 togther to make larger branches. Create 3 of these branches. Add additional twisted wire to create more branches.
Twist the 3 large branches together to form the trunk.
Cover the wires with all purpose join compound and allow to dry.
Step 2: Create the Flowers
Cut a piece of wire and add a long thin strip of CP to the wire.
Roll the colored clay into balls. The lighter colored clay balls are smaller than the darker colored balls. The balls were added to the CP on the wire - the balls increased in size and darken in color from the tip to the stem.
Mix some brown acrylic paint with the CP and add it to the stem.
Step 3: Add Leaves
Roll the clay into a ball and flatten into a leaf shape by pinching the tips and ends.
Take a needle tool to create lines in the leaves. Bend the leaves to give it some shape. Allow the clay to dry a bit so that the shape and lines are retained. CP is very soft and can easily lose its shape.
Mix brown acrylic paint to the CP. Roll a long piece of brown clay and add to the wire.
Roll small pieces of brown clay to attach the leaves to the branches. Add some tacky glue to the ends of the leaves, and stick it to the small piece of brown clay. Attach the brown clay to the stem. Bend the stem to shape the branches and allow to dry.
Step 4: Create Base
Add some aluminum foil around the base to create a cliff shape. Tape the foil to the base as needed.
Cover the entire base with think flattened CP and smooth the edges.
Attach the tree to the base with pieces of CP. Begin covering the roots and trunk with flattened CP.
Step 5: Add Leaves and Flowers to Tree
Roll a thick sausage of clay and cut into pieces. Add this to the branch. These stumps will help hold the ear buds. Lay an ear bud over one of the branches to make sure the branches can hold the ear bud.
After attaching all the leaves and flowers, cover the entire tree with CP.
Step 6: Create Tree House
Flatten a piece of CP and cut into retangle to cover all 4 walls of the house and the base of the house.
Roll logs of CP and use a ball tool to run along the surface to create tree like appearance. Cut the logs in half. Place glue along the flat surface of the logs, and place the logs along the walls.
Roll a log of CP and flatten out into a fat retangle. Press the iphone against the clay to outline the shape of the iphone on the clay. Take an exacto knife to hollow out the retangle. The iphone will set upright in this dock. Place the dock in the middle of the house's floor.
Glue the house to the tree.
Roll additional logs of CP and cover the edges of the roof (refer to picture for placement). Place the iphone in the dock to make sure it fits in the house. Add leaves to the logs that cover the roof.
Step 7: Create Well
Stack the bricks into a cylinder. Make sure the device fits in the cylinder.
Embellish the well with some branches.
Step 8: Add Embellishments
Paint the entire sculpture with acrylic paint.
Allow the sculpture to dry completey (few days), then glaze the scultpure with varnish. CP is different from polymer clay in that any varnish or spray can be used.