Introduction: Octopus Mouse Holder
We don't have a television (nor do we want one). We sometimes let the kids watch a movie or Sesame Street on the mac mini we set up as a media center. Unfortunately, one of our 18 month old twins likes to grab the mouse. Usually that stops Sesame Street and the other twin cries.
We needed a place to put the mouse when not in use so it doesn't get stolen by a naughty kid. It had to be easily accessible for us but not for the kids, and it had to be visible so we wouldn't forget where the mouse was.
I wanted to make it look interesting and to hold different models in case this mouse gets broken. Octopus tentacles do a great job of holding oddly shaped things. Polymer clay can make a nice looking octopus, but using strictly polymer clay doesn't leave the tentacles themselves very grippy, and the mouse could easily slide out if not placed correctly. Then, of course, there's the problem of attaching the octopus to a surface.
That's where Sugru comes in.
Step 1: Make the Wire Frame
Cut four lengths of stiff wire a bit more than twice as long as your octopus would be from head to tip of tentacle if he were stretched out. Fold these wires into a loop. Twist the loop so that the wires stay together with the cut ends at one side and the loop at the other.
Find the shortest loop of the four. Flatten it slightly and turn it perpendicular to the other three loops, making sure the other loops arch over it. Find the next shortest loop. Flatten it slightly so it can barely fit over the shortest loop and turn it so it's at an angle with the first loop. Continue with the other two loops until the four loops form a vaguely ball-like shape.
Spread out the eight ends of wire; these will be the tentacles of the octopus. Take a thin wire and wrap it around and over one of the tentacles near the body. Wrap it over and around the next wire, then the next. Keep wrapping around and around, forming a small spiral with the thin wire. This weblike structure will add strength and stability to the octopus.
Every so often as you wrap, test your octopus on your monitor to make sure it'll fit. I made the bottom webbing longer so I could bend it to conform to the shape of the monitor. I used a book to support it while I was working on it.
Use a mouse to help figure out where to bend the tentacles. Use a round nosed pliers to help you bend the tentacles into an aesthetically pleasing curly design.
Wrap the thin wire around the wires in the head like you did for the tentacles. This will add strength and make it easier to apply the polymer clay.
Step 2: Make the Polymer Clay Body
Choose some colors of polymer clay. I used purple, translucent, and copper. You can mix them completely or roll them into long logs, squash them together, roll them thinner, fold them together, and roll thinner again to make thin stripes in your dough.
Flatten a piece of dough and wrap it around the head of the octopus. Add additional clay to cover wires, if needed. Flatten a different color of dough and cover the webbing between the tentacles, both on top and on the bottom.
Roll out eight long, thin pieces of dough. Attach the thick end of the dough snakes to the body and press the length of them around each wire.
Roll out eight more snakes and press them along the tentacles near the body to make them thicker. You'll want the tentacles to taper gently toward the tips of the tentacles. Hold the clay covered octopus in place to make sure it still fits properly.
Step 3: Add Finishing Touches to the Body
Mix a color of clay with translucent clay. I chose yellow. Pinch off some of the clay and add more translucent clay. Keep doing that until you have four or so separate shades of progressively translucent clay.
Starting with the most translucent shade, roll a small ball. Take the next shade and roll a snake, wrapping it once around the ball. Take the next shade after that, roll it into a thin snake, and wrap it around the previous color. Continue until you've used all your shades and have made a flat disc. Press gently with your fingers to smooth the colors and form a slightly domed shape. This is one eye. Press it onto the octopus and then make the other eye the same way.
Roll a very thin snake of darker clay and place it on the eye to make a pupil slit.
Take a bit of clay the same color as the octopus body. Roll it into a short snake that's tapered at both ends. This is an eyelid. Press it around the eye at the top. Repeat to make a lower eyelid and eyelids for the other eye.
Gently press ridges into the eyelids with a toothpick or wooden skewer.
Roll some translucent clay into a long snake. Cut little pieces from the snake. Roll those pieces into little balls, and press them into the octopus on the head.
If desired, lightly brush on some metallic powder with a dry paintbrush; I used a little statuary bronze.
Bake the octopus according the the clay manufacturer's directions. It helps to bake it on parchment. Remove from oven and let cool.
Step 4: Add Sugru to the Tentacles
Even with the limitations on detail, I'd have loved to make the entire octopus out of wire and Sugru. The Sugru is a bit pricey to use so much of it, though. Please take note, Sugru owners; there are some applications that require more Sugru than a tiny little packet, and it might be good to have economy packs available for larger jobs.
The Sugru is important to properly grip the mouse. First, choose one or two colors for the underside of the tentacles. I mixed orange and blue for this, one packet of each. Roll the mixed Sugru into a snake, then slice into eight equal portions. Roll each portion into a long thin snake and position it carefully along the underside of each tentacle from center of octopus to tip of tentacle. Get a cup of soapy water. Dip your fingers in it. Smooth each thin snake of Sugru into the tentacles, pressing it so it will stick to the baked polymer clay. It will stick to the clay, but it likes to stick to fingers even more. The soapy water will help a lot. When your tentacle undersides are completely smooth and covered to your liking, consider the color of Sugru for the suckers.
I used about 1/3 packet of black with 1 packet of orange Sugru for the suckers. Mix thoroughly, roll into a very thin snake, and start slicing off tiny little bits. Roll those bits into balls and stick them randomly into the Sugru lined underside of the tentacles. Take a wooden skewer and gently push the pointed end into the ball to form an indentation and attach it more securely to the tentacle.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE: The package says you have 30 minutes of work time. It's not a joke. If you want to get all the little suckers made and attached while your Sugru still sticks, hurry. You might want a partner to help you; one can roll snakes, slice them, and roll little balls while the other attaches them.
Quick, find a use for the rest of the Sugru before it gets too stiff! I let Josh put the black stuff somewhere (I actually have no idea what he did with it) while I saved the leftover brown for attaching the octopus to the monitor.
Step 5: Attach, Cure, and Enjoy the Kid-proof Mouse
I used the leftover brown Sugru to attach the octopus to the monitor. I put one lump under the head and two lumps under the two lowest tentacles. I pressed it gently and it felt really secure right away.
Let the octopus rest on his new home for a day before you shove a mouse into his tentacles. He has to come to terms with his existence before he's expected to perform his duties.
The Sugru is easily removable in case the kids stop getting into things some day. Thanks for reading!