Introduction: Viking Brooches Using Sculpey Clay
I do Viking re-enactment and needed some brooches for my apron dress. They are pretty costly so I decided to try to make them from Sculpey Clay using a wire fibula for support. It worked well. After I made the first one, I made molds of that so I could have identical brooches. Many in my group wanted to make their own so I wrote the instructions and added lots of pictures. Since writing the class, I discovered PearlEx, a powdered gold that you can brush onto the clay before it is baked. Much prettier than the paint, but very messy. The fine powder gets over everything. Be sure to protect your work surface. When the clay bakes, the powder bonds onto the clay and becomes permanent. The picture shows the gold PearlEx on gold clay (the bottom one) and two done on white clay. There is a subtle difference as you can see. I still like to seal the clay with a satin clear spray or the Sculpey glaze if you can find it. The clear glaze protects the surface from wear. There are many sites online where you can find pictures of the tortoise brooches for inspiration in your design. This method can also be used to make just about any kind of pin or brooch you would like, be it Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval or Modern. The picture of me shows how the brooches are worn on the apron dress. These were my first ever brooches that have now been gifted to a special friend. The directions say that you can add beads and wires, but some effective brooches have been made using a stylus and engraving the design much like in the picture of three brooches above. You are only limited by your imagination and inspirations found online.
Step 1: SUPPLIES NEEDED
These techniques are simple and require no special tools.
1 package of Sculpy III polymer clay for each set (2) of brooches you wish to make. (You may use any color you might have available since the piece will be painted at the end of the project.) Viking women traditionally wore two brooches to fasten their apron dresses.
Note:Other types of polymer clay, such as Fimo can be used, but may require extra conditioning before use. Be sure to use Sculpey III, Sculpey Premo is very hard and stiff to work with. You will find directions for making your own mold below.
A small amount of talcum powder to be used as a mold release.
A dedicated clay roller is best, but a glass jar or any round cylinder may be used, such as PVC pipe. The manufacturer recommends that any tools or equipment that contacts the clay should not be used in food preparation.
Step 2: DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING THE MOLD
Plaster of Paris
Box or plastic container to hold the mold until it is dry
Water and plastic mixing spoon for mixing plaster
A properly shaped stirring spoon of that will form the mold for the brooch or a soap mold of the proper size. The soap molds can be found at Hobby Lobby and probably other Craft Stores. If using the soap mold, obviously the brooch cannot be baked in it. The spoons can be difficult to find, but I found one that was a perfect oval at Old Time Pottery. Some spoons are egg shaped, and they could be used, but will not be as correct. Size of the spoon portion should be approximately 2 inches by 2 ¾ inches, but you will have to use what you find. Be cautious not to get one much larger than this as it will be too heavy, and one smaller than this may not support the apron dress. Seal the sides of the box with tape so that the plaster will not leak out before it sets. A plastic container of an appropriate size may also be used. Line the box or plastic container with a single sheet of aluminum foil. This will allow the easy release from the container when the plaster has set. Mix the plaster according to its directions and set the spoon into it. The plaster should just come up to the edge of the spoon when you press it into the plaster. Use weights or tape to hold the spoon in place until the plaster sets. Let sit a minimum of 24 hours or until the plaster is dry and warm to the touch.
Step 3: MAKING THE BROOCH
After your mold has cured and is dry, preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (or whatever your particular clay calls for) You are now ready to construct your brooch. For food safety purposes do not allow Sculpey to come into direct contact with any food utensils or anything that may touch food. It may be toxic. When baking Sculpey, I use a flat baking pan covered in aluminum foil to protect the pan from contact with the Sculpey. Carefully open your package and note the baking temperature and time printed on the packaging . Break the block of Sculpey into two equal pieces and set the second half aside to use in making the second brooch. Carefully knead the Sculpey with your hands until it becomes soft and pliable.
Step 4: ROLL OUT THE CLAY
Using your roller, roll the Sculpey into an oval shape approximately 1/8 inch thick. Carefully dust your mold with talcum powder and remove any excess. Do not let it fill the grooves of the mold or you will loose detail. Place the piece of Sculpey over the mold and carefully mold it into the shape of the mold by pressing down on it with your thumbs. Press firmly all over the clay so that it makes a firm impression of the mold. The better you do this, the finer the detail will show up. Be careful not to make it paper thin, as the wire fibula will mar the surface in later steps. Carefully trim off the excess clay, the extra will be used later in the project. You have just finished the first step of the brooch. Now we will need to construct the fibula pin to fit your brooch.
Step 5: MAKING THE FIBULA PIN
Create a Fibula pin for your finding being careful to make it the proper size to fit your brooch. Follow the picture directions to make the fibula.
Center your finished wire finding on your clay in the mold and fit it into place. Curve the back slightly to fit snuggly onto the surface of the clay. Place the rectangular piece of card stock over the fibula back. CAUTION: do not push it through the face of the clay (the part that touches the plaster) or it will mar your piece. Take the remaining clay and form a small sheet to place over the wire and support. This will hold the wire securely in place. Smooth the work with your fingers as much as possible. If you wish to sand it later, you can, but the pin makes this difficult. Cover the whole armature leaving the catch, the tail and the pin portions. You have just completed the first brooch. Bake the brooch in your oven while still in the plaster mold. The plaster will take the low temperature of the oven very nicely if you let it dry well first. Bake the clay for about 30 minutes, then turn the oven off and let it cool naturally. The clay will blister and crack if you leave it in longer with the heat on. It has been my experience that this slow cooling seems to make the clay harder.
Step 6: BAKING THE CLAY
You have just completed the first brooch. Bake the brooch in your oven while still in the plaster mold. The plaster will take the low temperature of the oven very nicely if you let it dry well first. Bake the clay for about 30 minutes, then turn the oven off and let it cool naturally. The clay will blister and crack if you leave it in longer with the heat on. It has been my experience that this slow cooling seems to make the clay harder. Your brooch shrinks a bit when it bakes, so it should come out easily when it is fully cooled. After you remove the first brooch, start the second brooch and bake it while you sand and decorate the first one. It takes several grits of paper to achieve a very nice smooth finish before painting. As I mentioned before, every scratch will show so be sure to work up the grits carefully, from 100 to 200 to 400 to 800 and higher if you wish. Check each level before going to the next one. You can find up to 2000 grit sandpaper in the automotive paint section of your local Wal-mart or even an auto supply shop. Now the fun begins. Check pictures of brooches in books and on the net. If you want straight lines of beads, you can string them first and then glue them down. This will give a nice straight line. My glue of choice is always Loctite available everywhere. It comes in a liquid or gel. The gel dries slower but is much easier to control. BB’s make nice beads because they don’t have holes to hide. I found a nice period looking button for the center, but you can use cabochon glass or beads if you want. Most of the brooches I have seen do not have stone work, but a few do. There were no faceted beads in this time period, so don’t use them. Glass globs easily available are good center stones if you want that look. String some beads and glue them around the side to hide the seam. Try twisting and bending wires to make shapes and attach them with the super glue gel. If you make a mistake, you can remove it and resand. Small 2mm pearls will resemble granulation often found on the brooches and will take the spray well. Hot glue does not work well and pops off easily. Once you are satisfied with your design, you are ready to paint.
Step 7: PAINTING AND FINISHING YOUR BROOCH
Remember to shake the can of paint well first. Use in a well-ventilated area and don’t over spray or you will get unsightly runs. I coat the brooch once on the top design area and place a large bowl over it to prevent dust from marring the finish. It dries well in about an half hour. This time allows for the first coat to bond to the polymer clay. If you wish, you can attempt to guild the piece skipping the paint part, but it is difficult unless you are proficient at gilding. Most of the brooches were made of bronze or silver. And they often gilded the silver and bronze. To simulate the bronze, I use gold leaf Rub ‘n Buff which can be found in most craft stores. This highlights the gold paint you just applied. After buffing the Rub ‘n Buff to your satisfaction, spray a thin coat of clear lacquer and repeat if necessary. If your brooches become dull after time, just recoat with Rub'n’ Buff and respray with lacquer.
Enjoy your brooches,
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