Introduction: April Showers Bring Coneflowers

About: I am an artist, author, and collector of smiling frogs.

Last spring, my daughter sowed coneflower seeds in our garden. Over time, a few seeds reluctantly sprouted. The plants grew at a snail's pace. After winter, two tall spindly plants remained. Suddenly in April, both plants bloomed! The pink petals curved down like tiny umbrellas for frogs. An amazing coneflower and a happy frog - the perfect subjects for a springtime sculpture.


Materials used in this project:

piece of acrylic ( or any smooth surface)

Sculpey III polymer clay: pink, gold, green, teal pearl, yellow, black

Sculpey clay conditioning machine

acrylic roller

12" ruler

thin blade/slicer

small pair of nail scissors

galvanized steel wire (18 gauge)

E6000 clear adhesive glue

clay sculpting tools: needle end pointer, flat spear head knife (triangular blade) curved clean-up tool

Sculpey gloss glaze

small brush (to apply glaze)

glass pie dish (use only for clay)

cookie rack (only for clay)

oven mitt (only for clay)

Step 1: Shape Frog Body

Soften polymer clay using a clay conditioning machine.

Roll clay into an egg shape, approximately 2 1/2" high and about 1 1/2" wide.

Use fingers to form head and neck as shown.

Step 2: Arms and Legs

Roll clay into long logs (about 1/2" in diameter.)

Cut two 2" logs for the arms.

Cut two 4" logs for the legs.

Step 3: Fold Legs and Add Toes

Fold 4" log as shown, leaving about 1" for the frog's foot.

Using a flat spear head knife, cut 2 small V-shaped pieces of clay on each foot to form toes.

Step 4: Add Legs to Frog Body

Attach legs to each side of the frog body.

Smooth clay with your fingers (or a curved clay tool) at the seam to make sure the legs are securely in place.

Step 5: Make Frog Arms

Using one of the arm rolls, fold it back as shown to form a hand. Repeat for the other arm.

On each hand, cut two small triangles to create fingers.

Step 6: Attach Frog Arms

Attach arms on each side of frog and smooth seam where arm meets body.

The fingers of each hand should be touching each other. Gently smooth the fingers to keep them together.

Step 7: Make Frog Eyes

Make one teal ball and one gold ball (approximately 1/2" in diameter) by rolling with fingers.

Cut each ball in half.

Join the teal ball half to the gold ball half.

Gently roll until halves are joined to make two eyes.

Step 8: Adding Pupil to Eye

Using the flat spear head knife, cut a crescent shape on both sides of the eyeball. Remove excess clay.

After rolling out a small piece of black clay, cut a crescent shape and insert into eyeball to form pupil.

Step 9: Attach Eyeballs

Place both eyeballs on top of frog's body, keeping the eyeballs touching each other.

Gently smooth at seams to secure the eyeballs.

Step 10: Add Frog Mouth and Nose

Using curved clean-up tool, cut across head under the eyes to open up the mouth.

Cut two small crescents out of pink and insert in the top and bottom of the mouth. Smooth.

Poke two holes above mouth for the nose using the needle end pointer.

Step 11: Add Toenails and Fingernails

Roll a thin log of teal clay and cut in small circles.

Attach a circle to the end of each toe and finger. Press to secure in place.

Step 12: Add Shapes to Arms and Legs

Roll out a very thin piece of clay.

Cut free form shapes and place on arms and legs as desired.

Step 13: Flower Stem and Cone

Cut a 9" strip of steel wire. Fold in half and twist together leaving a 1/2" loop at the top.

Roll out a thin strip of green clay (approximately 5" x 1") and wrap the wire as shown. Leave the loop uncovered.

Roll the clay-covered stem to smooth the seams together.

Use gold clay and form a gumdrop-shaped cone that is about 3/4" wide at the base and 3/4" high.

Step 14: Making the Coneflower Petals

Roll out a long strip of pink clay approximately 1/8" thick and 1 1/2" wide.

Using the flat spear head knife, cut 12 petals as shown.

Score each petal with the needle end pointer.

Step 15: Coneflower Bloom

Turn the gumdrop-shaped gold cone on it's side.

Begin attaching each petal to the bottom of the cone, slightly overlapping each petal.

After completing the flower, attach the stem by pushing the wire loop gently through the petals and into the cone.

The petals will naturally curve down, just as a real coneflower does.

Step 16: Adding Spines to Center Cone

Using nail scissors, gently make small snips all the way around and up the cone to create tiny spikes which are found on real coneflowers.

Then make a tiny snip on the ends of each petal to imitate the look of the real coneflower petals.

Step 17: Adjust Frog Arms

Make sure there is a hole large enough for the stem to fit through the frog's linked hands.

The flower will be on the left side of the frog's face, so gently adjust the arms so that they will hold the flower.

Step 18: Baking Clay Frog and Coneflower

Place the frog and coneflower on a oven-safe pie plate (designate a plate for clay only!).

Carefully drape the flower over the lip of the plate, making sure not to disturb the petals.

Bake the polymer clay according to the instructions on the package. For this project, I baked at 275 degrees - 15 minutes for every 1/4" thickness.

(Since the cone, petals, and stem were thin, I baked the coneflower for approximately 20 minutes and then removed it to cool on a wire cookie rack. The frog baked for approximately an hour before removing the plate from the oven and placing on a cookie rack to cool.)

Step 19: Finishing Touches

With a small brush, paint the frog and the coneflower with glossy glaze. Let dry.

Insert the stem into the hole made by the arms. Note where the stem hits on the arm. Remove stem, glue the spot where the stem hits the arm and insert the stem. Hold in place until glue dries completely.

Step 20: Finished!

I hope this project brings a smile to your face and puts a "spring" in your step!

Sculpting Challenge

Participated in the
Sculpting Challenge