Introduction: Garden Gnome

About: I'm just a guy who likes makin' stuff. I love the creative process. Professionally I am a Therapist (LCSW). I got my Associates Degree in Fine Art before pursuing a career in helping people work through thei…

My mom is a collector of Garden Gnomes. She and my dad have built a whole section of their yard to display them and my dad has built all sorts of cool gnome houses. Well, she lamented to me the other day that female gnomes are hard to come by and she only has one (and 20+ boys). Well the odds didn't seem so good, and the males were getting a little rambunctious without a strong female presence. So, I decided to make a Mama Gnome to round out her collection.

Step 1: Materials

This is a pretty simple project as far as materials go. Mostly I just went with what my parents had around their house during the annual Thanksgiving visit.

  • Aluminum Foil
  • Sculpey
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Toothpicks
  • Wooden dowels
  • Wood glue
  • Dremel

Step 2: Foil Base

It is good start with a solid base to build off of. Otherwise, you end up using a lot more sculpey than you need and it takes forever to bake. I built a general shape by crumpling up aluminum foil (left over from the turkey I might add). The head and body are connected with a toothpick between them.

Step 3: Sculpey Over Foil

Once the base is set, thin out some sculpey. Mine was < 1/4" thick to start off with. I then wrapped that around the whole surface. I rolled the hat portion smoothly into a point.

I added feet as well. I did this by sticking two pieces of toothpick into the base which then fit into a couple chunks of aluminum foil. Cover this with sculpey as well. This part is important as you will set up how well the figure stands on its own.

Step 4: Toothpick Arms

To make the arms, I cut lengths of toothpick to the proportions needed for the upper and lower arm. These were held together with scupley and shaped into the position desired.

Step 5: Rough Out Figure

Now with the general figure all framed out, you can begin to sculpt. It is always best to go general to specific. Otherwise you might end up wasting time on some detail that looks great on its own, but is in the wrong place on the figure.

I wanted a full bodied gnome, so I shaped out the breasts, belly, butt and legs. This was quite fun. It really started to bring the character together.

Step 6: Face & Hair

Faces are very fun to make. To start, I made to comma shaped pieces of clay for the cheeks. These are applied to the face with the top just slightly above the position of the nose. Blend these in to the head (I used a screwdriver). Once these are in place you can start to shape the chin. I gave her a strong square chin (gotta keep those males in line). To do the lips, I just pushed and pulled the sculpey into the right position using the screwdriver. I used a toothpick to get deeper groves between the lips.

The nose and eyes were done in a similar way. I added small pieces of clay and shaped them using my handy screwdriver and tooth pick.

The hair needed to look like it was coming out from underneath the hat. To do this, I flattened out some clay into the shape of hair. I pushed this into the clay and then built up the hat by adding some clay. This was smoothed into the hat on the top and left with a hard edge on the bottom. I then added some grooves into the hair at the top and around the hair tie for texture.

Step 7: Arms & Hands

To do the arms, build up clay around the toothpicks. The clothing needed to sculpted on at the same time. This was just ruffles at the shoulder and wrist. I knew that I wanted her to be holding a rake, so I found a thin dowel to shape the hand around. Once that was done I could sculpt in the individual fingers.

Step 8: Clothes

Making clothes is mostly about folds and edges. The bottom of the dress was made by attaching a thin piece of clay around her legs. This was smoothed in and made to look like it was hanging from her body. I added a hem around her neck by and lace holes. I added buttons on the back (with a head that big there is no way it would fit into the dress without an opening in the back.

Shoes were added (heavy work boots).

Step 9: Bake

The sculpey then needs to bake. Follow the instructions on the packaging. I put mine in the oven at 375 F for about 15 minutes.

Step 10: Coats of Urethane

Since this gnome would be spending lots of time outside, I needed to keep it protected from the elements. I got some heavy duty urethane and applied 2 or 3 coats to the whole thing.

Step 11: Paint

Once the urethane is dry you can begin painting. I selected a neutral color scheme (common for garden gnomes). Once the base colors were added I was able to do some detailing. For the cheeks, I used a clear pink color to bring them to life.

On the dress, I mixed a slightly darker blue and watered it down. This was painted into the creases and then wiped away from the ridges. Then for the highlights, I watered down some light blue and applied to to the ridges.

The same strategy was used for painting the hair.

Then, for some of the detail work, I used the tip of a toothpick (parents didn't have any detail brushes).

Step 12: Rake

The rake was made using some dowels and toothpicks. I stared by putting the dowel in a vice so I could drill a hole into the side. This was glued into place. Then, I used a dremel with a cutting disc to create grooves for the toothpick rake tines. I cut the ends off of toothpicks and then glued them into the grooves. A top piece was also glued over the tines for stability. Once the glue was dried the whole thing was painted.

Step 13: Put It in Its Natural Habitat

My dad has made some seriously cool gnome houses (I keep telling him he needs to do an instructable but he always forgets to take pictures). I put the she-gnome in the backyard around the the house for a photo shoot. I think she turned out pretty great.

My mom loved it. It ended up being one of her favorite Christmas presents (that she got about a month early).

Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2015