Intro: How I Built London Tower Bridge Using Polymer Clay (Keepsake Gift)
Well, this post is about my wedding gift to my bff !!.When her wedding date got confirmed I was not sure whether I will attend her wedding. But suddenly one fine day, I decided to travel India (from US) for a month vacation .Once my plan is confirmed, I wanted to gift her something special on her special occasion and as always I wanted it to be handmade .
I already made a wedding gift for one of our friend which is a North Indian bride and groom keepsake gift..So, I don't want to make something similar to that.(Always trying something new, interests me! )Then , suddenly an idea clicked that I can make a London bridge for her, as her plan is to go to London for few months after marriage. I thought it would be a memorable gift.
I had no idea how I am going to make it , I just simply sketched a London bridge with a couple standing at a center .Oh well !! You are asking me in what you are going to make the London bridge.Obviously , It is going to be my favorite medium ,clay with which I can make my dreams real !!When I was ready to start I was just bugging my husband ;) as usual to take me for clay purchase to craft store. At that moment he asked me "How are you going to make it?".I was explaining him that I am going to do like this and going to use this for that,blah blah.He said everything is good and said me ,the beauty of the bridge is the opening of roads and why don't you incorporate that. Oh yes !!It makes sense !!Well !! I agreed with Mr.Right :)
Re-sketched the idea!Now the roads are open and the couples are travelling in a boat(instead of ship) inspired from I'm flying scene from Titanic movie :) (Sounds interesting, right ?? )Once I finalized that I am going to do London bridge with the roads open.I was all the time thinking of - Where should I start?How much clay should I get ?How am I going to make the roads open? How am I going to take it to India ? etc,etc. Finally ,One fine day I started the making process with a pictures of London bridge from google as a guide. Here are the steps that I followed.
Step 1: Materials Used
Premo sculpey clay 2oz blocks - approx 3 to 4 blocks
Premo sculpey clay 2oz block - green ,gray,white teal for roads and other details
Premo sculpey clay 2oz block - black, pink, beige, violet for sculpting a boy and girl
Scrap clay for the base layer.
Acrylic paints in black ,white, red
Bamboo skewers, toothpicks for beams
Sculpey liquid clay
Ruler, pencil & xacto knife
Clay machine(a.k.a pasta machine)
Step 2: Building the Cardboard Base
I built a cardboard building blocks with approx 3" width on the sides and 2.25" width on the front.The height is approx 4.5" .I glued them all with elmer's white glue. I measured 1" from the bottom to make a opening for the road and drew a semi circle.And I cut them using xacto knife. Repeated the same for all the sides.I made two holes each side for the center beam on both the cardboard boxes using an awl.I used bamboo skewer as center beam.The holes were made in such a way that it is neither too tight nor loose for the bamboo skewers to slide in and out. I made theses center beams as removable because I thought it will be easy to pack and carry the completed bridge as two separate pieces instead of a single big one.
Step 3: Covering the Cardboard With Scrap Clay and Building the Base
First I measured and covered the cardboard with scrap clay using liquid clay as glue. Then I built a base around the cardboard piece in such a way that the front is projected as shown and little on the sides to hold the roads.Using clay extruder, I made small snakes of clay and made the designs for the center beam.And baked them at 275 F for 30 min as mentioned in the package.
Step 4: Adding Texture to the Blocks
Then covered the two building blocks with clay and using texture sheets I added bricks like texture to the outer layer. Then formed a triangle shaped clay block in green to go on the top on the blocks.
Step 5: Building Roads
For side roads, I first baked two sets of long strips of gray clay sheets that fits exactly into the semi circle of the cardboard box and extends around 2.5" outside. Took two white piece of clay for each clay sheet and made a groove with baked clay sheet to fit the white piece to act as a base to build the bridge sides.Then inserted tooth picks in regular intervals and decreasing heights.Joined all with strips of clay pieces and baked them .
For the opening roads, I made two clay sheets of different length and added some clay in between the sheets to form a gap so that the road sits perfectly on the projection that I created on the sides in step 3.I added a piece of cardboard to the clay sheets for extra strength.Also added some white pieces as bridge sides on the top road.To replicate the original bridge , I added few clay strips to cover the outside gap.
Step 6: Putting Everything Together and Adding Details
Using liquid clay , I attached the clay roads to the clay covered cardboard building blocks and baked them.I also added small piece of clay to the bottom corners of the roads on the sides for support. Then I added extra beams on the corners of two buildings blocks and also added windows, small hearts on the top and center frame on the bamboo skewer a.k.a center beam. After baking everything , I used acrylic paint to add their initials in the center frame , names in the front white piece of the two building blocks and window details.Allowed them to dry.Now the beautiful London bridge is ready. :)
Step 7: Sculpting a Boat With Boy & Girl
Made a small boat and with titanic scene in the mind,sculpted a boy and girl to make them stand in the edge of the boat and added a flag to the back of the boat with tooth pick and a piece of clay. Wrote their wedding date with paint.Oh !! Ya ,titanic is not a boat. Ya I know ,right!! But a big ship will not be proportionate to the bridge which I have built and so the boat instead of ship. Hope I answered your mind voice :)
Step 8: Packing It in a Glass Cube
It was quite challenging for me to carry the finished piece in the check in baggage from US to India. I was praying god throughout my journey that I should get this gift as it is. Though I wrapped them in bubble wrap and carried them safely inside a cardboard box with all the clothes wrapped,.I was concerned about the handling.But to the surprise there was no damage and I got the piece perfectly. I used marker board for the base and back and plexi glass for the rest of the sides to form the cube. I got the help of the carpenter to cut the glass and wood . Used epoxy glue and sealant to attach the pieces .To cover the glue marks , I used black electrical tape.
I know there are nicer way to make this cube, but I did not have enough time and resources.So, I followed DIY method. :)
Step 9: Wrapping the Gift
I planned to give the gift before her big day as I felt that would be safe.But , We couldn't meet before that. :( Suddenly one afternoon , when I was planning for a nap ,she called me and said I am coming to your home in half an hour.So, this was my only chance to give the gift to her before the Big day.
I was not ready for wrapping part, as I had in my mind that there are three more days and anyway if we couldn't meet , I will go home to see her one day and give the gift.But now , I have only half an hour to wrap it. So, I decided the best way to wrap is to use newspaper.With the DIY skills I have, I wrapped it in a neat and perfect way.
Finally when the time came,I presented the gift to her. She was totally surprised and like the gift a lot!!! Hurray!! I was happy that she even liked the paper flower very much and even preserved it :) How sweet !!!
Few tips to know :
1) Use a strong clay for making this especially for intricate designs like sides of the bridge and center beam designs.I would suggest premo sculpey as I have used it but definitely avoid using sculpey III for this project because it will break.
2) If you are beginner and have never used cardboard with clay, don't panic.Cardboard will not burn in the temperature that you bake clay.It needs higher temperature to actually burn.
3) Use found items like needle , backside of the paint brush or tooth pick to incorporate textures if you don't have texture sheets
4) Don't be afraid to try new things. Be positive and patient while working and enjoy the process. You will definitely get the result.
I hope you liked my process of building a London bridge and hoping that this instructable will inspire you to make your own keepsake gift in clay .I am submitting this for "Clay contest" .So, please support me with your votes. Thank you in advance :)