Developing the ODK Hammer as a structurally strong sculpture while achieving an organic look has been a long process.
Once I had decided to use the various types of Sculpey to create the hammers, I began crafting some small test sculptures to see what techniques would work best to produce a realistic skin surface. The polymer clay I was focused on using, Super Sculpey, already went a long way in achieving a defused, skin-like luminance. However, there was still a great deal of work that could be done to push the medium even further towards appearing like real skin. I was hopeful to have the majority of detail sculpted into the clay to pull off the final look.
The early tests started off as solid pieces of Super Sculpey. I would push in a texture stamp to create realistic looking wrinkles and pores. After baking the clay, I used thinned out acrylic paints to add color variation and heightened surface details such as veins, freckles, and sub-dermal colorization. Since the post baked clay was already hard, painting in such details tended to sit right on the surface, not sink in to preserve and enhance the translucency of the surface layer.
Back to the drawing board.
As I was tackling the colorization issues, I was also brainstorming ideas on how to maintain the sculpted surface details while holding the hammer. An early solution involved a set of three armatures the hammer would rest on while I applied the texture stamping. The points of the armature that were in direct contact with the hammer would also have texture built in to preserve the details. This didn’t work out though. As I sculpted the base form of the hammer, the heat from my hands caused the clay to flex and bow under its own weight. (Remind me to talk about the heat issue again later. There’s a specific season that is ideal for making an ODK Hammer.)
My solution was to create a core form that would be baked without any surface details. Once cooked and cooled, I would then apply the surface texture without the issue of the hammer bowing. After a couple tests, this seemed to be the ideal technique. Yet, I still had the colorization issue to figure out. Then a solution finally dawned on me! I could make the core sculpture more detailed with color regions that simulated the muscle tissue, vein structures and bones. Then the surface texture wouldn’t need as much paint to pull off the full effect of looking alive.
Confident, I went into a mini production of five hammers. I sculpted and baked the five cores, plus the horn/claw portion for each hammer. After these elements cooled down, I sculpted on the skin texture with a greater detail and baked the sculptures a second time. These hammers looked amazing, better than I had expected.
I just realized that out of context, all these references to hammers must read as a rather peculiar blog entry.
With five completed ODK Hammers finished, I went right back into another production of five more.
However, it was now May. The Coachella Valley is home to an obscene number of golf courses and resorts. A large percentage of the population only reside here during the winter months, which for us is “The Season”. The Season ends around mid May, and the Snow Bird Exodus begins. Want to guess as to why? If you remove all the resorts and golf courses, take away the track homes and swimming pools, the Coachella Valley is actually a desert in southern California. May usually sees the onslaught of tipple digit temperatures. Those of us who live here year round can do so only through the prolific assistance of climate control technology; air conditioners! Yet, the AC only creates the “air” of comfort (pun intended), through the actual blowing of cool air. The heat still remains at the core of everything. If the cool blowing air stops, the heat becomes all too apparent.
Sculpey doesn’t work very well in the heat. It becomes too soft and slightly gummy. It’s near impossible to work with Sculpey when the heat kicks in, especially if you’re trying to add texture detail. There is a season for which an ODK Hammer (produced in the Coachella Valley) can be created. It is the winter.
Production was put on hold. It would have to wait until the following October, when the temperatures start to fall.