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"How to Make Gandalf the Grey" by Dreamflower

Author: Dreamflower
Title: "How to Make Gandalf the Grey"
Rating: G
Theme: January Potluck
Elements: Non-fiction, August
Author's Notes: This article took me forever to format as it is so image heavy. However, I finally got it up correctly. At one point I even had it posted prematurely before any of my text was in place (my apologies to those of you who saw it and perhaps wondered why it vanished.
I'd hoped to do three things for this potluck. Who knows, maybe I will get the other two in after all.
Summary: A tutorial on how to create a polymer clay sculpture of Gandalf.
Word Count: 2,790

This is a polymer clay figure of Gandalf that I recently built; I thought it would be fun to document the process and make a tutorial for anyone else who would like to give it a try.

Gandalf figure

Introduction and supplies


The project was recently inspired by a Santa Claus polymer sculpture I found in the book How to Make Clay Characters by Maureen Carlson . I realized that many of the techniques could also be used to make a wizard, although I did make some changes. The face and hands were sculpted, rather than using a purchased push-mold, the colors are obviously different, and I also made a few other changes.

A beginner, carefully following the directions could make this, although the project is really meant for someone with an intermediate familiarity of working with polymer clay.

Here are the colors of polymer clay you will need: White, Black, Beige, Blue, Silver, and Brown.

White (You need a lot of white; it may be less expensive to pick up a one pound block of white, which you can find at some Walmarts (in the US) for under $6). Otherwise you might need about 8 packs of white.
Black (You will need about four blocks of black)
Beige (You will need two blocks of beige)
Blue (You will need about half a block)
Silver (One block)
Brown (One block)

gandalf 1

The clay is usually sold in 2 ounce blocks, but occasionally come in sets of colors in 1 ounce blocks. Basic colors such as white, beige or black can sometimes be bought in 1 pound blocks.

Here are the color blends you will make: Dark grey, light grey, and blue-grey.

5 parts white +2 parts black=dark grey. You will need a ball of dark grey about the size of a baseball.
4 parts white + 2 parts dark grey=light grey You will need a small ball of light grey, about half the size of a golf ball.
Equal amounts blue+grey=blue-grey You will need a ball of blue-grey about the size of a golf ball.

[A/N: I took a picture of the blends, but it did not come out at all right, the colors were inaccurate and the photo did not show a proper contrast as the dark and light grey and the silver all basically looked the same in the picture.]

It is easier to make the mixtures as you condition the clay. There are three major brands of polymer clay that are widely available to the home crafter: Sculpey®, which is the softest and easiest for a beginner to work, and Fimo® and Prēmo®, which are firmer and need to be worked more. They sometimes crumble a little at the beginning. The latter two have the advantage of holding their shape better. Prēmo®, especially, is better for making faces, as the details tend to show up better.

The other colors do not need to be blended, but they will need to be conditioned.

Here are most of the materials you will need.

gandalf 3

An empty glass bottle (The size and shape of the bottle are important; it needs to be slightly wider at the bottom and taper off at the top, but it can't be too tall to fit in your oven. The one I ended up with is actually stockier than I wished it to be, but the one I wanted to use was too tall to bake, even with the rack on the bottom bracket and the top rack removed, his head would have touched the top of the oven.)
Aluminum foil
Two beads (for eyes)
Inexpensive eye shadow with some shades of grey
Inexpensive blusher
A twig for Gandalf's staff (it's good to collect a few so that when you are ready you have some to choose from)
(Not shown) White acrylic craft paint, white glue or optionally, Sculpey Bake and Bond® or Translucent Liquid Sculpey®. These will help pieces to stay together while baking. The latter two work best, but are expensive. White glue works all right, but is not quite as strong.

Here are the tools you will need:

Gandalf figure

A roller (The one pictured is made of acrylic for polymer clay; you can substitute something else for rolling, such as a rolling pin or a piece of PVC pipe. Just make sure that you do not use it for food again afterwards.)
(Optional, shown in back: a pasta machine; but you will not be able to use it to make pasta again. It does make it much easier to condition and roll out the clay. I just used a roller for several years before purchasing a pasta machine.)
Toothpicks
A clay extruder (Or substitute a garlic press if you have one you don't use for garlic. Or just roll out lots of little strings by hand when you get to that step.)
A ball-ended tool (Or substitute something else with a rounded end. The blunt end of the nutpick next to it is what I used to use before getting the tool. Some cake decorating tools are shaped like that, but remember you won't be able to use them on food again.)
A clay blade or a craft knife
A small paint brush
A small pointed stick
A needle tool (I made this one myself, by rolling out some scrap clay, inserting a needle and baking it.)

Also an oven will be needed. This project is too large for a toaster oven, and you will probably need to adjust the racks. And you will need something to bake it on--I use disposable aluminum pans. You will not be able to use it for food once you use it for polymer clay, but you can certainly use it over and over for the clay.


Sculpting the figure, part one


First, stuff the top of the bottle with aluminum foil. It needs to stick up from the top of the bottle between an inch or inch-and-a-half. The face will be attached to this, so one side should be rather flattish.

gandalf 13

You will begin with the face. Roll a ball of beige, and then taper it into an egg shape. Use your needle tool to mark it into thirds. I don't give an exact size, since it will be determined by the size of your bottle with the foil in it, but it should be approximately one-ninth of the total height of your bottle-form. Mark the "front" of your egg into thirds.

gandalf 5

Using your ball tool, make a deep indentation on the level of the top mark. Insert the two beads into the indentations.

gandalf 6

Take a small amount of the beige clay and roll it first into a cylinder and then pinch it into a long wedge shape. Place it right between the eyes.

Gandalf figure

Gently smooth the nose into the rest of the face. Use a small pointed stick to create the nostrils. Pinch the nose until you get it into a proper "Gandalf-y" shape. You may or may not need to add bits of extra clay. Just keep on smoothing until you like how it looks.

gandalf 8

Now make the eyelids: For each eye, roll two tiny tapered cylinders, slightly curved. Place one at the top of the eye and one at the bottom. Carefully and gradually smoothe the "lids" into the rest of the face.

gandalf 9

At the bottom mark, carefully cut a slit and widen out the "mouth". Use a small paintbrush and a little bit of the blush to color the inside of the mouth.  Widening the mouth will puff out the cheeks a bit.

gandalf 11

Now pull the mouth partially closed. Roll two cylinders similar to the ones you made for eyelids, but very sllightly longer. These will be the lips. Apply them to the mouth in the same manner as the eyelids.

gandalf 10

Now, begin shaping the face into the expression you want, adding "wrinkles" and "laugh lines" to the face. Use the end of your paint brush to make the small indentation between nose and lips, but don't worry if it isn't perfect, because the mustache will later cover it up.

gandalf 12

Preheat the oven to the baking temperature reccommended by the manufacturer of the brand of clay you are using. If you have blended two brands, use the temperature halfway between the two. Use a bit of your adhesive, whether white glue or SLS or Bake n Bond, and carefully attach the head to the aluminum foil and use the same method to attach two "shoulders" on either side of the neck. Roll some of the dark grey clay flat, and cover the bottom of the bottle. Use a little of the blusher on his cheeks, forehead and the top of his nose.

gandalf 15

Using the extruder or the garlic press, (or if you have neither, just use your fingers to roll out spaghetti thin strands) you will make some strands of white and light grey. Roll more of the dark grey flat. (While making this, I deliberately left in a few color variations in the dark grey, to show the "weathered" state of Gandalf's robes.)

Cut a rectangle of the dark grey from where you want the "waist" to be, twice as wide as from one side of the bottle to the other. Carefully gather the top, and use a bit of your adhesive to press into place at the waistline. take two long strands of the white and twist them into a rope. Place it around the waist so that it looks like it's tied.

(I forgot to take a picture of his ears. They are just two flattened ovals, rounded and hollowed out with the rounded tip of the nutpicker.)

gandalf 17

Make a square of the dark grey that will loosely drape the figure from shoulders to waist, pressing lightly and using adhesive if necessary. Put him on your baking surface (I use a disposable aluminum pan) and put him in the oven for about ten minutes.

gandalf 18


Sculpting the figure, part two


While the figure cools,  roll out more of the dark grey clay into a rectangle that will drape all way around at the shoulders. Cut it slightly at an angle on each side, and then cut a curve at the top and bottom.

gandalf 19

Drape it the way you want it to hang. Press lightly in place. Use a little adhesive if you think it necessary.

gandalf 20

It's time to make Gandalf look more like himself. Using the white and light grey strands, begin to twist some of them together.

gandalf 22

Begin to attach the twisted strands to his head.

gandalf 21

You'll be giving him eyebrows, a mustache, his beard and long hair. Don't forget to put a few strands in the back.

gandalf 24

Time to get out the eye make-up.

gandalf 23

Touch up his hair and beard with the eye make-up and add shading where you want it to go. Now pop him back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

gandalf 24


Sculpting the figure, part three

Now you make the arms/sleeves. Begin with two balls of dark grey. Gradually roll them into a stocky cone shape.

gandalf 25

Using your fingers or the handle of your craft knife, begin to hollow out the wide end of the cone. Widen it about halfway up. Keep flattening it and shaping it until you have a bell sleeve shape. Hold the narrow end up to the shoulder. The open end should reach just below the waist. Do not begin to attach it yet.

gandalf 26

Now take two small balls of beige and roll them into a paddle shape. using the craft knife, slice in four fingers and a thumb on each one. Remember one hand will be the opposite of the other one. Use a needle tool to draw in fingernails and little wrinkles for the finger joints on the back of each one. Roll out two very thin (paper thin) pieces of light grey and use strips of it to cover the front and back of the hand and wrist, leaving the fingers and thumb showing.

gandalf 27

Insert each "forearm/hand" into a sleeve. Using adhesive if needed, attach the arms at the shoulders and smooth the clay. Position the arms the way you want them. Remember to make the thumbs face up. The right hand will be holding the staff, so take that into account.

gandalf 29

Choose your best twig for the staff, break or cut it to the proper length, and cut or break off the extraneous bits. Cover it thoroughly in strips of brown clay. At the top, use some smaller strips to form a flamelike shape.

[A/N: My pictures of the staff being covered did not come out well at all.]

gandalf 28

Now take your silver clay and roll it out into a long strip, about seven or eight inches long. Take a piece of knitted fabric and place on top, and gently roll over it. Remove the fabric.

gandalf 30

As you can see, the knitted fabric has imprinted onto the silver clay. Gandalf's scarf.

gandalf 31

Position the scarf around him, with some hanging down in front and some in back. Use the craft knife to slice "fringe" on both ends. Position the staff in his hand. It should touch the surface he stands on.

gandalf 32

Now for the hat, which is made much like the sleeves. begin with a cone of blue-grey.

gandalf 33

Hollow it like you did the sleeves, but widen it out at the bottom to form the brim. Keep on shaping it until it looks right. The pointy part should be fairly tall and then bend over just a little bit at the tip. Use some adhesive to attach it to his head.

gandalf 34

Put him back in the oven for his final bake: about 20 minutes this time, and turn the oven off and leave him in to cool for a while before taking him out.

Final step is to put the twinkle in his snapping black eyes: use the paint and a toothpick to put a tiny dot in each of the eyes.

gandalf 36

Here is the left profile:

gandalf 39

Here is the right profile.

gandalf 38

Here's the back.

gandalf 37

And a close-up of his face:

gandalf 40

I'm very pleased with how he turned out. Due to the bottle I had to use, he's not as lean as I'd like him to be, but I decided he's been on an extended visit to Bag End, and due to Bilbo and Frodo's hospitality, he'll have a little bit of tummy to walk off before he gets to Rivendell.

The first picture at the top of the tutorial is where I would like for him to live; however, since Miss Belladonna Took murdered polymer Frodo when he was in that location, Gandalf will have to live on the bookcase by the front door, since she never gets up there.

I hope that some of you might be inspired to try this! If you do, I'd love to see your own interpretations!

Tags: annual challenge: non-fiction, challenge: 2016 potluck, month: 2016 january
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