1. These are all the supplies I used to make my okra-pod Santa ornament ~ (1.) okra pod; dried naturally on the plant (or in the oven at the lowest setting); the pod is thoroughly dry when it no longer feels cool to the touch. (2.) Icy Flake mica/glitter (www.blumchen.com), (3.) Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic; Light Blue Violet, (4.) Golden Fluid Acrylic; Carbon Black, (5.) Golden Fluid Acrylic; Titanium White, (6.) Valspar Spray Enamel, Satin White, (7.) Pearl Ex pigment powder; Flamingo Pink, (8.) Premo polymer clay, white, red, and flesh-colored; (9.) Various wooden sculpting tools (my husband made these), (10.) McGill burnishing tools (Hobby Lobby) ~ meant for shaping paper flower petals; (11.) 'Christi Friesen' set of sculpting tools (www.sculpt.com), (12.) Small brushes ~ these are Lowell Cornell sizes 00 and 1. Not pictured; a small piece of wire ~ I used copper, about the thickness of a pencil lead (1 1/2-2", and cord for hanging. The paints, polymer clay, and Pearl Ex powder are all from www.dickblick.com. However, almost all these supplies can be substituted; specialized tools are handy, but there are a wide array of household items that make fine sculpting tools ~ you can experiment with crochet hooks, swizzle sticks (the round end is practically the same as the burnisher), brush handles, etc. ~ most important are your fingers, anyway!
2. Spray paint the okra pod with several coats of white satin enamel; this not only provides the base color, but helps harden the pod for durablilty. Condition (knead until soft) a ball of the flesh-colored clay about the size of a large gumball, and another about the size of a pea.
3. Shape the larger ball of clay into a flattened oval, and press it into the ridges of the pod. It will stick to the pod just fine without glue as long as there is enough texture for it to adhere to. Roll the smaller ball into a sort of tear-drop shape, and position it in the middle of the 'face' ~ this is Santa's nose.
4. Smooth the sides of the nose into the face; if it is conditioned and soft, it will blend right in. Do the top and bottom of the nose the same way.
5. Here is the nose all blended into the face. I also 'squished' the clay from the top and bottom of the face to make him some little chipmunk-cheeks, and then smoothed everything with my fingertips.
6. This part is always fun! I used one of the small burnishers, but you can also use a not-too-sharp pencil. At the bottom of the nose, make a hole for a nostril, pushing up and out. If the clay is soft and pliable (which it will be if you've just kneaded and warmed it in your hands before starting the nose...don't put it aside and let it get cold!), it will make a perfect-looking nostril on the outside. You can sculpt such a realistic-looking little nose like this; it looks so difficult, but is so easy! Now do the other side.
7. Next I pinched the bridge of the nose to give him even more character...again, an easy trick that gives such a realistic look!
8. I used the larger burnisher to make the eye sockets.
9. I used the slanted-blade end of one of the sculpting tools to shape a smiling mouth ~ an Exacto or craft knife would work just as well.
10. Use the edge of the blade to press in the suggestion of an upper lip.
11. Use your fingertips to smooth the rough edge of the bottom lip.
12. I used one of my wooden tools (but a brush handle works just as well) to press into the clay a little ways down from the mouth and give Santa a bottom lip ~ roll your tool upward to re-emphasize his smile...start the upturn of the bottom lip fairly close to the middle of the mouth ~ as so much of this area is covered by beard, you don't want him to appear too solemn!
13. Use a pointy tool (again, a sharpened pencil or a nail would work fine) to give Santa crow's feet and laugh lines! I used the round-tipped burnisher to make the little indention over the upper lip. Before adding the white clay in the next step, get a miniscule amount of the Pearl Ex powder (just use a little bit of what sticks inside the lid) on a brush and give the lips just the slightest hint of color.
14. Condition the white clay (be sure to wash your hands well before working with the white; it picks up other colors extremely easily!) Roll a 'snake' about the diameter of a drinking straw, long enough to wrap around the face, and press it on, just outside the face; again, it will adhere to the textured pod. Take a piece about the size of a large gumball and flatten it, forming a long oval shape. Fit the top of it under the bottom lip, curving it slightly to fit. Don't let any of it cover Santa's mouth! Press the rest of the 'beard' onto the pod.
16. Blend the softened, warm clay down and into the pod.
17. Take a tool (a crochet hook or knitting needle would work here) and make 'hair' and 'beard' texture ~ lines ~ in the clay
18. Take more of the 'snake' of white clay and pinch off 2 pieces the same length for the moustache; here you can make it long or short, curling the ends up or under...it really gives Santa personality! Smooth and round the ends and flatten slightly before pressing onto the beard. Two pea-sized balls are rolled into eyebrows and pressed on, as well.
19. Texture the moustache and eyebrows in the same way as the beard.
20. Use just a tiny amount of the Pearl Ex powder on your brush to blush Santa's ruddy cheeks and cold nose! Less is more...(believe me, this is hard for a "more is more" girl to say...but it's really easy to over do the Pearl Ex...it's just so much fun to use!)... it's easy to build up if you want them rosier!
At this point, bake Santa in a pre-heated 275 degree oven for 45 minutes. I place mine on a paper towel on a baking sheet; you can also use an index card ~ don't use aluminum foil, though, as this can make an un-wanted shiny spot on the clay. This makes it easier to finish the ornament without disturbing the work you've done. ♥
21. On the cooled Santa, use a small brush to paint the eyes, and an even smaller one to give them highlights (you can also highlight his cheekbones)...
22. Condition the red clay well, so that it's warm and really pliable. (Use a large-gumball-sized amount.) With it still in a ball, stick it to the top of the okra pod. Using a gentle pulling/twisting motion, bring it up into a point. This is another opportunity to give the Santa a unique personality ~ curl it, make it pointy, etc. (I kind of did both)...:)
23. Wash your hands REALLY well after using the red clay and before going back to the white ~ baby wipes or alcohol work nicely to remove all traces of the red. Take another piece of the white snake and press it around the bottom of the hat, then texture it. I used shorter texture-lines in the fur. Roll another pea-sized ball of white clay and press it into the hat where the point curves around, for the pom-pom.
I wanted to add these new photos as I felt I hadn't been really clear on putting in the wire for the cord; (also, this is a different Santa, but don't let that throw you)...Here I have taken a piece of copper wire (approx. 2"), about the diamenter of a toothpick and started working it into a sort of inconspicuous spot about half-way up on the side of Santa's hat. (This is after the first bake of the face and beard, so you won't have to worry about messing those up.) I work it into the unbaked clay gently, rotating it a little, holding the hat so I can feel about where the wire is going to come through on the other side. This part isn't absolutely necessary, but here's what I do ~ when I can feel the wire on the opposite side, but it hasn't poked through the clay, I pull the wire out from the other side and re-insert it here (you'll be able to see exactly where to put it because there will be a little "dot" there)...this just makes it look so much neater, as you don't have the little "pushed out" clay bits on your second side. However, if you want to do it all in one step, you can just pat the clay down gently around the wire...;)
Also, it looks as if the wire is at an angle in theses photos, but it isn't ~ it needs to go straight through the hat so it will be balanced and hang nicely.
24. I then gently pushed the piece of wire through the hat, about one half to one third of the way from the top, whatever seems most balanced for your Santa's hat. Use a brush (I used a bit larger brush here) to press the glitter into the unbaked clay; it will stick just fine ~ no glue needed. Bake again at 275 degrees for another 45 minutes. When he's cool enough to handle, pull the wire out of the hat (it comes out easiest when the clay is still slightly warm). Thread a piece of the cord through this hole for hanging.
Ta~Da!...The finished 0'Kringle!...now make a whole bunch of friends for him ~ (an O'Kringle Convention!) ~ and put them all over your tree! ♥