by Waxela Sananda
We use our hands to gesture, accentuate, and emphasize our speech and emotions. Hands tell us so much about a person; what kind of work she does, how important grooming is, does he have a nervous habit (a nail biter)? The firmness of a handshake, and the caress of a loving hand tell us things that can't be expressed in words.
Hands are significant. As a doll artist, my doll's hands are something I do not cut corners on. I used to dread making hands. The fingers, the palms, the knuckles, and how do I get them to stay in place and not break off during shipping?
Now I've grown to enjoy making hands. I love the expression they add to my dolls. I'm far from mastering the art of sculpting hands, but I have come a long way, and now I want to share what I've learned with you.
The technique I show here is influenced by Wendy Froud.
Flesh colored polymer clay (I have mixed two colors for this set of hands)
A flat edged tool (I use wood but metal works too)
A rounded end tool
Optional- wire, an Xacto knife, baby powder
Step 1: Make two balls of clay the same size. The balls will be the palms of the hands, and the palm is equal in length to the fingers, which means the ball you make will be half of the full hand length. Tip- an open hand will stretch from the chin to the hairline.
Step 2: Flatten the balls into a square shape that is a bit smaller on one end than the other. The smaller end will connect to the wrist.
Step 3: Make tube shapes for the fingers, a bit pointy at one end, flat at the other. When you make the thumb, include an extra length that will be the fleshy ball that connects the thumb to the palm.
Step 4: Bend the fingers into the position you want them in. A normal relaxed hand has slightly bent fingers. Form knuckles by pulling the finger apart gently, then pushing it together. Use your straight edge tool to put creases in the clay under the knuckles.
Step 5: Use your rounded end tool to press into the fingertip creating finger nails. Use your straight edge to put creases on the knuckles. Tip: The larger knuckle in the middle of the finger is curved on top and bottom, so make semi circles instead of straight creases.
Step 6: I use wire for added strength in the fingers. The wire is optional, however if you will be shipping your doll anywhere it does provide extra protection from breakage. Make a hole with the wire in the hand first, so that when you push the fingers into the hand the wire won't poke through the finger. Attach the fingers, making sure you have a right and a left hand, not two identicle hands.
Step 7: Use your tool to smooth out the fingers and add the thumb.
Step 8: Create knuckles on the hand by rolling small balls of clay and smoothing them onto the hand with your flat edge tool.
Step 9: Mark lines on the palms with your straight edge or Xacto knife. Use your own hands as a guide.
Step 10: Your hands are ready to bake. It is important to support your hands so that they hold their shape while baking. I use a piece of pre-baked clay to support the hands in the oven. Use a sprinkling of baby powder on the pre-baked support piece so that your hands won't stick to it.
That's it, your hands are done, and you deserve a hand!