Frequently Asked Questions

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I get asked a lot of the same questions all the time, so I thought I'd put together a little FAQ so that everything would be in one place. If you have a question and don't see it answered here, feel free to ask! :D

How long have you been sculpting?

I picked up some polymer clay and made my very first dragon in late 1998. *cringe* You can see some other hideously old dragons in my Scraps - it look a lot of practice to get to where I am today. Of course, I haven't been sculpting continuously in all that time. I took multi-year breaks in there, and it wasn't until 2012 that I really took an interest in improving my craft. You know what they say - practice makes perfect! And while I'm far from perfect, the practicing does help. :)

What are your sculptures made of?

I use colored oven-bake polymer clay. My preferred brand is Premo Sculpey - it is less brittle than Sculpey III, and easier to work than Fimo. You can buy blocks of it at your local craft store.

These are the colors that I use most commonly:
Clay Dragon Color Chart by HowManyDragons

Do you use an armature?
Yes, I do! It helps to keep my dragons from mushing themselves out of place while I'm working on them. I use prebaked bits of clay as a base for my dragons' heads and bodies - I jokingly refer to them as 'head skulls' and 'body skulls'. If I need extra support, I sometimes use wire, but the clay cores are generally sufficient. I used to use tin foil as armature, but I ran into a lot of problems with air bubbles getting trapped between the foil and clay, which would distort the clay while baking. Since I switched to using clay cores, that problem has disappeared.

Do you paint your sculptures?
For the most part, no. I prefer to work in colored clay, because I think my painting skills are mediocre. Also, clay looks more vibrant than paint. That being said, I do occasionally paint details on - I use acrylic paint, and I usually apply multiple coats.

What tools do you use?
I am REALLY picky when it comes to selecting clay tools - I've bought so many, but I don't use most of them. The ones I use regularly are an X-acto knife, a dull blade, and a round-but-pointed tool for smoothing joins. I use a pasta roller to condition my clay, as well as for techniques where I need flat sheets. I also use a Makins clay extruder on occasion - love that thing!

What glaze do you use?
I use Varathane polyurethane these days - it's a floor sealer, and I bought a smallish canister of it at my local hardware store. If you are going to go that route, make sure you get a water-based sealer, not an oil-based one! I used to use the Sculpey brand glaze, and while I think it's a great glaze, with a nice feel to it, I've had a lot of trouble with the glaze thickening up and hardening after being opened only a short while. I hated having to throw out half the jar, so I stopped buying it. I do recommend storing your glaze in a small airtight container - it will last longer that way. I keep a small amount of polyurethane in a spice jar for daily use. That way I don't have to open up the bigger canister all that often.

If you'd like to read more of my thoughts on different types of clay glaze, you might find Glazing Polymer Clay: Resource and Recommendation useful.

How long does it take to make a dragon?
It usually takes me a couple hours. Some can take a lot longer, especially fanart dragons and custom orders - I pay more attention to the details on those. I usually make dragons while watching TV, which isn't great for efficiency, but it does keep me entertained!

How big are your dragons?
Seated dragons average about 2" tall - maybe a bit taller if you include the horns. I like to work small!

What are your dragons' eyes made out of?

Bugle beads - I sculpt my dragons based on the way that I draw them, and they mimic my cartoony style perfectly.

Don't the beads and rhinestones melt in the oven?
Nope, they don't because they're made of glass, and polymer clay bakes at a relatively low temperature. I bake my dragons with the gems, stones, and glass already added because the heat won't ruin them. Be sure not to put any plastic in the oven, though, as it will melt. A good example of this would be acrylic rhinestones - you'd have to glue them on after baking. This is why I use crystal rhinestones instead (also, they look nicer).

Help! I dropped my dragon and part of it broke! How do I fix it?
I know how it is - accidents happen! Super glue or any other cyanoacrylate adhesive works really well on these guys because they're technically plastic. My personal favorite is Zap-a-gap because the liquid is really thin and almost unnoticeable after application.

Do you take commissions?
I sure do! Check out this journal post for details:
Commission InformationI sell my dragon figurines at a few anime conventions every year, as well as in my Etsy shop outside of con season. But I also accept commissions - I love custom work and collaborating with others! My strengths include an eye for detail, high quality materials, and over a decade of sculpting experience. :)
- Obviously, my specialty is dragons, but I'm willing to experiment. I have a little experience with making ponies and rats too!
- I can recreate dragons that I've made before, or I can make something completely new. Keep in mind that there are certain designs that I will not replicate, and I will not copy another artist's style.
- I have clay in just about every color, and if I don't have exactly what you're looking for, I can mix custom colors to suit your specifications. I also have mica powders that I can dust on for a shimmery effect.
- I prefer to work in clay, but if necessary, I m
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Mokkath3Cat's avatar
Hi, Just a question, but what are your earrings made of? (Backing/Part you put through ear specifically)
I have sensitive ears and I was eyeing up your etsy store Greetings 
HowManyDragons's avatar
I use titanium posts - they are made only with titanium and are nickel free. I have a bit of a metal sensitivity and I've found the posts to be incredibly comfortable.
Mokkath3Cat's avatar
MoonWatcherDraws's avatar
Where do you get your supplies, and what do you use? It looks epic, but i just can't seem to make good suculpts. You inspire me so much!
HowManyDragons's avatar
I buy most of my clay from the local craft store (in my case, Michaels), but I buy many of my other supplies online from a variety of sources.

Expertise comes with practice. I've sculpted well over 1000 dragons at this point, it's really funny to go back and look at how different the very first dragon was. Even the stuff that I made a year ago looks dated to me now. My style hasn't changed drastically over time, but I'm constantly evolving and refining.
Wolfsaz's avatar
How long do they take to bake? 
I've kind of made my own roughly about the same size, and I baked it for 15 mins , which is fine, but I just want to know that's all
HowManyDragons's avatar
I follow the directions on the package of clay - 15 minutes per quarter inch of thickness. My pieces are thicker than that, so I bake for about half an hour and that works fine.
Wolfsaz's avatar
inkogeki's avatar
Hello! I was wondering if you do reserves on available dragons in your etsy store for those who cant currently afford them and are worried they'll go out of stock. Thank you~
HowManyDragons's avatar
Hi there! I can do reserves, but I don't hold items for more than a week. Was there a particular dragon you had your eye on?

If it helps, my made-to-order dragons are pretty much always in stock, and I'm generally willing to remake pendants.
inkogeki's avatar
Oh hurray! The one I had my eye on was the metallic gold/red dragon and I see now that it's in that group of the store.
Thank you very much for your quick response~
HowManyDragons's avatar
Sure, no problem. :)
seanmcchapman's avatar
Well this solved my questions ^M^
HowManyDragons's avatar
Good, that's why I wrote it! :)
Swifty52's avatar
It's interesting how you use floor sealer as glaze, but it looks really nice! Also, I might try the clay core thing that you explained because I don't post my sculptures (I'm not very good) but I have had the same problem with tinfoil, and the tinfoil can sometimes be hard to shape. :| (Blank Stare)  Thanks for sharing! :):happybounce: 
HowManyDragons's avatar
Sure, glad I could help. Tin foil armatures are the suck. =P
TheREALTwilightSpark's avatar
Any suggestions for a broke sculptor still in school? I'm planning on selling my little friends to get some pocket money, right now my parents are feeding and housing me but don't give me any money for fun stuff, so I don't have any to lay down for an Etsy shop (I've checked it out, they charge you to put stuff up >: ) and I don't know where to sell them now :T
HowManyDragons's avatar
Etsy's fees are pretty reasonable. You do need a little bit of money to get started but it's not a huge investment. You could try another site that doesn't have those fees - Artfire and Storenvy come to mind. I've never used either though, so I don't have any firsthand experience with them. I just know that they are popular Etsy alternatives. Another option is to sell online through your social media networks. I sell my premade dragons on Etsy, but I take private commissions on dA and Facebook, which I invoice directly through PayPal.
TheREALTwilightSpark's avatar
I know, but Etsy also wants you to have a credit card, which I don't have... I'll check out those other sites though, thanks for the help :3
BabyEmber's avatar
What things did you have to study in school and college to get a full time job as a sculptor? I'm planning to be one myself, but I don't know what subjects I have to study to get there. I do sculpt a lot at home, but I'm too young to sell my work, apparently. :-) 
HowManyDragons's avatar
Haha, I actually have a really limited art background - just a couple of drawing classes in high school. My academic focus was on computer science and biology. When it comes to sculpting, I'm entirely self taught.

How did I end up being a full-time sculptor? First of all, I love what I do, and I make a lot of dragons. I've been sculpting dragons for many years, but I didn't get serious about it until about two years ago and I've improved a lot since then as I practice and experiment. Even my pieces from a year ago look kind of amateur compared to what I can do now. I quit my day job back in March, after several years of feeling frustrated and disillusioned about the tech sector - I make a lot less as an artist, but I am the happier for it. When you come down to it, I can pay the utility bills, but I'm not at the point where I can afford to pay rent, so I'm lucky to have a husband who's supportive of my dreams... and hopefully I'll eventually be able to scale up my business to a sustainable level.

Anyway, that's just how things worked out for me. I wouldn't discount the value of an art education. Some of my good high school friends went to art school, and they are on a whole other level. The things they make are amazing.
BabyEmber's avatar
Thank you for replying! You inspire me so much. :-)
What things did you have to study in school and college to get a full time job as a sculptor? I'm planning to be one myself, but I don't know what subjects I have to study to get there. I do sculpt a lot at home, but I'm too young to sell my work, apparently. :-) 
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