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The Making of Dragonite


Please note, my husband does all of the wiring and electronics for my sculptures.  This walkthrough focuses on the sculpture side only.  If you are interested in learning more about electronics and LEDs, check out MAKE Magazine and

1.  This is my standard aluminum wire armature.  After I create the armature, my husband wires up the LEDs, power button, and power outlet.  All of the wiring is inside of the box.  The wires are made long enough to run up the armature.  I secure them in place with electrical tape.  This also protects the wires further from moisture and pressure.

2. I use Apoxie Sculpt for my LED sculptures as it is a non-bake clay.  It is also much sturdier than Sculpey.  This is a large figure (10 inches) so I don’t want it to collapse under its own weight.  I start with the legs to secure him to the base and hold up the weight of the rest of the sculpture.  I roughed in he rest of the body with Sculpey to figure out the shapes I wanted before working with the Apoxie.  Apoxie only has a 1-2 hour window before it starts curing.

3. The first light test.  I do these periodically while working on the piece.  Not only do I look at how well the elements themselves are being lit (ie, the the crystals), but I also look at how the light is being cast on the surrounding objects.  I use translucent Premo! clay for the lit elements in my sculptures.  I will often sculpt around the LEDs while they are lit.  It’s like sculpting light, REALLY fun!  The Premo! bits are bake separately and then attached to the main piece using epoxy glue.

4.  Lots of work between the last step and this one!  Dragonite is now all sculpted, sanded, and primed.  My sanding process is 180 grit sand paper, 220 grit sanding pads, and steel wool for finishing.  I use Plastikote sandable primer.  I use the steel wool a second time to get rid of any grittiness left behind by the primer.

5. When priming a sculpture like this, you must take care to protect the areas that won’t be painted.  I use blue painters tape to cover the crystals and a crumpled piece of foil to mask the hyper beam.  All the smaller non-lit crystals were glued on after priming.

6. The hyper beam was the trickiest part of this piece.  Spheres are difficult when they are being LED lit as there has to be a place for the LEDs to be inserted.  But you also want to keep the integrity of the shape.  I did this by creating about 3/4 of the sphere in Premo!  I baked that, glued it in place, and created the back of the sphere with Apoxie Sculpt.  I then painted the back to match the color of the Premo!  I tried to minimize the connection point as the sphere is supposed to be floating.  But the support rod in the mouth is necessary to run the wiring to the sphere.

7. The orange took a number of layers to build up before it became opaque.  Multiple THIN layers are the best way of keeping the paint smooth and even.  I use Krylon matte spray varnish to seal everything.  Delta Ceramcoat Gloss was used on the crystals, eyes and hyper beam.  I used some semi-gloss on the belly scales for a little bit of texture contrast.

See more photos of the finished piece :

Commission : Dragonite by emilySculpts


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