Friday, September 10, 2010

Fetcher: Figure Modeling with Hearty Clay


'Fetcher' is one of the comical pack-rat characters seen in one of my favorite claymation movies, 'Chicken Run'.    For my first project with Hearty Clay, I thought I'd try to re-create Fetcher.   Following are the steps I used to create him and the problems I ran into!   (This is a follow-up to my Hearty review posted yesterday)

Hearty Clay is soft, pliant and easy to work with.  Ready to use right out of the package.  Cured Hearty is lightweight, firm and a little flexible.   Because this clay is very soft,  it does not hold detail well when modeling.  Definitely not suitable for making fine-featured dolls, but OK for whimsical figures, flowers, push molds and such.

#1 Armature

Step 1 is making the armature.  This figure is about 6" tall, which is large enough where it will need some support.  First I made a 'stick' figure of wire.  Then, to save on clay, I filled up parts of it with rolled up aluminum foil.    Next, I used floral tape to wrap everything up and hold it together.  I usually use white floral tape, but I happen to have a roll of brown that needed using up!   Wrapping the wire with floral tape (or any tape) helps the clay stick to the armature. 

#2  First layer of clay for 'pants'

Photo #2 shows where I have applied the first bit of colored clay to my armature.   Hearty Clay stayed moist enough to handle for quite a while, even after going thru pasta machine a dozen times to custom mix the colors I needed to match the movie character.   The pants for my 'Fetcher' figure had a lot of wrinkles in the clay as I worked, so I used water to moisten and smooth the surface.   But!  When I wet the surface to smooth it, the color in the clay transferred to my hand washing is important.   I didn't see any color transfer on my hands from clay out-of-package,  just when water was added.

Lots of shrinkage around tail and cracks on back of knee and elsewhere

Twenty-four hours have gone by and my first application of Hearty Clay to the 'Fetcher' armature has dried.   It has a matte suede-like appearance that looks soft but isn't.   I think it's attractive.  It was easy to mix the colors and easy to apply clay to the armature.   The only problem I had was a lot of shrinkage and some cracking when dry.   It shrank quite a bit and pulled away in the length and around the tail.   Cracks are not too bad and mostly my fault for wetting surface too much when trying to smooth it.  One of the reasons given for surface cracking is ..."when there is an excess of water or when there is water added on top, varying the degrees of humidity in the same mix".    Well, I DID get surface pretty wet....and it DID surprise!   But it looks repairable.

Cracks repaired.

The photo above shows the cracks and gaps all filled in and repaired.   I just took some fresh clay in the same color and blended it in.    It was easy to patch and you can't even tell where the cracks used to be on back of knees.  (Those cracks you see around the tail and around the waist are just rough edges.... I haven't finished that part yet!)

Beginning of final layers

For the next step I added more clay for his shirt and shoes.  This is just a base layer and will be built up with more clay and more detail as I work.

I found in working with Hearty Clay that building up thin layers of clay seems to work best.   Hearty is very easy to work with, but thick layers of clay seem to crack.  For most air-dry clays, adding clay in layers or sections seems to work the best, especially when working with an armature....but it seems especially important for the soft air dry clays like Hearty Clay.  The thinner layers allow the clay to cure more evenly.   Uneven curing causes cracking.


Here's the finished 'Fetcher' character!   I didn't have any more trouble with cracking once I learned to limit use of water for smoothing.    What looks like cracks around the sleeve and neck edge of his sweater, isn't.  It's "torn".  Fetcher is a pack rat and he is wearing a sweater made from a recycled argyle sock...with 'torn' edges for neck and arm holes!

Sorry, I forgot to take more photos as I was finishing his head, his sweater and other details.   The main focus was to discuss Hearty Clay and I wasn't even thinking of step-by-step photos as a WIP demo!   But, if you have any questions about how this was done... I'll try to answer!  ;-)


  1. I'm curious, I just found this post in doing research. After Fetcher dried completely, did you notice further cracking?

    Maureen Carlson
    Polymer Clay Artist

  2. Hi Maureen, Fetcher has been sitting around for over a year and I see no cracking at all. The patching up of initial cracks blended in perfect. Part of his tail got broken off but that's probably my fault (broke in a move) but his tiny upraised finger is holding strong!

    I've been a fan of yours for years and will be happy to answer any other air-dry clay questions you might have. Contact me at write2mary(at)

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  4. Hii..thanku for the wonderful review on hearty clay.. I used this clay to make flowers and leaves..however,the leaf broke( after drying) when i tried to stick it on a do I overcome this problem.i am making a photo frame where I initially make all the flowers and leaves and then stick to the frame.

    1. I don't know what to tell you bindu. Maybe you have to make the leaves thicker...I really can't say without being there. Was this just a one-time accident? If your having consistent trouble, you might want to try Lumina clay. It is supposed to dry flexible. See articles and


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