Wednesday, October 17, 2012

True Confessions of an Admitted "Sculpting Tool Hoarder"

Am I a Hopeless Case?

Like some of my customers - who shall of course remain nameless - I may have a serious affliction. I may be in need of "sculpting tool addiction rehab". It's gotten more chronic since I began to fabricate my own sculpting tools years ago. 

I really do have a perfectly logical explanation

why I own hundreds of sculpting tools. 


It started out innocently enough.

Working in polymer clay, I of course needed several sculpting tools to complete my sculptures of small character figures. Along with those bought online and at craft stores, I utilized [read: abused] various "found objects" like manicure tools, paint brush handles and such. 


I also had to prep for a clay class with up to 50 students. I fashioned five different tools for each person, plus bought several sets of plastic ones besides.


When I discovered the fun of experimenting with making simple canes I had to have blades, extruder, roller, pasta machine, etc. Then along with embellishing items with slices of canes, I wanted to add stamped patterns and shapes, so I had to have texture sheets, rubber stamps and such. 


Then I tested out using polymer clay as one would use paint on a wood plaque, only making the subject matter 2-dimensional rather than flat. I of course needed more tools to accomplish that.


Next I thought I'd challenge and stretch myself to see if I could actually make a face really look human rather than like some cartoon character. At first I just doodled with a single color of clay several times, then balled it up and began again. [kinda reminds me of the old "Magic Slate" I had as a kid!] 


Then I thought it would be more challenging if the subject was made of natural colored clay, with colored hair, eyes and clothing, Then I got the absolutely crazy idea to try and sculpt a 6 inch tall Mark Twain bust [the face being only about 2" tall]. Now if any of you have ever tried to sculpt a likeness of someone, you know how tough that can be to do. In the process of doing that sculpt, I found that traditional tools on the market were all "too something", too long, too big, too sharp, shaped all wrong, so on. So I made one small double ended tool to help me in making those tiny facial features. That lead to needing another tool for slightly different applications, and on it went until I had made about 6 tools that were just right for what I 


And so began my despicable downward spiral

into chronic sculpting tool addiction!

 I would buy sets and groups of tools to test out to see if they would work for certain sculpting challenges: Silicone Clay shapers, wax carving tools, old dental tools, cuticle tools, sgraffito tools; all purchased for testing purposes only, you understand.


Nah. Who am I fooling? I was playing and experimenting with tools and having a blast! Some had some merit and practical use, but many were just plain rejects. The worst thing was having to buy a full set of a dozen or so, just to get maybe three tools I could actually use! 


A spark of hope flickered...

 I have a gal in mind that I met and truly admire very highly. She sculpted for years with just three tools - including a plain round toothpick and her fingernail! She created absolutely exquisitely detailed small scale pieces and sold many of them. I so much wanted to be like her; so pure, so simple, so natural, so streamlined in her use of scant sculpting tools. She didn't have to lug around a whole box of tools like me! I thought if I could just observe her while she sculpted, just maybe her good influence would rub off on me and inspire me to turn away from my tool-hoarding ways!


Alas, this story has such a sad ending; I almost can't bear to share it with you. Well, she began to talk with me about my tool designs, making helpful suggestions, recommendations, and giving me great ideas and feedback. And then she saw what I made and...oh, horrors, SHE BOUGHT SEVERAL OF MY TOOLS! Then she came back to me again and again and bought more tools from me! Oh the ruin of it all! MY HOPES FOR REDEMPTION WERE TOTALLY CRUSHED! This virtuous paragon of spare and simple tool usage now owns well over a dozen SkulpTools!


She told me the reason she used those scant basic tools for so long was because she never found any tools she really liked and wanted to use...until..... Well, you can guess the rest.


[The above is a true, though perhaps slightly dramatized, story!]


My tool travails persisted

Oh, I've repeatedly tried very hard to limit myself to using just a small handful of tools, as I work on a sculpt, rather than my usual tray full of some 30 tools!. I've even moved my work piece to another room, out of sight of the hoards of bins, boxes, carousels and trays of various tools I have accumulated over the years. I would will myself to keep just the few tools at hand that I know I will need for the task, and no more. Then commence to sculpting. 


Then I would begin to hear that nagging little voice of the tiny sculpting tool mongering devil tugging on my ear, saying, "If you just had that certain tool you made, from the other room, you could do this action so much easier and better..."  ARGHH! And though I tried to fight it, it was useless. I would finally end up giving in to the voice, go to retrieve that single tool I was thinking of. And then...Oh wait...while I'm here I can also use this one, and this one. And oh, this one would be so handy too, I might just need this one. Ah, heck, I may as well grab the whole group. And so, sadly I regress back again!


But then, EUREKA! It occurred to me that my "tool addiction downfall" is actually the sculptor's gain! Early on, if it were not for a process similar to what I have just described, I would never have developed the urge to design and produce the tools that my artist customers have come to rely on and enjoy using.

Alas, I fear I'm a hopeless case!

 When I look at some of my earlier tools now, some are a bit embarrassing. I used whatever components I had on hand to make them, so I could test out my designs. But hey, they still work well and they helped me develop the tool designs I have now. The problem is I can't bring myself to throw those old "beater" tools away! And so they are stored in one of the three carousels I have, or the big tray I keep for my tools-in-use. Then there are those storage bins full of old tools that I bought that just didn't do what I wanted them to do. The ones that were all "too something"... I know I'll probably never use those tools again. But I just can't bear to part with them just yet. Ughh! I got it bad! 

But it's for sure about the only addiction I know of 

that inspires such creativity and joy!


What's your sculpting tool "true confession"? Do you dare to share it? Write me back on this blog and we'll all share a laugh along with you. 

Perhaps we should begin a thread: "You MIGHT" be a sculpting tool addict IF..."

I love hearing from my SkulpTools buyers across the globe and processing their orders; from a dozen different countries so far, plus the good old USA. I see all of their strange looking addresses, and as I pack up their orders, I wonder what beautiful objects they'll be using my tools to create. [Of course, to them, my Arizona address on their packages must look pretty strange, too.]  In a span of about a week, I had consecutive orders from the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Germany. [Hmm. Makes me wonder if they have a Scandinavian clay guild and were passing the word around on SkulpTools, or something.]

I really do enjoy producing and sharing these tools I make with my buyers. How many folks get to share something they make all over the world that helps other folks be creative? One lady told me the tools she bought helped her transform her work from just productivity to creativity. I couldn't wish for a better result than that!

Sometimes I wonder how someone like me ended up creating sculpting tools and selling them all over the world! I enjoy making things that others find useful. So as long as I'm able and folks keep buying them and I keep coming up with new designs, I'll continue to produce them! 

Here's a salute to all you creative people out there!

[And to my fellow tool-addicts! You know who you are!]

Thanks for sharing my tongue-in-cheek story. I truly hope you got a healthy chuckle from it.

Friday, October 12, 2012



What's new and on the SkulpTools Workbench Now?

New SkulpTools Distributor!

I'm delighted to announce that Clay Alley, an online webstore based in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is now a distributor of SkulpTools. [] Clay Alley sells polymer clay and many other products and supplies for sculptors and creative folks of all artistic persuasions. 

Years back, as a customer I was impressed with their 
great customer service. 
So I didn't hesitate to begin working with 
Clay Alley owner, Karen Rhodes

Check out Clay Alley's selection of all sorts of craft and sculpting supplies, They carry a well-rounded assortment all of the major brands of polymer clay, as well as air dry clay and others.


SkulpTools Tool Reviews Coming Up Soon

I am VERY excited to say that I have been corresponding with several online and print publications and forums who are interested in reviewing SkulpTools. I'll certainly have more to write as those details are firmed up. But I will say that some of the more well-read pubs' are enthused about writing about SkulpTools for their readers to view.


New Tools on the Workbench!!

I'm currently working on a new combo tool. Photos and details will be coming soon. At this point it's a prototype tool, which will soon be checked out by some of my "beta testers". 

Although I make several specialty tools, which perform specific sculpting tasks, I'm always looking for an all-around tool style that appeals to a broad spectrum of sculptors. I may just have found it with this new tool. Stat tuned!