The Elias Project: Art Toy Development
Elias is on a journey to becoming a collectible art toy on the Treasure Coast of Florida. Follow along in the early stages of his development.
Inspired By A Meme Cat
In August of 2021, I came across a cute meme on my Instagram account that I screenshot and saved because it just cracked me up so much that I couldn’t not keep it. The meme featured a kitten with a look of absolute disgust on its face that reminded me of a particular 10th birthday when I woke up groggy one morning and my mom gave me guff for my poor attitude.
I’m not an Aquarius, but I can relate to this sentiment. A few months later I was inspired to capture the kitten’s emotional essence in a sculpture. As I developed the sculpture, I came to call it Elias – for no apparent reason, I just felt like his name would be Elias.
Super Soft Sculpey
For the project, I used some old Sculpey Oven Bake Clay I had laying around. Literally, this clay has been in my project studio for more than 5-years, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was still in workable condition. I have two types of Sculpey – original and super. The Super Sculpey is usually my preference for sculptures, but I didn’t feel like working the clay as much as I would have to for it to soften up, so I opted for the original formula Sculpey.
Manny, my husband, helped soften up the clay as I built an armature from aluminum foil and a small wooden block I had leftover from another project. I clumped the clay in small batches over the armature and started to block in the shapes of a cat sitting. The idea was to create a small sitting cat with hard lines, similar to the vinyl art toy, Xico, from Mexico.
The clay was so soft that the slightest touch left an impression and really frustrated me, but I was determined to make this happen. The last time I sculpted something with such dedication was years ago, a crow named Con. Con was my first attempt at a sculpture to be reproduced in resin, but the original was broken during an exhibition at the now-defunct Art Mundo. I was so distraught by it that I just gave up on the idea.
Talk about being vulnerable here, you see how ugly a piece can start before it becomes acceptable?
Future Built For Art Toy Status
While my intentions for Elias were to create a sculpture and successfully make a mold and casting of it, I instantly started seeing a future for my little kitten. The potential for the sculpture to be an expressive canvas for other artists in my community featured in an exhibition for all ages to enjoy replaced my intentions of just successfully making a copy.
This lead to a change in the design. Initially, the face was sculpted, but after a few rounds of critiquing it with a new vision in mind, I decided a less sculptured face would provide greater flexibility for the final product.
Imperfect, But Moving Forward
There comes a point in every project where you’ve put in a lot of time and effort and still haven’t reached a point of perfection. This is usually the point where we either give up or achieve the title lazy for not continuing to put in that extra effort. Here’s my truth. If I don’t keep moving forward, a project may get placed on the backburner and not picked up again for years.
After my resignation from my previous full-time job, one of the promises I made myself was to complete projects that I had been putting off. Elias is a new project, but he’s also a representation of overcoming my fear of failure in sculpture and molding/casting. So, he’s a significant step for me.
While the sculpt isn’t perfect and lacks symmetry, I reached a point of frustration that if I didn’t continue moving forward, I was going to lose traction. So I spent a few more hours tearing him apart and rebuilding him again until I reached something near enough perfect that I could be satisfied to call him done, for now.
Mold-Making…, Am I Right?
The mold-making process taught me to default to math for volume measurements rather than eyeing it up. It took over one week for me to complete the mold due to material consumption and delivery time for new materials.
For the mold, I used Smooth-On Dragon Skin 10. Dragon Skin 10 is a super easy-to-use silicone rubber compound that uses a 1:1 ratio for mixing together the compound and catalyst. It cures quickly and doesn’t require degassing, a process that removes bubbles from the silicone.
Admittedly, I am an impatient artist, so the fewer the steps to get to satisfaction, the better.
I highly recommend Dragon Skin 10 for anyone making a block or glove silicone mold.
First Casting Success
After nearly a week to complete the mold thanks to my terribly gross underestimates, I was able to complete my first cast of Elias. Using some older Smooth-On Smooth-Cast 300 I had laying around, I mixed together a near-perfect volume for the cast cavity that resulted in my first born Elias figurine.
For my initial intentions, even with the few bubbles that developed in the cast, I was finally successful. I had made my first copy of a sculpture. The original sculpt broke in the demolding process, however, I was able to repair it and allowed my 8-year-old cousin to paint it while I worked on the first born.
Elias Art Toy Series 1: “First Born”
I had a difficult time deciding on the colors and motifs to use for the first born Elias. In my mind, I wanted something like a rising sun, symbolizing new birth and new opportunity. I knew I wanted the body to be blue and the head to be red, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that come together.
The first attempts at painting Elias’s face were also terrible. At one point I thought somehow I was subconsciously influenced to make him somewhat Pacific-Islander/Asian because of the color palette and face design that I constructed. It was very Filipino flag-inspired, although I was more influenced by my Mexican connections and previous projects like the alebrije.
As I repainted the face several times and continued to struggle with it, I nearly gave up. Elias was successfully sculpted, successfully replicated, but he was unsuccessfully given character. Then, one night in the shower it dawned on me that the colors in Elias were similar to the Arizona flag, my second favorite state. Arizona reminded me of the desert, for obvious reasons, and that lead me to think about lions and tribal art.
Elias, At Last!
While I consider myself a very versatile artist, I have never created any sort of tribal-style art. As a designer, I typically do research on something before I attempt it, however, this time I sat down right out of the shower and mixed together colors that would become the face of Elias. No thought or research, just simple action, and experimentation. When I was done, I knew I had achieved it.
But where the face design came from I’m not sure. In hindsight, the style of this particular character reminds me of Kenyan artwork. Perhaps this is the best example of my multi-cultural flavor, either way…
Elias, at last, was complete.
Support Elias’s Art Toy Future, Adopt Today
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Elias’s development and would like to support his journey toward becoming a featured exhibition all his own, please contact me.
As it stands, I plan to make 9 versions of Elias for Series 1. Sales for Series 1 will support the development of Series 2, which includes tightening up Elias’s design and correcting some imperfections. Series 2 will complete Elias’s journey in my hands, and fund Series 3, which will consist of blanks sold to local artists for visual expression and curated into an exhibition.
You can adopt a Series 1 Elias for $45 when available. Like my Facebook for availability updates.