This is a fairly in-depth description of the techniques, and little tricks, that I used to create this light-hearted look at one of the more important events of the last century. You may never try to re-create this figure, but if you work with polymer clay, hopefully you will pick up a few ideas as you follow along.
Basic Body Building
The first step for this figure was to rough out the body shape, and set the pose for later on. I have used stiff wire, and left it protruding for internal strength. One very key wire in the left leg will be used to attach the astronaut to the moon’s surface. The clay that I used, by the way, is a custom mix of off-white and metallic silver.
After this was baked hard, the labour-intensive part began. I wrapped strips of the same coloured clay around one leg, and used one of my favourite tools, the end of a paintbrush, to shape and smooth.
More wrinkles and holes for the eventual life-support system were added; once again, I re-baked between major additions. It would be a real shame to accidentally mess up hours of work, so stopping to re-bake is always a good idea. The seal for his helmet was also roughed in at this point.
Next, I added his arms, complete with more wrinkles. He is starting to look more like the bulky astronaut we all know and love.
Boots and Gloves
Now for the boots. They were done in various stages, the most challenging of which were the very thin straps and buckles. The thing that makes me laugh about these boots, is the 1960s technology. They had to be used to walk on the moon, and snap-down buttons was the best they could come up with?
When I started on the astronaut’s gloves, I realized that I had been working from conflicting references. Each mission had slight differences, and I decided to go with the Apollo 13 crew for consistent historical accuracy. I couldn’t find out what the blue fingertips were all about, but I would imagine it has something to do with gripping objects.
The Power Pack
My figure was already starting to get heavy, so his massive power pack had to be hollow; at the very least, I saved 2-3 packages of polymer clay. The easiest way to do this was make a four-sided piece of cardboard, and tape it were the edges met.
I carefully rolled out a sheet of clay to the thickness of about one millimeter. After cutting two sides out, I attached them to the top and bottom of the cardboard frame. Without baking, I added side strips, and then marked the folds and added circular impressions for future attachments. Now I baked my pack, and when it had cooled off, I removed the cardboard.
Leaving the power pack at this point, I decided to make the helmet next. It should have been transparent, but there is a reflective gold tint to the real thing, so I opted for a solid gold sphere. I smoothed before baking, and sanded afterwards.
After many coats of gold paint, I encased the helmet with a thin layer of my special white/silver clay. I added a few wrinkles for realism, and mimicked the lock seal where the helmet meets the rest of the suit.
Getting Wired Up
Probably the trickiest part of the project was the various connections between the astronaut and his power pack. There wasn’t any wifi back in the 60s; it was old school back then. After I glued on the pack, I also took the time to paint on the flags and NASA insignia. This involved a triple-zero size brush, and some magnification.
The tiny silver connectors were pre-baked, and attached to thinly rolled clay. These had to remain flexible while I carefully clued them to the suits’ coloured connections. After gluing the other end to the pack, I repeated this procedure for all 6 tubes. This was tricky, since I couldn’t afford to pinch or break the un-baked clay at this point.
Make Your Own Moon
Next I made the underlying part of the base. I first baked this, in order to add a second layer of soft clay that will accept some moon surface detail. Note the hole for wire sticking out of my astronaut’s leg. I also made myself a simple “boot stamp” to create some footprints.
Here you can see that craters and special moon footprints have been added, and an overall rough texture was accomplished with a shoe brush – it happened to be lying around, and it served its purpose. Before baking the moon base, I pressed the figure down to make natural indentations for the final assembly.
I added more stone and little rocks to the base, and then painted some colour variations for interest. When this was dry, I did the earlier trick of adding darker paint, and wiping most of it off. I doubt that stones are piled up like this on the moon’s surface, but I find the concept appealing. Sometimes the bases for my figures are the fun part.
The twist to this sculpture is the idea that the moon landing was somehow faked. There was even a movie about in in the 1970’s. So, in keeping with this notion, I decided to show the structural supports, and mechanical elements of a Hollywood sound stage. All that was needed to complete the gag, was to place an old 60s style Coke can lying on the surface; something out of place enough to catch the astronaut’s attention.