I have spoken before about my normal research strategy when it comes to sculpting miniature food. I spend hours and hours online, drooling over photographs of food items while my stomach growls in protest. Occasionally, a commission or an idea tossed at me by a friend requires more in-depth research…more of a “hands on” approach. Such was the case recently when I was asked to create a platter of lobster tails for a planned wedding buffet diorama in 1:6 scale. I was obliged to get up close and personal with a lobster or rather, a dozen lobsters. It’s a dirty job, but…
So, this is Bob. Well, actually, he/she is more like Bob the 10th or something closer to that. Back Story: a decade or more ago, we got delightfully involved in a peaches for lobsters trade with my husband’s brother who lives in Maine. He misses the amazingly good local peaches, and we miss eating fresh Maine lobsters that don’t cost several arms and a leg or two. On one of the first occasions, our daughter decided to name one of the lobsters Bob which just happens to be hubby’s brother’s name. Yeah…don’t try to figure that one out. Anyway, tradition now dictates that the first lobster out of the box is named Bob.
Bob and his eleven box mates were duly photographed for my research purposes and then popped into the steam bath. (Hopefully, no one will be too offended by the harming of these lobsters who sacrificed themselves for the peach trade and my miniature food research.) After studying the details of the lobsters both at dinner and later via the photographs, I was ready to begin the commissioned platter of lobster tails!
As with all mini food projects, blending the right colors is the first task. Once I had that accomplished to my satisfaction, I roughed out the general shape of the tail. In this photograph, the lobster looks more like a squid than a lobster, but you can see that after some sculpting, the squid blob begins to take on a more lobstery (yes, that’s a word…lol) appearance. Some details of the real lobster won’t be seen for my mini food purposes, so I focus on the things that will. I decided to sculpt the shell portion separately from the meat portion so that I could bake in stages. Sculpting with polymer clay, especially in the heat of western Colorado in the Summer, is challenging. The clay is softer than usual when warm, and any touch can leave unwanted marks or, in some cases, can completely ruin an hour of work. I sculpted three tails, affixed them to the ceramic platter, and then baked for a few minutes to “set” them. I then began work on the final three tails. Once the tails were on the platter and baked off again for a few minutes, I was able to turn my attention to the meat portions of the tails.
I knew the meat was going to be my biggest challenge with this particular project as cooked lobster and crab have a very distinctive look to them with some amount of translucency. That’s not easily accomplished with polymer clay. Adding translucent clay to your colors does help, obviously, as that is why translucent clay was created, but it also makes the clay softer and stickier. Add Summer to that mix, and you have to be very careful. I also crank the cooler up to high while I’m working with it, and the freezer is my best friend. When the clay becomes too soft to work with easily, just pop your item into the freezer for a few minutes!
Working again on my ceramic tile, I formed the shape of the lobster tail after the meat has been pulled up out of the shell for presentation. And after sculpting the texture into the meat, I used chalk pastels to color it where it should be colored to resemble the real deal. Now, back to the platter of baked shells!
When attaching unbaked clay to baked clay, you need to use some liquid polymer clay for “glue”. Once the meat portion was atop the shell, I sculpted the lower edges and added some more texture and detailing. The platter of six completed lobster tails was then baked again. After the platter cooled, I was able to add details with acrylics. Lemon slices were also added to the platter. A side dish of melted butter was also added. Et voila!
And while I was “in the lobster zone”, I created a Lobster Dinner for the OSS Etsy Store. There are 2 available. Sea ya later! (Get it? Sea instead of “see” because we’ve been talking about lobster and….)