Epoxy Clay Animals Garden Art

Waterproof Squirrel Sculpture Made with Free Form Sculpt

Squirrel Sculpture Made with Free Form Sculpt Epoxy Clay
This little squirrel is my first bona fide waterproof outdoor sculpture.
I made it using the same techniques that you’ll find in my book How to Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay, but the materials are different.

What did I do differently?

Instead of cardboard for the pattern, I used foam board. The roundness of the armature was filled out with aluminum foil held on with a hot glue gun. (I only burned myself five or six times. I ordered some protective finger thingies, and I’ll let you know if they helped.)



Once the armature was finished and the foil was squashed down really tight, I made the skin using an epoxy clay product, instead of paper mache clay. The product I used is called Free Form Sculpt, and it’s made by the Smooth-On company. I ordered mine from amazon.com

I bought the “trial size” of Free Form Sculpt, and I used a little over half of it. If I didn’t get quite so carried away with the fur on the little guy’s tail, I might have been able to make two squirrels before running out. The material can be softened with a little bit of water, so it can be pressed very thin over the armature. It’s sticky, so it bonded to the aluminum foil. You can use water to keep it from sticking to your gloves, too.

Edit: I finished painting the squirrel, using waterproof flat house paint, tinted with some powdered pigments I had in the studio. Click Here to see how the squirrel looks, now that it’s finished.

If you think you might be interested in learning more about making outdoor sculptures with epoxy clay, let me know. I will be making one more video of this squirrel, so you can see how it looks after it’s painted.

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56 Comments

  • I am keen to make a snorkel cat bird bath, can’t get them in Canada in concrete, but I want something lighter so I was thinking of using a plastic birdbath as a inside base and create on top of it. is the clay epoxy water proof and non-toxic, if I make a bird bath. I used to do poured aluminum but no longer have a foundry so I am willing to venture in other directions and try the clay idea. Obviously you can start with any form on the inside and wire over it to create the skin. Do you know what product I would buy in Canada to use. thanks.

    • Hi Pam. I love the idea of a snorkel cat bird bath. But I may not be much help with the rest of your questions. You need technical answers, so I’s suggest going to one of my favorite suppliers, Smooth-on, and as them. Their Habitat line is used in aquariums and is non-toxic, but it’s not as clay-like as their Free-Form Sculpt, which I used for the squirrel. I believe they have videos that will show you how both products are used. They also sell a line called Free Form Air, but it isn’t waterproof. I tried playing with it, and it wasn’t much fun. But I do like the Free Form Sculpt, but I’m don’t know if it would contaminate the water in the bird bath. (If you find out, I hope you’ll let us know.)

      I also don’t know if they ship to Canada. If they don’t, they’ll probably tell you the name of a company that does.

    • I did try it, and I hoped it would feel and act like the Pal Tiya does in Kim’s videos – but it really felt and acted more like ordinary concrete. They do make some beautiful things with it, so maybe I just wasn’t doing it right. When you try it, I hope you’ll come back and let us know how your project turned out.

      • I want to try Paltiya too! But Shapecrete is cheaper and easier to get. I will let you know how it goes 🙂

  • Yes-keep evolving in your work and videos. You learn and grow-I will too. Love your work-you are so artistic. The Apoxy looks good and makes for better details (it seems) A bit spendy. I would like to make outdoor things though so may have to spring for it.
    Thanks for all your projects. You have a wonderful way of making my feel like you are a friend.

  • Beautiful squirrel, Jonni! It’s exciting to learn of your explorations into new materials and methods. 🙂
    Also love the plaque you chose for the Bongo trophy mount.

  • Hi Jonni!! I’m so happy to have found you and your wonderful creations, tutorials and advice? I have just started using Paverpol and am currently sculpting a mermaid to sit on a log by our fish pond. Hopefully once finished it will remain waterproof and hardy enough to stand up to the harsh elements encountered here in the U.K.!!?(Fingers crossed!!) will follow you with great interest from now on?

    • Good luck! By the way, are you taking photos as you work? I know that most people don’t, but if you just happen to do that, I know we’d all love to see how you’re making your mermaid. If not, I still hope you’ll show us how it turns out when it’s done.

    • Yes, more. I have sculpted a lot with Apoxy clay by Aves sculpting clays, but was unaware that Smooth on had one. I am anxious to try it as it looks much easier to use. I look forward to more posts on this.
      Thank you!

      • Gina, do you have any tips for us? It sounds like you have more experience with this type of product than I do. And do you have any images you could share of your work?

      • Hi Jonni,
        Here are a couple pix of my sculptures. I have tons so it was difficult to pick.
        I have done lots of horses, the calf and several dogs. I work with a wire armature and foil in the bodies, then apply the apoxy like you do. The Aves works very fast so I work in layers. I smooth with a paint brush and either water or alcohol. I paint all my own except when I sell to artists to paint. I took my website down recently as it was mostly about my painting and I am going in a different direction now. I am happy to answer any questions about the Apoxy if I can. I ordered the smooth on product yesterday. I am also doing small clay things with mexican clay and a ton of other projects as well. Never a dull moment.

  • Love the squirrel! I use rubber gloves when I using the glue gun on armatures as I always end up putting my fingers in it to smooth it over and forget its hot. That does stop me burning my fingers although it does stick to the gloves.

    • Good idea – anything that goes between hot glue and skin would be useful, I’m sure. I ordered some Thermal Thimbles, but of course they arrived after the squirrel armature was done. I’ll use them next time – hot glue really hurts, and it’s amazing how many times I have to get burned before I start being more careful!

  • Oh, I would love to to see more of your lessons about that kind of material. I want to make some frogs for my garden, it would be perfect for the job. Thanks!

  • That looks like an interesting product Jonni. Having said that, if I could create a sculpture half as good as yours I would be thrilled.

  • Hi Jonni,
    Well with this last post I can say, I’m in trouble now!
    I love your squirrel and all things you post are so helpful.
    Yes on any updates and learning curves, Thank you so much for sharing!
    I’m currently in the midst of our Renaissance faire, (I’ve posted in the past about it) where I teach a mask painting workshop. We use pre-made forms purchased in bulk because we go through so many during Faire season; and it’s fine for most people who just want to do a fun craft. But for my own uses and fun, your website and books have helped me learn the craft better, and I look forward to creating many more sculptural masks, and yard art this coming year.
    Thanks again for sharing your artistic talents. I wish you were a next door neighbor, someone my mother would refer to as trouble maker, the best kind, always a new project and getting into something.

    • Hi Susan. I remember the Renaissance faire mask you posted before. It’s beautiful. And I think you’re really brave to take your craft out in front of so many people. Especially people who want to create something fast. If you ever feel like doing a guest post describing your experiences at those workshops, let me know.

  • Thank you. VERY nice. Your work is always well done, your helpful hints welcome. I, too, would love to see more on this sculpt-medium.

  • That squirrel is very beautiful. Besides the wonderful sculpture, your presentation made me think I might be able to do it. I have a couple of plastic squirrels I keep outside by the driveway, and wouldn’t it be nice to replace them with something remotely close to this. So, yes, keep us informed. And I, too, am happy that you do the experimenting for all of us. Thanks.

      • I’m not Rex, but I have a suggestion. Fairy houses and all the accoutrements are very popular as crafts now, and what you can get ready-made in stores is not always nicely crafted. A small wheelbarrow, or a lantern, or some tiny birds. And then you could make a goat. Sheep are all over, but goats are hard to find. I would really like a video on how to construct a goat. Or a llama. My granddaughter raises both, and I would like to gift her with one.

        • Good ideas, Joyce. I remembered a very old post that contained a goat, but no pattern. It actually has some good information in it, but it was written before I started using patterns in my work, so the information is somewhat general. Still, you might be able to get some use out of it. The baby goat isn’t very detailed, though, so that beautiful face of an adult goat is not on the page. (Now I’m wondering what I did with that little sculpture – I really liked it, but I haven’t seen if in years.)

      • A bird! Of course. I think I’m afraid of making birds and that if I start that is all I will do. Anyway, silliness aside, if the Free Form Sculpt makes thin and strong legs, then that would be beyond wonderful. (Remember, I still have four unfinished ravens!)

        • I would never argue with Eileen! I think it’s a great idea. But I would love to see a bird somewhere. The one sitting on Dionysus’ shoulder is great.

  • I’ve been using Free Form Sculpt for about a year now…I like it and I don’t:-) it can drive me mad with the stickiness but I love the hardness of it.

    I made a fairy house from it with a half log…it stood out in the sun for about 9 months (South Africa) and its still fine…the paint faded a bit but the door and the window are both OK.

    It is easily sanded and can give a lovely smooth finish…If left I found it can change colour a little…goes a mucky greyish colour but accepts craft paint really well.

    I’ve used it over polyurethane foam with great success…I like the fact it is self hardening and can be manipulated and shaped once its ‘set’ a bit…I am using it at the moment to make a fairy door…I’ve made decanters with it….it sticks to glass, wood, It will cover papier mache and even clay…it can even be used over cardboard….for wings etc. It covers most things except polyprop plastic…which is nice because you can use the plastic to make the form on and it will pop off.

    I hope this helps a bit…

    Sylvia

    • Thank you, Sylvia. It’s great to hear from someone who has had real experience with the product. I’ve been told that painting it is a good idea, if you’re going to put it outside, so I will be doing that. I had no idea you could put it over cardboard. Do you have some photos of your projects that you could share with us? I’d love to see that fairy door, or anything else you’ve made with it.

  • Oh Jonni! I’m always being asked if my paper pieces can go outside. I’d love to learn more about exopy clay from you. Thank you for being so generous with what you learn. It means so much to someone like me who works full time and creates here and there.

  • Jonni……This is the cutest squirrel sculpture I have ever seen….so very lifelike. I love that material even though I have not worked with it. If you do anything else with it, please share it….Your work is always a major inspiration to me.

    • Gosh – thanks, Ken. What a nice comment. I do hope to play around with the epoxy some more, and I’ll definitely post anything I come up with. I’m really having fun with it.

  • Excellent squirrel Jonni! He has character like all of your animals. How does the dried Free Form Sculpt appear? Does it look like paper mache clay or does it look like a resin sort of sculpture? Could it be mixed on a sculpture with your paper mache clay and look right? Not mixed together but used separately on the same sculpture. Will it need to be sealed with varnish? Is there much shrinkage or cracking?
    I would love to see a whole menagerie of critters in your garden! I like that you can apply it directly to the foil or wire. That would enable people to make thin legs and claws without worrying about breakage.
    Will you paint it to be a grey squirrel? When we were in Canada we saw black squirrels…really neat, we don’t have them around us.

    • Hi Eileen. It doesn’t look like paper mache clay – it’s smoother, for one thing, unless you texture it. More like a resin sculpture. I think you could use a damp sponge to get it to fit nicely with paper mache clay, or use the gesso over it. I did use Apoxie Sculpt for my raccoon’s nose and a little more on the muzzle for shaping, and I really like the way it looked. I found this short video of a bird’s feet made with Magic Sculpt (not the same brand, but similar stuff), and you can see how nicely it would work if you needed some strong legs and feet for a paper mache bird. It doesn’t shrink or crack, but I did find out that a hammer can smash a thin layer of Free Form Sculpt after it cures (I didn’t like something I was doing, and decided to start over – off-camera, of course). I’ve sent an email to the smooth-on people asking how well the product holds up to our Minnesota winters.

      It doesn’t need to be sealed, since it’s waterproof as soon as it cures. However, I have been told that the product needs to be painted if it’s left outside. Like any plastic, the sun can damage it. I’ll use a spray primer, then paint it with tinted exterior house paint. Dan Reeder paints his dragons with house paint, and they come out rather nice. The squirrel will be grey – that’s the kind we have outside my window, stealing the bird food. A black one would look great, but I don’t have a model.

      I would love to have a sculpture park in my yard, but I put all my gardening time into veggies and new berry bushes this year. Plus, I’m not very good at landscape design. Wouldn’t it be fun, though, to have an organic demonstration garden, maybe even permaculture so there’s lots of bushes and perennials, and fit in sculptures from books and traditional stories that relate to veggies and gardens? Peter Rabbit, the goblins from Rossetti’s Goblin Market, etc.? Just hidden here and there, to surprise people coming for the gardening demonstrations, you know …

      Sigh – so many ideas.

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