The Shiflett Brothers consist of Brandon and Jarrod, a two-man operation who sculpt primarily fantasy figures. We had a chance to check out their work at SDCC. Beyond just taking a few pictures of their booth, we were able to attend their panel on figure sculpting!
If you're interested in their creative process or are looking for some sculpting tips, click on for the panel notes. Otherwise, check out the gallery to see what they had for sale!
Above you can see the beginning of each figure: an armature made of aluminum wire. The parts of this skeleton are wrapped with floral wire, a sort of thin wire covered in cloth. This serves to hold together the skeleton, and also act as a binding site for the clay to fix it onto the skeleton. All this is super-glued before the clay goes on.
The Shiflett Brothers work mostly with Super Sculpey, a sort of clay that can be baked in conventional ovens. This allows them to build up a figure gradually, baking the larger pieces, then molding on smaller details.
Above you can see Jarrod working very fine details onto a figure. At this stage, he's working with very small pieces of Super Sculpey to sculpt fine muscle detail. To make the baked Super Sculpey sticky, you can rub a little petroleum jelly onto it. Then it will bond better to fresh Super Sculpey.
Some areas can develop small imperfections from handling during the sculpting process. You can smooth them out with sandpaper while running the figure under water. That way you can avoid scratches. You can also eliminate very small imperfections (such as fingerprints) by using rubbing alcohol. This makes the clay harder to mold, so they recommended doing this just before baking.
Sometimes, a piece needs to be solid to serve as a base for other pieces. These can be made with epoxy putty, a two-part putty that solidifies quickly when mixed together. Obviously you'll need to know what you're making before using it, but it can provide a rigid platform without having to bake the entire sculpt.
Epoxy putty can also be useful for adjusting the fit of pieces that need to be separate. If you're going to make a cast of a figure, you'll often need to cut it up in order to make casting possible. They recommend doing this right off the bat, as sometimes it can be difficult to cut apart a finished sculpt. They also recommend making keyed connectors (so they can only fit one way). Epoxy putty can be used for this purpose as well.
In this last shot, you can see Jarrod using a small burnisher to work the clay. They said most people just settle on whatever tool they feel comfortable using, which can be anything from actual sculpting tools to a Sharpie marker.
Their booth featured the fruits of their labor. In addition to WIP prototypes on display, they had an impressive array of figures for sale. It was a diverse lot, ranging from fantastical monsters to elaborate mechanical designs to pin-up style women. You can learn more about the Shiflett Brothers and their work on their website, and maybe even get involved in the sculpting community!Photo Gallery: (26 images)
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