How to sculpt your own faux-taxidermied jackolope

I was inspired by the Offbeat Homies DIY challenge to create a papier-mâché unicorn. But unicorns aren't really me and I don't have the wall space for something that honkin'. I do, however, have a fondness for the weird and taxidermied wonder that is the mythical jack rabbit/antelope hybrid, the jackalope. Since working small-scale with papier-mâché is challenging, I went the polymer clay route. Polymer clay, like Sculpey, is super forgiving, super fast to dry, and makes anyone look like a sculpting pro.

Here is what I used:

  • Polymer clay (I went with six squares of white Sculpey for a fairly small animal head and had one left over at the end.)
  • A sculpting tool or plastic knives (Keep in mind that anything you use on the clay shouldn't be used with food. So stick with sculpting tools or plastic utensils.)
  • Some paint
  • A little plaque that you can find at most craft stores
  • Glue
  • An ugly covering for your table
  • A visual reference to whatever you want to sculpt

To get the transparent paint look on the plaque, I diluted the paint a little bit and wiped it on with a paper towel. This paint is different than in the photo above since I changed my mind in the middle. Any old paint will do.

Working with polymer clay is really simple. It feels hard at first, but just roll it between your hands to warm it up and it will be soft enough to mold. I started to make the basic form of the rabbit head, knowing I'll need to build up the body later. (Rabbits are chunky!)

Shoo away animals attempting to poison themselves by chomping on the plastic. (No basement cats were harmed in the making of this jackalope.)

This step is where is starts to look hard, but totally isn't. I rolled out some simple shapes: triangles with a hollow, curved center for the ears and some pointy cylinders for the antlers.

Make sure to pack in some extra clay wherever there is a "joint" in the piece, so it doesn't fall off later. You can also see that I indented where the eyes should be. I rolled some tiny balls for the eyes that get smooshed into that place.

Once I've added some more padding around his chest and muzzle, I start carving out his nose and fur. You might want to hollow out the back of him to make him a little lighter before you start really getting into the fur. That way you won't smooth it out again with your fingers while you're digging out some of the clay in the back. The hollowing out is completely optional.

To bake the polymer clay, preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit/135 degrees Celsius. Ventilate the area well, as the fumes can be toxic. Make sure your jackalope is flat on the back or has flat areas for mounting and place him on a non-metal surface that you won't use for cooking. I used some parchment paper.

Bake him for 15-20 minutes, wait for him to cool completely, and glue him to your plaque. Wait for that to dry and mount him up on your wall. Once he is cooled, you can go back in and carve or sandpaper anything that you want to fix. In this case, I may go back in and sharpen up the tips of his antlers since they look a little rounded.

The project took me three hours to complete and everything cost about $18 total. Has anyone else used polymer clay for DIY projects?

  1. Looks like a lot of extra effort. I think that I'll just shoot a real jackalope and take it to a taxidermist.

    They're nasty little buggers. Cute, but they destroy gardens.

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  2. Sweet! You can also paint polymer clay in case you wanted to add in more lifelike tones.

    I used Sculpey for our cake toppers for our wedding. Dude used it to make some pokemon for an art class. I think it's one of my projects on the summer list is to make more stuff with it.

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  3. This is amazing! I have used polymer clay before for adding sculpted details to other structures (the paper mache masks) but not for a whole model or anything.

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  4. I love Sculpey! A tip I have for something this big/thick, make a base model out of aluminum foil, then build up the clay over it (so that the inside is foil and the outside is clay). It can be baked, it makes the project lighter in weight, and it doesn't waste clay. :)

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    • That's a great idea. Better than digging it out manually after the fact. ;)

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    • Then use florist's tape (you can get it from cake decorating websites) to wrap the base model in, it makes the clay 'skin' stick to the foil base a lot nicer, and means you are less likely to get cracks in the model when you bake it (cracks can occur if you don't have the clay smooshed tightly enough to the base model)

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