Mar 15, 2009

Working with Gum Paste (part 4, heads & hands)

This is part 4 of a 5 part series. In this section, I'll give step by step instructions on making the hands, heads, and faces. I've been working on practicing different techniques and gathered tips here and there from various cake clubs that I belong to and some of the things I've discovered on my own. If you have any tips you'd like to share, by all means please leave a comment, it would be much appreciated ;)

The Hands:
First, I roll a small piece into a cone shape. I make what will be the wrist and forearm a little longer, knowing that I can always cut off the excess before attaching it to the body. In previous projects, I tried the shaping them while on the body, which was completely disasterous. Then, I tried shaping them seperately, forming them on a mat, then on a styrofoam board....again, disasterous. I ended up with either a dried out clump with the deformed fingers falling off, or, a puddle of a goobidy-globby gumpaste mess. (yes, that's a technical term lol).

So, learn from my mistakes, heed my advice, and try shaping them on the palm of your hand. In this case, I used my finger because they were so small. You can keep the gumpaste warm and wet while working, and then, transfer it to your figure or support and allow to dry. (Should I point out that I'm left handed?) I flattened the larger end of the cone and gave it a bit of shape.

Next, carefully using a (dull) exacto knife, I sliced out the thumb and fingers. Once I had the fingers roughly carved out, I went back and trimmed them so they were the correct size and shape.

With a flat brush, dampened with water, I start shaping the fingers more precisely. You can use the flat part of the brush to pat the gumpaste and "push" it around, and use the chisled end of the brush to move from the finger tips towards the creases between each finger. (seriously, I can't remember how in the world I took this picture on the right! LMAO!)

Next I attached the hand to the body by first dampening inside of the sleeve, letting it soften just a bit. I "scraped" the hand off of my finger and transfered it over with the exacto knife. Then I used the dampened brush again to shape the hand and straighten out the fingers.

At this point and time, I could have added even more detail, like the wrinkles on the knuckles or even the suggestion of fingernails. If you have decorating tips, check them out for sizes and shapes that you can use for different impressions. But I decided in this case to just to make impressions for the knuckles. Notice too, that my leprechaun figure is now on a plastic lined form, so that after the piece was completely dry, I removed the figure and peeled off the plastic, leaving all of the tiny fingers intact.

The head and face:For the head, I first took a small piece, rolled it into a little log and placed it on my "Vlad the impaler" stick. This piece only serves to keep the head from slipping down further on the stick, I removed it later and replaced it with a "neck". Next, I stuck the head on and gave it a general shape with my fingertips. Then I used a decorating tip (for a large flower petal) and made the mouth impression (crooked smile)and the other end for the cheeks.
I used my flat brush with the chisled end to make the impressions deeper and more defined. Then I took a small ball for the nose and smoothed it onto the face with the brush. After applying the nose, I applied the ears and eyes.

I allowed the head to dry then I used a powdered food coloring and gave him some flushed cheeks and a red nose. One of the things I wanted to point out is, if you are doing more than one character, make sure you give them at least slightly different characteristics. Make the heads a slightly different shape, make the facial hair different, eyes a different color or shape, etc. Also, try to capture facial expressions, it's this kind of detail that will make your work stand out. After getting the facial expressions done, I applied the eyebrows and facial/head hair using small flat pieces stuck on with water and used an exacto knife to shape them and make the (hair) impressions. Finally, I used the dampened brush to smooth out any dried crumbs and to clean it up a bit.

Once the heads were completely dry, I took them off of the stick(s) and made a "neck". I stuck it on the body first with a tiny bit of water and then stuck on the head. At this time, for the guy wearing the hat, I knew it needed some more support. So I dry fitted the hat, removed it, then made the eyebrows and back of the hair a little thicker to hold the hat up. I added the finishing touches, using them where needed as "props". Like the bowtie here, it's actually holding his chin up so his head doesn't fall forward due to the weight of the head and hat.

On the "drunk" guy, his beard served the same purpose as the bowtie above, but left no room for his bowtie under his beard. So I decided to make the untied bowtie, adding to his disshelved look. Happy accident. ;)

Well there you have it. How to make a leprechaun (or other people) from start to finish. In the next section, part 5, I'll show you the finished cake as well as the steps for the cake construction. (I know what you're thinking, geeze, FINALLY!)

If you're interested in the rest of the series, here are the links:

You say Sugar Paste, I say Gumpaste (part 1)
Gumpaste Recipe and Directions (part 2)
Working with Gumpaste (part 3, the tools and body)
Happy St. Patrick's Day! (part 5, the cake construction)


Culinary Alchemist said...

Phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal!!!

DDpie said...

Thanks Shane! now, tell me why I can't win the battle with that damn lemon meringue pie!!!! LOL

Nicole said...

I might have to try and make one of these little guys. I'm doing a St.Patrick's themed German chocolate cake in a couple weeks. I was too intimidated to do a leprechan, but maybe with your help I can :D

Anonymous said...

I love your cake and your little guys. How do you keep the gumpaste from cracking and shrinking as it dries???

DDpie said...

Anonymous, I do get some cracks at times, it helps to work with it more wet (i.e the wet paint brush) and keep parts covered to prevent it from drying out. Sometimes if the cracks are really apparent, I'll go back and "fill" them in, kinda like spackling a wall, with a thinner gumpaste mixture. Never really had a problem with shrinking tho.