How to make a pair of Viking “Turtle” Brooches

They are an essential accessory for any Lady Viking …after all, they literally hold your dress up! But this bit of booby bling can run you a good chunk of cash. On the whole, you will get what you pay for, as itty bitty titty brooches can run about $40, while a good size pair can run into the hundreds.

If you are anything like me, I have a hard time justifying paying that much for something I might wear once or twice a year. My SCA persona isn’t even viking (I just like to mix it up every once in awhile) but I’m not for the understated look either. I go big or go home.

So I devised a way to make some out of Super Sculpey….because Super Sculpey is awesome.

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The result of my first trial with super sculpey brooches

I learned a lot from that experience, but I still craved more detail. So in this post I’ll be recording my 3rd attempt with the goal of making a much more ornate set of jewelry.

Making the base shape

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I always start out with a tin foil base, as it is inexpensive and easily compressed into a decent starting point–though, in theory, any metal will work. Please note that when sculpey is fresh from the box it can be a bit tough, so I usually grab some vegetable oil and knead it into the piece I’m currently working with before applying.

The base layer should be at least 5mm thick as we will be carving into it later. Sculpt the bases for both brooches, doing your best to keep them identical and equal in size and dimension. As per the Super Scupley instructions, I baked both at 275 degrees for 15 minutes to get started, then sanded them smooth and flattened the backs. Keep the oven on as you move on to the next step, we will be going back and forth from sculpting to baking throughout the course of this project.

Adding DetailsIMG_20160614_000454

At this point I begin adding more clay. Note: sculpey added to a base that is straight from the oven will begin to cook along with it, so let your brooches cool a bit before adding more clay each round. I begin with a outer rim, going from examples I’ve seen online. As there is a good bit a variety in brooch style out there, you (like me) will mostly be making it up as you go along and this is okay!

As every layer is added, compare each to the other (to keep them looking identical) then bake one while work continues on the later. Once baked, the new layer may be carved or sanded to preference.

Because I wanted more detail this round, I experimented with adding seed beads to wet sculpey to good success. Once baked, the beads stayed in place and added some more delicate patterning.

Carving in Relief

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I discovered sculpey is easiest to carve when still hot from the oven. Going off examples I found in my research, I chose to carve in high relief, cutting down to the foil layer for the greatest amount of contrast. I used vegetable oil to clear out the debris and polish my work as I went for greater visibility.

Final Sculptural Details

I added what could best be described as nipples to my brooches. I have no idea what they are or are supposed to  represent. But I’ve seen them in countless different historical examples and they look cool.

Once baked and re-hardened, I turned the brooch over and cut out some of the tin foil base to make room for my pin hardware. I then buried the base of that hardware with more sculpey and baked it one. last. time!

Paint

With a mixture of black and metallic gold acrylic paint, I covered my brooches. I was particularly thorough with this step, as the black paint will help contrast with the gold we will add next. Get every nook and cranny then allow to dry.

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Lastly, with metallic gold model paint or Liquid Leaf, dry brush the surface allowing the black paint to contrast with the gold. Allow to dry and enjoy your new Viking Turtle Brooches!

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