Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Santa's Workshop, Southwestern Kokopelli Christmas Ornament from Polymer Clay

It's August and once again here in Arizona my studio looks a bit like Santa's Workshop, filled with Southwestern and Sedona Red Rock polymer clay Christmas ornaments in various stages of being birthed. It's my favorite time of year because making ornaments reminds me of all the happy times we had as a family making ornaments and Christmas cards together around the family dining room table.

Kokopelli Ornament is available at MelodyODesigns at Etsy

 This season I have some new ornaments to share in my shops in addition re-inventing some of the other ornament designs from past Christmas seasons. During the winter and spring I created several new Southwestern and Sedona designs for two wonderful sister Christmas Shops in Sedona, "Feliz Navidad" in Tlaquepaque and "Merry Christmas Sedona" in Uptown Sedona. They have been selling well, so I thought I'd begin selling them at my on-line shops, too. Over the next few weeks I'll be unveiling them here at my blog. I hope to also include some "behind the scenes" studio photos and share some of my favorite products or tools. 

The first is 3 1/2 inch tall version of Kokopelli made from terracotta colored polymer clay with the addition of some "magical" Sedona Red Rock Dirt in the matrix. He is decorated with tiny slices of turquoise and terracotta colored canes. Kokopelli is an iconic image of the American Southwest. There are many legends and much folklore that surround the beloved flute-playing hunchback. According to Navajo legend, Kokopelli is a God of harvest and plenty. Legend has it that this "Casanova of the Cliff Dwellers" was also a bit of a rascal and trickster and he is sometimes thought of as a fertility deity.
I think it's interesting to see behind the scenes studio photos to see how things are made and what interesting  tools are used. Below is a photo of some of the materials and supplies used in making the Kokopelli ornament.
 To gently "nudge" edges of cut polymer clay pieces into shape I use two tools I made from round toothpicks by dipping them several times into "Tool Magic", a heavy duty liquid rubber coating that is sold to apply to tips of pliers to help cushion them protect them from marring the finish of wire. I consider these two toothpick tools indispensable for finishing off and smoothing cut edges and for straightening out little "oops" bulges. 
I use rough 36 grit sandpaper to press into the clay surface to give it a rustic terracotta look. Using the end of a tiny syringe to gently poke sideways into a cut canes slice helps me to place them more  precisely and doesn't mar the surface.
The round and triangular terracotta and turquoise decorations are made from caned slices. For those who are not familiar with caning, caning is a labor-intensive construction technique where colored rods of clay are laid horizontally forming a complex pattern from which a thin slice is cut from the end allowing the pattern to be seen. It is borrowed from the glassmaking technique used to create millefiori beads.

Last season I added the following four disc mini-ornaments to my MelodyODesigns Southwestern Ornament Collection and one of the discs also contains an image of Kokopelli. You can tell he's one of my favorite Southwestern images!

Please click to read a blog post on my Cat Angel Christmas ornaments and animal shelter Christmas tree


  1. So neat!! I love your new ornament! I also cherish my Kokapelli guy bead that you sent me. Good luck with your Christmas selling season. I have to say that I am so proud of you. :)

  2. What a great new ornament, I love it!! I enjoy your 'behind the scenes' look at how you create your wonderful artwork!! Wishing you many happy sales this holiday season!!!

  3. Ooh, you're so together and motivated getting an early start. Wonderful! Your ornaments are so well done, just like everything you do. I hope you sell tons and tons!

  4. Such fun ornaments! I'm sure they'll be a hit!

  5. How do you make those triangular pieces on him? Thanks!

  6. Viktorija, Thank you for your question about how I made the triangular decoration pieces on the Kokopelli. To answer your question I just added an additional photo and description to the blog post. If you are working with polymer clay and are looking for directions to make canes, the actual name for that cane design is called a spiral cane. The following is a URL to a photo lesson on making a spiral cane. http://www.georgeweil.com/fact_file/make_spiral_cane.aspx
    Hope that helps!