Fetuses aren't on most people's list of favorite things... but I'm not most people. To me, the fetus is about as close to an 'alien' looking creature as we get on this planet. They are bizarre and look like no creature on earth, but they are the very core of all the animal life we see. Inside that tiny and bizarre body is the undeveloped potential of a brand new living creature. So, I've always been fascinated by preserved fetuses, but slightly wary due to two factors- They tend to be expensive or come from questionable sources. Which leads me to the topic of this post:
How I made my very own preserved fetus:
- Craft Wire 20 gauge
- String, Wire, or something else to suspend fetus by
- 1 box of sculpey- I got the two pound box and used only a fraction of it
- Acrylic paints - red, white, blue, clear gloss if you have it
- A rag
- Paintbrushes ( I used mostly rounds)
- Minwax Polycrylic Clear Satin - used as a protective topcoat, I'm sure there are lots of good finishes to use
- DAP 100% Silicon Household Adhesive Sealant
- Fine sandpaper
- X-acto Knife
- 1 Widemouth Jar - I used a Ball Art Smooth-sided mason jar
- Olive Oil - enough to fill the jar - the volume of the fetus
Step 1 - Form your fetus
- Use the craftwire to create a simple skeleton. Make a loop for the head and run it down to the length of the tail. If your fetus has limbs, I'd suggest making little segments of wire that loop around the wire for the spine. Most importantly, run a length of wire out from the middle of the fetus's body. This will be the remarkably useful umbilical wire. It's ok if the wires don't stay in place and are just flopping around, you can take care of that in the next step.
- Use the tinfoil to flesh out the body. Sculpey does best when it is in a relatively thin coat, so you want to do most of the mass with tinfoil. You can use the foil to hold wire loops for arms and the umbilical cord in place. Smooth out the surface of the tinfoil as best you can.
- Spread sculpey over the body. Knead the Sculpey so that is supple and apply it to the body. My technique is to take a chunk and flatten it out so that it's in a 1/4 inch or so sheet. Then wrap it over the tinfoil and smooth it into the foil and any sculpey you've already applied. Smooth out the body as best you can and leave the end of the umbilical wire exposed.
Note: I found it easiest to keep the body smooth by bending the wire into a hook and hanging it off of a stand while I worked.
- Bake the fetus. Preheat your oven to 275 F, then hook the umbilical wire over the top rack in your oven so that the fetus hangs down into the middle rack's area. Let it cook for 15 minutes.
- Pull out your fetus and let it cool. Mine looked like this when it came out of the oven.
Step 2 - Painting!
- Ok, so I lied, before you paint, I highly recommend you give your fetus a nice sanding. It's a great opportunity to get rid of any rough spots or fingerprints. Just take a little sandpaper and gently sand the surface.
- Apply a basecoat. In my case, I used mostly white paint with a bit of blue, just enough to tint it. After each layer, be sure to give it a bit of time to dry.
- Start adding layers. After giving it the first coat, I mixed some more paint, this time with a bit of red (and some water, so it wasn't too think. I then applied this to my rag and rubbed it on, following the contours of the body.
- At this point, I used the exacto knife to cut in eyes. I cut into the clay (and the tinfoil a bit too) and made a hollow on each side of the head for the eyes. I lined the inside of the hollow thickly with dark blue paint.
- Next, I added some veins and arteries, using bold but thin lines. Just make sure it has circulation to its extremities. :)
- At this point I dripped clear gloss into the eye hollows until they were raised above the skin, giving it shiny blue eyes.
- Add another layer like in Step 3. Water the paint down enough so that you can see the blood vessels through it.
- Once you're happy with the paintjob, apply a protective coating. In my case, I used Minwax Polycrylic, but any clear acrylic should do.
Step 3 - Home Sweet Home
- Test how high you want your fetus to be suspended in its jar. Place it in the jar at the desired floating height and measure from the top of the clay covered portion of the umbilical wire to the lid. Cut a piece of wire, or whatever you'll be using to suspend the fetus to this length.
- Trim the excess wire that isn't covered in clay from the umbilical wire.
- Use the silicon adhesive to attach the umbilical wire to the wire you cut in Step 1. Affix the other end of the wire to the middle of the jar's lid. Follow the drying instructions on the adhesive.
- Fill the jar most of the way with olive oil. I imagine you could use loads of different things here, but I wanted something that wouldn't grow algae and wouldn't dissolve my creature. DO NOT use vinegar. It will give the paintjob blisters and probably eat through it in time.
- Place the lid on most of the way with the fetus in the jar, and finish filling the jar with oil.
- Screw on the lid, and voila! You now have your very own preserved fetus! :D
Note: This image is from the jar when it had vinegar. The olive oil gives it a greenish tinge and a very viscous look.