Squires Kitchen 5 Day School – Day 4: Modelling

Today was the day of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School that I was most looking forward to – Character Modelling with Jan Clement-May. I love character modelling and I was eager to learn some tricks of the trade from someone as experienced as Jan. She has written several cake decorating books and is a regular contributor to Cakes & Sugarcraft magazine.

When I saw the project we would be making, I was quite daunted. There were a LOT of elements to it! It was a scene set in a flower filled grass field of a mother, her little boy, her baby girl, and the family dog having a picnic complete with picnic rug, picnic basket, plates of sausages, sandwiches, fruit, a cake, a thermos, and a baby bottle, plus a family of ducks. All to be completed in one day! For someone like Jan, that would take her only 3 hours. We had just under 6 hours to learn how to do it and complete it. I had my doubts as to whether or not we would be able to finish the whole lot in that amount of time.

We started off by covering a 10 inch square board with green sugar dough. Then we mixed some dark blue sugar dough with white and created pale blue picnic blankets with hand drawn lines in a checkered pattern. We rolled out some white sugar paste and cut out tiny blossoms to be glued on later. So far so good. Next Jan showed us how to create legs out of a sausage shape. We created legs for the mother and the son and glued them to the board. Next were shoes – shoes are made by creating a pear shape and indenting them where it becomes thinner to create a heel. We glued the shoes to the legs on the board, and it was starting to kind of look like something (sort of):

Legs, shoes, and a picnic blanket

Legs, shoes, and a picnic blanket

It was time to create the bodies. Bodies were made from a cone shape which we smoothed down over a thumb to create a rounded and less flat look. To create a bust for the mother, we indented with our fingers at about the waist and smoothed down. The torsos were placed on top of the legs and wooden skewers gently rotated through the middle to secure them. A little bit was left sticking out the top to secure the head and neck later on. A small piece of flesh coloured sugar dough was placed on top of the torso to create a neck. My mother started off reasonably slim, as you will see in later photos, she somehow seemed to gain weight!

Mother's slimmer torso fitted

Making sure Mother's slimmer torso fits before skewering it

We created arms out of sausage shaped strips of flesh coloured sugar dough. To create hands, we slightly flattened the ends of the arms and cut a slit on one side and separated out the “thumb”.  We also created sleeves out of triangular pieces of sugar dough for the shoulders. The arms were attached to the torsos with sugar glue followed by the sleeves.

Next we created the baby. We mixed red and white sugar dough, rolled a bit into a ball, then smoothed down over a thumb again to create the nappy. A ball of flesh coloured dough was placed on top of the nappy with an indent for a belly button. Legs, arms and booties were created and attached, then the head and a little golden curl. Here is the baby I created:

The baby girl is added to the picnic

The baby girl is added to the picnic

We then made the plates, sandwiches and sausages for the picnic. Plates were round circles indented with the end of small rolling pins. Sandwiches were white triangles and we used red edible ink pens to colour in lines of “jam” around them. Sausages were made by rolling out brown sugar dough into a long thin sausage and cutting it into sections then rounding the ends gently with a finger. Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, we created the heads for the mother and son. We were instructed to give them a more oval shape. These were attached to the torsos through the wooden skewers. Then we made the ducks by rolling balls of yellow sugar dough then pinching the ends up and outward. Little beaks were attached with sugar dough and eyes dotted on with black edible ink pens. Here are my little duckies:

My little sugar ducks

My little sugar ducks

We next made some fruit for the picnic. Round balls of sugar dough for apples and oranges and sausage shapes curved to form bananas. A little cake was made out of round circles of brown sugar dough with a red circle that had been frilled slightly in between to make jam, and a white circle on the top that was also frilled downwards for cream with some little red balls of fruit. Here is all the food I made:

Food for the picnic made from sugar dough

Food for the picnic made from sugar dough

We also made a dog out of sugar dough by rolling out cone shaped pieces for the legs and a big fatter cone for the body. We cut lines in the paws for “toes” then glued the torso onto the legs. The head was made from a pear shaped piece of dough with the small end flattened. Ears were cone shaped pieces flattened and the tail was a small sausage curled up. Dark brown spots were added to the torso.

Next up was a picnic basket made of dark brown sugar dough rolled into a ball then the end of a small rolling pin was pushed into it to create the basket cavity. We cut out a thin-ish piece of pink dough to make a blanket which we put inside, then a thick sausage shape of the dark brown dough was curved and attached to the basket as a handle.

We then glued the food onto the plates and glued the plates onto the picnic rug and around the scene. Some fruit and a plate was also added to the picnic basket. The ducks were glued into place and the blossoms as well. We were fast running out of time, so instead of creating the bottle and thermos, we asked if we could create the hair next for mother and son as they were still completely bald at this stage.

Jan showed us how to use a sugar gun for this. We were also instructed to add quite a bit of vegetable fat to the sugar dough to make it the consistency of chewing gum as this would be easier to push through the sugar gun. We created hair using the sugar gun and glued them to our models.

At this point it was the end of the day and we had to finish up. We didn’t have time to make the thermos and baby bottle. All in all it wasn’t a bad looking bit of sugar modelling though, but as you can see in the below pic, my mother seems to have gained some weight around the middle! Not sure what happened there, too much cake and sausage perhaps?

The finished product

The finished product

While I enjoyed the sugar modelling, I didn’t enjoy the break neck speed at which we were expected to complete everything. I felt under a lot of pressure and if you fell slightly behind it was incredibly hard to catch up.

Part of the problem was that we had so much to do that Jan kept moving us along too fast. Instead of going at the speed of the average person in the class, she was going at the speed of the fastest. Which meant the majority of us would still be in the middle of doing a step and she would show us how to do the next one. We either had to stop what we were doing, watch her instructions, then go back to what we were doing, finish it and try to remember what she said to do for the next step, or else we continued what we were doing while she was giving instructions in an attempt not to get left behind any further and completely miss quite a lot of the detail of what we were supposed to do next.

It would have been preferable to create half as many models and learn to do them properly rather than create a greater range of things where we missed so much of the instructions that we had to muddle through as best we could. It seemed like we were given the bare minimum on how to create each piece, which we could have gotten from a book. The point of going to the class is to get more than you would from a book, all the little tips and tricks, but we didn’t get any of that. Jan didn’t go into any detail about how to get a smooth finish for example. I was lucky as I have done some sugar modelling before, but for many people it was their first time and they had no idea how to achieve this so there were some lumpy models.

So while I liked the finished product I ended up with, I still would have preferred to have a less hectic and more information filled experience.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply