When I started my gumpasting odyssey I was only interested in creating gumpaste flowers, so I never had to really worry about dealing with the modeling aspect of working with gumpaste/fondant per se. Then one day my sweet daughter, Emily, suggested that I should broaden my horizons and think about creating small objects. As a surprise for her I made a little lamb (See: A Little Gumpaste Lamb) and that is when I had my first real hands-on experience with transforming a drawing into a three-dimensional gumpaste/fondant figure.
I soon discovered though that I do not possess the natural ability for it as I seem to have when making flowers. Even though I made several detailed sketches, the gumpaste/fondant mixture had a mind of its own and wouldn’t easily cooperate in coming together to form a pretty little lamb. That is when I realized no matter how thorough my sketches were it would take quite a bit more skill and patience to transfer these templates into a 3-D object.
Over the last few years I have made several more three-dimensional objects even though it still proves to be challenging. However, with a bit of time and practice it has become a little easier. I thought it might be helpful to share with you how I prepare for dealing with three-dimensional creations.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Transforming a Sketch Into a 3-D Object
I am sure there are other questions you may ask yourself each time you start a project, but these are the ones I have found that if I ask them of myself ahead of time I am usually better prepared for many of the unexpected situations that can and will arise.
What will I do if my parts won’t fit to together nicely because my pattern/template is the wrong shape and/or size? The answer is to have a plan “B” in mind, especially when it is a very intricate project. In order to avoid this fiasco, when I made my garden wheelbarrow I literally made one out of cardboard from a cereal box first and then used those cutout pieces as my cutting guide.
How will I support the various parts? If the pieces are too heavy they are likely to collapse under their own weight. What will I use to hold it/them up? I admit I am continually surprised by how heavy these little things can be. Here is how I dealt with one such situation (see: A Gumpasting Means of Support: Clear Acrylic Rod(s))?
Will I need an additional set of hands to help with placement, steadying it while things are setting, etc.?
Do I have enough correctly colored gumpaste and/or fondant to finish the job completely? Do I have enough of a premade mixture of gumpaste and fondant to finish the job completely? This is not the time to skimp because being half way through (or even almost finished) is never a good time to realize one has to stop and make more as it might not be the same color or right consistency. Not to mention things may start setting up on your project while you are trying to make a new batch.
Do I have all the tools I will need? Are they placed where I can easily find them while I am modeling/constructing my project? Try to think of every possible scenario that needs a particular tool in order to finish the project. To be on the safe side I often bring out few additional tools as an insurance policy. One never knows when a dresden tool will come in handy.
Are there any fragile pieces? If so, I suggest making duplicate pieces just in case one breaks or tears.
Have I allowed myself enough time for all the various pieces/parts to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next step? One of the worst things one can do is try to rush, i.e. using a piece(s) that is not thoroughly dried because it may not be stable at this point. So, give yourself plenty of time to finish each step of your project!
Above is the photo showing my sketch for my planned denim boot along with my “nearly” finished 3-D boot. As you can see it turned out slightly different from the rough illustration. Initially I really wanted my boot to have side pockets so that I could place a few flowers in one of them. But in the end I felt my boot was too small to accommodate these planned pockets nicely. Instead, I added belt loops and two more buttons on the fly to give it some additional details that I lost by forfeiting my pockets. If you would like to see the finished boot please see: Ornamental Cabbage in a Denim Boot Cake Topper.
Even with perfectly detailed sketches, if you are like me, 9.5 out of 10 times these drawn ideas usually change in one way or another (as you can see with the boot project). This is because sketches are “flat”, so it is easier to control the eventual outcome. However, once you start working with some Gumpaste and/or Fondant to turn something into a realistic, three-dimensional object, it becomes a completely different situation.
Bottom Line: Being flexible allows you to go with the flow even though it is not going as you may have originally planned and/or dreamed it would be. I assure you that in most cases it will still be fine (and sometimes even better) as long as you remain calm and receptive to the idea of altering the project as things pop up. A little tweak here and there won’t be fatal.
Here is a picture of my pattern/template pieces that I used to create the boot. As you can see they are a little bit primitive since they are made out of tissue paper instead of cardboard. The reason I did not take the time to make a sturdier template is I suspected in advance this was going to be what I affectionately call an “adventure” (a.k.a. a project with a few mishaps). Since I wouldn’t have the luxury of working with a “boot kit” that has one of those wonderful Styrofoam formers and precision cutters, I knew I would be working on the fly (no pun intended). Happily, I got a kick out of (pun intended) my adventure making the boot which I believe did not turn out too badly.