Creative Process: How to make Moodlings and Wee Mice
For my birthday last year, my wee sister bought me a Wee Mouse. The miniature white and pink rodent, safely held in a tiny saucer and cup, encourages me to Keep Calm and Drink Tea. It’s the work of Kirsten, a lawyer turned polymer clay artist and Quernus Crafts entrepreneur who creates miniature animals. Sold on Etsy, Folksy and Art Fire, her work is often meaningful, ever inspired and always cute.
Kirsten’s polymer clay career started almost by chance. More focused on academia than art at school, she discovered the material in 2000, “although not in a big way”. The turn around happened in 2001, when she created the 30 wedding favours gifted at her own wedding as well as the cake toppers. The animals she chose can still be found in the Quernus Craft stable, but the original cats, bears, squirrels, dogs and sheep have been joined by mice, elephants, snails, penguins and the Wee Highland Cow; the latter has enjoyed particular success in the American market.
Animals are only half of the story. Last June, two years after setting up Quernus Crafts, Kirsten came up with a definitely non-animal creature, her answer to the public requirements of the small craft fairs: the Moodlings. Each Moodling is colourful, with a weird shape and a funny message. Kirsten spent a couple of weeks brainstorming all the short messages for them to hold – keeping a notebook next to her bed because she found herself waking up with ideas for them.
In 2010, shortly after leaving her 15-year law career to give herself time to explore her creativity, Kirsten launched the Wee Mice range, of the type I received on my birthday. Initially rather basic with a sweet tooth, they have become animals with a full range of movement, from ice skating to sewing, of food tastes, from cupcake to cheese, and of jobs, from pirate captain to postman.
Kirsten has also tackled some literary legends with her Wee Mice: the Winnie the Pooh Mice and the Prince Charming Mice. She describes “each mice as she makes it” as her favourite, but has a sweet spot for the Two Old Mice. “When they first appeared, I had such a lump in my throat. Hard to explain why, but they just touched me so much”, she says of the inch-high creatures.
Each and every rodent is created from scratch. Each one is unique, even if they sometimes look similar. To conceive a mouse, Kirsten uses natural colours such as white, tan, grey and brown.
For her standard ranges, such as the Little Moustache Mice Kirsten explains the process as such: “I weigh up the required amount of clay I need and then I condition the clay, usually by rolling it out with an acrylic roller. Once I’ve sculpted the basic shape, I will roll out a thick sheet of clay and cut circles for the ears and paws. I use black onyx beads for the eyes, which gives them a real spark of live. I also keep a very careful watch for any dust or marks in the clay, using a combination of a scalpel blade and wet wipes to keep the clay as clean as possible.”
How long each mouse takes depends on the design – most of them have accessories, for instance balloons, cakes or moustaches, which also need to be made. Making one mouse takes about one hour, and then it needs to be cured, left to cool, finished off by sanding or varnishing. Some rodents, like the Freddie Mercury Mouse, take longer because of the details involved.
As for my own Wee Mouse, it is safely sitting on my bedside table, by the lamp my sister bought for me, safeguarding my dreams and my cups of tea.