Thanks to Ann Engelhart, I have this wonderful tutorial for you! It’s suitable for families and classes of all kinds.
Please Note: These instructions were designed for a group of children to make Bambinellis in a school, Religious ed program or parish activity, where time is limited. The figures are painted while the clay is still soft. In an ideal world, it is best to let the clay dry for a day before painting. Have fun and don’t worry about making “perfect” Bambinelli’s. They will all be beautiful!
- White Air-dry clay (Crayola makes a good one).
- 2 in. gauze roll
- 2 oz. bottles of Acrylic paint in assorted flesh tone colors: I used Americanain Flesh tone, Sable Brown and Light Cinnamon. (make sure that you shake them well before using).
- Black, dark brown and red acrylic paint for features. Optional.
- Excelsior (wood wool used in packaging) or Spanish Moss. (Both are available in art/craft stores)
- Gold glitter pipe cleaners
- Powder blush
- Small paint brushes
- Q tips
- Small round tooth picks and larger 3 inch picks (available at art/craft stores).
- Tacky glue or Glue Dots
- Small paper plates and plastic sandwich bags for transportation. Optional
1 Roll a ball of clay in hands with the diameter slightly larger than a quarter.
2. Roll ball into a 2 in. cylinder.
3. Use large pick or popsicle stick to cut it in half lengthwise. Cut one of those pieces in half, leaving 3 pieces of clay.
4. Roll large piece into 1 ½ in. cylinder, one small piece into a ball for the head, and the remaining piece into a long, thin, 3 inch cylinder for the arms.
5. Attach head to large cylinder. Pinch clay in the back to make sure that it is secure.
6. Place the head and body on top of the center of the arms making sure that the arms are slightly below the neck area.
7. Bring arms to the front and pose them so that they resemble a sleeping baby. Slightly pinch or bend the ends to create hands. Allow the children to experiment with different poses. You can even make your Bambinelli sucking his thumb! It is best to keep the arms close to the body so that they attach to the main portion of clay in order to make the figure more secure and to prevent breakage when the clay dries.
8. Use a small toothpick to make features such as fingers, eyes and mouth. Instruct the children to place the eyes halfway down the face for proper proportion. It is best to make small horizontal lines to suggest a sleeping baby, rather than deep, round eyes. Mistakes can be gently smoothed out (with the help of an adult) if the children want to change their first attempts at making a face.
For a simple Bambinelli for young children, continue here:
9. Cut a piece of 2 in. wide gauze to about 4-5 inches. Fold lengthwise. Place the gauze around the waist and wrap around the body tucking in loose pieces. If the gauze doesn’t stay secure, use a tacky glue or Glue Dots to keep it in place. Fold the bottom under and secure in place.
10. Invite the child to choose a hue of flesh colored paint. Holding the body on the gauze portion, paint the exposed clay.
11. Allow the paint to dry (you can use a hair dryer on a light setting if you are pressed for time). (You might use this time to practice painting eyes; see below).
12. Using a Q-tip, rub powder blush onto the baby’s cheeks.
13. It is not necessary to paint the other features, however, if the child is capable, they can use very fine brushes to paint the eyes with dark brown paint. Let the child practice first on scrap paper; draw several circles the size of the head in pencil and encourage them to practice painting the eyes. Remember that the eyes are halfway between the top of the head and the chin. Don’t demand perfection!
14. To paint the hair use a soft medium sized brush or Q-tip using very little paint to create a dry-brush effect. Lightest skin tones can use the darker tones for the hair, while darkest skin tones can use the dark brown that was used for the eyes. Older children can mix their own color using a combination of hues.
15. Take a small handful of excelsior or Spanish moss to create a nest-like bed for the baby. Make a depression in the center to accommodate the body. Place the Bambinelli inside.
16. To make halos (which are optional) wrap a pipe cleaner around the round handle of a wooden spoon or dowel. Remove coiled pipe cleaer and cut pieces to create a circle. Insert the loose ends into the nest above the head. Adjust the size for your Bambinelli. You may want to provide a plastic sandwich bag and small paper plate for children to safely transport them home.
17. The Bambinelli’s will harden in one or 2 days, but they will remain fragile, so they should be handled with care. For greater protection, they can be removed from the crèche and lightly sprayed with a clear varnish (only if acrylic paints were used).
Remember to bring the Bambinelli to Mass on Sunday for a blessing!
To make Alessandro’s Bambinelli, follow the diagram and continue after Step 9. (For older or more experienced children)
10. Give the child a dime sized ball of clay. Make legs by rolling it into a cylinder of about 8 inches, and slightly thicker than the arms.
19. Gently fold it in half and attach it to the bottom of the body. Create feet by bending the ends. Use a tooth pick to create toes. Slightly bend the knees. Experiment with different poses.
20. Paint the body and allow it to dry.
21. Wrap a piece of folded gauze around the waist and gently tuck between the legs. Glue in place.
22. Paint features as above and continue to follow instructions for the simple Bambinelli.
Come back later this afternoon for information on our giveaway! We will be giving away a copy of Bambinelli Sunday signed by both of us, as well as a print of one of Ann’s paintings.