What sort of sculptures do you make?
I make creatures of all types, never people, and in the past I've worked on realistic sculptures, but I now exclusively work on cute sculptures, which I call the "wee creatures". They are usually between 3-5cm tall. My standard range of wee creatures keeps on growing - it started with piglings, Highland cows, sheep and cats, and then the mice came along, followed by snails, penguins, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, moles, badgers - the list seems to be endless! The wee creatures often hold things, from cakes to balloons, and everything in between. I often work with other artists, and love to see the wee creatures "interact with their environment".
I always giggle when I make the wee creatures, and I'm sure the giggles stay in them when they go out into the world :)
Where do you ship to and how do you package the wee creatures?
The wee creatures are very good travellers, and quite happily travel all over the world. I usually use normal first class post (within the UK) and untracked airmail services (for international orders) for my standard ranges. For one-off creatures and commissions, I send them using a signed for/tracked service.
All creatures are carefully packaged in bubble wrap, tissue paper and sturdy presentation boxes, with a signed certificate giving the name of the piece, and the date of creation.
How much do they cost?
The cost of the standard range wee creatures varies depending on the work involved, and usually start from £20 plus shipping, and go up to about £50. I do my best to keep them affordable, but for special pieces and collaborations, the cost is more because of the time and materials involved.
All prices in my shop and stated here are in GBP (British Pounds Sterling). To find the equivalent cost in your local currency, there are a number of good websites you can use.
What payment methods do you accept?
You can buy from my online shop using either a debit/credit card, or a Paypal account. There's more information how to buy the wee creatures here. For orders from events and the Quernus Lottery, I mostly use Paypal, but for customers in the UK, I also take bank transfers and card payments over the phone.
Do you offer gift vouchers?
I've considered introducing gift vouchers, but have decided against offering them for the time being because the online are so popular, and it's hard for me to guarantee that I'll have the capacity to make a particular wee creature to order. If I find a way round this, I'll make an announcement by newsletter.
Where can I buy the wee creatures?
There are four main ways to buy the wee creatures - see the How to Buy page for more details.I also occasionally sell one-off sculptures by auction on eBay. I announce details of these auctions on Facebook and by newsletter, and they usually run for 3 days.
How should I display the wee creatures?
The wee creatures are able to sit on your shelf or desk on their own, and they are designed to be free-standing. However, I work with a great wood turner, Allan Clark of Beholders-I, who makes hand-turned mahogany plinths specially for the wee creatures, which is a lovely way to show them off to best effect (and they enjoy having a good view!) The plinths are usually available to buy separately from my shop, unless they are out of stock.
You can also buy lovely wooden display units from Small Display Units, and there are a number of other places like The Range, and Country Baskets, where similar display units can be found.
Do you do wholesale?
No, sorry - it's all I can do to keep up with my own online sales, so you will only be able to buy Quernus creatures direct from me.
How do I get in touch with you, and how will I know what you're up to?
I also update my blog now and again when something interesting happens (or when I have time!)
Do you go to craft fairs and events?
Since I only sell online, I no longer go to craft fairs and events. However, in 2016, I have organised a Quernus Meet Up (the first one took place in Kirkintilloch, just outside Glasgow) - we all had a lot of fun, and I hope to do more in the future. The plan would be to take along a selection of wee creatures to buy to these Meet Ups.
I represent a charity - would you be able to donate a wee creatures to help raise money?
In the past, I have done my best to help out charities as often as I could by donating a commission or a special piece to raise money by online auction. However, I have decided to concentrate on my own fundraising efforts instead, by donating ticket sales from online events, and also running occasional raffles for a specific cause.
I really like your photos and designs – can I use them for my own purposes?
All images and products are available for social sharing (e.g Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Pinterest, etc) provided that full URLs and credit are given to Quernus Crafts and/or this site. Sharing is positively encouraged! Please contact me to request prior consent if you would like to use any images or content for any other purpose.
All site content and designs are Copyright © 2009-2017 of Kirsten Miller and Quernus Crafts. All rights reserved. Anyone found to be in breach of copyright will be legally pursued.
I’m a crafter too – do you do swaps or trades?
Sorry, no – I just don’t have the time to do that sort of thing.
How do you keep the finish on the wee creatures so smooth and clean?
A great proportion of my time in making the wee creatures is spent keeping the clay as pristine as possible. I wish I worked in a hermetically sealed space, but I suffer from the same of dust, fluff and flob that everyone else does who works with polymer clay!
It's quite a sticky substance, and so attracts dust, fingerprints, etc like a magnet. Although it's a lot of hard work, the effort is definitely worth it to get a consistently smooth and clean finish.
First and foremost, I keep my hands clean at all times. I scrub them regularly, particularly when changing colours, or after having got up to do something. I try and work on one wee creature from start to finish to minimise the chance of getting my hands dirty again. I always work from light to dark clays to avoid colour bleed where possible (whites, blacks and reds are particularly notorious for bleeding into each other). I also keep several lumps of white scrap clay handy so I can roll that between my hands when I'm about to start work on a new creature. This helps to remove the worst of the dust, dirt and oil that are on your hands, even after cleaning.
White is the hardest colour to keep clean, and because I work a lot of with white, there are times when it's really frustrating, and I often 'write off' the first white mouse of the day because it usually attracts the worst of the dust and fluff.
Whilst working, I use a combination of a scalpel and baby wipes to keep the clay clean. I use the scalpel to carefully scrape off any debris on the clay surface - painstaking work! As for the baby wipes, I had to experiment a lot to find the best brand to use, because you don't want ones which shed too many fibres, or you're left in a worse position than when you started. It's trial and error - for those of you in the UK, I use Morrisons Savers Fragrance Free Baby Wipes.
To get a smooth finish, I just use my fingertips, and lightly smooth the clay as I go. I don't wear gloves.
What do you use for the eyes?
I use round semi-precious black onyx beads of varying sizes, which I buy on eBay.
Do you use paint?
No – polymer clay is self-coloured and can be mixed and blended to any shade. I prefer the depth of finish you can get when using self-coloured clay.
I also use millefiori techniques to create patterned effects (eg for the Snails) - polymer clay is truly the most amazing and versatile material I've ever used, and I love experimenting to find out what I can do with it. I've just got lots to learn!
How did you get started with sculpting? Did you do any courses?
Going right back to my childhood, I've always enjoyed sculpting, playing with Plasticine, air-drying clay, etc. I first came across polymer clay in 2000, and I made the wedding favours and cake toppers for my own wedding (30 wee creatures and a pair of wedding bears!) I didn't touch polymer clay again until 2009 when I gave up my job as a lawyer, and I found a few blocks of clay left over from the wedding. I thought I'd have another go and see what happened. The rest, as they say, is history ;)
I am self-taught and have never done any courses or classes - I've just played around and enjoyed seeing who emerges next from the clay! The best advice I can give anyone who's thinking about trying polymer clay is to get some blocks, by a good tutorial book, and just have a go :)
When I do the Quernus Tour, I'll be giving demonstrations and running a few workshops, because it can help to see how things are done - sometimes it's hard to imagine what can be done when faced with a 2oz block of polymer clay!
I am also an official demonstrator for UK Staedtler, the manufacturers of Fimo, and so I can sometimes be found giving demonstrations in arts and crafts stores in the north of England.
What brand of clay do you use?
I don't find a huge difference between the main brands of polymer clay, and so I choose the clay based more on colour than anything else. I use mainly Fimo Soft and Professional (formerly Classic) for the mice, piglings, sheep and cows, and mostly Premo Sculpey for blacks and reds, mainly because the Premo clay doesn't leach colour as much as Fimo colours do. I love trying out the various new clays that periodically come on the market, like the Fimo Effects and Sculpey Accents.
In 2014, UK Staedtler brought out a new clay to replace Fimo Classic - I am a big fan of Fimo Professional, and you can read some reviews about it here (I was one of the three reviewers).
Although Fimo and Sculpey bake at different temperatures, I've not had any problems mixing the two brands of clay, but you should always read the manufacturers' instructions, and do your own experiments to find the best temperature for strength, durability, etc.
What equipment could you not live without?
I use digital scales to measure out the amount of clay I need for each design (eg a tiny mouse uses 5 grams of clay, whereas a Penguin uses 10 grams). I also have a digital thermometer for my table-top toaster oven, and that's been a fantastic way of making sure that the wee creatures are cured at the correct temperature (which is very important so that the clay doesn't crack or weaken).
I also have some favourite tools which I use every day when working with clay, like various gauge knitting needles, a doll-making needle, and a ball tool (used in cake-decorating), as well as some dental tools. And of course baby wipes!
How do you bake the clay?
I use a dedicated table top toaster oven to cure the clay. With larger pieces, I will use my own household oven (it's important to use an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is right). The chemicals are non-toxic but can give off fumes, which is why your ordinary oven is sometimes not recommended. But I haven't had any problems, and for occasional use, it's really not an issue. You can create an aluminium foil tent to place over the piece whilst baking, and that can help limit the fumes. So I'd say that occasional use in a normal oven is fine, but if you're planning to do lots of curing, it's best to invest in a separate toaster oven, which doesn't cost too much.
To prevent scorching from the top element, I use a foil tent which I cut from tin foil baking tray - that's much sturdier than normal tin foil. I also line the bottom of the oven with broken bits of terracotta tile, as this helps to absorb and distribute the heat more evenly. I use a ceramic square plant tray which I line with a sheet of ordinary paper, as that stops the bottom of the clay going shiny (as it can when you bake straight on a ceramic tile or baking tray).
Last updated: January 2017