How To Make A Penny Armadillo

Hi, I’m Fiona, and I make tiny things!

For the Glasgow in 2024 Alphabet of Armadillos, I made a tiny armadillo named Dot out of air-drying polymer clay. In this blog post, I’ll tell you how you can make your own penny-sized armadillo to keep at home or to send out on exciting missions around the world.

A tiny polymer clay armadillo with a yellow body and blue armor sitting on a penny coin on a wood background.

Ingredients and Equipment

You’ll need:

  • a flexible clay medium: I’m using air-drying polymer clay here, but you could use regular polymer clay that you fire in an oven or any kind of ceramic clay instead. You could even use dough and make a biscuit armadillo! In all cases, I’d advise using a minimum of two contrasting colours. I used blue and yellow, with pink for accents – in this tutorial I will be referring to yellow as colour one and blue as colour two.
  • A cutting tool (or more than one), like a kitchen knife.
  • A flattening tool, such as a rolling pin or bottle.

Materials for polymer clay armadillo: three tubs of clay in yellow, blue and pink at the top, several balls of yellow and pink already formed below, and two pieces rolled out flat in blue and yellow at the bottom. Left and right: two pennies for scale.

Preparation

Roll one colour of clay into:

  • One large ball (about the size of a penny)
  • Two medium-sized balls (about a third the size of the big one)
  • Four small balls (about one-eighth the size of the big one)

Roll the second colour of clay into one large ball.

Flatten one of the medium-sized balls of colour one and the large ball of colour two into sheets, so that both are about 2 millimetres thick.

Body

On the left, a pear-shaped piece of yellow clay, length about the diameter of a penny, on the right, penny for scale.

Take the large ball of colour one, and shape it into a teardrop shape. Make sure the tail end is fairly thick and weighty, so it can counterbalance the head. Flatten one side of it slightly.

Blue sheet of clay being cut by a knife-like tool, with a penny coin and several balls of yellow clay in the background Top: flat blue piece of clay, tapered towards the left. Bottom: Yellow pear-shaped piece with the tip to the left. Blue sheet of clay wrapped around the pear-shaped yellow form.

Cut out ¼ of the sheet of colour two, and wrap it around the unflattened side of the large ball as you see in the picture. Smooth it down as you go, but try and leave a clearly defined line between colour one and colour two.

Body shape turned on its back, with the yellow tummy visible. From the right, a hand attaches a tiny yellow ball to the body as the first of four feet. Armadillo body lying on its back, with two front legs already attached. A hand is coming in from the right to attach the first back leg. Armadillo body lying on its back, with all four tiny yellow legs attached.

Turn the body over and gently press the four small balls on to the body at the “corners” to attach the legs

Armadillo body with the blue armor shell on top, a cutting tool making a horizontal dent in the armor. Armadillo body with armor, the cutting tool making a second dent horizontally behind the first one. Armadillo body showing the finished scored lines in the armor.

With your cutting tool, score three lines into the colour two wrap. Be gentle and don’t cut so deep that you see the first colour showing through. This will give you the characteristic ridges of the armadillo’s shell.

Head

Smaller teardrop-shaped ball of yellow clay, presented between thumb and index finger of a comparatively large hand.

Take the medium-sized ball of colour one and shape it into a teardrop, as with the large ball (only slightly blunter, as you don’t need it to function as a counterweight).

A small piece of the blue sheet of polymer clay is being wrapped around the yellow head form.

Cut out 1/8 of the colour two sheet, shape it into a triangle, and wrap it around the front of the teardrop, again keeping a defined line between the two colours.

The head form is lying on its side, shown to the left are two even tinier balls of pink polymer clay. Head shape shown from the top, with the blue armor visible. The two pink balls are attached as eyes on top of the armor on the left and right side, just above the line between the blue and the yellow.

You can use small beads for the eyes, or, as I’ve done here, roll a tiny amount of clay into two little balls. Press carefully onto the head at the sides.

Ears

Remaining pieces of blue and yellow sheets of clay, slightly bigger than a penny. Penny for scale. The yellow sheet of clay layered on top of the blue sheet. Cut out circle from the blue and yellow sheet of clay, significantly smaller than the penny shown for scale.

Press the colour one sheet onto the remaining colour two sheet and gently flatten them together. Cut out a circle a little smaller than a 5p piece (or a dime if using US money).

The yellow/blue circle cut in half with penny for scale on the bottom left, on the upper right the head of the armadillo. An ear being formed out of one half of the blue/yellow sheet.

Cut it in two and gently shape the halves into curling, pointed ears, with colour one on the inside (so facing towards the front).

Middle: Head with ears attached just behind the eyes. Upper left: armadillo body, lower right: penny for scale. Finished armadillo looking to the right, with head attached to the body.

Affix the ears to the head, then fix your head to the body. If you find your armadillo is front-heavy (i.e., tilting forward onto their head, gently push the feet a little further back until your tiny beast is balanced.

Beauty shot of the finished polymer clay armadillo sitting on a penny.

Your armadillo is now done!

Follow the instructions for your chosen medium on how to set your armadillo: for air-drying clay leave them overnight somewhere where they won’t be disturbed, for firing media the package should provide instructions on how to bake them. For heat-setting polymer clay be careful not to overcook them, since small items can heat faster than larger ones.

If you like watching people make tiny things, follow me on Instagram: @dr_fiona_moore.

Fiona Moore (she/her) is an anthropologist who wandered into a business school twenty years ago, and stays balanced by writing SFF fiction and criticism, and making tiny things. Find her blog at www.adoctorofmanythings.com

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