I keep getting asked HOW I sculpt the rattlesnakes: Do I cast off of a dead snake? Do I have a special tool to make the scales? Do I have a special technique? The answer to all of these questions is “no.” I use traditional sculpting techniques and a LOT of patience and a LOT of photos and live observation. I also ask a lot of questions of people who know and keep these snakes. I am always looking for feedback and suggestions about structure and even scale count!
I start with a clay coil to get the “gesture” of the snake to confirm the pose. I then use epoxy putty over wire to to “flesh out” the body and muscles under the scales. Once I am happy with underlying body and how it moves and forms when it contacts the ground and itself, I add lines down the length of the snake to guide the scale count and spacing. Then one by one, I add the scales. Once all the scales are placed and the geometry looks correct, I go back and sculpt each keel ridge and edge…over and over thousands of times. Easy!