I know clay seems a bit far from jewelry, but with mixed media so popular...techniques like this can help you create in other media such as PMC or polymer clay. I was an avid wood carver years back and made a lot of gnome,dwarf, and santa figures. My mentor via a book was Tom Wolfe. This book http://www.amazon.com/Santa-His-Friends-Carving-Wolfe/dp/0887402771/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345044034&sr=1-1&keywords=tom+wolfe+carving is what I recommend for a beginner to see more fully how the form develops. I start with a square 3/4x3/4 x3 inch block of clay.
Next using a circle cutter to mark the arc from top to side and an exacto knife to cut through the clay we arrive at this form. The point of the santas cap will start with this cut.
Rolling the piece one turn exposes the next side and we repeat the cut, leaving us with a structure that looks like a bow on a boat.
The reason for doing this is to make pulling the face from the mass very simple as we work on a diagonal the curved line becomes the center of the face.
Now we decide on the faces proportions and the angle of the face. Three lines are used to decide the top of the face in the hood, the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin. By cutting straight across the face in these 3 spots we establish the final look of the piece. A near the top of the curve position for the top cut will result in a face looking up, while a lower position will have the face looking straight out, and of course even lower and it looks down. These also function as stop cuts in that they indicate the depth of the nose and chin.
Unlike working in wood we can add pieces so clay is a little more user friendly. I fashioned a beard out of scrap and using liquid clay as cement put it in place.
Another cut straight down defines the brow and eye and the marks define where cheeks and mustache will go.
At this point it is important to note that placement of the mustache or upper lip will determine how the faces expression will turn out. An up thrust smile or a down turned mouth will form the character of the face.
I chose a smile with a large up turned mustache. Below the figure on the work mat is the roll of clay.
Once place on the face with liquid clay slip and scratched to give texture it begins to pull the face together. I also used the tool behind the figure to make eyes..it has a concave tip and when wet and rolled into the eye area creates an eyeball. a tiny ball of clay will work as well. A small lump was added to fill out the nose.And the mustache was wet down with a brush and pushed closer to the face. The same will be done to the beard.
Using more liquid clay glue on the shoe and form a rope to create the bottom of the robe as it fits over the shoe tip.
Further smoothing and then drying and more sanding will finish the figure . It is now ready for a night in the dehydrator and then final sanding and filing before firing.
Sometimes things seem to come full circle, when I studied ceramics in college I made figures and then 30 years ago started to carve in wood and made the red and blue gnome...as well as 100 others including these. the most recent is the little blue robed man. and now the clay figure..soon a few more will be born and when I get one I really like he will be molded and cast to share.