Decorating a Bow
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Decorating a Bow with Clay - Legolas' Lothlorien Bow

by Justin Steinmetz

Justin takes you step by step to applying special clay to a bow to decorate it.  It does take time and practice to get to this level of art.  However, it's a great technique to decorate any bow or any other prop that needs a flexible design.

(click to expand the images)

To create Legolas' bow, check out the design images here.

Step 1: Find a way to keep your bow still while working on it.  I use the corner of my couch and a tub of apoxie sculpt... this allows both tips to be in the air so my designs will not get messed up by touching the ground.  If you have kids, be careful... they will run by and bump the bow and mess up your designs!
Step 2:  You need real clean hands or else this apoxie sculpt will pick up all the little dirt and hairs.  First wash your hands, then mix together a small  amount of the sculpt and roll it between your hands, the stickyness of the sculpt will get the gunk out of the pores in your hands.  Discard the dirty apoxie. 
Step 3:  Find yourself a tool to use when sculpting.  I made mine out of wood, but you can buy real cheap sculpting tools at any craft store.  I dont bother to clean the old sculpt off, I just make a new one from wood as needed.  Aves studio does carry a cleaning solution for this purpose. 
Step 4:  When using this apoxie sculpt, be sure to mix thoroughly 50:50.  This clay does not require heating to cure, it is an air hardening clay, workable time is approx 2 hours + or - depending on your climate.  A little trick I have learned.  I make bows, which requires the leaf designs to be applied on bending wood.  To achieve this I found if you mix 75:25, the apoxie sculpt, when cured, remains semi flexible and will bend with the bow.  Make sure the 75% is the green part.
Step 5:  The first step to making the lothlorien leaf design is to roll out some apoxie in the palm of your hand.  You'll notice it is a little sticky to work with the first 30 min or so, but then it gets easier to work with.  If its to sticky, dip your finger in some water and then work with it.  When rolling out the vine, it doesn not have to be perfect, it will be shaped and perfected in the next few steps.
Step 6:  Apply the vine to your bow by sticking one end of it to the wood, and then just laying it on top of the wood.  Get as close as you can to your desired position.   *helpful hint, once one end of it is stuck, you can stretch the length of the vine longer by pulling slightly. 
Step 7:  In this step you must flatten the vine like a pancake.  This is important to do.  Use your finger to rub it flat, causing the clay to really get into the pores of the wood.  If you skip this step your leaves will probably just pop off after you are finished. By doing this the sculpt becomes one with the bow.  *Also dip your finger in water to get it smooth.
Step 8:  So now that your vine is flattened, you can shape it.  This part is really easy, just use your sculpting tool to remove sculpt from either side of the vine.   I always tip my sculpting tool in water too, it will leave cleaner, smoother lines.
Step 9:  After you cut the rough shape of your vine or leaf, you must remove the waste without damaging the vine.  To do so, move the sculpting tool back and forth along the leaf, slowly pushing the waste  away from the main vine.
Step 10: Once the waste is a fair distance away, use your tool to roll up the extra and pull off the bow.  It may take a few tries to get this right, but practice makes perfect.
Step whenever: You can add extra leaves any time in any postion by just rolling up some more sculpt in your hand and pressing it into the wood.   Use the same process as stated above.
Pictures of more vines being applied, I always put this one on second.  Again, go through the same steps.  Flatten, Shape, remove waste.
You'll notice along the way you will get rough spots from using your sculpting tool.  An easy remedy is to have a cup of water handy and a q-tip. Dip the q-tip in the water and run it along the edge of the vine or leaf. It will pick up any unwanted sculpt. then dip your finger again in the water and run it along the length of the vine.  This will make it nice and smooth. .
If done correctly you should get a smooth design like such:
Now you just keep adding leafs using the same method:
I usually do this step last.  When the clay is almost dry, I wet the suclpting tool and press it into the apoxie, creating all the intricate leaf designs.
To get different angles, I just use the very tip to rotate the bow so I can do leaves on the front of the bow, the back, pretty much every angle.
I hope you enjoyed my tuturoial.  All my products are available for sale on  I also do custom orders, so if you have a design in mind, shoot me an email and we can make it.

To get different angles, I just use the very tip to rotate the bow so I can do leaves on the front of the bow, the back, pretty much every angle.

By using all the above techniques, you can get very intricate designs around the tips of your lothlorien bow, or around then handle.

Justin makes and decorates bows from scratch.  Find out more about his work and where to get supplies to build your own bow <here>.

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This page was last updated 11/21/09