DIY: Ancient Chinese Seal

Apologies for no posts in a very. Very. Long time. School has been crazy. On a brighter note, here’s another DIY that I did over Thanksgiving break (I guess it doesn’t really count if it was for a school project?). Here it is in the oven! You can see the marble texture!

Oh wait. Before I delve into how I made it and so and so, let me elaborate on what exactly it is. I have to give a presentation to the class tomorrow about it so I might as well practice here. Online. To no one in particular. For my project, I decided to make an ancient Chinese seal. When I first told someone this, she asked me if my stamp thing had an image of the animal seal on it. But in this case, seal isn’t the animal with cute eyes and that gets eaten by polar bears. It’s a stamp, almost.

The Chinese were ingenious in developing this anti-forgery method of identification and verification. See, these seals were so elaborate, so individualized, that it was hard to actually make a copy. Plus, you had to be a seal carving master in order to perfect the art of seal carving, if that makes sense. Especially in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) there were strict guidelines on the strokes of the calligraphy, the designs on the top and the sides, etc, etc.

Now you’re probably wondering what it looks like. Typically, it’s a square/rectangular block of jade, wood, gold, bronze, other metal, whatever that’s no bigger than your palm. The bottom is engraved with Chinese characters (typically the person’s name, or if for an official position, the officer position), and the sides can be plain or carved with designs. The top is typically some sort of artsy thing like a dragon (for the emperor), a tortoise (which symbolizes longetivity), or other amazing animal/thing that has some sort of significance in Chinese culture.

Okay. Now that you have a basic understanding of the ancient Chinese seal, I’m going to rant on about how difficult it was to make this thing. Btw I was super frustrated because I was in the third attempt to make this thing…so there aren’t that many pictures.

First of all I bought Sculpey polymer clay in Translucent, Moss, and Hazelnut. I wanted it to be a darkish jade color.

Attempt #1: I mixed two different colors of green: light green and poopy green. I twisted them together and mushed them to a marble-like texture. I formed it into a block and baked it. I attempted to carve a dragon out of the top. I failed.

Attempt #2: I mixed two different colors of green: light green and poopy green. I chopped them up and mushed them together into the marble-like texture. I formed it into a block with the basic shape of a tortoise on it. I baked it. I attempted to carve the rest of the turtle out of the top. I failed.

Attempt #3: I mixed two different colors of green: light green and poopy green. I twisted them together and mushed them to a marble-like texture. I formed it into a block and carved the whole thing out, including the bottom characters. I then baked it at 325 C for about 20 minutes and then buffed it with denim scraps. Then, I took my silver nail decorating marker and colored a bit in some of the cracks to make it look oldish. It kind of cracked so I filled it in with extra unbaked clay but it made it look more authentic, I think.

Here’s what the bottom with the Chinese characters looks like:

Here’s what the top with the dragon looks like (it’s messy, yes I know):

Here’s another picture of the dragon, from the back. You can see my Instagram cropping haha:

I’m sure you noticed I got a new camera c: So excited! Post coming on that soon…and more high quality pictures. I promise promise promise to post more often, at least once a week. Thanks for sticking around while we were on hiatus!

-hils
Website: https://owlonabraintree.wordpress.com
This post is part of a series of posts called DIY.

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One thought on “DIY: Ancient Chinese Seal

  1. Pingback: CHSN: Artifacts | owl on a brain tree

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