I count myself really lucky because I have a wonderful younger sister, Lila. She is one of the most generous and unselfish people I know. Since she was rapidly approaching a milestone birthday I decided I wanted to do something extra special for her. She has always been a big cheerleader when it comes to my projects, so I felt that a nice way to honor her would be with one of my gumpasting creations. Even though I normally prefer to work with Styrofoam dummies, I opted to go the extra mile and place it on a ‘real’ cake. This way it could be both a keepsake topper as well as something that would satisfy her sweet tooth.
Lila has always been enamored of chickens, so this was the obvious chance to incorporate them on the cake. Since she is a very proud Grandma I thought it would be fun to make a grandmother hen with her grandson sitting on her back as she looks down lovingly at him.
It seemed to me however that chickens alone would just not be enough for this momentous occasion, so when I remembered that she is fond of hollyhocks (as you can see in the photo below of her with one of her gigantic ones) I knew I had found the missing piece to the puzzle. I’m sure her fondness for these tall treasures stems from the fact that our beloved Mummy used to plant them in her garden. So, I included them in the background for some additional height and visual interest.
Gumpasting Tips for Chickens
Chicken Feathers and Placement
I used the suggestions I found on the Jessica Harris’ Craftsy.com class, The Clean & Simple Collection: Playful Techniques. Though when it came time to produce all the tiny feathers needed to cover the grandmother hen I used several different-sized, small teardrop cutters instead of cutting them out freehand as that would have otherwise been a rather labor intensive operation. If you are going to do this I would suggest (if you can) recruiting another person to help you as it would be a great time saver. If you cannot muster up any volunteers, I would suggest you then start early!
This may sound a little strange if you have not done this type of placement before. In order to add the feathers to the hen you need to start at the very bottom of the hen placing each additional row on top of the previous one as you work your way to the top of her head. Otherwise they will not be evenly spaced and/or very nicely overlapped. I used this same placement method when I made my Christmas tree (see North Pole Playground).
I wanted my chickens to have nice looking feet since there is no use going to all the trouble of making an attractive body if their tootsies come up short. I ended up using orange floral tape and wire for the baby chick and orange tape and chenille for the hen. I admit when I was placing my order for this tape I felt it was a bit pricey for only one roll. On the positive side a little goes a long way, so I will have plenty more for other projects. In the end I was really happy I bought the orange tape as it made it super easy to make great looking feet. Footnote (pun intended): Amazon now has a less expensive vendor selling this orange floral tape. Nice!