Two years ago, at an estate sale with an enormous amount of Christmas items–they were actually the least of the treasures there–I stumbled on two Putz sheep for 50 cents each. And a lovely German made cow.
Putz comes from the German word “decorate” and refers to the nativity scenes that Germans and Moravian immigrants to the US constructed in a corner of their houses. They started collecting twigs and moss for the manger as early as September, then populated the scene with little animals and figures usually made in Germany. The sheep have become very popular with collectors, ones in good condition can go for about $50 each. There are many varieties.
I love my two Putz sheep, but I decided to see if I could create a modern version of them to sell next year at the art fair here–along with other ornaments I’m making. They’re different, but still very sweet. I love them and am planing to make 15 in all (that’s how many little bells I have.).
I lived for a while in Yorkshire, England years ago amidst moors and dales and endless sheep farms and I came to be very very fond of sheep. Every market had fantastic yarn and shearling products, so beyond being darling, sheep are very useful.
First, I shaped the bodies and heads out of Sculpty clay. I made the top part of the leg in clay too, but the bottom part of the leg in traditional Putz sheep is a stick, so I trimmed a shish kabob stick I had on hand and poked those pieces into each leg to create a hole for later.
The clay bodies went in the oven as instructed on the Sculpty package to harden. Once cooled, I glued in the legs. Then I painted the faces and legs white, the hooves black, and drew eyes. nostrils, and mouths with black and red fine point Sharpies.
Next comes the tough part, gluing the wool roving onto the bodies. It takes time and patience but the result is worth it. Then it’s just a matter of gluing on a tiny red ribbon and sheep bell. What do you think? I want a whole flock now.