I'm making costumes and accessories for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I want my fairies to look both beautiful and frightening, with tribal overtones.
I looked at buying real animal teeth (coyote teeth seem to be widely available online) but then I thought "I have lots of polymer clay kicking around -- I bet I can make these suckers myself, without buying bits of dead animals".
So I did, and so can you!
I had the polymer clay and acrylic paint at home, so these were pretty much free. Even if you have to buy the materials, this is a low cost project.
Mix and temper your clay. You can use all of one colour if you like -- all white, off-white or beige/tan would work. You could also start with a dark color for older-looking teeth -- a dark brown or black would work for this.
I used up scraps of white, tan and translucent. I mixed the colours, but not perfectly, so there are still some variations. There should be a little yellow in bone or teeth, but I'm going to add that using paint. You could mix some yellow right into the clay, if you prefer.
Pinch off pieces and shape into cones. You can make your teeth as large (for pendants) or small (for earrings or clustered elements) as you like.
Lengthen, taper and bend the pointy part of the cone. This is the business end of the tooth. There's quite a variation in the amount that different teeth bend -- as always when modelling, it's good to use a reference photo.
On the other end, flatten the top of the cone, making it less thick, and push a toothpick or other hole-making thing through. Think about how you're going to use this tooth element -- if you're just going to string it, make sure you make the holes in the right direction and that the holes are going to be large enough to take your string or leather. If you're going to add a jump ring, then both the size and orientation of the hole is less critical.
Once you've made all the teeth you want, bake them according to the direction on your polymer clay package.
If you made them from white or off white, and you're happy with the look, you can stop right here.
For the rest of us, the next step is paint.
I want a slightly aged look, so I'm going to darken the root of the tooth. If you look at photos of real teeth, sometimes the roots are pale and the pointy bit outside the gums is dark, and sometimes it's the other way around. I want to emphasise the curve and point, so I'm going to make the roots dark and the points light.
I used raw umber (and burnt umber, although you can use just one), diluted with water and washed on to darken the roots of the teeth. Let dry.
Then I brushed some diluted white onto the points, about a third of the way back.
From this point I just played. I added some diluted yellow ochre washes in the middle third. I dry brushed a very small amount of raw umber and black near the root of the tooth, and dry brushed a little white near the point, to add texture and depth.
When it looks right, stop (this is always the hard part :)) You can varnish it -- either the whole thing or just the pointy part -- for extra realism, although I find just using artist's acrylics gives the teeth some sheen. You could also dilute your colour washes with gloss or semi gloss medium which will give more sheen.
Let the teeth dry and make your jewelry or use them to trim your costume! (One of the photos above shows a bit of the trim I made for a costume fur cape that uses the teeth).