For anyone interested in learning how to sculpt, here's some information that might prove helpful.
The clay I used was extra-firm Super Sculpey in gray. It also comes in a light beige colour, but it’s not as firm and the details don’t show up as clearly as they do with the gray colour. Here in Canada, a one pound block of this clay sells for about $20 dollars. While not cheap, there are ways you can make it go further.
Before you start sculpting you’ll need a base to support your clay. Most sculptors will secure a wooden dowel to a block of wood, but a CD spindle will do exactly the same thing. As long as you’ve got a secure base that won’t tip over as you’re rotating your sculpture, you’re set to go.
To get more mileage from your Super-Sculpey, you can bulk up the main form of your subject with aluminum foil. This keeps your sculpture light and saves you from needlessly using up expensive clay. The majority of this Grebe head is tin foil with a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of clay on the outside. Under the beak is foil with extra support provided by wire coil (from an old sketchbook). Should you decide to bake your sculpt afterwards, having a thin overall layer of clay will shorten the amount of time needed in the oven.
If you buy tubs of yogurt, save the foil that you peel away when opening up a new container. This yogurt foil can be folded repeatedly and still hold its shape, unlike kitchen foil which tears apart far too easily.
For manipulating the clay I used a pair of wooden pottery spatulas to shape the large contours and a paper clip to carve into the clay itself. I also experimented using a loom pick and a regular knitting needle... there’s no right or wrong way to work with clay. If you want a really smooth finish to the surface of your clay, it's best to bake it and apply a fine sandpaper afterwards.
I plan to do more sculptures over the coming months and will post details about the sculpting process and any tips I come across. Perhaps if there's enough interest, I'll put together a Wildlife Sculpting workshop for sometime in the fall. I've got access to some really good taxidermy models and I think such a class would be quite fun.