It’s Time For Spring Chicks!

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Yep, it’s that time of year again- time to start raising the next batch of chickens.  In the past Sal has gotten 6 or 7 day old chicks from our local feed store every other year or so.  This time we’re doing it differently and have decided to get new chicks every year so there won’t be any reduction in overall egg production as the youngsters grow to maturity and the older hens stop producing.  Our 7 Rhode Island Red chickens from last year (now 1 year old) are still producing reliably and haven’t started to molt yet, so we should have plenty of eggs until the little ones are ready to start laying.  This year instead of our usual Rhode Island Reds we got 6 White Leghorns.  The Reds lay brown eggs and the Leghorns lay white eggs, so we’ll be able to know who’s producing and how much.

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One of my Rhode Island Red chickens

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Our 6 new White Leghorn chicks

So far we’ve had good luck getting our day old chicks from Olsen’s feed store.  A few days before we’re ready to pick them up I wash the chick cage with soap and water and scrub it thoroughly (I do the same thing before we put it into storage too), then spray it with vinegar to sanitize it.  Their feeder and water container get the same treatment and everything is allowed to dry in the sun.  Sal made this cage years ago, when he first started raising chickens and it has served us well.  By the time the chicks get too big for this cage they’re usually ready to go out to the coop.  There’s a removable tray under the bottom of the cage that we line with paper so it’s easy to clean.  Of course the bigger these critters get, the more often I need to change their paper (they can be messy little buggers!).

For the first few weeks (or longer, depending on the weather) we keep the cage on the island in the kitchen, with the heat lamp positioned over the top.  Figuring out the right position of the heat lamp is a bit of trial and error, but the basic rule is if the chicks are all clustered together under the lamp they’re cold and you need to move the light closer.  If they’re avoiding the lamp and are scattered around the cage, as far from the light as possible they’re hot and the light is too close.  They should wander around the cage comfortably and sleep in small groups all around the cage floor.  It took me a while, but I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out how to keep them comfortable.

The really fun part is always introducing the other animals to the chicks.  I do like having the chicks get used to the cats and dogs so they’re not afraid of them, and having the dogs especially realize that these chicks are not prey, but family members they’re supposed to protect.

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“This thing is fascinating!”

This is Dewey Dude’s first experience with chicks, and I’m making a special effort to get him familiar with them.  He’s getting better with the older chickens, but still wants to jump on them sometimes.  He’s a very skilled hunter (he caught his first mouse when he was just 3 months old, and since then has caught a variety of birds, rodents, and rabbits) so I want to be sure he understands that this is not the same as the critters he hunts.  He’s very intelligent and watches me talking to the chicks and holding and petting them, so that also reinforces the idea that these little things are part of the family and are to be protected.  Ziggi’s been through all this before and really has very little interest in the chicks (or the adult chickens, for that matter).

Then of course there’s the cats.

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Ginko is utterly fascinated with the chicks.  He’s always been a housecat and has never caught anything bigger than a spider, but he’s got some pretty strong hunting insticts.  He’s not quite sure what to do with these things, but they sure do smell interesting!  BTW, I’m very careful that no animals get hurt or stressed out during these little meetings.  I’m actually surprised at how calm the chicks are when I take them out and let them interact with the cats and dogs.  Of course if the chicks were running around the house unsupervised I’m sure it wouldn’t take Ginko too long to figure out what a cat does with a critter like this.  Calcifer, on the other hand, is a complete love.

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I could probably let all 6 chicks cuddle with him in the chair and he wouldn’t mind at all.  He’s actually a little afraid of them when they start cheeping loudly and fluttering around in their cage (they really get excited if a gnat or something flies into their cage!).

And so this is just another sign of spring around here- the peeping of fluffy little chicks on the counter 😉  When the weather warms a bit more we’ll put the cage out in the garage with the heat lamp and I’ll start taking them outside for brief “field trips” to get them used to the outdoors, the sun, the wind, the feel of grass under their feet, etc.  Sal’s going to build them a separate little coop in the main chicken enclosure so when they’re big enough to go out full time they can safely be with the big chickens.  When they’re the same size as the Reds I’ll allow the flocks to intermingle.  If I put them together when the chicks are too small they could get hurt- chickens can be pretty vicious.  And when the Reds stop producing we’ll give them away to someone who wants them for bug patrol like we did with the last batch.

This will be the fourth year that I’ve raised chickens, and each year I learn a bit more.  I’ve already learned that Leghorns spook easier than Rhode Island Reds.  Loud noises have the chicks peeping and fluttering all over the cage, and any time I change the water or feed them they all spaz out- LOL.  They are getting used to me though, and I hope spending  a good bit of time with them will help them calm down and realize I’m not going to hurt them.  They do seem to enjoy it when I hold them and pet their little heads- they close their eyes and get this blissful expression 🙂

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Just hanging out with my peeps 😉

So that’s life down on the farm 🙂  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post now that it’s getting to be planting season, but I’ll try to keep you all up to date on the latest happenings.  On that note, the seedlings are all doing well.  I’ve got them under lights in the guest bathroom like I did last year (you can check out this post to see just what I did last year https://gettingcreativewithcreativecritters.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/starting-seeds-indoors-the-beginning-of-the-2015-gardening-season/).  I’ve been putting them out in the greenhouse during the day for extra sunlight and that seems to really be getting them off to a good start.  Then I bring them back in before it gets too cool in the evening.

Hopefully this season will be at least as productive as last!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Calcifer Kitty Isn’t Feeling Well :(

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Poor Calcifer hasn’t been feeling well this week.  It started Monday when I couldn’t get him to eat more than a few pieces of his dry food, or take more than a token lick of his canned food.  Since Calcifer is normally a very finicky cat this wasn’t totally unusual.  But after it continued like this for the rest of the day I knew something was wrong.  He acted like he wanted to eat, but just couldn’t.  I gave him some NutriCal, which is a high calorie supplement in a gel form and is supposed to help stimulate a cat’s appetite, and later some hairball medicine in case he had a hairball stuck.  He’s a very fluffy cat so he ends up ingesting a lot of fur even though I brush him and Ginko just about every day.  Unfortunately Calcifer also washes Ginko so he ingests even more fur from his brother, who’s quite the shedder.Calcifer washing Ginko

Then I checked Calcifer’s teeth and gums to see if he had an infection in his mouth that was keeping him from eating.  Surprisingly he didn’t object too much about me handling his mouth and running my finger along his gums.  He’s actually got some very healthy looking teeth and gums, so that didn’t appear to be the issue.

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When he still wasn’t eating the next day I knew I had to do something.  He’s not a very heavy cat in the first place and really can’t afford to lose any weight.  So I called the vet and made an appointment to get him in as soon as possible.  Unfortunately that wasn’t until Thursday, so in the meantime I had to figure out how to get some food into my skinny kitty.  I got him some chicken baby food and some Kitten Chow and he showed some interest in that.  When Ozzy was elderly and sick from kidney disease the only thing that would spark his appetite was chicken baby food, so I had hopes it would have the same result with Calcifer (even though he’s only 6, not at all elderly).

I felt better that I was at least getting a little something into his belly, but he still wasn’t eating much and wasn’t feeling good.  Even Ginko knew his brother was sick and was being very sweet to him.

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Wednesday I brought Calcifer’s carrier up from the tack room and put his favorite blanket in there so he would get comfortable with it and not freak out when it was time to go to the vet the next day.  Both cats took turns hanging out in the new Cat Cave 😉  Calcifer really seemed comfy and cozy in there.

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Before his appointment I gave him some Rescue Remedy to help take the edge off his fear.  He actually likes the flavor and will lick it right from the dropper.  When it was time to go he was already curled up in his carrier and all I had to do was close the door.  Of course he wasn’t at all happy about the ride to the vet, or the exam, but he took it better than I expected.

This was the first time I’ve been to the Prescott Valley Vet Clinic and I must say I really liked them.  Dr. Rogers and her assistants were very good with Calcifer and gave him a thorough exam.  They took some blood tests to see if any of the usual cat issues were the problem: thyroid, diabetes, liver, kidney.  He had a fever so she gave me some antibiotics for whatever infection he may have.  She also gave him some subcutaneous fluids since he was a little dehydrated.  When we got home Ginko was very concerned about Calcifer and gently washed all the places where they poked and prodded him.

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I gave Calcifer his first dose of antibiotics when we got home and he actually perked up a bit and ate some baby food and kitten food.  Today he seemed to be feeling even better and ate more kitten food and even a bit of his canned food.  I’m still giving him the NutriCal and will continue until he puts on the weight he’s lost.  The vet said he should weigh 10 or 11 pounds and he was down to just 8 😦

Dr. Rogers called this afternoon with his test results and he seems to be a very healthy cat, thankfully.  No issues with his thyroid, kidneys, no diabetes, and just slightly low liver enzymes- nothing to be worried about.  So he may have just picked up a small infection and that put him off his food.  He’s got a few more doses of his antibiotic and the vet has some pills that are supposed to help his appetite, so I’ll pick those up next week.

I’m still feeding him every few hours, sitting on the floor with him and putting a small pile of kitten food on the floor, just the way he likes it, and letting him lick the baby food off the spoon.  It’s time consuming, but he’s worth it.  Hopefully he’ll get back to eating like normal (which still isn’t all that much).  But I’ll do whatever I have to to keep Calcifer healthy.  I love this cat with all my heart ❤

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And if anyone has any tips on getting a finicky cat to eat, please leave a comment below- I can use all the help I can get!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Personalized Catnip Pot

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One of our friends rescued a kitten several months ago and has been in the process of spoiling her silly 😉  Pita is a frisky gray tabby cat who earned her name by being a bit of a PITA, according to her mom- LOL.  In spite of being the occasional pain Pita is a much loved kitty and is very affectionate.  The first time Sal and I visited Pita leaped right onto my shoulder and started rubbing against my head and purring in my ear.  She stayed there for most of our visit!  Of course I immediately fell in love with this sweet and adorable kitty.  I’ve already sent Gayle home with some fresh clipped catnip as well as a bag of dried catnip, but I decided this kitty needed her own supply on demand.  And since my own catnip is doing so well I knew I’d be able to divide one of the clumps and pot it up so Pita could have her fresh nip whenever she wanted it.  But of course I couldn’t just plop it in a pot and be done with it- oh no, not me!  I had to make it extra special, so I made the pot personalized by sculpting a miniature Pita kitty lounging on the rim and adding a sign saying PITA’S CATNIP, just so everyone would know who the catnip belonged to. 😉

Calcifer says, "Cute kitty- awfully small though."

Calcifer says, “Cute kitty- awfully small though.”

Of course Calcifer had to inspect my work 😉

So where's the catnip?

So where’s the catnip?

I dug up a few healthy little shoots that should do well.  They had some nice roots and I think this pot will be full of catnip in no time.

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I just wanted to share this quick little project with you all.  Lately it’s been all about catnip!  I’ve been busy making new catnip toys to replace the ones I’ve sold.  If you’re interested in any of my catnip or cat toys check out my Organic Catnip Toys category in CreativeCritters.

And of course if you’d like me to create a custom order for you (pet sculptures, cat toys, etc.) just let me know and I’d be happy to work with you 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Calciferious the Cat Dragon

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This magnificent beast is Calciferious, Calcifer kitty’s alter ego.  This is another Cat Dragon sculpture and was inspired by my fluffy Maine Coon cat.  Calcifer frequently sits in what I call his “Captain Cool” pose, so I decided to make his dragon persona sitting in this pose.

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This sculpture took weeks to complete, but it was an absolute labor of love.  Unfortunately the very first work in progress pictures are on my laptop, which died a while back (one of the reasons I haven’t posted for quite a while).  I tried something new with this piece and the center of the sculpture is weighted with a special rock that I found at our favorite camp site.  I made a cardboard base, glued the rock in place on the base, then wrapped it all in aluminum foil, filling and shaping to create a feline/ dragon body shape.  The front legs have heavy gauge wire running through them for added strength.  Then I started adding the base layer of clay.  This sculpture took a LOT of polymer clay!  After getting the head, neck, body, legs, and tail sculpted the fun part really started- adding the scales.  I used star shapes in varying sizes for most of the body, legs, and tail.

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I tried to mimic Calcifer’s colors and patterns, only with a dragony twist.  I used black, silver, and gold for everything but the wings.  It was slow going, shaping and placing each scale, checking with the real cat to get the stripes and colors just right.  I wasn’t in any hurry though, and I just let the sculpture flow.  At first I used star shapes for his chest too, but then I decided that carefully shaped leaves would give him that fluffy look that I wanted.

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This turned out to be just perfect and added so much more to the sculpture.  Here you can see the stripes along his side and how the colors change from his belly to his back (this is harder to see after I added the wings).

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I brought the fluffy scales (is there such a thing?) up under his chin and just to his ears, like his fluffy fur is in real life.  That’s one of the features I love about Cal and I really wanted to capture that in clay.  I even used Calcifer’s real whiskers.  (Cats shed their whiskers and I’ve saved whiskers from all my cats.) I poked holes in the muzzle before baking then put a dab of glue on the end of each whisker and inserted it in the hole after the sculpture was baked.  You can bake whiskers at 275 degrees (the temperature for baking polymer clay), but sometimes the white ones tend to yellow a bit or curl.

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I added all of his scales before adding the wings, which I sculpted separately and prebaked.  I used purple and gold scales because those colors are just very “Calcifer” and I liked the way they complimented the rest of the piece.

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This is actually a rather large sculpture, for me at least, since I normally work in miniature.  It ended up measuring about 10 inches long and 10 inches high.  But since Cal has such a big personality, I had to make a big sculpture to encompass all that he is 😉  Here you can see Calciferious hanging out in the living room.  Did I mention that he’s a shelf sitter?  I designed him to sit comfortably on a shelf or the edge of a table.

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I think he goes pretty nicely with the decor too.  I’m still deciding if I want to list him for sale.  For now I think I’ll just keep him all to myself- I don’t think I can part with him just yet.

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Meet the Family- Ziggi Dog

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So far you’ve met my cats, Calcifer and Ginko, who are my best feline friends.  Now it’s time to meet my dearest canine companion, Ziggi.  Ziggi is my boyfriend’s half Australian Cattle dog, half German Short Hair Pointer mix, and in the year and half that I’ve been with Sal, Ziggi has gone from being “Sal’s dog” to being “our dog”.  I love this adorable 80 pound lapdog who has a personality like none other!

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When I first moved in with Sal he was very concerned with how Ziggi would react to my cats.  He knew that whenever a cat wandered into the yard Ziggi had to chase it away immediately.  I, however, knew that there was a big difference between my easy going house cats and the cats that Ziggi saw outside.  I’d also been watching Ziggi and learning his personality for months.  He’s a gentle dog at heart, and not one to start fights.  I’d never seen him show any truly aggressive behavior, and I had a strong feeling that given enough time he would become friends with Calcifer and Ginko.  There was also another element working in our favor: when Ziggi’s in the house he has to stay in the kitchen (that way the dog fur and damage from those claws is minimized).  Once the cats figured out that there was a line of safety that the big dog couldn’t (or wouldn’t) cross they knew all they had to do was step onto the carpeting of the dining room and Ziggi wouldn’t follow them.  It took a few months, but now both cats go into the kitchen to hang out with Ziggi, and he’s learned not to make any sudden moves or be too rough with them.  He WANTS them around, so he makes sure not to scare them away.  When Ginko rubbed his cheek against Ziggi’s nose and Zig gently licked Ginko’s face the other night Sal was in awe.  He never thought he’d see his dog get along so well with cats.

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Ziggi just turned 5 recently and we planned out a very special day for him.  First I made him a special breakfast that included Ziggi Cookies made from a recipe I created just for him.  I’ll include the recipe at the end of the post.  On top of that he had two fresh eggs (and I do mean FRESH- the chickens laid them that morning), wheat germ, flax seeds, nutritional yeast, and a dollop of yogurt.  Ziggi eats healthier than most humans!

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After breakfast it was time for his present.  I used two layers of thick fleece to make him a soft but durable bone to chew on.  I even managed to make it the perfect size for his mouth without even measuring 😉  I think he had as much fun opening his present as he did chewing on the bone itself!

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Next it was time for a hike.  Ziggi is definitely an outdoorsy kind of dog.  He spends most of the day patrolling our 3 1/2 acres and helping me around the yard and garden.  He loves going for hikes and racing through the trees and over the rocks.  This dog is an incredible athlete and seems to be getting stronger and more agile all the time.  A few months ago I taught him how to stand on his hind legs for a treat, which is no easy thing for a dog his size!

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Anyway, we spent the day hiking the Wood Chute trail on Mingus mountain, and even managed to find some water for Ziggi to play in.  This dog loves water and you couldn’t keep him out of it if you tried.

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So Ziggi celebrated his birthday in style and we all had a wonderful day.  It’s been a long time since I had a dog, and I’m very grateful to have Ziggi in my life now.  He’s a constant source of joy, bringing pleasure to not only me and Sal, but my cats as well.  I enjoy living in a multi-pet household.  The interaction between all the animals is fascinating, and I think it enriches their lives too.  And of course, I wouldn’t be CreativeCritters without all my critters!

As promised, here’s the recipe for Ziggi Cookies, which are also perfectly edible for people as well (Sal tried one to be sure it was up to Ziggi’s standards- LOL).  I made sure to include some of Ziggi’s favorite ingredients, like carrots and peanut butter 😉

ZIGGI COOKIES

1/2 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

2 cups wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup flax seeds

Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a large baking sheet (or 2 smaller baking sheets) by spraying with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix carrots, molasses, olive oil, egg, peanut butter, and water in a bowl.  Add flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, and flax seeds and mix until combined.  Scoop spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20- 25 minutes.  This recipe makes a soft cookie rather than a hard biscuit.  Store the cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze them for longer storage.

Thanks for helping to celebrate Ziggi’s special day!  Oh, and I did make sure to get his permission to share this recipe 😉  He really is a very generous dog!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Meet Vedis, the Green and Gold Pot Climber Dragon

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This is Vedis, a beautiful green and gold dragon who  loves quietly climbing among the foliage of potted plants.

This gentle little dragon was sculpted by hand in Premo polymer clay and is a one of a kind creation.  He belongs to a clan of dragons known as Pot Climbers, dragons who are able to hang on the edge of pots or similar objects.  Being very much in tune with nature Vedis is a peace loving dragon who gets along with everyone.  When he’s not patrolling the plants sometimes Vedis can be found curled up napping with Calcifer.

cal-dragon (2) (1024x886)To learn more about Vedis, or purchase him simply click on his picture below.

Green and Gold Whimsical Miniature Dragon Pot Climber Sculpture
If you’re interested in the rest of the Pot Climber Dragon clan (or their other draconian relatives), be sure to check out all I have to offer in my DRAGONS category.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Getting to Know the Family: Calcifer the Cat

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Since this is a new blog I thought I ought to introduce the family, the furred and feathered family to start with.  First there’s Calcifer, my handsome and fluffy Maine Coone Cat.

ImageCalcifer is a very sweet and loving kitty and has been my constant companion since I adopted him as a tiny puffball of a kitten about 5 years ago.  He and I have been through some rough times together, including a divorce and  a cross country move followed shortly thereafter by yet another move.  Though the changes were hard on him he did adapt and while he’ll never exactly be outgoing, he is a happy cat and full of love.  He’s shy of strangers but very affectionate with me and now with my boyfriend as well.  I was so happy the first time Calcifer jumped up on Sal’s lap as we were were watching a movie.  Up to that point mine was the only lap he ever graced with his furry little butt 😉

Calcifer really is the consummate lap cat and positively melts across my lap when I’m relaxing in my rocking chair and reading.  He’s very playful and loves playing fetch with a ponytail holder or milk jug ring.  He’s actually better than the dog is when it comes to returning the fetched object!  And when he’s not playing with me he’s chasing his little brother Ginko around.  I’ll tell you all about Ginko in the next post.  Another sweet little quirk of Calcifer’s is the way he loves to cuddle in my hair.  He’s done this ever since he was a kitten and it makes him so happy and relaxed (as it does for me too).  He kneads my hair with his paws and buries his face in it, purring like a little motorboat.  It’s his ultimate expression of love 🙂

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Even though he’s blind in one eye it doesn’t seem to slow him down much.  The lady at the shelter said he was one of about 50 cats rescued from an animal hoarder in a tiny apartment.  They said they thought he must have gotten an eye infection that never got treated, so he ended up losing the sight in that eye.  He takes a little longer to judge distances and is very careful when he jumps onto things, but he’s really quite graceful.

Calcifer is a huge part of my life and my business.  He’s one of the main critters behind CreativeCritters!  He’s a wonderful model for my cat sculptures, and has inspired several different sculptures including this Steampunk Pirate Cat.

OOAK Steampunk Pirate Cat with Metallic Wings Polymer Clay Sculpture

and what I call The Bewilderbeast.  I even used real cat whiskers (collected after the cats voluntarily shed them) for this wild creation.  You can click on either of these pictures to learn more about these sculptures.

OOAK Glow in the Dark Polymer Clay Cat Monster Demon Sculpture

Calcifer and I are inseparable and he’s my best furry friend!  I know he’ll continue to inspire my creations and happily inspect my work once it’s finished.  Every artist needs someone in charge of quality control after all! 😉

Image Thanks for spending a little time getting to know the furry family of CreativeCritters!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters