Fantastical Creatures Spring to Life Out of Clay

In 'Red Fox,' you can see such intricate details in the animal's clay fur. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

In a small village in the Krasnodar region of Russia, artist Evgeny Hontor creates amazingly detailed clay sculptures. Some are mythical creatures; others are more familiar animals that look as if they could have darted out of a fairy tale forest.

Many of the colorful beasts are inspired by Hontor's imagination; some are an ode to the movies and TV shows he adores.

Hontor sculpts all the intricate fur and feather details patiently by hand. The fur on the red fox above, for example, has 3,000 handmade elements, Hontor tells MNN.

Hontor sells his work at a shop in Moscow, but has also developed an international following through his shop on Etsy.

Hontor created this mythical creature called 'Llaumer.'. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

"I do not do what does not inspire me really," Hontor says. "I like fantasy, I like animals, real and fabulous."

This mythical beast is "Winged Wolf Orion.'. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

Hontor uses velvet clay as his medium.

"This is a very light, self-hardening material based on foamed cellulose. It's not like ceramics or polymer clay," he says. "It also does not look like other air-dry materials. It remains a bit springy, even when completely dry. Figurines made out of velvet clay do not break when dropped."

Although crafted by Hontor, these creatures were inspired by friend, Lev Popov. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

The works that are the most important to him, are those based on his own author universe — both his created worlds and those created with his co-author, Lev Popov, as seen above.

"It's not just the sculptures, it's my soul," Hontor says. "These works really have a history. It is a window into another world."

While larger sculptures can take weeks, Hontor can create hundreds of smaller ones in a day. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

Hontor also creates work based on strong customer demand. He makes many small figurines of animals and dragons at the request of fans.

He also creates a lot of fan art. "These works are based on others, which genuinely inspire me," he says. Hontor is also moved by the British television series "Doctor Who," James Cameron's "Avatar" and the works of animator Hayao Miyazaki of "How to Train Your Dragon" fame.

"This is not just for the pursuit of an audience, it is truly my favorite things," he says.

The detail in the whiskers and eyes in 'Winged Rath Panthera' makes the creature look alive. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

Although his larger works can take a month or more to create, the smaller creations are much easier and faster to make.

"Such simple things I can do up to 100 units per day," he says. "However, the establishment of harmonious simple form requires a certain skill."

'Fight with Lionar' is Hontor's favorite work. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor)

Hontor says "Fight with Lionar" (above) is his most important sculpture. In fact, he says he'll be upset when someone eventually buys it.

"I'll be thinking: Is this person impressed by the history, or it is simply a collectible?" he says. "It is costly, so it does not fall into the hands of a random (person)."

This winter cat sculpture is the work of Hontor and co-artist Dan Karhu. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor and Dan Karhu)

Hontor says he has been sculpting for the past decade, but he has been creative since childhood. He fell in love with velvet clay the first time he touched it and that inspired him to start sculpting.

Over the past several years, he has authored several sculptures with Dan Karhu, including the winter cat above.

The eyes are mesmerizing in 'Cat-Dragon Izic.'. (Photo: Evgeny Hontor and Dan Karhu)

Hontor is proud that his work has found a home all over the world.

"Now my works are in all continents. I even had a buyer from South Africa," he says. "Figures from our studio are in Europe, America, Canada, Japan and, of course, in Russia."

Hontor says his village home and his Moscow shop offer him the ideal inspiration for creativity.

"I love the quiet setting and good TV shows; I have to watch a lot of TV series to be diligent and work 10-15 hours a day," he says. "I really can work hard and have fun, even if it's hard. I'm lucky I can do what I like and make a living."