Step 2 in the process of the Conan mask is making a mold. Sometimes, polymer clay artists proudly exclaim, "There were no molds used in the making of this piece." Sometimes molds are a necessity, especially when trying to recreate wood grain. The graduations in the grain can become muddy and smeared if it is handled too much. Depending on what the piece calls for, I use hand-cut stencils, molds (like this one), supports, or I "rough it" the old fashioned way.
Working with a mold can be tricky because when the clay is pushed in, it has a tendency to separate and pull apart. Pencil and paper handy? Two very important steps will help to solve this problem. One, form your soft clay into a tent, But, work very slowly and gently. Keep in mind the problem of smearing your wood grain and form the tent of clay with care.
The second tip is to use tons of a release agent. You'll hear about trying water or powder or a host of other things. I've tried 'em all with varying degrees of success. There are two products that work great for me, Armor All and K-Y Jelly (Astroglide also works just as well). Just don't leave the second one in your bathroom cabinet for your kids, or even worse your mother, to find. Here's another great trick; I add a little water to these products. It makes them super slippery. One little tug and your faux wood will slide right out of the mold. (This tutorial has gone downhill since the mention of the K-Y Jelly.) Smear your release agent all over the soft clay and inside every nook and cranny of the mold.
Start in the middle pushing your clay into the mold. Gradually work your way outward until you have filled the mold. In the case of my Conan mask, the faux wood was rolled flat, but more on that tomorrow.
As for the mold itself, I just use Super Sculpey. For this mold, I didn't have enough, so Premo leftovers were mixed in. No big deal. I also use metal oval rings, like cookie cutters, to surround the soft clay when the original sculpture is pushed into it. This keeps the soft clay close to the sculpture and makes a better mold. The mold for the Conan mask was too big for my metal rings, so I cut a 2 inch card stock strip and wrapped it in tape. Cut the tape and remove the card stock before you pop it into your easy-bake oven.