Lucia the Puppet: Painting and Costume Fabrication

Published April 22, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

Over the past week I’ve been working on my puppet that I made at the Toby Froud workshop mentioned in my last post…and now she’s nearly finished! I’ll probably do another post or two later because completing her takes many steps and I’ve been taking a lot more pictures of my work in progress this time.

Also I decided to name the puppet Lucia, which is a Latin name that means “light.” I just figured it was appropriate for a ghostly albino faun creature that literally glows in the dark. I’ve tested her out by turning off all the lights after she’s been under my bright desk lamp for a while and she looks amazing. The glow in the dark polymer clay was pretty thoroughly mixed into the flesh tone Fimo so she has these really interesting thin swirling line patterns all over her face that light up in a pale fluorescent green in the darkness, and since her little antlers were made with pure unmixed Nightglow Fimo they light up brilliantly. At some point I may attempt to somehow take a photo of this, but for now I guess you’ll just have to believe me.

So after the workshop was over I wanted to continue working on Lucia as soon as I got home, so the first thing I did was clean up her paint job a little. It looked pretty good before but I added a couple more freckles, lightened her eyebrows a little, smoothed out the shadow color around her eyes, and added some clear nail polish to her nose and lips for a glossy wet look.

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Painting dolls and puppets is one of my favorite parts!

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Next I had a look at her and the unfinished body stocking, that thin layer of fabric that covers the batting and the puppet mechanism underneath. You can kind of see it a little bit in the pictures above but I think those are the only photos I have of it. Anyway, something about it just didn’t sit quite right with me. I think it was a combination of her arms being too long and the batting being wrapped too loosely around the mechanism so that it would keep sliding down, which then caused her to not really have shoulders anymore. The more I tried to figure out how to fix it, the more I realized that it probably just wasn’t worth it and that I should just redo that part altogether. I ended up stripping her down to a skeleton again so I could shorten her arms and adjust where her shoulders should go…so this is kind of the “before” photo.

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I adjusted the shoulders, added an extra piece of cross-wire to acted as a brace and join the shoulders together so they wouldn’t shift around so unevenly and independently of each other, and added a couple of wires across the chest and hips as a stand-in for a basic sternum and pelvis. I of course forgot to take a picture of this but I did get one of her after I finished rewrapping the batting again. You can see here that I also reinforced where the three small dowels from the neck controller connect to the base with a two-part epoxy.

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This time I wrapped the batting a little tighter so it pretty much stayed in place on its own. Instead of making another body stocking like before, I decided to skip that and just make the undermost layer of material be her shirt. This brings us to my other most favorite part of the doll and puppet making process: costume fabrication!

I bought this great crinkly ivory colored fabric at Jo-Ann’s that was just perfect for a floofy old-timey Victorian blouse. I started with the front and back panels and sewed them together with two seams at her sides.

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The back of the shirt was made in two separate parts because she has another big wooden dowel controller coming out of her spine that controls her shoulders. The lower half of the shirt comes up right beneath the controller, and I made the top portion of the shirt extra large and flowy like a capelet so that it partially covers up the controller but doesn’t restrict any of the movement beneath.

Next I started on the sleeves. I did an image search for Victorian shirt patterns for some inspiration, cut out one sleeve and then used it to trace and cut out the mirror image for its partner. I was able to sew most of the sleeves wrong sides together before I turned them back right side out (for a more realistic and professional looking seam) and then slid them over each arm. Once the sleeves were on her arms I joined them to the shirt torso.

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After I attached the sleeves I gathered them in a few spots to create that frilly Victorian silhouette. I also added three big cherry red buttons and some pretty pink and white lace trim to the collar and cuffs.

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Something about the combination of her ghostly coloring and those big red buttons reminds me a little of a poisonous plant.

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After the shirt I started on her lower half. First I gathered some more of that crinkly fabric around her from the waist down to cover the remaining exposed batting. I forgot to take a picture of that part but it kind of resembled a little pair of bloomers.

To create her skirt I kept adding layers of fabric to her waist and building them up from the thinnest and most sheer material on the bottom (for the petticoat) to the more opaque and decorative fabrics on top. First there was a fine white crinkle tulle that was leftover veil material from the custom cake toppers that I sculpted for my best friend’s wedding.

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Then a ragged pastel pink lace leftover from my fairy wings. It was actually shredded especially for me by my sister’s Jack Russell Terrier, Bridgette. She used to love it whenever I would give her that job!

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Next I added a little metallic chartreuse crackle pattern tulle. I did my best to mimic Bridgette’s shredding artistry to give it a more organic texture. It reminds me of sparkly moss. And yes, that is “Creating a Faery Figure with Wendy Froud” on my laptop in the background.

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Getting into the top layers now, I also had purchased some of the same fabric that I made her shirt from but in pink. Then I draped some pink and white pinstriped stretch t-shirt knit over that, cinched in her waist, and tied it all up in the back with a big bow.

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The pink crinkle had kind of an looking unfinished edge so I later decided to add more of that lace trim that I’m holding in the picture to the hem.

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I also decided to use another small fabric scrap make the neck controller a little prettier. I padded the bottom of it with some thick felt to keep it from breaking and tied with a matching ribbon!

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After the skirt was all finished I made her bodice with that same thick red felt material that I picked up at SCRAP.

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I forgot to take a whole lot of in-progress pictures while I was making it except for this one I guess. This was after I had already finished the front panels, laced them together with that thin metallic gold elastic string, and added that gold and red rope trim. I’m not sure what that scrap of felt fabric was originally from but it still had some interesting white fluffy piping on one side, so I used that edge for the underside of the bodice to make it look like it has sheepskin lining at the opening. When I took the photo above I was finishing the hem of the bodice with some jagged white stitching. I do this kind of stitching to a lot of my pieces–it’s almost become like a trademark. It all started with me being bad at sewing until I decided that my anarchic stitching actually looks really cool and that I should purposefully put it on everything that I make!

Here’s a picture of Lucia after the bodice was completed. Also pictured is the tattered shawl that I made to drape behind her shoulders and cover the rest of that controller.

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Close up:

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The very last thing that I’ve done to her so far is giving her little pearly white doll eyelashes. This took the fancy gel Superglue, Krazy Glue, and A LOT of patience and finesse:

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Yes, they were quite a pain to apply but now they’re really stuck on there and I think that they look awesome. I bought them a while back on eBay as a small roll of eyelashes trim that you can cut to size. I’ve been planning on using them when I make my Mama Kringle sculpture (my next big polymer clay project is to make pose-able dolls of all three of the characters from my children’s book.) Anyway now that I’ve tried them I think that they’re really great and I can’t wait to use them on my other projects!

Here is Lucia as completed so far on my art desk just begging for me to give her some hair and finish her up.

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Come hither.

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You complete me.

Ok, that’s it for now–but more soon!

 

 

 

 

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