I actually finished up Lucia the puppet very late Thursday night/early Friday morning. I basically pulled an all-nighter before my early shift and got only two hours of sleep because I was more tired of the disaster that the art room had become and was feeling really eager to get things back to normal. So anyway, this is going to be a quick post that just explains how I did the last major steps to finish her all up–her hair and a few other little details. I plan on following this post pretty much immediately with another one that will have some photos of her all finished…I took quite a few of her outside yesterday that will have to do until I can get some more professional pictures at a later date.
Before I even started on her hair I made a little accessory for her to hold on her arm. Its a little basket holding some moss, flowers, and a robin’s egg.
I found the robin’s egg shell on the first day of the workshop when I was walking back to my car. Although it was just a cracked and empty shell it just looked so perfect; just like a robin’s egg candy. I decided right when I found it that I was going to try to find a way to incorporate the eggshell into my final puppet. It was very fragile so it took me a little while to figure out how I was going to do it. I ended up filling the shell with a two-part epoxy to bond it together and prevent it from crumbling. I placed it inside of a miniature basket that I purchased from Jo-Ann’s and attached that floral rope wire as a handle. Then I arranged some moss and flowers around the egg so that it would look like a little nest and also hide all of the visible cracks on the eggshell.
I later added another small green twig with pink flower buds to the basket, which you will see later when I post the pictures of the finished piece.
For the wigging, or tedious attachment of her full mane of hair, I already had a cut piece of Tibetan Lamb’s Wool all picked out. I believe the color of the swatch I used was called “blushing pink” from my favorite OOAK doll supply store, The Morezmore Estate on eBay. If you’re into making OOAK polymer clay dolls, creatures, and puppets, then this is the best one-stop shop that I have ever found. The owner Natasha Red October is super nice and is a polymer clay doll maker herself so she knows her products very well. She also has a work in progress blog where she explains many of her own techniques step-by-step. I discovered her back in about 2009 when I was first teaching myself how to make really professional multi-media polymer clay dolls and was so happy when I found her blog and shop. She has taught me so much about doll making and she even sends me cool free samples of supplies whenever I order from her! Here’s a photo of the lamb’s wool I used and my other wigging supplies:
One of the key things I learned from following Natasha’s blog was how to properly wig a polymer sculpt. The glue she recommends is the clear gel permanent adhesive manufactured by Beacon, Fabri-Tac. I know that this isn’t the only glue that doll artists use for this purpose–Wendy Froud and Toby Froud for instance both prefer another permanent glue called Barge. I’ve never tried Barge before, but I like Fabri-Tac well enough because it doesn’t give off any strong toxic fumes and I can use it in my small unventilated art room without much fear of killing my brain cells. The only main problem that I had with Fabri-Tac once I got past the initial figuring out how to work with such a gooey, stringy, sticky substance was how quickly it gets too thick and goopy to use while still inside the bottle (like an old nail polish that you have to throw away before you can use it up) and how darn expensive it always is. As a result you may think you’ve saved yourself some money by buying the biggest bottle with a coupon, but after you use it to wig a couple of dolls or even one human sized werewolf costume you’re probably still going to have to throw the last third of it away before you’re done with it because the consistency just becomes too difficult to work with anymore. There’s supposed to be a trick where you can add a little paint thinner to the glue once it gets all gloppy to get it back to normal for a little while. I’ve tried it and it kinda worked for me once, but I’ve found that most of the time the thinner and the glue stay separated so what you get is just a watery, not-sticky-enough mess…which is totally not worth the trouble!
Luckily I met a lady at the Toby Froud workshop last week who is the arts and crafts coordinator at the Craft Warehouse in Beaverton. She told me she get me a discount if I ask for her and clued me in on a little secret: Beacon’s 3-in-1 glue is basically the same exact glue as Fabri-tac but for a fraction of the price. I believe the only real difference between the two is that Fabri-Tac is archival quality for scrapbooking and 3-in-1 is not, but if you’re just using them to wig a doll that really doesn’t make any difference whatsoever! So I decided to take her up on that advice and just purchase a small bottle of 3-in-1 to glue the hair onto my puppet.
The way that I wig a doll is by cutting a few small locks of hair from the wool pelt and laying them out on my workspace. I then pick up each lock of hair at a time, spread a little bead of glue onto one end, roll it onto a toothpick, and then use the toothpick to press and hold the clump of hair onto the scalp until it catches, which is usually less than ten seconds.
I then repeat this process again and again until I complete the first row of hair.
I’ve used all different materials to apply hair to both dolls and costumes; lamb’s wool, synthetic hair from wigs or otherwise, faux fur, real animal fur, human hair, silk roving, you name it. I’ve got to say that of all the materials I have used Tibetan lamb is still my favorite. The extra fine strands are just perfect for a miniature scale and the variety of different colors and textures that you can choose from is really great for so many different projects.
The particular swatch of wool that I used for Lucia’s hair was a second quality piece that I got for a discount, which probably had something to do with the messy erratic texture that was not quite straight and not quite curly. Although it was a little frizzier than average which made it slightly more difficult to work with, I still managed to cover her scalp very evenly.
After I get the first row of hair down I tug at the ends of the locks to make sure that everything is secure. Using my fingers I brush out and remove any loose flyaway hairs that didn’t hold with the rest of them.
Then I move up a couple of centimeters and start on the next row. If I want my character to have a very full and bushy head of hair (which in almost every case, I do) then I really don’t leave a whole lot of space between the two layers at all. Here she is after four or five layers of hair:
As I near the crown of her head, I also start to apply the hair around her ears:
While I was working on her hair I remembered that I had some really cool shimmery iridescent fibers that I wanted to try out on this puppet. I picked up a little bag of them a couple of years ago at this amazing sculpture and art supply store called Earth Guild in Asheville, North Carolina.
They seemed like they would be just the right scale to mimic fairy hair sparkles/hair tinsel like I have in my own hair, so I started adding in a few bunches to Lucia’s hair here and there.
The fibers ended up catching the light just like my own hair sparkles, and they were fun to hide into the locks of hair as I glued them on so you could just see little bits of sparkle poking through. I worked my way up the back of her ears and antlers. At this point she looked like she had some sort of unfortunate disease or strange medieval monk hairstyle:
As I made it to the top of her head, I began to switch the direction of the hair to facing forward:
When I got to her forehead I added lots more thick forward-facing hair to create face-framing layers and bangs. Unfortunately this is the last picture I remembered to take before I did that and finished her up:
To cover up the last bit of glue on the crown of her head, the point where all her layers of hair meet and change direction, I did a trick where I attached a couple final locks of forward-facing hair, waited for the glue to catch, and then flipped them backwards before the glue was entirely dry. It’s another trick that I learned from reading Natasha’s blog and it’s also useful for creating a realistic cowlick, a little extra volume Jersey Shore bump-it style, or even a nice clean part if you use an Exacto blade to manipulate the glue while it is still wet. I wish I took a picture of this step but I guess you’ll just have to believe me again.
I also never took any pictures when I applied the final decorative touches to her hair–it involved arranging some floral craft wire and ribbon into an organic circlet and topping everything off with a big pink bow. Here are some close-ups of what it ended up looking like in the end, which can also serve as a teaser for the rest of the photos of the finished puppet in my next post!