Mad in Pursuit Notebook

polymer clay head with grapes: Bacchus

Dollmaking: "Bacchus"

Dec. 14, 2017. My success in making the doll "Night" with found materials got me excited about trying polymer clay again, at least for faces, and excited in general for a return to dollmaking. This learning history looks at my process.

Material. Research suggested my previous clay frustration was due to using the cheapest possible Sculpey. While I waited for my order of higher grade Fimo and Cernit to arrive, I found I had a small cake of red Soft Fimo. So... practice! For eyes I picked out a couple millefiore beads from my stash. Mismatched, no matter.

Also watched a crazy number of videos on polymer clay.

Observation. Polymer clay faces are difficult. My red one turned out better than expected. Rather than start fresh with new clay, what could I make of it? It's RED -- color of anger and devils. I have no time to waste on Satan. Thanksgiving came... autumn... wine...overindulgence... Bacchus! God of wine, song, and dance! Perched on an empty wine bottle! Eat, drink, and be merry!

Materials. The wine bottle seemed disproportionate to the head, but I had to stop being so literal. Do it.

Found a stick outside for arms. Nature.

Scavenged my textiles for clothes. Found a colorful Jacquard-weave napkin from a dye experiment -- it had a grape pattern! That made me dig out a long Victorian embroidery rescued from a silver belt buckle -- more grapes!

Auditioned jewelry embellishments. Narrowed it down to a purple-y necklace someone made for me ages ago. It had a lovely wire-wrapped "heart." Also in the running, some garnet beads we got in Thailand.

Process. Baked the head once, then crafted green vines and grapes for a crown. Dusted with Pearl-Ex mica and baked again.

Wired the head, stick, and bottle together. Very wobbly. Finally faced the challenge of learning to use Apoxie Sculpt, which I'd purchased in a fever but never used. It was easy! And it provided Bacchus with the trapezius and deltoid muscles he needed to be both exuberant and stable.

Image below: Bacchus in process.

Bacchus doll in process

Image below: Bacchus complete. The napkin toga got stitched together down the sides and finished at the neckline. For his cloak, the embroidery was stitched to a length of madder-dyed flour-sack towel. I could have cinched his coat with the garnet beads, but he felt more open-hearted without them.

Bacchus doll finished

Final thoughts. I like working without a plan -- like writing without an outline. The work has more frustrations but is full of happy surprises. Learning to work the clay and discovering how to use various finishing techniques makes me feel powerful -- a magician figuring out new tricks. A lot of what I've done this autumn is as sophisticated as craft night in the old-folks home. But mastery of a few new tricks might lead me closer to making something really beautiful.

Wine poured.


THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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