Mad in Pursuit Notebook

armatures for future polymer clay figurines

Dollmaking Work in Progress: Zuzu and Zim

Jan 23, 2018. I want to make some characters who can sit outside on the porch railing or fence, so the outer surfaces need to be 100% polymer clay. And why not make a couple? How about atavars for me and Jim--my old friends "Zuzu and Zim"? And here's a thought: instead of just blundering my way in, why not be a real artist, with sketches, models, proper armatures, etc.?

Planning. I drew a sketch: fine couple of long-legged pals (see below). Then I pulled out my Art S. Buck artist models, which I've had since the 1980s, always threatening to get rid of because they are always in my way. Finally, they can make themselves useful!

sketch and models

They let me know immediately that two figures with their arms around each other wasn't going to work for me. I'm having trouble enough thinking through the engineering for one.

Armature. I got out the 20 gauge stem wire, to get the basics of torso, legs, arms, and neck. I like the lighter wire, because it's easier to work with and I can always double it up to make it stronger. I wrapped the result in green masking tape to firm up the design and give the clay something better to stick to.

Great tip: for sitting figures, weigh down their butts with a packet of ball bearings. I used lead sinkers from the fishing kit. Wrapped them in foil and taped them in place. It provided each of the dolls with a good center of gravity.

After some more study on armatures, I decided to fix the position of their joints with globs of Apoxie Sculpt, which air-dries rock hard.

Color. Again, trying not to be haphazard, I auditioned various color schemes and picked one common in the art of the American Southwest: ecru, red, rusty orange, purple, green. Fiddling with clay colors and conditioning clay took a whole afternoon. My idea is to play with cane patterns to build Zuzu and Zim's clothes. Ambitious.

Now what? (1) Heads and faces. Hard. Pre-bake. (2) Decide whether or not to add some aluminum foil to their torsos, so that my clay doesn't get too thick and not bake well. (3) Maybe more sketching--what do I want their clothes to look like? (4) Apply a base layer of clay to the figures. Black? White? A color? This step probably needs to include hands. Pre-bake? (5) Start making canes and veneers. (6) Put it all together.



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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