We Are Seven is a one-woman art studio currently producing books, comics, and graphic novels. This blog chronicles my progress.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Emmy and the Ball-Jointed Dolls

(Worst band name in a decade.)

After the completion of Emmy: Self-Titled's prologue, I found myself facing two facts. One was that I loved this project more than ever, and the other was that I had (unsurprisingly) not yet found a puppet I was satisfied with. A previous blog on the matter shows that I finally decided upon a working armature for the Emmy puppet, and I think it worked well for a 3-D comic. However, the puppets/dolls as they are don't stand up on their own and don't change positions fluidly -- two qualities needed for stop-motion puppets.

Although Emmy is an art project in its own right, since the time I decided to render it with puppets and scale sets, I planned to use it as a testing ground for stop-motion puppets. Now, long have I had my eye on the stunning ball-jointed dolls, but their construction looked so intimidating that I never attempted to create one. After trying about a dozen other puppet and doll types, however, I thought I had nothing to lose.

Not wanting to invest too much time learning how to cast in resin before I knew whether or not I'd like BJDs as puppets, my first attempt was in polymer clay. Loosely following this tutorial, I first carved the pieces out of styrofoam.

I then covered them in paper mache...

and finally covered that with Sculpey clay. When baked, the styrofoam shrinks away from the paper mache, leaving a hardened polymer shell.


But yet again, my clay burned and cracked in my toaster oven. :(

(This happens a lot. My oven's lowest temperature is 350. Sculpey and most polymers need to be baked at 275. For the past year I've had this appliance, I thought if I simply baked for less time, everything would work. I was wrong. There's no getting around the fact that you just can't bake polymer clays at a higher temperature.)

So I borrowed my parents' oven. Not wanting to risk an accident involving melting styrofoam, I sculpted new pieces from Sculpey, carefully hollowed them out, and baked them at the proper temperature.

The result was so successful that I then dared to try baking one styrofoam-based piece. It came out beautifully. I think I may have found my new favorite type of puppet.