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1  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Discussion and Questions / Mr. Clean's Secret! on: August 26, 2016 09:51:28 AM
I recently found out the "truth" about Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, at a doll blog I read, and thought I'd share it here too, as it was interesting (at least to me).  I had always thought that those Magic Erasers were chemical in nature, but, as it turns out, they're really nothing more than the equivalent of very fine sand paper, and the stuff's "proper" name is Melamine Foam.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melamine_foam

So, if you use a lot of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, you can actually get them cheaper if you search for similar products made from that substance.
2  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Doll Invasion & Repairs (Warning: Way too many photos--for realz!) on: August 03, 2016 10:12:41 AM


How many photos can you put in one post before Craftster breaks? And to think, some members put "lots of pictures" in their subject lines when they only have something like ten of them. When the king of photo spammers issues such a warning, he's not messing around!:D

Pottermouth has been sorting through tons of toys lately, and, very generously, she offered to send me a free box of things that she, and other family members, had weeded out! I often buy blind-bagged random assortments of toys from thrift stores, so, getting this package from Pottermouth was almost like one of those, just on a larger/grander scale! Yes, I already have way too many dolls, but I never let that stop me from acquiring even more!









So, what all was inside that magic box? Well, I'm a gonna tell/show you!

Some 11-12" Mattel Disney Princesses. Cinderella (plus a little Gus mouse figurine), The Princess and The Frog Tiana, and The Little Mermaid Bride Ariel. I have several Ariels, but no bride version, a bunch of small Cinderellas, but not a larger one like this, and no Tianas at all, so, all three are useful to me. I haven't watched The Princess and the Frog in quite a while, so, I can't remember if she ever wore blue or not (I usually see dolls of her wearing green), but the dress Tiana has on strikes me as a Cinderella one. Rainbow Dash is adamant that Pottermouth also sent Jaq but Gus ate his rodent pal on the way here . . . I told her that it doesn't make any sense that Gus would eat Jaq instead of the cupcake (see below), but there's no reasoning with that pegasus.



Two Polly Pocket style Disney Princess dolls, Belle and Snow White (wearing rubbery Polly-Stretch garments). I love these things, and, while I didn't have Snow White, I already do have this Belle, but my version doesn't have all of those extra roses all over the front of the gown's skirt like this one does, and Beast never says "no" to more Belles (he is an animal after all, what did you expect?) One of the off-the-shoulder straps on Belle's gown is ripped, but, for practical purposes, it doesn't really matter much because the rubbery material retains its sculpted shape, and I've torn Polly-Stretch garments myself in the past, even when I'm being careful (they can rip/snap pretty easily if you stretch them too far).

I also got two different Dopeys, Sneezy, and Sleepy dwarf figurines. I have some other Snow White Dwarf toys in my collection, but not these particular ones. A firm believer that all jokes should be run into the ground, Rainbow Dash gravely informed me that, after eating Jaq, Gus was still hungry, so, he proceeded to devour Grumpy, Doc, Happy, and Bashful too, which is why they're absent. She also insists that Dopeys reproduce via fission and that the resulting pair are even less competent than the original, as they had to split a brain between them. Did I mention that Rainbow Dash failed biology? Twice.



Five-inch Disney Fairies, left-to-right, Rosetta, Tinker Bell, and Periwinkle (Tink's sister). I thought that I had this Rosetta, but she's actually slightly different than the ones I already have; likewise, this Tink isn't the same as my others, and, while I do have a larger Periwinkle doll, I didn't have one in this scale at all. Besides, there's no such thing as too many fairies in my opinion! Sadly, while you can't see it in this photo, Tinker Bell's plastic wings are ripped in half and they're missing the attachment peg that secures them to the hole in her back. That's actually pretty typical; thin plastic fairy wings on dolls tend to be very fragile in general (fabric ones hold up a lot better)--in my experience, most secondhand fairy dolls that I find have either missing or broken wings. But, fear not, that shall be corrected shortly!



Pottermouth also included a large selection of Disney Fairy dresses, footwear, and some accessories. Only Rosetta's pink dress is fabric, all the rest of them are rubbery ones that close in the back with button/hole arrangements (they don't stretch like the previously messed Polly-Stretch clothing though). While they all have clothes, several of the Disney Fairies in my collection were lacking shoes, so I appreciate the extra footwear, and you can never have too many dresses (or so I'm told, as I don't wear them, I wouldn't know)! All of the Disney Fairies I already have came with fabric clothing, not this rubbery sculpted variety, so that difference was interesting. While I'm not absolutely certain that they're Disney Fairy items, I grouped the ladle, purse, and spoon here because they have that rustic, nature-made look that Tink and her friend's usually favor.



A trio of Barbie dolls. The first one has freckles, so she's probably one of Barbie's friends or family members, rather than Barb herself (Midge is sometimes given freckles, but she's usually a redhead, not blonde). The first and third both have '98 heads and '99 bodies, while the one in the middle has a '76 head and '66 body, but I very much doubt that she's actually that old, because Mattel loves to play mix-and-match Dr. Frankenstein with their doll parts, and they seldom change the years molded on the individual pieces, as such, just because a Barbie has a particular date on it, never assume that was the year in which it was actually produced. The Barbie on the far right's legs are molded in pink vinyl (but her panties are flesh tone, like her torso, which looks rather bizarre when she's undressed), so she permanently has tights. I like all three of these ladies, so, I can't pick a favorite from this group.



And here's a Disney Tangled Flynn Rider (a.k.a., Eugene Fitzherbert), dressed in princely attire, rather than his usual travel clothes, and two more Barbies.



I have several Tangled Rapunzels, but this is my first Flynn, and, as you can see, that's going to be a problem. A firm believer in (literal) Occam's Razor, Rainbow Dash offered to chop him up into pieces so that each Rapunzel could have her own chunk of Flynn, but I passed on that suggestion.



Unfortunately, the center Barbie's head/neck is broken. When I opened the box, her head was pushed way down onto the neck, to keep it in place, and I thought to myself, "Well, that's the shortest neck on a Barbie doll I've ever seen.", and, as soon as I started messing around with her noggin, it came off and I knew why! She must have ticked off the Red Queen. Her left hand is also a little chewed up, possibly from the teeth of a pet. Our cat likes to gnaw on my toys from time-to-time, and he almost always goes after projections like fingers, toes, and horns.





The Butterfly Barbie on the far right is also interesting in that she has a wind-up, motorized wing flapping mechanism on her back, but, alas, no wings to go with it. That will be corrected by the end of the thread!



Pictured is a trio of Kelly (Barbie's youngest sister) dolls. Mattel renamed her Chelsea in 2010, but these dolls all seem to predate that event anyway. My favorite is the winter-themed one of the far left; I love her outfit and using a white pom-pom as a snowball was particularly clever in my opinion. The center one appears to be dressed as an angel, and I don't trust the one on the far right, because she's got Monster High-esque fangs painted on her lips (while her current attire doesn't reflect that, she's probably a Halloween-themed vampire Kelly)!



Pottermouth also gave me a huge (one of those gallon volume ones) Ziploc bag full of 12" doll clothing. You can never have too many garments in your doll wardrobe. I seriously have more doll attire than clothing for myself, but then, I mostly go around in jeans and a hoodie 95% of the time, so, it's not like I need much anyway. And, yes, I've been stopped/questioned by the police, on more than one occasion, just because I was wearing a hoodie with the hood up. Remember: hoodie = degenerate criminal, no hoodie = law-abiding citizen. Nine-times-out-of-ten, when a crime is committed where I live, and the police are looking for the perpetrator, they usually say to watch out for a guy in a baseball cap and a hoodie, which describes a large percentage of the male population in my area, including myself, making said description almost useless. Besides, any criminal with two brain cells to rub together is going to change/dispose of their attire if they know witnesses saw them wearing it whilst performing the crime in question, right?



I tried to roughly organize things by garment type, and match tops with bottoms, but I wasn't entirely successful. Please note that the ones that Pottermouth sent the dolls dressed in aren't pictured here.













Care Bear figurines, left-to-right, Cheer Bear, Tenderheart Bear (maybe . . . his fur color and appearance are right, but his tummy symbol is different than I'm used to), Wish Bear, Grumpy Bear, and Share Bear. They're more modern designs (from the Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot 2007-2008 cartoon I believe), but still super cute. I used to watch the original cartoon regularly when I was a kid, and I have some plush Care Bears/Cousins, and a couple of the new Just Play blind bag figurines, but none of these.



A small red Hello Kitty storage box (that, while not pictured, Pottermouth packed several of the Disney Fairy shoes/boots into) and a charm that seems to depict Hello Kitty as some kind of marshmallow-like sandwich treat with a smaller chocolate cookie charm connected above that. I have LOTS of Hello Kitty toys (mostly McDonald's and Mega Bloks ones), but I didn't have either of these two items.



A quartet of Domo-kun charms (he's the famous mascot for the Japanese broadcasting company NHK if you're not familiar with him), a devil, a mustachioed one, and a pair sporting gold necklaces that would make Mr. T envious. I have a couple of larger Domo-kun figurines, including a cool flocked rapper one, but I didn't have any of these.

Now, if you're wondering how this Japanese mascot gained a foothold in America, and elsewhere, I'm afraid that the answer is rather sordid. You see, years ago, people online started sharing a fake public service announcement photo, that depicted Domo-kuns chasing a cat, with the text "Every time you masturbate . . . God kills a kitten (Please, think of the kittens)." Which was soon followed by a similar response photo, showing felines hunting a Domo-kun, that bore the legend, "Every time you send that @#$%*&! picture . . . God kills a Domo-kun (Please, think of the Domo-kuns)." Things snowballed from there to the point that a lot of people online around the world instantly recognized who Domo-kun was, despite having little to no familiarity with his Japanese origins. That was my first exposure to the character as well (and I still have those dumb Domo-kun/kitten pictures saved on my hard drive, even after all these years).



A pair of Shopkins shopping bags. Shopkins are little blind-bagged figures that depict food, cosmetics, household items/appliances, etc. with cute faces. I think they're cool, but, at the moment, I only have one (a red dress) and a children's sticker/story book of the characters. Even so, these work well as bag accessories for larger dolls like Barbie.



This final assortment is mostly odds-and-ends that didn't specifically fit in with the other things or that I'm uncertain about. Out of the three brushes, I only recognize the silver, key-shaped Ever After High one--those will all be going into my giant Ziploc bag of doll combs/brushes. The little fairy doll is Polly Pocket--secondhand Polly Pocket play sets are often missing these tiny dolls, so, it never hurts to have more of those. Her fairy wings were coming apart (the iridescent front material was peeling back from the webbing on the back), but a little white glue fixed that up right quick. The red running dude is DC's Flash, from a 2011 McDonald's Batman: The Brave and the Bold toy assortment. I think I've got that same baby bottle in yellow, but I can't remember what it's from--maybe it'll fit in my baby G3.5 Rainbow Dash's mouth. And an extra pitcher, glasses, spoon, cupcake, etc. are always useful for diorama displays.



Anyhoo, this is a crafting community, so, I'd better actually do some of that instead of just posting photos of, and writing about, toys, or I'm going to get into terrible trouble, right?

Let's start with 2000 Flying Butterfly Barbie and her missing wings. The first thing that I did was search online, on eBay and Amazon in particular, to find some good, close-up photos of the doll and her wings to use as reference models. I then did some calculations, in a spreadsheet, based on the dimensions of the actual doll as well as two of said photos, to determine the approximate height/width the wings needed to be. This spreadsheet may, or may not, make sense to you, but my math told me that I should make said flapping appendages 9.5 cm wide by 10.7 cm high, that's all that matters!



Once I had that figured out to my satisfaction, using the GIMP art program, I placed a black grid overlay on top of one of the photos to aid me in replicating the wing's shape on paper.



This is my paper template, transferred from the photo via drawing the contents of the individual grid squares onto it. I then took this, placed another piece of paper on top of it, held both up against my bedroom window's glass (to provide the necessary light for tracing; you can use a lightbox too, but, I never bother with that during the day time when the sun is easier and free) and traced it, twice, onto the other piece of paper, glued said copies onto cardstock, played some Freecell and Klondike solitaire on my computer for a little bit to allow them time to dry, and then cut them out. Voila, wings!



Here are the working, cardboard prototypes (made from a box of Cookie Crisp cereal--I don't want to live in a world where tiny cookies aren't an essential part of a nutritious breakfast!) I had to tweak the shapes of the wings, where they connect to the flapping mechanism, a little bit, but, other than that, the initial fit was near perfect.



These are the finished plastic wings, which I cut out of transparent sheet plastic from a toy package. I didn't have any hot pink paint, so, I went with purple instead. Surprisingly, at least to me, the cardboard wings actually worked better than these plastic ones. While they're functional, due to how thin and flexible the material I used is, the tops of the purple wings wobble when they flutter, not unlike gelatin. I should have used thicker and more rigid plastic than I did. The stuff I employed works fine for transparent wings on the tinier figures that I sculpt, but, I have a tendency to forget that things don't always behave the same way when making larger objects. I also considered making her some alternative bat and bird wings, so that she could play succubus and angel, but, after working on these projects, I had my fill of tinkering with dolls for the time being.

This dress came from the bags of clothing that Pottermouth gave (and seemed appropriately fairy-like to me), but I stole the white boots from my Pink Label Hello Kitty Barbie. Oh, and if you're wondering what that hook, sticking up between her wings, is for, the original toy came with a zip line, attached to a butterfly wand, that you could use to make the doll "fly" from one spot to another. And, no, I'm not going to make one!







On to Tinker Bell. Here's a closer look at her broken wings, torn in half and missing the connection peg that plugs into the hole in Tink's back. She must have had a bad run-in with Captain Hook!



Unlike Butterfly Barbie, I didn't have to do any research online or mathematical calculations before I could fix Tink's wings, because Periwinkle's intact pair are identical, except for the color/pattern, so I already had the perfect model to take measurements from. Here are the three components of the peg connector piece that I fabricated from scratch, using paper, cereal box cardboard (Cookie Crisp is magic stuff I tell you!), wire, and white glue. The original peg was made from transparent plastic, but, to replicate that, I would have had to make molds, and cast the pieces in transparent resin or something similar (which would have taken a LOT of extra time and work that I was not willing to invest, no matter how much Tink pouted), so, my replacement pieces are opaque.



Those components finished, I painted them spring green, to match Tink's usual garment color choice, joined the broken wings with super glue, and then assembled and glued all of the pieces back together again to complete my repair job. Voila, Tinker Bell flies again, pirates beware! You can still see the crack lines where the wings were broken, but, all-in-all, they're not too bad. In retrospect, perhaps I should have painted the back square of the peg assembly sky blue, rather than green, as that would have matched that side of the wings better.





Finally, let's reattach decapitated Barbie's head. Thankfully, inside the neck, the horizontally-orientated plastic cylinder that the missing neck post would attach to was still intact, otherwise, that would have made things much more difficult, as I wouldn't even have anything to attach a new neck post to! The first thing I did was bend a piece of wire into a hook shape and went "fishing" with it, inside the neck hole, to catch it around said cylinder. Once I had the wire looped around that, I took a pair of tweezers and pulled the short end of the hook, elongating the wire again until both ends were the same length. I then twisted the two ends together, at the cylinder, to fix the wire in place. I actually had to do this twice, because, the first time, I twisted the wire too much, which put kinks in it, so the wire wasn't straight enough for the shaft of the neck post I made to slip over it.



Next, I fabricated the new neck post out of (what else?) paper, cardboard, wire, and white glue, copying the structural design from a photograph (you'll know that you're serious about dolls, and that your life is really sad, when you just happen to have a comprehensive collection of doll neck post images, from multiple toy manufacturers, saved on your hard drive). After all, I wasn't about to rip a head off one of my "good" Barbies, potentially breaking her, just to get a look at another neck post to use as a model for this damaged one! If you're not familiar with Barbie doll construction, the idea here is that, after jamming the neck post inside her head, the little pointed "wings" on the post catch on the interior rim of the head's hole, keeping her melon in place. Doll heads can be a royal pain to get on/off without damaging the neck (and this one is already cracked to begin with). Normally, you can heat the head/neck, with hot water or a hair dryer, to soften the plastic up and make the removal or insertion somewhat easier, but, as my neck post isn't made out of plastic, that probably wouldn't help all that much in this case.



That said, I didn't have a hard time getting Barbie's head onto the neck post at all; it went on the first try. It's not a perfect fit though; Barbie's head is a bit loose, and sits a little high, but her noggin stays on now, and that's what's important. And, on the upside, that does allow the neck joint to tilt/lean at sharper angles . . . and she can headbang to heavy metal music. If I were to do this all over again, I'd make the shaft of the neck post several millimeters shorter and reduce the space between the post's "wings" and disc, to get a tighter fit. While there is definitely room for improvement, this was also the first time I had ever made a new Barbie doll neck post from scratch, so, I'm just happy it even worked and that her cracked neck didn't shatter from the stress I subjected it to.



Sadly, when I stripped this Barbie down to work on her (to keep glue and other debris from getting on her dress), I also discovered more damage. She's got unsightly discolored/bleached spots on the vinyl of her right thigh and buttock--this poor girl can't catch any breaks! While I would never buy a doll in this condition, having one like this to try repair techniques on is good practice, and, if I ever get ambitious enough (don't hold your breath), maybe I'll customize her into someone, or something, else someday.



My wife is VERY unhappy with Pottermouth (she HATES my out-of-control toy collection). "Why is some woman in another state sending YOU dolls in the mail?", she demands to know. I keed, I keed. I'm not married. Cheesy



Well, that's it. If you actually read the entire post, you deserve a medal or something! Many thanks again to Pottermouth for generously contributing a box of goodies to my toy/doll addiction!
3  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Just doing my part to keep Barbie's termites fed on: July 15, 2016 10:08:56 AM


A while ago, I was about to buy a big book of paper airplane models, but then I said to myself, "Fool, when are you ever going to make a bunch of paper airplanes, and what on Earth would you do with them if you did? Besides, you've got a bunch of other art and craft kits at home that you haven't done anything with!" That's true enough, thus, I decided I needed to start working on some of those projects, in order to have something to justify my buying habits with and counter that inner voice the next time it tries to stop me from wasting money, and, so, here we are!

When I pick up secondhand doll houses, they're often unfurnished, or at least only partially so, thus, when the opportunity to acquire some scale model furniture presents itself, and the price is right, I usually bite. I also enjoy building/assembling stuff, so, in my opinion, anytime an individual can combine multiple hobbies into one activity, they should go for it, as your enjoyment will be multiplied.





Surprisingly, other than some shelf wear on the outer packaging, this this vintage 1988 Superior Marketing Products Wooden Mini Furniture Dining Room Set item was in great shape and had never been opened or used until I purchased it. I very much doubt that something like this would be worth much of anything, but, still, to find a product, almost factory-fresh, twenty-eight years after it was produced doesn't happen everyday. The kit still had its original price sticker on the front too, which was $4.99 (I paid a scandalous fifty cents). I don't know what a similar item would go for these days, but, due to inflation, I would guess at least $10.



Punching the furniture components out of the pair of pre-cut wooden boards was pretty easy to do, although you'll want to be careful with how much force you apply, particularly on the thinner bits like the legs of the chairs and table, to avoid damaging them. I did find the material (there's a thicker layer of brown wood, sandwiched between veneers of paler-colored wood, balsa perhaps) to be pretty tough--none of the pieces cracked or broke on me at any point during the removal or assembly process. I had to use the blunt end of a needle to get the two small circles out of the cabinet's top, simply because my fingers were too big to perform the job, but everything else I did with my hands alone.



The manufacturer also supplied a small square of sandpaper to clean up the edges of the wood and widen/shorten the slots/tabs as needed. My table and cabinet went together with very little trouble (they were actually on the loose side, so, I applied white glue to those to make them sturdier and hold the components together more securely), while the chairs were very tight and several of the tabs required multiple sandings and test fittings to get everything properly assembled. On the upside, that meant that the chairs didn't need any adhesive.



Here's a shot of the four chairs in various states of completion:



And this is what the fully constructed Dining Room set looks like. Some of the individual components weren't perfectly symmetrical, so everything isn't exactly flush/square, but the results are still pretty good all things considered. I did contemplate filling in and smoothing all of the tab/slot joins, painting or staining the furniture, adding decoupage decorations, making cushions for the seats and a tablecloth for the table, etc., but, on the other hand, I liked the look of them as-is (that, and I'm far too lazy to perform any of the previously mentioned improvements). Besides, if I was going to invest that kind of time and effort, I might as well have just designed and made the furniture from scratch while I was at it. Sure, the visible slots/tabs are somewhat unattractive, but I would argue that also gives them an authentic doll house look.







This was just something that I had to do, to see if I could successfully balance all of the furniture on top of one another or not. I like to imagine my toys collaborating and using this technique to reach a door knob, raid the cookie jar, or enact some other kind of mischief, when I'm not around to witness it!



Speaking of dollies, it's time for a gallery of them displayed with the furniture. I strongly suspect that a pixie-dust-and-energon-laced moonshine drinking contest was going on here, but I didn't dare ask, 'cuz I know Rainbow Dash would just tell me to mind my own business and bounce a horseshoe off of my forehead to emphasize her point. The other three characters are a JAKKS Pacific Disney Fairies Tinker Bell, a Hasbro Transformers Action Masters Devastator (a Transformer that doesn't transform--lame!), and a Playskool Definitely Dinosaurs! caveman (nobody online seems to know this particular character's name). My Little Pony Rainbow Dash, the alien plant (a Phantasy Star II Kite Dragon) on the cabinet, and the liquor bottles and bowl on the table were all made by me from scratch.



Three Strawberry Shortcakes (the one in the center is an older Bandai one, the two flanking her are more recent Hasbro dolls) about to enjoy a purple cake (which, for their sakes, I dearly hope that they didn't get from The Peculiar Purple Pieman). I'd tell you that there was a fourth doll that fell off her chair and out of the shot, but, this trio of redheads are berry certain that never happened.



Several MGA Lalaloopsy Mini dolls (clock-wise, from (blue-haired) Marina Anchors: Blossom Flower Pot, Crumbs Sugar Cookie, Peppy Pom Poms, Peanut Big Top, and Ember Flicker Flame) plotting how to steal children's souls, er, I mean planning Saturday's slumber party.



A Mattel Fashionista Barbie, her poodle (everything she owns has to be pink, it's the law), Kelly/Chelsea and Lorena child dolls, and, just because he happened to have the pose I needed for a dog sneaking out of a cabinet, Disney's Pluto. The furniture is far too small for 11-12" figures, unless you use it, in conjunction with child dolls like these, for a classroom or playroom type arrangement.



Here's a bunch of tiny stuff that I've made over the years (accessories for other figures) crammed onto the cabinet's two shelves. You may spot a helicopter, teddy bear, cutlass, bat, radish, book, bottle, vase, banana, key, bag of money, flower, and flamethrower tank, amongst other things. There's enough friction present that the doors stay closed, even if you tip them so that they're facing the ground, so, the cabinet would actually work pretty well for storing miniscule items like this long term.



For comparison purposes, here are (1) a wingback armchair, scaled for Barbie-sized 11-12" figures, that I made from scratch in 2014 and based on a combination of a real one in the house and a photograph of a Collins model that I found in one of my Home Decorators Collection catalogs, and (2) a rather dusty Castlevania: Symphony of the Night "Ouija Table" creature (poltergeist-possessed dilapidated furniture) that I fabricated, also from scratch, in 2009, which accommodates figures about 2.5" in height (assuming the demonic thing would ever permit anyone to sit on it that is). I wasn't blowing smoke when I wrote earlier that I could have made the Dining Room Set from scratch if I wanted to. Cheesy





Given the choice, I think I would have preferred the Living Room set, as that's a more versatile play/display environment in my opinion, but this Dining Room set would have been my second pick, so, I can't complain, especially not for the small sum I paid. Besides, if the store had somehow miraculously possessed all four kits, I likely would have bought the whole shebang, as each furniture collection has its own appeal and I'm not known for restraint.

I have other slot-together toy sets in my collection, namely dinosaur skeletons and a car (I almost bought a similar horse model several months ago too, but, its' tail was badly damaged), but this is the first set of furniture in said style that I've ever owned. I've always liked the "magic" involved in taking a bunch of 2-dimensional planes and re-arranging or folding them into a 3-dimensional structure, which is one of the primary reasons I love paper/cardboard sculpture so much.
4  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Something Horrid on: June 20, 2016 07:49:30 AM
 
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I "fake-swapped" (i.e., worked on a themed project without actually exchanging it with anyone) this figure for Craftster's Monster Swap Round 6. The object of said challenge was to make some creature-themed artwork, which is pretty much all that I churn out 90% of the time anyway.  I only needed one more point to make my 4-point quota, and this is it, although it did take considerably longer than 2 hours to craft it.

This unpleasant-looking thing is a "Carrion". They're malicious roadkill (that are still alive and very dangerous, despite their broken bodies) which can be encountered in Konami's 2007 Silent Hill: Origins video game (said software was originally titled as Silent Hill: Zero in Japan, because, chronologically, it's a prequel to the first Silent Hill). Carrions come in two sizes, large and gigantic, although both version behave the same.

The supernatural forces that hold sway over the cursed town of Silent Hill like to take an individual's emotional baggage and manifest those feelings and ideas as twisted creatures. The Carrion represents Travis Grady's (the game's protagonist) revulsion and guilt over the many animals that he has seen killed along the roadside, and run over himself, during his career as a trucker. Although the consequences of their attacks on Travis are all too real (i.e., if a Carrion kills him, he really dies), these creatures don't truly exist, as they're phantasmal constructs that generally only Travis can see and interact with--if you or I were in Silent Hill at the same time as Travis, we might observe him assaulting or fleeing from what appeared to be thin air, or, worse, we might see an all together different monstrosity based on our own psychological hang-ups!

 
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Walking up to a huge, violent creature and whacking it with a shovel always ends well . . .

Provided that he keeps his distance, Carrions will often ignore Travis, content to just sluggishly, and mindlessly, drag/push their mangled bodies about (this pitiful means of locomotion is probably a direct result of multiple bone fractures and/or partial paralysis). However, if Travis does draw near, the Carrion's memories of its death under the wheels of human drivers will awaken, and, enraged, the beast will vigorously attack, seeking revenge. As you can probably guess, trying to engage one of these abominations in close quarters combat isn't the best idea, as they can move very swiftly when they want to and have the size and power to toss Travis around like a rag doll (that said, turning off your flashlight, sneaking up behind one, and striking at its' defenseless posterior is a tactic that can work well). It's wiser to just avoid them altogether in wide open spaces, but, if you have to engage a Carrion (and you will, as they sometimes block narrow passages through which you must travel), it's better to use firearms, or other projectile weapons, to hit them from a distance, rather than provoking a direct confrontation in which you will likely suffer injury.

 
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Carrion anatomy is somewhat ambiguous, but it's definitely a mammal, and most likely a canine of some sort.

Instead of feelings of fear or revulsion, these monsters just make me sad--I've seen far too many dead animals smeared across the asphalt in my life. I've never driven over an animal myself (not because I'm some kind of awesome motorist or anything, I just don't drive), but, I still have the misfortune of seeing the results of those mishaps on a regular basis, as I do a lot of walking/hiking along the local roads and highways every week. That waste of life is always a depressing, and often disturbing, sight, but, short of never leaving the house, those gory discoveries are inevitable. I understand that hitting an animal is often unavoidable, and that attempting to swerve around them can be dangerous to both you and other drivers in crowded traffic, but, on the other hand, I've also known individuals that purposely and gleefully run over animals whenever the opportunity arises, even swerving out of their way to hit and kill them, and proudly boast of it after the fact. I daresay that meeting a Carrion in a dark alley would be exactly what that kind of person deserves.

This Carrion figure came together relatively quickly and easily for me. Only the four appendages have wire reinforcement inside, but, as they're lying on the ground anyway, the front legs really didn't need that support anyway (although it did help with posing said limbs). Here's how the Carrion looked at the end of the first day of work:

 
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And this is the figure on the second day, with the first two coats of paint applied (ignoring the white teeth and red maw, this mottled gray coloration makes the creature look like it was petrified by Medusa to me). It took a lot of subsequent washes and dry brushing to get the sickly look of the damaged and rotted flesh right. I also managed to lose the tiny tongue on the carpet at one point, which was difficult to locate again (I intentionally created that element as a separate piece because it'd have made painting the teeth and interior of the mouth difficult if it had been attached).

 
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Here's the final result. I'm not sure why I wanted to craft a figure depicting roadkill--I had sat down at my desk planning to make a Dryad from either Wizardry: Staff of Restoration or Princess Minerva, but, as often happens, I ended up creating something entirely different instead. I also hadn't modeled any new Silent Hill monstrosities in a little over five years (and this is my twenty-sixth one, believe it or not), so, maybe it was just overdue.

 
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Group photo of all three projects I made for Monster Swap 6:

 
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Materials:
Newsprint, tissue paper, wire twist ties, white glue, and acrylic paint.

Dimensions:
3.2 cm (1.3") wide x 5.7 cm (2.2") long x 2.7 cm (1.1") high.

Time:
Two days; June 18th and 19th, 2016.

 
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5  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Eat your greens before they eat you! on: June 06, 2016 11:02:50 AM


I "fake-swapped" (i.e., worked on a themed project without actually exchanging it with anyone) this figure for Craftster's Monster Swap Round 6. The object of said challenge was to make some creature-themed artwork, which is pretty much all that I churn out 90% of the time anyway.  I purposely chose this monster because I felt that it's relatively simple physiology would translate into a 1-point project, time-wise, but things didn't work out that way, and it took well over two hours to make.  Anyhoo, 3 points down, 1 more to go!

This is a "Two-Headed Grave Pot", which are mobile, carnivorous flora that can be encountered in From Software's 1996 King's Field III video game (said title was re-numbered as King's Field II in North America, because the first Japanese game wasn't localized and released here, thus, the real King's Field II was treated as King's Field I when it was published in this region of the world, screwing up the numbering system).

Grave Pots slowly creep about, using their three stubby roots as legs, and, when they sense something edible nearby (typically birds or mammals, including humans), they will begin to emit small clouds of poison, from their circular mouths, in the direction of their intended prey. These toxic vapors are easily absorbed through the skin and physical contact with this floating miasma will result in immediate and severe sickness--in only a minute or two, the victim will rapidly weaken, and, in most cases, succumb to the poison and collapse, allowing the approaching Grave Pot to easily feed upon the dying and helpless target. The "normal" Grave Pot species only has one head stalk, but this more dangerous variation sports two, allowing it to produce twice as much poison, with the pair typically alternating, and coordinating, their emissions to more efficiently bring down prey. Two-Headed Grave Pots also have an additional 50 hit points (350 to the Grave Pot's 300) and are worth a bit more experience (35 points, compared to the basic model's 28). Fortunately, these plants are relatively slow and easy to outmaneuver, or evade altogether, so, provided that you're careful to avoid contact with their poisonous exhalations (and you had better have some medicinal herbs in your pack, or know how to cast an antidote spell, in the event that you don't), they're not terribly difficult to dispatch or escape. Grave Pots are also quite flammable, but, it's generally wiser to save your precious magic points for more dangerous foes, and/or healing, instead of using that spiritual energy to torch these critters with fire spells.


In-game description of a Two-Headed Grave Pot when analyzed with the Truth Glass item.


Screenshot of a Two-Headed Grave Pot in the wild.
Several fungi "Stool" monsters, which are also quite toxic, can also be seen in the background.
Alas, Stools and Grave Pots don't perceive each other as threats or prey, so they won't fight one another instead of you.



For comparison purposes, here's a screenshot of a pair of normal, single-stalked Grave Pots (the pink vapor suspended in the air is one of their poisonous emissions).
And, yes, King's Field III's polygonal graphics are pretty terrible by today's standards, but, hey, it was twenty years ago, that was amazing stuff back then! Well, not amazing exactly, but kind of impressive . . . maybe.


Here's the starting wire armature, covered with a single layer of newsprint (additional paper strips stick much better to that than naked wire). While I could have made this figure without that internal metal support, it would have been rather unwise to do so, as the stems could snap in half on me during handling, and they'd probably also wilt over time under the weight of the heads. The wire also made tweaking the positioning of the stems/roots much easier.



Pictured is the root and stem structure more fully developed, along with the separate heads, which I modeled around a metal cylinder to make the mouths hollow. The six added leaf supports also have wire running through them, again, primarily to prevent me from accidentally snapping said structures off. The teeth, on the other hand, do not, as they're short enough that they're far less likely to get snagged on anything and suffer damage.



And this is what the finished model looked like, just prior to beginning painting. The brown "stains" are actually scorch marks from my woodburner, which I used to smooth/harden the figure and do some detailing.



Here's the final result. While it didn't come out terrible or anything, I have to say that I'm not overly impressed with the outcome either. I think part of my ambivalence is that the Two-Headed Grave Pot is a silly-looking, low-polygon monster to begin with--I like the upper design of the creature, but I dislike the simple "Y" arrangement of the root legs. At one point, I did try making those structures more complex and realistic, with many more branching roots, but, then they weren't on-model anymore, which also didn't sit well with me (I'm impossible to please like that), so, I ripped my alterations off.













Materials:
Newsprint, wire twist ties, white glue, and acrylic paint.

Dimensions:
3.4 cm (1.3") wide x 3.0 cm (1.2") long x 3.7 cm (1.5") high.

Time:
Two days; June 4th and 5th, 2016.





6  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Little Miss Muffet didn't stand a chance on: June 01, 2016 09:47:48 AM
 
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I "fake-swapped" (i.e., worked on a themed project without actually exchanging it with anyone) this figure for Craftster's Monster Swap Round 6. The object of said challenge was to make some creature-themed artwork, which is pretty much all that I churn out 90% of the time anyway.  Technically, this item would be worth 3 points, crafting time-wise, but, as far as said swap's parameters go, I'll call this my 2-pointer, still leaving me with a pair of 1-pointers left to complete, by June 20th, in order to meet the 2-1-1 point value distribution for the total 4-point quota.  Math is fun, just like finding spiders nesting in your bag of embroidery floss.

 This is an "Arachne", half woman, half spider monstrosities that can be encountered prowling about amongst the dusty bookshelves of the Study area in Konami's 2003 Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow video game. Arachnes attack by . . . um . . . lactating high-pressure streams of silk webbing from the nipples of their breasts in a machine gun-like fashion (I don't even want to know how that works, but somebody may have been thinking of Austin Powers' Fembots). If nothing else, it's a highly unusual and creative way to produce that substance!

 
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Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow Arachne in-game bestiary entry.

 
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Got spider milk? Don't want any? Too bad. She insists!

In Greek mythology, Arachne was a mortal woman so skilled at weaving that her masterpieces rivaled, and even surpassed, that of the gods, and she was none too shy about boasting of her skill at the loom, nor did she show proper humility in crediting and thanking said deities for the artistic ability and creativity that they had bestowed upon her. Naturally, this did not sit very well with the gods at all, and Athena in particular, thus, She challenged Arachne to a weaving contest in order to teach her a lesson. However, much to Athena's dismay, not only did Arachne win the ensuing competition, but, in her boundless arrogance, Arachne foolishly chose to antagonize her divine opponent even further with the tapestry that she wove, which depicted the loves and transgressions of the gods. Like most deities, Athena was a very poor loser and didn't take insults lightly. Enraged, She destroyed Arachne's creation, slashed the woman's face, and transformed the prideful Arachne into a spider as punishment for her hubris (pissing off a god or goddess is never a good idea). In another version of the myth, Arachne lost to Athena and, shamed, committed suicide by hanging herself. Feeling pity for the dead woman, Athena brought Arachne back to life, albeit in spider form. Beyond its value as a parable, Arachne's sad tale was also the ancient Greek's explanation for how arachnids (her name is also the Greek word for spider) came to be such experts at weaving webs.

 
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The protagonist of Aria of Sorrow, Soma Cruz, narrowly avoids an attempt by a pair of Arachnes to web him to death in the Study.
 I forget, am I playing Castlevania or Clue?


 
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By stealing their souls (never mind that some of his unholy foes shouldn't even have souls to pinch), it's possible for Soma Cruz to utilize his monstrous opponents' abilities against them. In this case, Soma has turned the tables by creating an Arachne web attack of his own. Soma's got some modesty though, so he shoots the sticky snare from his hand, a la Spider-man, rather than his perky nipples!

On the first night of work, I roughed out the human torso, spider head/face, and one pair of legs in papier-mch. It's debatable, on the game sprite, whether that's really a human face on the spider's head or not, but, once I began to think of it that way, I couldn't see it otherwise, and I really liked the idea of a pair of spider fangs coming out of the eye sockets.

 
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During day two, I shaped the rest of the spider anatomy, further modified what I'd done the night before, and applied the first coat of paint.

 
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The last day was mostly devoted to finishing/polishing work. I completed painting the figure, applied hand-made decals, glued all the components of the figure together permanently, and attached her embroidery floss hair. Just cutting out and gluing those 54 yellow stripes onto her spidery appendages took roughly an hour-and-a-half!

 
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Here are several photos of the finished Arachne. I feel that I wrapped/applied the yellow strips too thickly, which makes them a bit too 3-Dimensional at this scale (painting them on might have been the better choice), but, otherwise, I think that she came out okay.

 
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Materials:
 Newsprint, tissue paper, white notebook paper, wire twist ties, acrylic paint, ink, embroidery floss (hair), and white glue.

Dimensions:
 7.2 cm (2.8") wide x 5.0 cm (2.0") long x 4.6 cm (1.8") high.

Time:
 Three days; May 29th-31st, 2016.

 
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7  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Radical feminists are too conservative for her tastes on: May 25, 2016 08:04:17 AM
 
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I "fake-swapped" (i.e., worked on a themed project without actually exchanging it with anyone) this figure for Craftster's Vikings, Pirates, Ninjas, and "Friends" Swap. The object of said challenge was to make some artwork celebrating the warriors of yore.  I needed 3 more points to make my 4 point quota, and this took me around 15-20 hours to make, so I'd say it's worth that.

This is my 3-Dimensional rendition of Atlus' interpretation of an Amazon from their 1995 Shin Megami Tensei: Debiru Samana- (Super Reincarnation of the Goddess: Devil Summoner) video game. In Megami Tensei titles, in addition to battling your opponents, it's also possible to recruit most of them into your party [or create them outright, by fusing the correct combination(s) of monsters together] and have them fight by your side. As such, if you wished to do so, you could potentially have an Amazon as one of your party members during your adventures. In the Megami Tensei games, deities and supernatural entities from all of the world's religions/mythologies, past and present, simultaneously co-exist--an example of tolerance that humanity could stand to learn from.

Atlus lumped the Amazons in with their other female Neutral Chaos entities (the equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons "Chaotic Neutral" alignment, so, in other words, women that are neither good nor evil, but unpredictable and self-serving), a group which they dubbed the "Kijo" (the Japanese kanji for said term translates as "demoness", "witch", "ogress", or "she-devil", and the word can also be used as an insult). Kijo in the case of the Amazons is more of a reference to their strength and ferocity in battle (not to mention their proclivity for killing men), as they're only mortal after all.

 
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Kazuma "Kaz" Kaneko's Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Amazon illustration.
Forget her arsenal of weapons, that glare alone will kill you!


Video gaming nonsense aside, Amazons are the well-known female warriors from Greek mythology. Matriarchal Amazon society reputedly had very little use for men, when they allowed them to survive at all, other than as slaves and/or procreation (depending on your source, Amazon male babies were either killed outright, abandoned in the wilderness, or returned to their fathers). Ancient writers disagree on where the Amazons resided, citing areas in what are now modern Turkey, Iran, Ukraine, and Libya. The meaning of the Amazon moniker is often disputed as well. Some of the proposed origins of the word are the Persian "Hama-zan" (all women), Iranian "Ha-mazan-" (warriors) and "Ama-janah" (virility-killing), Hittite "Am-azzi" (woman of the Azzi), Greek "A-mazos" (without breast), and Tamazight "Amazigh" (another name for the Berbers). While there are many Greco-Roman stories and art pieces devoted to Amazons, there's also very little in the way of scientific evidence that they ever existed. The closest thing anyone has ever found in the way of proof are some graves in Southern Ukraine and Russia where approximately 20% of the Scythian-Sarmation warriors' tombs contained the remains of women with armor and/or weapons, but that's still a far cry from a nation of nothing but militant females. I still believe in them though, after all, a society of warrior women is something that's quite plausible, unlike crazy stuff like centaurs and harpies.

 
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Perhaps the most infamous of Amazon myths is that they intentionally cut off, or burned and cauterized, one of their breasts (usually in infancy) because they supposedly believed that (1) boobs impede a woman's ability to draw a bow and shoot arrows and (2) removing a breast during childhood results in the strength/energy that your body would invest in growing said structure to transfer to the adjacent arm instead, making you a mightier warrior. As most female archers alive today shoot just fine with both of their breasts intact, including the local deer hunters where I live, that's obviously rubbish. And even if breasts did cause problems, it'd be a heck of a lot more practical, not to mention sane, to strap them down then to cut or burn them off! Needless to say, the ancient Greeks weren't always the shining example of enlightenment that historians often champion.

 And, no, it's not lost on me that I'm just perpetuating that nonsense further by making a figure of a one-breasted Amazon.

 Anyway, I'm not quite as lazy as I sometimes make myself out to be when it comes to producing artwork. I did attempt to make an action figure of this Amazon back on the 23rd of April, but, while things were proceeding fine, I quickly got bored with it, so, I quit after roughing out her legs. For some reason, I just don't have the patience for making many-jointed figures like I used to.



So, almost a month later, on the 22nd of May, with my deadline rapidly approaching, I finally tried again, this time with a static papier-mch sculpture instead. By the time I called it a night, I had the figure pretty close to done as well as her weaponry.

 
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There wasn't a whole lot else for me to model the next day other than her loin cloth and the foliage for her hair (gluing a bunch of tiny leaves onto equally miniscule branches is not for the easily frustrated . . . and I'm easily frustrated), so, that done, and after doing some fine tuning on the body in general, I got started on the painting process. To tell you the truth, I kind of prefer her this way, without the striped body paint/camouflage. And, while I do like the longer tresses on the final version, I dig this short pixie cut too.

 
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Here she is with the camouflage stripes applied and most of her gear attached. I could have just painted the camouflage on, but I chose to cut the stripes out and glue them on instead, one-by-one. Both methods are fairly tedious, so I don't know that I'd say one is really better than the other, but decoupage does have the advantage of giving you sharper edges. I also added earrings and some straps for the spear, quiver, and knife, but those were all pretty quick, simple things. I probably should have made said dagger a bit smaller, as it's kind of comically out of scale--a handle/hilt that size would be okay for a sword, but it's a bit much for a knife. She must have some serious chopping to do.

 
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The finished product--she reminds me of Rambo!

 
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Materials:
 Newsprint, tissue paper, white notebook paper, embroidery floss (hair),
elastic string from a sock (bow string), acrylic paint, ink, and white glue.

Dimensions:
 4.4 cm (1.7") wide x 4.7 cm (1.9") high.
 Excluding the spear and branches, she's 3.6 cm (1.4") tall.

Time:
 Three days; May 22-24th, 2016.

 
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8  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / She hunts . . . and nothing sees her until it's too late on: May 21, 2016 06:53:19 AM


I made this as part of a fake swap for  Vikings, Pirates, Ninjas, and "Friends".  I'd say that this is roughly a 1 point item, time-wise, so, I still have 3 more points to go to make the 4 point quota . . . none of which I've even started on yet, so, I'd better get my butt in gear, as they need to be done by the 25th, or fake bad things will fake happen to me.

She's a "Hunting Girl", an invisible warrior from Konami's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night video game.  Other than very brief glimpses of them when you successfully land a blow, or slay them, these enemies are completely invisible, except for their swords, which float through the air in a ghostly fashion, attacking you as though they were wielded by thin air.  In later Castlevania games, these women were re-named "Nemesis", which bothers me, from a mythological accuracy standpoint, as She was the Greek goddess of divine vengeance.  As such, She would never work for Dracula--Nemesis smites evil, She doesn't serve it.

I drew the Hunting Girl on paper, glued that image to transparent plastic, etched the lines into the plastic, using said drawing as my guide, cut the figure out, and then removed the glued-on paper.  Next, I fabricated the 3-dimensional sword out of paper, painted it, and glued it to her hand.  Finally, I made the black circular base out of cardboard and newsprint and embedded the tab I left on the bottom of her foot into it to secure her.  Normally, I make transparent bases, but, considering she's already see-through to begin with, I went with an opaque one in this case.

As you can probably guess, she's really hard to photograph, which, considering that she's supposed to be invisible, is appropriate enough.











Materials:
Transparent plastic from a toy package, newsprint, white paper from an envelope, cardboard from a cereal box, acrylic paint, ink, and white glue.

Dimensions:
3.4 cm (1.3") wide x 4.1 cm (1.6") high.

Time:
One day; May 20th, 2016.


9  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Mother's Day / Literal copycats are the worst kind! on: May 09, 2016 07:22:59 AM


I had been trying to think of something to make as a Mother's Day gift for several weeks, so, when I saw this "Copycat" image, illustrated by "Cryptid-Creations" (Piper Thibodeau), at DeviantArt, I instantly knew that I had finally found the right subject matter to model. If, like myself, you like cute drawings of word puns, then her work is definitely worth checking out:

http://cryptid-creations.deviantart.com/



On the right is the hollow cardboard copy machine chassis (upside down) and, to the left, is the internal lattice support structure for it (which makes the object sturdier and helps prevent warping/distortion during the painting and handling process). Once I had colored the paper output slot area on both components black, I popped the lattice inside the chassis and sealed it up.



Here is the more-or-less fully assembled copy machine. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that I've ever seen a copier that opens up, to the side, like this one does--on every model that I can recall using, the lid always opened front-to-back, but maybe I'm just remembering incorrectly. And, no, I don't know where "He went", but the felines said that it had better have been a trip to the kitchen cabinet to get out a bag of Whiskas' Temptations cat treats.



Pictured are the five papier-mch felines and the copier, just about ready to be painted. I didn't insert their fishing line whiskers until afterwards, as they'd just get in the way of the brush and make things more difficult.



Here's the finished figurine. It turned out okay, but, as I procrastinated making it until almost the last minute, I was sorely pressed for time, so, there are aspects that could have been done better (for example, the cats are rougher in form than I'd like). I spent about fourteen hours altogether on this project, but that was a nonstop, marathon work session, which is a less-than-ideal way to do things.













Materials:
Newsprint, tissue paper, cardboard from a cereal box, white notebook paper, magazine paper, wire twist ties, acrylic paint, ink, white glue, super glue, fishing line, and transparent plastic from a memory card package (base only).

Dimensions:
[Excluding the base] 10.0 cm (3.9") wide x 3.0 cm (1.2") deep x 5.5 cm (2.2") high.

Time:
Two days; May 7th and 8th (2016).
I also attempted to fabricate the copy machine several days earlier, but I screwed something up when I was measuring and laying out the device on the flat cardboard, so, I gave up on that design and discarded it.

10  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Discussion and Questions / Klutz on: April 09, 2016 07:36:04 AM
Does anybody else here like the Klutz/Scholastic crafting books/kits?  For those of you that may be unfamiliar, they're little art sets that typically come with a full-color, how-to book in addition to the supplies/materials that you need to make the projects in said volume, and they cover a wide range of artistic disciplines/media.  I keep buying these things . . . and then, because I like wasting money and I'm incredibly lazy/unmotivated, I never make anything with them (I do read the books though--gotta justify my hoarding somehow you know). 



At the moment, I've got the pictured "Toolbox Jewelry", "Paper Fashions", "Friendship Bracelets", and "Making Mini Books" kits.  I almost bought a pipe cleaner one recently too, but the voice of reason finally won out when it sternly reminded me that I haven't done jack with the sets that I already have.  Judging by the photos inside, they're primarily marketed to the tween/teen crowd, but I think they're fun/informative for more experienced crafters/adults as well, especially if the theme/discipline is something that you've never tried before and want a relatively-inexpensive tutorial with supplies included.

Someday, I will make friendship bracelets, someday . . .
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