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Topic: Polymer clay dolls?? 5 questions, looking for opinions as well!  (Read 2201 times)
Tags for this thread: sculpting , hand , feet , head , armature  Add new tag
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groperesponsibly
Mom to a beautiful, craft loving little girl!!
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« on: July 19, 2009 07:13:49 PM »

I've seen lots of the dolls around, and when I was in high school, I was a super fan of sculpting undersea creatures as far as realism went.  I've decided that these dolls would be great practice for not only my claying, but my sketching and pose ideas as well!  They'd make great gifts for a few friends of mine, and I'd love to attempt them.  So I have a few questions and some of them are based on preference Smiley

Questions!

1.  When creating the head, do you start with a small ball of clay and add onto it for each feature, or do you start with a larger bit and sculpt into it//remove clay where needed?  If you've tried both, let me know why you prefer one or the other please?

2.  I see mostly doll hair, has anyone tried doing the hair out of clay?  How did it work out?  Again, preference?

3.  There's LOTS of clay in these, does anyone use one of those fillers?  Like the aluminum/tin foil?  I did a dragon a few days ago, and I found a little bit of aluminum/tin foil was useful and it really cut back on the weight.

4. Hands, feet, and other smaller body parts, do you work with them when they're warmer, or more cool?  Smoosh 'em around, or use the blades and tools for sculpting?

5.  Do you bake the pieces seperately and then put them together afterward, or is it all one piece before baking?  If it's all one piece, do you use any sort of suport or wiring within the piece?

I don't mean to be steal secrets and such, and you're more than welcome to shoot me a private message with a response, but I've got some birthdays and such coming up, and I thought this would make a really great gift!!

I know that this stuff is all over the internet, but what I'm more interested are the opinions on the techniques and how well things worked, or, how they didn't!

Have a good one Cheesy

And thank you thank you thank you sooooo much ahead of time!
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I do: Polymer clay minatures, Polymer clay beads, Beadweaving, Jewelry, Stone cutting (Cabachons) and wirework.  I will be doing: Stone cutting (faceted), Pottery, Silver and Glass work.

Personal swaps welcome Smiley
Diane B.
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GlassAttic --polymer clay "encyclopedia"


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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2009 10:07:51 AM »

Quote
I know that this stuff is all over the internet, but what I'm more interested are the opinions on the techniques and how well things worked, or, how they didn't!

The answers I'll give below are based a bit on the little sculpting experience I've had but mostly on reading comments "all over the internet" --particularly from individual clayers in polymer clay groups online-- over the past 15 years.  
None of the techniques and tips they have given are "secrets" (and polymer clayers in general have been quite generous over those years in sharing techniques, unlike many other "arts"), though some clayers may know or have figured out the same things and have wanted to keep them secret, or just not know how well known they are to the larger polymer clay community.

For much more detail about any of the techniques, how well things worked, and troubleshooting, you can read the full comments by those clayers on the page at my site I'll link to under each answer.


Quote
1.  When creating the head, do you start with a small ball of clay and add onto it for each feature, or do you start with a larger bit and sculpt into it//remove clay where needed?  If you've tried both, let me know why you prefer one or the other please?

Clayers (including me) have created heads and faces in both those ways (additive and subtractive), and they often do both techniques in the same piece--depending on how realistic they want their sculpt to be, how "sculpted" they want them to look or how they want them to look in some other way, what techniques they may already know, and/or just what they prefer to do, etc.  They may also begin with a mold (of their own, a purchased mold, or a mold made from the face of another figure), then "distort" the raw clay after removing it from the mold usually using various tools.  
All those techniques can be done well and look great so there isn't really any one way, though there may be more-used ways for creating certain looks.

heads
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/heads_masks.htm

sculpting techniques in general (often for figures)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpture.htm > General Sculpting and > Smoothing and > Websites

Quote
2.  I see mostly doll hair, has anyone tried doing the hair out of clay?  How did it work out?  Again, preference?

The kind of hair that's used depends on the maker, the type of look s/he's going for, and perhaps any techniques and materials the maker is already familiar with.  Some clayers use fiber hair of some type, but hair (or beards, etc.) are also made with clay --using separate pieces of clay added to the head (then shaped, or shaped beforehand), or done more "sculpturally" using tool or finger strokes into existing clay (or clay added for that purpose).  Both can be done well.
When clay is used though, it's important to keep as much of the hair "next to the head" as possible since any projections can easily break off with stress (especially when a weak line of clay is used--some clayers mix a flexible polymer clay into a regular one to help with that too when necessary).

clay hair
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm > Hair

Quote
3.  There's LOTS of clay in these, does anyone use one of those fillers?  Like the aluminum/tin foil?  I did a dragon a few days ago, and I found a little bit of aluminum/tin foil was useful and it really cut back on the weight.

I think most clayers do use a permanent armature under the clay when making larger pieces.  It's actually necessary any time any part of the clay will be thicker than 1 1/4" to avoid cracking during baking, but as you mention it also reduces the weight and the amount of clay used.  Tightly wadded aluminum foil is probably the most common thick armature, but lots of other materials will work too including even pre-baked polymer clay (for less weight when using pre-baked clay, Ultralight is good).

Another way larger items (like even heads, if desired) can be made is to use armature materials inside the clay that are lightweight and will also shrink during heating... some polystyrene foams do that, for example.  And other temporary armatures may even be veggies/fruit, dissolvable paperclays, etc., which can be removed after curing if some kind of opening is left.  (Also some larger beads are made hollow by making two halves --thick-walled but concave-- then joining them together after baking.)  But those are getting farther afield from most head-making with polymer clay.

armatures (permanent)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/armatures-perm.htm

heads --armatures, cracking
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/heads_masks.htm > Cracking

armatures (temporary)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/armatures-temp.htm

Quote
4. Hands, feet, and other smaller body parts, do you work with them when they're warmer, or more cool?  Smoosh 'em around, or use the blades and tools for sculpting?

Cool (and firm) is always better whenever possible, especially with tiny little things like fingers, etc.  I'd say most small polymer hands are made using just fingers for shaping, along with a blade of some kind to separate the fingers before shaping them and perhaps a tool for fingernail impressions and/or finger/palm/wrist lines.  The same would be true for feet with toes.  
(Many fingers have wire armatures underneath too to help with strength.)  

hands, feet
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm > Hands and > Arms, Legs, Feet, Tails

Quote
5.  Do you bake the pieces seperately and then put them together afterward, or is it all one piece before baking?  
If it's all one piece, do you use any sort of suport or wiring within the piece?

Generally, I think most clayers put all the pieces together before a final bake, but for some things adding parts afterward can be good too.  And some types of "dolls" or other figures need to be baked separately before joining (ball-jointed ones, dangle figures, etc.).
Some clayers also do multiple partial bakes just to firm up areas they're finished with so they won't get smooshed while working on other parts.

armatures (permanent)
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/armatures-perm.htm
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpture.htm > Websites tutorials (esp. for more "realistic" sculpts)

jointed or dangle figures and dolls
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm > Jointed and Dolls & Other Figures

baking
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/baking.htm > Multiple Bakes and perhaps Support During Baking


HTH,

Diane B.





« Last Edit: July 20, 2009 10:28:55 AM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

POLYMER CLAY "ENCYCLOPEDIA" 
http://glassattic.com/polymer/contents.htm
few of my photos
http://s96.photobucket.com/albums/l163/DianeBB
(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
deets
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2009 10:44:46 AM »

I have been making figures from polymer clay for nearly 12 years now, and have experimented with all sorts of different clay, different ways of sculpting and baking, etc, and here's my general run down:

I start with a wire armature that is one piece for the head, neck, torso, hips and legs.  If the piece is large I will use aluminum foil for the main mass of head and torso.  My first step is to pose the armature in the position I want the figure to be in and sculpt, using supersculpey, the "foundation".  This way I'm sure that the interior of the sculpture is well set.  I prebake the eyes and teeth and position them in the supersculpey foundation as well.  The arms also have a wire through them.  When the torso is baked I drill a small hole for each arm for the wire to insert in.  I use a little craft glue (make sure it is safe with the clay AND at the temp for baking) to hold the arms in place as well, but it is the clay itself that will secure them.  I usually bake numerous times.  When I finish the face and neck I will bake before moving on so that as I'm working on one part I don't risk messing up the part that's already done.  The body under the "clothing" is baked before I drape the clothes as well, for example.  So long as you don't exceed the temperature you can bake as many times as needed.  I do find that premo sculpey (which I still prefer for skin tones) will darken with repeated bakings however.  I can usually bake 4-5 times before it discolors though, and if you do find some discoloration, you can usually buff or scrape it off.  (it will appear on small, thin parts first, such as the tip of the nose, or tops of the ears)  I've never had anything made with kato clay discolor.  imo, kato white is the absolute best for that reason (premo white turns yellowish with every additional bake in my experience.)

I like to condition the clay and do any color mixing before I will actually do the sculpting itself.  The better conditioned the clay, the less chance of cracking or discoloration later, but it oftentimes makes the clay too warm to use right away.  I prefer to sculpt details when the clay is softish, but not warm. 

Most of my work has been entirely polymer clay, although I am beginning to experiment with using clothing and mohair, and hopefully glass eyes as well (I'm still looking for a good source of eyes that won't be damaged in the baking process).  For hair on my sculptures I mix two or three slightly different shades (to give a little more depth), and use a garlic press to get lots and lots of small noodles.  I start at the base of the skull layering and layering until the final strands in the front.  It takes a lot of time this way, but it's awfully satisfying Smiley

The way I sculpt is a combination of additive and subtractive processes.  I will add tiny amounts of clay in the general shape of something (an eyelid for example), but then use tools to finish shape and position it.  Some areas are easier to bake first and then carve later.  It's really about finding what works best for you.  I love using fine metal tools, and of course, my fingers a lot. 

I hope all that helps!  If you're interested in seeing some of the sculptures I've done this way, you can find my blog at http://bydeets.com  or my etsy shop at http://deetsy.etsy.com

happy sculpting!
-deanne


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groperesponsibly
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2009 11:44:10 PM »

Thank you so much!  Your reply was super helpful!  I totally saw and understood where you were coming from and your opinions!  I'm going to go check out your stuff now Smiley
THIS ROCKS   Logged

I do: Polymer clay minatures, Polymer clay beads, Beadweaving, Jewelry, Stone cutting (Cabachons) and wirework.  I will be doing: Stone cutting (faceted), Pottery, Silver and Glass work.

Personal swaps welcome Smiley
deets
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2009 09:00:09 AM »

i'm glad that helped!  i would love to see what you create too!  there are some pretty awesome polymer clay art dolls from different sellers on etsy.  do a search for it and you'll find all sorts of great sculptures!

-deanne
http://bydeets.com
http://deetsy.etsy.com
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