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1  A Doll Head Sculpting Tutorial! in Polymer Clay: Completed Projects by bookishgrrl on: December 11, 2006 07:51:04 PM
A couple of people wanted to know how I sculpted the head for my Howl's Moving Castle Doll (https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=135501.0). I decided to give it another go, this time, basing the face on one of my paintings:

I'll do the best I can to describe how I did this. Unfortunately, my camera flash obscured several of the in-process photos I took, so some steps aren't illustrated. Please let me know if you need more clarification.

I also warn you--your sculpture will go through stages of looking alien and kinda hideous. And a lot of these directions just sound sick and wrong, but that's just how it goes.

1. First, you get your tools together.
  I used:
   -aluminum foil
   -Sculpey III
   -a decorative nail (it had some kind of coating on it)
   -a fat needle
   -the end of a paintbrush
   -an exacto knife
   -a personal misting bottle
   You'll also want to trim your fingernails as short as you can stand...

2. Make an egg shaped wedge out of aluminum foil. You'll want to compress it somewhat, but not too much, in case you need to press down parts of it later. With your thumbs, create eye sockets by pressing down hard with your thumbs into the foil.
2. 3.

3. Make a very thin pancake of clay. Spread it over your foil wedge, collecting it roughly at the back.

4. Create a nose by either pinching a bit of clay at the appropriate location or creating a wedge of clay and blending it in or both. Don't worry about making the size too perfect--you can always build it up a bit later or whittle it down. Also, save the nostrils for later.

5. Make your eyeballs. You could use glass doll eyes, or you can make your own. I used white sculpey and made mine like flat buttons. You could also make them like spheres or like half spheres. BAKE your eyeballs--maybe five minutes in the toaster oven.

6. Carefully position your eyeballs. To create the lids, roll Sculpey into a thin tube, slightly narrower on the ends.first position the lower lid, then the upper. make sure the edges are precisely where you want them, then flatten the roll of clay.

7. To make the mouth, first use a needle to draw the mouth into the clay. Make two small balls of clay, shape them to be slightly triangular. flatten them slightly, then position them upon the upper and lower halves of the line of the mouth. flatten them more, starting from the chin area and from below the nose, stopping when the lips are as small as you'd like. you can shape the lips more by using one of your tools to spread them back, somewhat like spreading butter with a knife.

8. Continue to build up parts of the face by adding rolls of clay to define the features. The trick is to continually be blending the parts and smoothing them. Examine the head from different angles and different lights to make sure you've caught any unwanted indentions or irregular bumps. 8.9.

9. The neck is sculpted by wrapping the foil base with a long, thick strip of clay. Again, blend it in and build it up. Make a slab of clay to act as the breastplate/shoulders. Fold this loosly over one of your fingers and then press it against the neck, building up the clay as necessary to attach the shoulders to the neck.

10. Now, smooth the clay more, evening out any indentions and bumps. Refine the features using a pointed tool, carving the edges of the lids and the tearducts. The nostrils can be created by poking the needle up the nose and moving it about in a circular motion. If you carefully press the needle along the outside of your "nose", the sides will flare out similar to a nostril. use the eye end of the needle to carve the divet in the nose and other features.

11. To make the ears, make two balls of clay of the same size. flatten them with your finger from the inner edge, leaving the outter edge rounded still. keep pressing  on the opposite side until it is completely flattened. Position your ears carefully so that they are symmetrical, angled similarly on both sides of the head before securing them. I've not gotten ears quite right yet--you just have to sort of twist, poke and pull them as best you can.

12. to make neck muscles--more rolls of clay! I consulted grey's anatomy to get the position more accurate, but flattened and blended them so they're almost unnoticable.

13. perfecting the clavicle--again, more rolls of clay, flattened and blended on the lower side.

14. Before baking, go over your head one more time. Mist the piece with water and go over areas again--you'll find the water acts as a bit of a lubricant and a barrier, so sharper tools can be used for more delicate work. Crazy. Just try it and you'll see what I mean.

15. Place your final scuplted head in a glass baking dish. I made a ring of foil to support the head and keep the neck at an appropriate angle and place a roll of foil inside the shoulder area to keep its shape during the baking process.

Baked and painted. (all right, it looked better before I painted it)...

waiting for the next step...
can't wait to shell out way too much money to buy her a wig.

Hope this was helpful. Let me know if there are certain steps that need a more clear explanation.

I think what is best to keep in mind is to try to keep the face as symmatrical as possible and to keep the surface of the clay as smooth and free of imperfections as possible. Don't refine the features or the details until you're almost finished, as handling the head as you continue to sculpt it will only bang up the details.
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2  A Howl's Moving Castle Doll--NOW with in-process pix and a tutorial! in Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects by bookishgrrl on: November 26, 2006 02:04:39 PM
A friend of mine thought Howl, from Howl's Moving Castle, was a real doll, a total babe.

I secretly agreed and decided she should have a loveable, huggable Howl of her own.

I'm delighted with how well he turned out. Every step of the process was botched, my sewing skills are atrocious and I've never made a doll before.

The entire figure is roughly 20" tall, with polymer clay head, arms and legs and a cloth body. His costume and jewelry was handcrafted by myself. I purchased his wig--I know my limitations!--but I'm fairly certain it was handcrafted as well.

I created the harlequin fabric of his cape by painting the material with watered down acryllic paints. It has a red satiny lining and gold braid. I invented the patterns for his shoes, shirt and cape but used a pattern from a book to make his body and his slacks.

The jewelry is gold, garnet and glass beads. The earrings have real posts and could be worn by a human. The necklace has a clasp and is long enough that it could be worn as a bracelet. The earrings are secured with poster tack so they can easily be removed.

When I finally finished him, my husband and I strung him up with fishing line and posed him all around my folks' place. I was very pleased with how Howl's expression seemed to change in different lighting and positions.

It was my husband's brilliant idea to have Howl fly, like his animated and literary predecessors.

For more pictures, go here:

And please, any questions or comments will be most welcome! I learned a ton doing this project and would love to share. I also hope that someday soon I can give dollmaking another go and would welcome some advice.


Here are a few pix of the "making of" process...
This is Howl's head, as I was finessing the scuplt job.
His head, arms and legs are made of a blend of Sculpeys. The blend was nice for pliability, but the end strength and appearance wasn't satisfactory. The arms and legs are sculpted to about the elbow, with a wire running through them for support and attachment. The head was sculpted over an aluminum foil ball, with a "breastplate" sculpted to the middle of his chest and sewn on to the body in four places.

The body was made of a jersey knit. It has an armature made of different types of wire, including pipe cleaners. This all was wrapped with nylons and stuffed with a polyester batting. I should have used a much heavier weight of knit, although the stretchiness was good. I also should have not used pipe cleaners but a heavier, more flexible wire.
This is his body, before limbs and head were attached. The white things sticking out of his arms are the pipe cleaners

The second photo, I've drawn lines to illustrate where the armiture supports are. The "I" shaped part in the torso was made of a heavy, strong wire. The hot pink lines represent the pipe cleaners, which were folded on themselves and looped through the heavier wire. I'd hoped the pipe cleaners would make him flexible, but really they made him rather...well...flaccid. None of my armatures did much of anything to support the weight of the polymer parts.

Here's Howl with his limbs shoved in, but not actually secured.

I've done some drawing to illustrate what the sculpted parts had looked like before attached. I will scan them in the next couple of days and add them in here.

I've scuplted another Doll's head and created a tutorial for it here: https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=138998.0. I'm sorry I didn't put it here, but I thought this post was already a bit cumbersome.
Thanks for looking!
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3  Re: Motivational Work-Out Gallery in The Swap Gallery by bookishgrrl on: July 16, 2006 05:46:11 PM
On Saturday, I received my fabulous package from Samsmartypants!
Check out the loot!
Shown here is a lavendar yoga bag with a matching mat, a swank hip pack, a terry cloth "neck cooler" (so useful on these 90 degree days!), pin-up girl magnets, an issue of Shape loaded with useful articles and tasty-looking recipes and a lovely card that reads (along with the personal note) "you're so hot. There, now do you feel better?" which made me laugh--I hardly expected a pretty card with blossoms on the front to have such a cheeky sentiment inside.

All of the handmade items were so beautifull sewn together, looking so slick and professional!

Here's a closeup of the yoga mat and carrying bag, made of a shiny sort of asian-esque fabric, with a bead drawstring closure:

And here's my torso, representing the hip pack. It has a lining in a lovely rasberry cordoroy and two compartments. I've already used it for my bike ride today, where it remained comfy and snug where it should, happily carrying my keys, wallet and cell phone. it also swanked up my rather drab workout wear...(I noted that it matched the blue in my Cranes t-shirt perfectly)

And these are the cutest magnets ever! Getting fit never looked so hot. Each one has a quote beneath the image. The biker chick reads: "There ain't much fun in medicine, but a heck of a lot of medicine in fun." the girl on the scale says: "To ask a woman to be unnaturally thin is to ask them to relinquish their sensuality." --Naomi Wolf and finally, the girl with the old school exercising belt (what were those supposed to do anyway?) is captioned "The best Doctors in the world are Doctor Quiet, Doctor Diet and Doctor Merryman." --Jonathan Swift.  My husband thinks they're really cool, too...

All of the gifts and crafts were so thoughtful and beautifully put together! Thanks so much, Samantha (Samsmartypants)!!!

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4  Re: workout/exercise/healthy lifestyle motivational swap? in New Swap Theme Ideas by bookishgrrl on: April 15, 2006 04:50:40 PM
First off, I've never participated in a swap, so I guess I'd be crummy at organizing one...I still need to learn a lot about how these thangs go down--besides, you know, poring over all the swap galleries, green with envy at the neato loot exchanged...

Bike Crafts! oh that would rock!

and how 'bout scary fridge art, to make you think twice before opening it? or a candy jar designed to look like an evil monster...

there's some great vintage images of people exercising out there, if you know where to look. these kinds of things seem to beg to be put to good, creative use. for example:

I'm starting to feel inspired....
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5  House Rabbits Need Crafty Goodness, too! (any ideas?) in Pet-Related Crafts: Discussion and Questions by bookishgrrl on: January 14, 2006 01:19:20 PM
Bunnies make great pets--troublesome, onery ones, but still, great pets.
So why aren't more people making nifty neat crafts for their bunsers and telling the world (or at least, other craftsters) about their innovation and practicality?

I would love to hear about/see projects, crafts, innovations, obstacles you clever crafty folk have done for your beloved bunny rabbits.

I personally haven't made many crafts for my two house rabbits--unless cutting up toilet paper rolls counts--but I would like to try and start. My biggest problem with all things pet related is that while some things (cages, littler boxes, water bottles) are practical, they're really ugly and often gaudy. It's also very difficult to find rabbit products in stores that are actually good for them--and Target hasn't exactly had Isaac Mizrahi designing wooden chew toys yet. and the few suppliers online are pretty expensive.

Things I'm especially curious about:
--cage solutions. has anyone built something a little more aesthetic (and pleasant for the rabbit) than the standard pet store cage?
--litter box solutions
--toys! toys! toys! toys are the toughest.
--partitions/baby gate alternatives.

I haven't made much, but I have cut out gothic arch doorways in cardboard boxes for them to romp in. They also love paper bags full of hay with holes cut in them--and for my own aesthetics, I tie them closed with ribbon and cut diamonds and hearts instead of just boring holes. Erte also enjoys his pellets from a hand-potted dish.

and just because I can, here is a picture of my two houserabbits, Mena and Erte:

for those of you who don't have rabbits, but like to brain storm, here are a few hints:
--bunnies are suprisingly destructive. any toy made for them has a good chance of being demolished quickly.
--they like fun places to hide
--they can like to climb or jump onto high places. shelves, couches, coffee tables. you name it.
--they're very clever at problem solving
--if they're given anything, one has to assume it may be ingested, so materials have to be "safe"--non-toxic dyes, etc.
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6  So how does one make a "brain" pincushion anyway? *NOW--with pics!* in Winter Holidays by bookishgrrl on: November 10, 2005 02:48:47 PM
Not sure how this idea occurred to me, but I somehow have decided that the perfect gift for my mother this year is a pincushion...designed to look like a brain. She's a former alterationist and spends a lot of time sewing...she also occasionally has a twisted sense of humour (which I've inherited, apparently), so I like the idea of a stuffed, squishable brain, about the size of a fist, that she can stick her pins and needles in. I was thinking I'd glue it to a rather pretty, gilded dish. maybe even use some slightly translucent nail polish to simulate blood...

but how on earth could I make a half-decent stuffed brain?


it would be nice if it weren't too involving, expensive or time-consuming, as there's a great chance she hate it (we are sadly beyond the phase of "anything my daughter hand-crafts is sacred" phase). better still if it had the separate hemispheres and ridges. I'd like to spend about five hours on it, tops, but I'm open to spending more time if it's a really terrific, workable idea.

(don't worry--I have other gift ideas that are much more Mom-appropriate--it's only fitting that someone get her back for her years of gag gifts)

so, I did end up making the pincushion. I had wanted to go with the upholstery trim idea, but was unable to find any at the fabric store. What I ended up doing instead was buying a styrofoam cube (aproximately 4"x4") and carving it down until it was roughly the size and shape of a brain. Then, using an assortment of makeshift tools (inkpens, orange sticks, plastic chop sticks) I "sculpted" the styrofoam--basically, I'd dig in a ridge and then round it using the orange stick and the soft pads of my fingertips. I then put on a few layers of my acryllic paint--enough to make it look less porous and glued the whole contraption onto a nice china dish that I'd gotten at goodwill.

Mom looked perplexed at first. I think once she figured out how much loving effort was involved, she decided to love it. Whether or not she truely does, I'm not sure. I guess I'll see if she proudly displays it on her desk or table...

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