Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Modeling the Feet

Once the full-sized working drawing has been made, it doesn't really matter what part you start on. The important thing is to get started making parts. Getting started is the hardest thing to do, so the best thing to do is just jump right in and start modeling something. It really doesn't even matter what the material is in the beginning. Those first attempts will be covered-up and smoothed-out later anyway.

In the Yoshida method, a lot of energy is spent making soft cores which will be destroyed later, in order to create a hollow form. However, Armstrong-Hand recommends modeling solid, then making a plaster mold around that, which can later be used to make a hollow form. No matter which method is used, a hollow form is the end-result. Therefore, each part can be modeled in just about any material, including Sculpey, water clay, oil clay, wax, and even plaster, not to forget paper mache, and other methods of creating forms. I've decided to use Victory Brown, a microcrystalline wax used by sculptors.

It is a good idea to have an idea of the total number of parts required for a ball-jointed doll. I think the minimum number of points of articulation is at least 13, which means that there are at least this many parts (working from the ground-up):

2 - feet with balls attached. The feet have a terminating hook.
2 - lower legs (may have knee joint attached).
2 - knee joints (if not attached to the lower legs).
2 - upper legs with balls attached.
2 - upper-upper legs (if swiveled).
1 - torso with neck (if one piece torso is used)
1 - lower torso. Lower torso may have two parts (hips and tummy).
1 - tummy (if lower torso is in two parts).
1 - upper torso (breasts, shoulders and arm holes)
2 - upper arms.
2 - elbow ball joints (if not attached to arm)
2 - lower arms.
2 - hands with balls attached. The hands have a terminating hook.
1 - head
1 - face plate
1 - skull cap
2 - eyes
1 - wig

The minimum number of parts is about 18 parts. Add upper-upper legs, a three-part torso, and extra head parts, and the total number of pieces can be about 26 parts, or even more.

My doll is going to have (working from the top-down):

1 - head with face
1 - skull cap
2 - eyes
1 - wig
1 - upper torso with neck, shoulders, breasts, and arm holes
2 - upper arms
2 - elbow ball joints
2 - lower arms
2 - hands with terminating hook
1 - lower torso with tummy and hips
2 - upper-upper legs with ball joints and swivels
2 - upper legs
2 - knee joints (double jointed? - I don't know yet)
2 - lower legs
2 - feet with ball joints and terminating hook
25 parts

I can start with any of those parts because I have the master drawing to work from.

I worked at the kitchen table today because I was expecting some workers. The white plaster cast is from a doll I started in 1989 and, for whatever reason, never finished. I have it out for inspiration. I found a box in my studio labeled Jill Doll which contained a graph paper of measurements, dated 1989-01-05 (January), eight Polaroid head shots of Jill, a part-time worker, the plaster casts of two legs and the torso, some plaster molds, and the original wax patterns, modeled over mat board armatures. Knowing what I know now about contemporary BJDs, I doubt that I will ever finish the Jill doll. The box and its contents are merely a curiosity, and an inspiration to make and complete the current BJD doll project.

Another viewpoint of today's workspace. I use a mish-mash of tools that I've accumulated over the years. Some are store-bought, and others are studio-made. I use a low-wattage electric soldering iron when I work with wax. I had the range-fan on, as well as an oscillating fan behind me to blow the fumes away. Always work in a well ventilated area when melting wax.

I started out by tracing the feet from the working drawing onto tracing paper. Then I transferred the tracings to cereal box cardboard and cut them out. There was a left and a right foot. Each foot had two pieces of cardboard. I cut slots in those pieces and fit them together, so the cardboard armature of the feet stood on their own, right from the beginning. After that, I melted wax onto the cardboard, alternating between the two feet, until a good wax mass was built up. I used the cardboard edges as profiles to get very rough feet shapes.

In this photo you can see a wax foot that I cast from a model. I used it as a foot reference to draw some details of the doll feet. Once the details were drawn, I traced them onto tracing paper and transferred them to cereal box cardboard. I cut out the cereal box cardboard and aligned it onto the bottom of the rough feet. Then I used the cardboard as a profile to shape the feet. In this photo you can see a rough foot and a foot that has some detail added to it. You can see the cardboard cereal box edge in the feet. The detailed foot is actually starting to look like a foot now.

In this photo I've turned the cast foot and the doll feet upside down. You can see how I've used the cardboard to start detailing the left foot.

The feet at the end of the day.

I like using the cereal box cardboard templates because they are cheap and I have a pile of them in the studio. Later on, if I need to cut into the wax, I can cut right through the cardboard without any problems, using an X-Acto knife. They are quick and easy to use, giving fairly accurate profiles from the very beginning.

I will probably continue to use this method for the other parts of this doll. Since I started with the feet, I'll probably continue working up, so next I'll model the lower legs. As you can see, I'm modeling the doll piece-by-piece. The other way to do it is to create a full-size wire armature, and sculpt the whole doll all at once. I've also done it that way. This way is much more portable. I can take these feet with me, and work on them when I'm away from the studio. Likewise with the other parts that I'll make. Both methods work fine. However, if you work the whole doll at once on an armature, you'll have to cut it off the armature and cut it into pieces later on, in order to put the joints in. Just some thoughts.

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  1. Wow this is fantastic, thanks for sharing this process its fascinating

  2. If you have any questions, please ask. I'm trying to document all the details, but there are probably things that I just take for granted, that I'm not making clear enough, so the only way I know that is if you ask. Thanks for looking.


This is my personal BJD making journal. All comments are moderated. If you make a new comment under an old post, your comment will be published under the old post. I reserve the right to publish or delete any comments made, at my own discretion. Thank you for looking.