Thursday, August 19, 2010

Martha Armstrong-Hand's Method

UPDATE EDIT: See Martha Armstrong-Hand's Method at Woodland Earth Studio.
Also see: FREE Step-By-Step Porcelain BJD Making Tutorial

Learning to be a doll artist : an apprenticeship with Martha Armstrong-Hand.
Martha Armstrong-Hand.
Livonia, MI : Scott Publications, c1999.
ISBN: 1893625044

This book is no longer available, yet it is recommended by many doll makers.

As I understand it, the procedure in the Armstrong-Hand book involves:

1. building an armature,
2. sculpting first in oil clay,
3. making a plaster mold of that sculpt
4. pour in carving wax
5. refining the wax sculpt
6. and then making the final mold.

I have heard from another doll maker that Martha's book really isn't that useful for making a ball-jointed doll? For example, Martha really does not discuss how to make the ball-joints; instead, she says to follow a trial and error approach. The doll maker said that Martha's book is really good for mold making. I also understand that Marina Bychkova and other porcelain doll makers use the metal spring tensioning technique from Martha's book.

I have found bits and pieces of Martha's book, here and there. For example, here is Martha's recipe for her carving wax (Thanks JayneM):

This is the carving wax recipe that is poured into molds to make a wax doll:

This mixture is:

28.35 gm = 1.0 oz

900 grams paraffin 900 g = 31.7465 oz
900 grams microcrystalline 900 g = 31.7465 oz
1800 grams industrial talc 1800 g = 63.4931 oz
200 grams beeswax and 200 g = 7.05479 oz
200 grams carnauba wax 200 g = 7.05479 oz

1 oz = 0.0625 lbs

31.7465 oz paraffin 31.7465 oz = 1.9841562500000003 lbs
31.7465 oz microcrystalline 31.7465 oz = 1.9841562500000003 lbs
63.4931 oz industrial talc 63.4931 oz = 3.96831875 lbs
7.05479 oz beeswax 7.05479 oz = 0.44092437500000004 lbs
7.05479 oz carnauba wax 7.05479 oz = 0.44092437500000004 lbs

I added some extra weight conversions in there.
That recipe makes about 8.80 lbs of wax!

I've found several photos of pages from Martha's book. This one is a closeup of the dolls.

This one shows about how large the dolls are, with Martha sitting in the background.

This one shows a finished doll, with wig, clothing and shoes; all of which are detailed in her book.

This picture shows the number of doll parts.

This is a diagram of how she strings a doll. Evidently, from what I've been able to pick up from various doll forums, she uses wire, swivels, and springs in her doll tensioning technique. Marina Bychkova and other porcelain doll makers also use this, or a similar technique.

The other interesting bit I've found is a listing of the Table Of Contents from her book:

Table of Contents
Learning To Be A Doll Artist

About the Author

Chapter 1 Ideas and Plans.
From Dream to Reality;
Developing an Idea;
Choosing a Medium;
Why I Work in Porcelain;
Determining Size.

Chapter 2 Drawing.
Why Do we Draw?
Drawing a Human Figure;
Putting the Measurements on Paper;
Outlining the Drawing;
Refining the Drawing.

Chapter 3 Making the Armature.
Sizing the Armature;
Choosing the Materials;
Shrinkage Chart of Sculpting Material;
Constructing the Armature;
Supporting the Armature.

Chapter 4 Modeling.
Tools and Materials;
The Modeling Process;
Getting Ready to Make the Molds.

Chapter 5 Mold Making.
Tools and Materials;
Making a Rough Shell Mold;
Casting Words of Wisdom.

Chapter 6 Mold Design.
Principles of Mold Design;
The Spare.

Chapter 7 Making Molds for Porcelain Slip Casting.
Special Tools for Porcelain Casting;
Making the Mold for a Porcelain Cast;
Cleaning, Drying, and Trimming the Molds;
Mold Repair.

Chapter 8 Wax Work.
Making Your Own Wax;
Making a Wax Cast;
Wax Work: Setting Up the Work Space;
Improving Your Forms.

[8-page color photo gallery of Martha Armstrong-Hand dolls.]

Chapter 9 Body Works.
The Decision to Make Joints;
Conditions for Moving and Posing;
Designing Joints That Work.

Chapter 10 Stringing Design.
Stringing Material;
Designing the Stringing System;
How It All Works.

Chapter 11 Casting in Porcelain.
History of Porcelain;
Some Chemistry and Physics (Ingredients and Transformation);

Chapter 12 On Kilns and Firing.
Parts of a Kiln;
Choosing Your Own Kiln;
Loading the Kiln;
Controlling the Temperature;

Chapter 13 Porcelain Painting.
Tools and Materials;
Choosing a Brush;
Brush Glossary;
Setting Up a Painting Space;
Step-By-Step Face Painting;
The Art of Face Painting;
Things to Remember.

Chapter 14 Stringing Production.
Lining the Joints;
Setting Up for Metal Work;
Preparing and Fastening the Bars;
Connecting the Legs to the Body;
Attaching the Upper Body;
Assembling the Arms;
Fastening the Extremities.

Chapter 15 Hair and Wigs.
My Adventures With Wigs;
Directly Attached Hair;
Fur on Leather;
Conventionally Manufactured Wigs;
Making Your Own Wig;
A Doll Hairstyling Salon.

Chapter 16 Clothing Design.
[General Remarks];
Finding the Right Fabric;
Creating Patterns;
Of Sewing Machines and Sewers.

Chapter 17 Shoes.
Tools and Materials;
A Five-Step Process
(The Last,
the Upper,
the Soles,
Shaping the Upper to the Last,
Joining the Upper and Outer Sole);
The Reward.

Chapter 18 Accessories.

Chapter 19 Display.

Glossary of Ceramics Terms.
Recommended Books.

That's it. That's all I have.

My curiosity about Martha's Method extends to curiosity about how far she takes a sculpt in oil clay, before she makes the first molds, which she pours her carving wax into. Then, how much further are the waxes sculpted? Is most of the sculpt done in oil clay, then the finishing and smoothing done in wax, along with refining the joints (which might hold up better and be more precise in wax than in oil clay).

It is so frustrating not to be able to borrow Martha's book from a library. This is one of those rare instances where a book is completely unavailable. I am loathe to spend several hundreds of dollars on a book that was selling for $17.95 at the end of 2009. Even if I had several hundreds of dollars to spend on an $18 book, there currently aren't any copies available for any price! That is what is so frustrating.

Frustration aside, knowing Martha's Method, and having her Table of Contents from her book available, as well as having most of the needed skills to make a doll, I figure that I can make a BJD, even though I don't have an actual copy of her book.

I do have a copy of Yoshida Ball-Jointed Doll Making Guide, as well as several other wonderful tutorials that completely detail the making of a BJD, although none of them use Martha's Method. The intriguing thing to me, about Martha's Method is, the way she first models the doll in oil clay, over an armature, then makes a first set of molds, casts carving wax into the molds, finishes the doll parts in carving wax, then makes a second set of molds from the finished wax doll parts, for casting the porcelain slip.

I'm currently working on a 60cm BJD in brown microcrystalline wax. However, I've skipped making a wire armature over which I modeled oil clay. I made some sketches on graph paper, then enlarged the sketch I liked the best onto poster board (6mm=15mm). That is my working drawing. Using the working drawing, I traced front and side views of each part, and transferred those views to cereal box cardboard. After cutting out the cardboard profiles, I slotted them together and filled them in with warm wax, using a broad bladed knife. Thus, all my dolls parts have been roughed out relatively quickly, with positive profiles. The rough doll took very little time to create. Since then I have been filling and smoothing the rough work, but still haven't spent any time sculpting detail.

My plan is to make a first set plaster molds when I have all the rough wax parts smoothed. Then I'll cast wax into the plaster molds to make hollow parts. If I use a mix of brown wax and paraffin, those hollow parts should be strong enough to string very loosely, so I can develop the joints. I am planning to do the doll sculpt on those wax parts. When the sculpt is finished, and the parts fit good, then I'll do a final smoothing and make my plaster molds for slip casting. That is how I am using wax to make a doll.

Still, I am consumed with curiosity about Martha's Method. It is mostly because I cannot access her book that I want to see it so badly, or at least learn her actual method. Isn't that how it always is? I always want something I cannot have.

Today I worked on ankle ball-joints. Each ankle joint is different at this time. I'm trying to decide which ankle I like the best. I have to do this before I can make plaster molds for the leg that I am going to use to make a mold to test the shrinkage of the doll composition slip.

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  1. Hi kwm,
    I make also BJD in porcelain and your Blog is very helpful to give me new technique ideas! Thank you.
    I see your molds and I think you would have Problems in casting. Because are too many casting lines...this is a big Problem. Porcelain is very special and if you have many casting lines, you can look this lines darker in the fired porcelain. The lines must be very, very small less than 1mm, and as litte as possible. I also startet like you with multipart molds, but the result was horrible. A professional moldmaker told me, that lines every time makes Problems with porcelain and these lines can be visible darker in the porcelain. Moldmaking is really very complicated...and really I hate it.
    Wish you a creative day
    Kind regards
    (forgive my bad english, its not my native language)

  2. Thank you very much for your comment, Bebi. Is the dark mold seam line in fired porcelain very noticeable after soft-firing (Cone 018) and wet sanding?


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