Monday, July 25, 2011

Working With Wax

Aalish, my 60cm BJD being modeled in brown microcrystalline wax, has 16 parts, if you count the skull cap as an individual doll part. She has 14 points of articulation, since she has a two-part torso. All her parts are on a tray, right next to where I work. Carving Wax Test Doll sits on top of the book shelf in front of my computer, keeping an eye on me. Everything I need to model in wax is within reach, and I have no excuse whatsoever for not working on Aalish, or Carving Wax Test Doll when I am sitting here.

The computer is my reference tool, and I also use it for researching anatomy, and inspirational pictures, whatever. It is also a big distraction, and a way to procrastinate doing anything at all. I usually get more work done when I do not turn on the computer at all. The computer is, fortunately, or unfortunately, a part of my work space and studio.

In the beginning, my BJD was quickly built-up over the cardboard armatures. I considered it, rapid-prototyping at the time. I quickly got a very good idea of how big the doll was going to be, and how the parts were going to fit together, and so forth.

Now that the basic forms have been established, I have been slowly modeling the details. It is much easier to model forms with the brown wax than it is to model them with the carving wax. So what I have been learning by working with Carving Wax Test Doll is how far along I need to model Aalish, in brown wax, before I can make the waste molds to cast her in carving wax.

The way I work on Aalish with the brown wax is that I have thin coils of brown wax in a small pile beside my work table. I pinch off pieces of brown wax and add them to the doll parts where needed, to build-up the forms where I want them. Since the brown wax is firmer than oil-clay, I do not smear the brown wax onto the doll part. I pinch a piece of wax off a thin wax coil, and I press it firmly into place. This is how I build-up the forms. The forms look like a lot of little pieces of wax pressed into place.

Once I can see that the form is close to where I want it to be, then I take a tool, and I scrape wax away from the form, until it has a nice profile from several points of view. Then I repeat the process, over and over, until the doll part starts looking like I want it to look. When I am modeling the wax, I may start the profile of the form by pressing a coil of wax into place. Then I can add pieces of wax to each side of the coil until it is close to the profile.

The wax coil softens in the warmth of my hand, and becomes very easy to model with. Sometimes, especially now, that it is Summertime, the doll part will get soft from the warmth in my hands, from holding it. It is easy to get it cool, simply by running some cool water over the doll part. When cool, the wax is very firm.

It is very difficult to show how I work because when I stop to take photos, then I lose my train of thought. Maybe modeling wax is a right-brain activity, and taking photos is a left-brain activity? I know that I must hold a doll part in my hand for several minutes, turning it in all directions before I know what I want to do with it. I think that the holding and turning of the doll part is my way of getting into the right-brain mode? This is why my photos are usually of the before and after genre of documentation.

Working with carving wax is much different than modeling with brown wax. The brown wax is relatively soft, and is easy to model directly onto the doll part using my fingers. With the carving wax, it is a drip-drip-drip method of adding wax, then scraping it with my knife, or using a heated metal wax working tool to shape the wax. I am beginning to think that carving wax is not for everyone. Carving wax demands a lot of patience, and working with it requires a lot of time. The more I work with the carving wax, the more I understand how far I need to take the brown wax sculpt. It is very important for me to get the forms built-up in brown wax because building-up forms in carving wax is much more difficult to do. However, I mustn't spend too much time smoothing the brown wax because I can take the carving wax to a much higher finish. This is what I am trying to learn at this time.

Finally, I must always keep in mind that my final doll is going to be molded in plaster and cast in doll composition slip. At this time, I am thinking that I must keep all of my modeling simple.

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