Update 6th February 2013 Well I made this tutorial almost exactly two years ago now! It's been in storage for a year, but I'm happy to rerelease it to the DA community. If you could take a couple of minutes to read through the following:
1. I don't make dolls this way anymore. I use more specific tools and spend more time getting things right, but this acts as a perfect starting point for you to experiment. 2. That's it haha I just wanted to stress how old and dated this is 3. My tumblr is: [link] and my facebook is [link] 4. OH and if you make a doll using this tutorial submit it to my group, #PosableArtDolls so everyone can see!
Part one of a two part series on how to make your own artist doll. This part tells you how to make the armature.
Edit: Hi everyone, just want to say a huge thank you for all the favs and comments, there are some really awesome posable creatures turning up on DA now! It's great to see so many people using and enjoying my tutorial and how variable the dolls can be as well, some are pretty basic and then there are the astoundingly sculpted dolls like *Wood-Splitter-Lee's dragons and *Vertaki beautiful gryphon, Dojo. If you make a doll please let me know, I've found most through dolls being submitted to groups.
I have a small request if you do make a doll - please link back to the tutorial so others can try making one for themselves! It would be a great help, and the more dolls there are in the world then the merrier we will be.
Thanks again for all your support, it really means a lot to me. Keep craftin'! end edit
Edit2: Hi again! The growing number of awesome dolls meant I had to bring them all together somehow so if you do make a doll or are interested in making one, or even if you just love art dolls, then swing by my group, !
Edit3: This tutorial has been typed up by Amanda DiVirgilio and featured on Doll Makers Dream! [link] Thanks Amanda!
FAQs What is Fimo? Fimo is a polymer clay (meaning it's plastic based) which is baked in a standard home oven at 110ēC for half an hour to cure it. It feels a little like elasticy play-dough when fresh and sets hard when baked. Other affordable craft polymer clays are Sculpey and Primo, you can use both of these for this tutorial quite happily.
Can I use another type of clay for my doll? You could use air drying clay too. That would be fine, just skip the parts about the oven!
I don't have pin heads, what do I use for eyes? You can use beads, marbles, bits of Fimo rolled and cooked earlier (remember Fimo doesn't need to be baked as long if it's thin/small) etc. Anything round, really! ~MaryBunnie uses "Czech glass drop" beads and loves them.
FLORAL TAPE, AAH! I know, it's frustrating! It's also hard to know if you have the right one as there is such a lack of distinction in florists. If it feels papery then it's right, if it feels smooth and is shiney then it's wrong. If you're buying online then try to look for 'stemwind'. If you're not buying online then look in Poundland (in Britain), local florists, gardening centers, haberdasheries and anywhere that sells fake or real flowers, they will usually have some.
I hate floral tape!! That's fine, it's not for everyone, if you honestly can't stand it (or can't find it) then you could also use masking tape, but it's stiff nature could be even more frustrating. If both masking tape and floral tape send you into a frenzy then you can also go ahead and not use either! It just means the fimo won't stick to the wire and could prove even more frustrating...
What gauge wire do you use? I don't know! (That's helpful isn't it ) I used to buy my wire in my Universities art supplies shop and it didn't have the gauge marked on it, or the material (zinc, aluminium etc) If you're buying in that sort of situation then use your own judgement to decide on the best wire for you. If you're making a large doll, you will need a strong wire. If you are making a small and delicate doll then you'll need a smaller wire! I use a mix for my dolls, thick for the armatures and thin for the wings. Recently I moved home and there aren't any craft stores here, so I have to get creative with my suppliers! My local gardening center sells gardening wire, for tying up trees and other established plants, and I use that for the armatures. It is a LOT stiffer but also harder to nick and therefore lasts longer. So far it's working excellently, but I do have to use pliers to form it.
What gauge jewelry wire do you use? Once again, I don't know. I would say it's a medium gauge. It comes on a spool, it's cheap, I used to use copper but now I use... Well it's gold in colour, so it could be brass! I'm not sure! You just have to go to your supplier and see what they have. A helpful hint: my supplier also stocks floral tape and the wire I use and the tape are next to each other - this means the wire could also be that wire you get for putting in flowers to form them. Try looking in a florist.
What gauge are the tubes? 3/32" or 2.4mm aluminium tubes.
Where can I get good fur? I buy my fur from Mohair Bear Making Supplies, who are a British company who order their fur from Germany (some of it anyway). Sometimes if they don't have what I want (a rare occurrence!) then I go to Christie Bears. If you are shopping online then look for teddy bear supply websites, they usually have the highest quality fur. You can go to haberdasheries and look at their fur, I sometimes go to a dressmakers supplies store as they stock soft furs for bridal capes and things. If you live in America then I'm told Jo Anns and Michaels often have nice fur. Also try Etsy, there are a number of sellers on there. ~mammalfeathers buys her fur in scrap packs from a supplier on Etsy and loves it, as the mixed variety inspire new designs.
What can I use to make the pattern? You can use any cottony fabric you can find. Old pillow-cases, old t-shirts, I use the lining of some curtains that were being thrown out of my old house. They were huge so it's lasting me a long time! (It also means all my patterns are spotty which is quite nice.) I have also used newspaper a few times to make patterns, or just newsprint paper, and measured the doll instead of wrapping the fabric around it.
How do you dye fur? .... *deep breath* Faux fur is impossible to dye. I have tried hundreds of methods and read through hundreds more tutorials, and everything is kind of half baked. Essentially the plastic that makes the fur doesn't take dye but does stain, so there are methods like sharpie dying or acrylic washes. (*Kat-Nicholson used copics to colour Afalon's mane!) However I have found personally that sharpie dying is very expensive and acrylic washes make the fur go 'crispy'. If I have to do markings on a doll I will use Dylon Fabric Paints. What I do is take a small amount on a paintbrush and brush it very softly onto the fur, making sure there aren't any globs, then brush it more vigorously with a nail brush. The fur stays very soft, maybe not as soft as the original fur, but compared to dyeing with acrylics and sharpies it's a lot better. Of course the more paint you put on then the 'stickier' it gets. Also Dylon fabric paints are heat set so it means if the fur gets wet at any point then it's going to be ruined (but it would be ruined whether or not it had paint on it!). Of course you can use RIT dyes on natural materials like mohair, but I think mohair fur is pretty gross! I tried using it on faux fur and it doesn't work of course, it just dyed the backing of the fabric. *Wood-Splitter-Lee uses Tulip fabric spray paint to colour her dolls, which she bought in Michaels, but Britain doesn't have a Michaels so I haven't tried them yet. Tins of fabric spray paint are available from a number of suppliers but they're too expensive for me to buy for the dolls at the moment. My best advice is to just buy fur in the colour you need! I know that's useless but it really is something that should be considered. However I always buy short pile almond coloured fur and it takes the dye very well.
How do you make wings? That's a secret! If you've got this far and made a doll I'm sure you can work out a method using your knew found knowledge.
How do you stick feathers on? Using hot glue primarily but recently I've been using fabri-tac (it's an American product and expensive to buy over here but I found some and tried it out! Turns out it's exactly the same as UHU glue, or bostik multi-purpose glue.)
I have been looking for a good tutorial for so long, then (after being a watcher of yours for a couple of years) I think "Hmmm...I wonder if Maddy made a tutorial" and sure enough, you did - and it's the best tutorial I have found on the whole internet. And only today, two years later, did I think of checking your gallery for a tutorial -_-'
-ahem- Long story short, this is an amazing tutorial: I'm definitely going to try this out with the polymer clay I have laying around. Also, my art teacher told me I need to think of and make an "unique sculpture"...I think this definitely covers that XD
Hello. I really love your tutorial! So much I used it, thank you. I have a few questions and I would love for help. So I had bin working on a doll today but ended up in the trash because the polymer clay broke on the feet, all that is left is the head which is perfectly fine. The clay I used is super sculpy. But it sees to break a lot more, what do you use to make the clay harder so it won't break? I do cook it at the temperature even went higher but still. Another question, it seems when I move my feet on my sculptures they end up just loosening up and breaking but I can't fix that. I there a way I can stop that? I tried glue but still, didn't work. Thank you and sorry if it is long, if bin thinking a lot and I've gone a bit stress from thinking to much. Thank you so much though for inspiring me to try and even ask these questions... Since I'm really shy. I hope you can help. <3
Make sure you are making a little loop at the end of the wire so the clay doesn't spin on the wire. If the wire is too stiff and you push on the foot the wrong way then the clay will break, that's why a lot of my original dolls had clay legs as well as paws, because it meant you posed the whole leg rather than just the toes and there was no risk of breakage.
Make sure the clay is thick, the wire loop should ideally be embedded at least 5mm on all sides. You can also sculpt the foot separately to the wire, put a small disc of milliput (epoxy putty) on the base of the looped wire, press that onto the foot so it sticks, then cover the top of the loop with another disc of milliput and finally hide the epoxy and blend to the foot with more sculpey.
It could also be that the clay hasn't been compacted enough around the wire loop if it's breaking up internally while you're posing it.
My problems with feet are usually to do with wire stiffness relative to size. For tiny dolls like Blueberry I would never use a stiff wire because his feet are so tiny and delicate, you need something that has very low resistance to stress. Because of the soft armature he was wrapped very lightly with batting so it didn't come up against resistance with the fur, because that can also cause problems sometimes. If the fur is too thick and the wire not stong enough the doll won't hold a pose well.
i tried this but got a bit confused, i used putty and put tape over it and foil too, but i have two questions the head kept moving and i was able to pull it off without trying much, the putty hardly held it in or in place, im not sure how to fix this other than gluing the head on, can you help me? i dont know what im doing wrong and also, for the putty on the hips, why didn't you cover that with tape and foil? thank you!
if the head was made of putty and it came off then you need to put a loop in the wire and make sure you squash it on really tight if the head was made of foil and came off you need to make sure you pack it on really tight, use a spoon to smooth and squash it down if it hurts your fingers there's nothing wrong with glueing the head armature on, I think in this tutorial I even say to use araldite to hold it firm. I put tinfoil on the chest so that when you wrap it with batting it bulks out faster and harder than the hips, as there is more mass to the chest than the hips. it's just personal preference though, I actually don't do it anymore with my current dolls.
aaa i think i misworded im terribly sorry...i meant its the chest area not holding the neck in place so it kinda flops over and the legs themselves (not the feet) are able to be moved not posed but like moved out of place from the best (aa think of it as them being moved from their sockets!!) im not sure why this is ;-;... but i think next time along with the putty ill use wire to keep the joints all connected,... the head itself is secure ha at least i managed to do that correctly
it sounds like you wiggled the wires while the putty was setting, make sure you use epoxy putty and once you have squished the putty securely around all the wires then just leave it until its cured. you can use jewellers wire or tape or something to hold it all together while the putty cures, but the epoxy putty is important in making sure everything is rock solid.
I'm rewriting the armature part actually with different photos and a clearer description. it should be up in the next few days.
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More