Quite an important tenth post for me here-
I always loved seeing how people make the beautiful pieces they produce, and so, it’s about time it was my turn to join the line, inexperienced but optimistic!
My making process for my first ever puppet was clumsy and a real walk in the dark, but I was very proud of my end design, especially as it was my very first stop motion puppet. It took hours of work- weeks even! I already had my character design, a typically complicated one, all ready to confuse and none-plus me in the building journey ahead..
As you can probably see, my inspiration came from a lifelong love- Christopher Robin Milne and ‘Winnie the Pooh’- for some reason, he has always been my archetype for childlike innocence and imagination, and I was ready for a full on homage. Other inspiring little dearies included Danny Lloyd, the star of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ – a psychic with the tiny man in his finger, Tom Hill, the maudlin young ghost from ‘The Awakening’, and even the beautiful art of Norman Rockwell. (The Discovery)
The first plasticine draft took over a week to sculpt into a character I was content with, I made one that was perfect at first, and the average desired 30cm for an easily manoeuvred puppet, but upon placing it in the already measured, 60cm walls of my sets, he turned out to be just too big, and I (distraught and disheartened) had to start over. This time, I was thankfully more successful and produced a little guy of about 20- 25cm, one of a good size that could easily be cast in Plaster of Paris, and start making his many varied faces.
I had already decided that the face would not be a mailable, soft sculpt- after all, my first stop motion venture needed to stay as simple as possible, without me panicking about the different stages of a facial expression or dusty and dirty clay.
Each head would be solid, but with moveable eyes, I would simply use a different expression for each different scene- every head matched with a different letter, for each section of my storyboard.
In the end, I sculpted around 10 individual faces and expressions for my puppet, a different form of face (head) replacement used widely in stop-motion companies worldwide- although comparatively simpler- ten heads, as oppose to the hundreds of thousands of facial and mouth expressions used in, for example, ‘Coraline’. I don’t think I’d have gone that far..
Along with my choice of solid heads came another decision to be made.. the movement of the neck. *sigh*
I know some people make the decision to bake only part of the head solid, and leave the eyelids, a gap for the mouth and the neck free, where they instead place unbaked clay, blending it in as best they can and moving it when they animate. I always thought this made the puppets look a little patchy and blotchy, not to mention that this was not something I wanted to do just yet- I just wasn’t ready for it. I wanted something easier, so pulled in another passion of mine.
Ball jointed dolls! ❤
I have been fascinated with the mechanics of ball joints for a long long time- they make a puppet or doll move gorgeously, and with a massive range of movement, perfect for stop motion! As well as stop-motion, It would also be the first time I had ever looked into ball joints, so all of this was another first for me.
The neck joint was actually easier to come to terms with than initially thought, I shaped a small dome crater into the head where the ball would fit, and then rolled the ball joint to fit into this shape.
I kept the ball in the middle loose, thinking that it would mean more movement for the head because of the gap between the chin and the neck rim, but later puppets I made disproved this. I wasn’t to know : )
The gold piece of metal protruding from the shoulders on the left of the image above, is actually a hollow piece of thick wire. Into this, I will place the wrapped wire for the rest of the armature- the clay I chose to sculpt with has a tendency to chip, so this will strengthen and ensure the clay stays un-crumbled!
I’m sorry this post is such a long one, I will continue the design process on another post- Thank you!