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Becky, The Victorian Christmas Shopper

Morezmore #24
Becky – The Victorian Christmas Shopper

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“…Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone round the Christmas fire, and make the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete…”

Charles Dickens


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Before Christmas Mom sent me an email message with a festive holiday background and it caught my eye. That would make an awesome doll concept!

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001. I will need to make a child – my first one, I will need to make an umbrella – black silk, stretched on brass tubing, I suppose, red velvet coat, need to look for white fur in scale – would have to be artificial fur, I do have snow for the base and white glitter – sprinkle it all over, need to look for lace and ribbons in scale – for the hat, I have black leather for shoes, need to find white silk for gaiters, she will be standing, so modular armature. I think I am set – I either have or can find all the stuff needed.

002. As it is my first child sculpt, I looked into proportions and anatomy of small children. The Christmas Shopper appears to be about 4-5 year old. I flipped through my anatomy books, found a anatomy reference diagrams. The books are Andrew Loomis – Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, Andrew Loomis – Drawing The Head & Hands and Burne Hogarth’s Drawing the Human Head. Here is some useful stuff that what I found:

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003. I want my sculpt to be 12 cm (4.8 inch). I took the image of 5 year old from the diagram above, cropped the image using Photoshop and printed it to be exactly 12 cm. Now I will have an easy reference in front of me – how large should I make the head, hands, feet, etc.

004. Moving on to the armature and here are the pictures – step by step. The little shopper will have the modular armature, to make my life a little easier.

Tools and materials:
– proportions image
steel wire 17 ga

thin wire steel 24 ga
long-nose pliers
– wire cutters
brass tubing 1/8″ and 3/32″
tubing cutter
wooden plaque for base
Magic sculpt epoxy putty
Magic smooth epoxy gel

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Here you go: Steel wire 17 ga…

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wrapped up together with the steel wire 24 ga.

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005. The modules are brass tube 3/32″. As my drill died, I have to use my icepick to make the hole in the wooden base and, thankfully, it does the job.

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006. A piece of tube 1/16″ tube goes into the hole – it will be secured later with Magic Sculpt epoxy. 1/16″ tube telescopically fits into 3/32″ tube which is used for the leg modules.

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Here she is – my little Christmas Shopper is standing. There is a little bit of room between the the future foot and the base – for the snow. I will cut base tube later more precisely.

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007. Here are two parts of Magic Sculpt Epoxy:

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Mixed Magic Sculpt Epoxy goes over the armature – to strengthen it, on top of the head module and on the base – to secure the rod. I had leftover Magic Sculpt Epoxy and just spread it over the base – to make it less even – there will be snow.

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All three parts go to the oven – about 15 minutes at 270 F – to cure Magic Sculpt Epoxy. Actually Magic sculpt cures at room temperature just fine, but heat makes it faster and I am impatient.

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008. After 3 mornings of pain and suffering I was able to make a face for my little shopper that I can live with. Actually, better than that – I like it very much. She my first child sculpt and I had a lot of difficulty with her face. For 3 mornings I was making and folding heads one after another – either age was wrong, or expression, or smile was like a sneer, or she was just plain ugly – I just was not getting it at all.

On the third morning it happened – I woke up, started another head and suddenly I hit it – it appeared quickly and painlessly and very close to what I wanted her to be.

I think I got the idea – cute chubby victorian face, quiet, content and anticipating little smile, sweet expression, a little overly sweet, if you know what I mean – but just right for a “precious little thing” look – the kind you see on Victorian Christmas cards.

Well, here she is – I hope you like her.

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009. To help with the clay fidgeting on the smooth brass tubing module, I made a little bulb and baked it – it worked as a core to which raw clay could adhere – it prevented the head from shifting and sliding while I was working on it.

The eyes are glass eyes – 4 mm brown. She will have – Tibetan lamb fur hair (Rich Auburn) and dark eyelashes.

She has smaller cranium then she should have in real life – this is to allow for the hair and the hat. I am thinking that curls with a victorian hat, lace and all, will make her head appear huge.  So making smaller cranium make help with that.

The clay is Puppen Fimo Rose – lovely color with pink undertones – perfect for a child.

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010. The next step, I suppose, is to make an umbrella. Here is the logic – I need to sculpt the torso, it will depend – slightly – on the position of the arms – for example the shoulder blades will be affected. The position of the arms will depend on the umbrella position – I need to be careful so that the sculpture does not topple under the weight of umbrella which I think will be rather heavy. So that is why I need to make umbrella next.

011. I had to sleep on the umbrella structure – it is frequently helpful to give your mind a task in the evening and go to bed. Your mind will go off calculating different solutions and figuring things out while you sleep and you will wake up knowing exactly what to do.

Ok, let’s put together the solution that I woke with and see what happens.

012. How to Make an Old-fashioned Black Victorian Umbrella

1) take a a heat-resistant plate and a piece of paper with a hole in the middle:
2) put some Magic smooth epoxy around the hole just so:
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3) put a washer on the magic smooth:
4) arrange pieces of brass tubing (1/16″), and small beads to serve as spacers
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5) add a short piece of brass tubing (5/32″) vertically
6) more Magic Smooth Epoxy and another washer to finish this sandwich.
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Magic smooth cures perfectly at room temperature, but it takes a few hours. Or, if you are impatient, you can cure it in the oven – 15 minutes at 270 F.
While the Magic Smooth Epoxy was curing in the oven, I made a handle for the umbrella. It is a piece of 3/32 brass tubing, bent to form a hook and covered with thin black natural leather (taken from an old glove) which is glued with Fabritac glue.

Ok, I hear the oven bell – it is done. Let’s see what we have there.

Great – it worked – Magic Smooth Epoxy fused all the parts into a hard indestructible blob. A bit of bending, cutting and fitting, here is what I have.
The handle can be taken apart – this is so that I can put it into Shopper’s hand and so that the umbrella is removable when it is all done.

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I found some black cloth – I already see a very good resemblance of a real umbrella.
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As I stopped to get my coffee, I took a picture of my backyard – the grey sky, snow on the ground and a flock of geese feeding on the field in the distance, the rawhide bone forgotten by Harley the day before. The view made me happy – it is a good day to be inside working on what I love. That reminds me – it is after 8 am – I need to start my Morezmore day – invoicing, answering questions, packing, shipping, – the usual.

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013. The umbrella is done – it took forever, but I am happy with it. It is almost 10 am and I have to start working, so I just post the pictures which are rather self-explanatory. I used pins and tiny brass beads to stretch the cloth. The pins go inside the brass tubing. The top of the umbrella – I am not sure what it is, I found it in my jewelry drawer, a finial of sorts. Almost all is done with Fabritac glue, a tiny bit of sewing – just to secure the cloth at the end of the each spoke, because the cloth is under tension and the brass tubing might tear through the silk, so a few stitches at the spot hopefully will prevent it. There is a bit of silk ribbon to finish up the inside edge and hide the central wheel construction.

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014. This morning’s task was to make my Little Shopper hold her new umbrella. It is rather awkward to call her Shopper all the time (sounds like Consumer). So I decided to give her a name. I googled for most popular Victorian baby names and came up with Rebecca (Becky). Nice old-fashioned name, with a cute abbreviation.

Back to the umbrella holding thing. First of all I stripped all the raw clay from Becky’s torso, as it was in my way. Here is the construction – her right hand module and the armature for the hand. It is a piece of 3/32″ brass tubing secured with Steel wire GA 24.

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The umbrella fits into the hand armature just so and the bottom piece – handle – finishes the construction. The umbrella is removable and it will stay this way.
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015. Magic Smooth Epoxy – two equal parts, mixed all together, goes on all connections – both arms modules, hand thingy and feet modules as well. The head is still detachable, you will see on the different pictures head changing its position as I am trying different angles of the head – it is a good time to play with it and find the best position.

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016. Becky is back from the oven and she is holding the umbrella very nicely and securely, without toppling over. The umbrella does not even need to rest on her shoulder (that was my Plan B, if the umbrella was too heavy for her). Thankfully, she does not need it, she is a strong girl and easily holds the umbrella in her hand all by herself.

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017. I also started putting the clay on her torso, but ran out of time and will continue tomorrow.

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018. Sculpted torso, baked, sanded. Washed the dust off thoroughly with dishwashing liquid and brush. Dried thoroughly in the Deni oven – just an air blast – without heat. Here is what I have:

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019. Tried the umbrella on, does not work. Wrong angle of arms at the shoulders. Carved out all the clay around shoulders. Decided to leave arms and shoulders alone for the time being and make hands first. Here is hand going around that tube thing:

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020. Sculpted hands and legs and baked and sanded and washed and dried and here is what I have up to this point. Still a few things that I don’t like and will correct them tomorrow – but overall I am happy with the way it is going.

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021. Becky is all sculpted. There are some things I like and some things I don’t like about her – but that is normal, I suppose. With each sculpt I start to get disappointed with my own sculpting skills at about this point. It is ok, I tell myself to just keep moving and hopefully do better next time.

I am, however, eagerly looking forward to dressing her – I always enjoy that part, as it is, of course, much easier, much more fun and – last but not least – it will cover up some parts I am not thrilled about. So here you go, this is what I have by now.

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022. I was supposed to paint Becky’s face today and make eyelashes and hair, but instead I made her shoes and spats (spatterdashes). I was thinking about how to make shoes – thought I figured it out and decided to make them first and get it out of my system, so that I can concentrate of face painting without the distractions of the shoes.

Here are the pics step by step. The boots made out of thin black leather (glove grade), the laces – thick sewing thread, spats – white stretch lycra fabric, spat fasteners – thin elastic band, buttons – black microbeads, the glue is Fabritac.

I think I will change the elastic band to just white thread, as it looks a bit too thick on the pictures.

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023. Becky has a face, eyelashes and hair. The eyelashes are made out of feathers, one by one.
This time, instead of tibetan lamb, I made eyelashes out of feathers tips – and liked it better. The general principle is the same. It works best on glass eyes.

A. Search out and lay out feathers, crystal lacquer, sharp scissors, toothpicks.
B. Cut off tips of feathers tiny pieces 1/8″ long.
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C. Apply very thin line of crystal lacquer to the upper eyelid (blue on diagram). Do a part of the lid at at time, as crystal lacquer dries fast.

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D. Wet a toothpick and holding it UPRIGHT VERTICALLY pick up a few “eyelashes”, making a small “bouquet”. 1-3 eyelashes at a time is good enough.
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E. Press the “eyelash bouquet” (red on diagram) into the crystal lacquer line (blue on diagram), aligning the bottom of the bouquet with the line where the lid meets the eyeball (green on diagram). Keep going until you have a decent number of eyelashes all around the lid. Don’t sigh in frustration as the eyelashes will fly away, you will have a mess and will have to start all over.

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F. Wait a few minutes to allow the crystal lacquer to set, but not harden completely. With a craft knife or scalpel, working on a small area at a time, press in and upward into the line where the lid meets with eyeball (green on diagram). That will tuck the crystal lacquer and the roots of the eyelashes under the lid and re-align the eyelashes so that they extend more forward and even a little downwards at the corners.

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G. All of this is easier said than done, but it is possible and practice makes it easier each time you do it.

024. Becky’s hair is made out of  Tibetan lamb fur. Those are natural ringlets – I did not curl the hair. I made a couple of hair step-by-step descriptions, for example, one of them can be found here:
Fortuna Hair Step-by-Step

I think she is lovely – and looks like what I imagined her to look like. Somebody said she looks like old Pear’s Soap adverts.  If yes, good, that is the look I was going for.

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025. I spent the morning dressing up Becky. Fun! Stockings, bloomers, pettycoat, coat, hat. It was going well – easy-breazy and I enjoyed it so much that I did not notice how the time passed – as it is after 1 pm, I am going to stop and finish tomorrow – clean up the glue mishaps (a q-tip with acetone cleans up Fabritac glue nicely), style Becky’s hair, make a muff, a gift box for Becky to carry, make snow on the base, maybe a doll or a teddy bear for Becky to carry, etc.

The fabrics used – stockings nylon – for stockings, silk gauze and lace for bloomers, lace for pettycoat, stretch velour and decorative rope cord for for coat, felt for hat, ribbon edge for hat ribbon.

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There were just a few details that I added today – the muff, made of artificial white fur. And snow, of course. The snow on the umbrella, coat and under Becky’s feet is glitter – First Snow White Glitter mixed with White Aurora Borealis Glitter. I lightly sprayed (VERY lightly) with spray adhesive and sprinked with glitter, dusted off after 15 minutes or so.

I am done! Here is Becky, the Victorian Christmas Shopper. I really enjoyed making her.

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Talk to you later – thank you for watching!

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