Friday, December 2, 2022


 Hi All,

I made a Witch House. (Haven't made the witch yet, but I will.) This is Baba Yaga's hut. Baba Yaga is a very old, evil witch hag from Slavic/Russian folk lore. She lives in a magic house in the woods that has chicken legs! The house's legs are used to move the house about, and to always have it's back to intruders looking for her house. You can make the house turn to you, but you have to know the secret command.

It's small -- the house measures 7 inches wide & 8 inches deep. With the wood stand & chicken legs, it's 12 inches tall. It's made mostly of cardboard.

First, I started with the basic shape, cut from heavy duty corrugated cardboard that I hot-glues & taped together. The roof is thinner cardboard (from a pizza box) so I could curve it. I didn't measure much, or use a ruler, as I wanted it to look crooked.

The shingles on the roof are made of thin board (from a cereal box). I glued pieces of thin corrugated cardboard to make the wood pieces on the sides, front & back. I took a pen & drew lines in the cardboard to look like wood grain.

The "stones" on the chimney are just blobs of hot glue.

I didn't glue a floor to the base of the house, as I knew that had to be attached to the chicken feet.

The hardest part were the chicken feet. They had to be strong and support the whole house. And, they had to attach to the wood base & the base of the house. 

I started with a wire armature. I used a heavy wire that was the main legs that went down into the wood base, and also up into the floor of the house. Thinner wire was used to make the toes and support the front & back of the legs to the floor of the house. I wrapped the armature with tie-wire to hold it all together. (Since it had to rest on the floor of the house, I had to make the feet while they were upside-down!)

I glued two round wooden bases together and added a little clay to rough it up a bit. I drilled holes into the wood base that the leg armature would go into.

After I got the wire armature together and attached to the floor of the house, I went to work sculpting the feet. I used "Apoxie" clay (2-part epoxy putty). I needed something that would stick to the wire armature and "weld" it all together. "Apoxie" sticks to anything you put next to it. It's challenging to use, as it's very sticky. I wet my fingers with water to smooth it out. It takes a good 6 hours for it to harden, and a full 24 hours to cure solid.

Back to painting the house. I spray-painted the whole thing matt black to start. Then, I layered on acrylic paint as a top coat. I wasn't too neat about painting it, as I wanted it destressed looking. After all the pieces were painted with a layer of acrylic, I started paint-distressing it with thinned down black and brown glaze. Here you can see the left side of the house is the paint, and a glaze of distressing brown paint added to the right side. Because the stain is thinned, it will go into all the cracks & crevices to darken them. I built up several layers of the glaze to distress the whole house.

I have a big collection of small trinkets I use for my dolls, so I decorated the house with little charms, skulls, & anything else I could throw on it. The 4 corners of the house looked real sharp, so I soften them by gluing plastic twigs on the edges. (Got the twigs from a bouquet of artificial flowers) On 2 of the corners, I continued the twigs up to the roof and created small branches growing out of the house.

I painted the wood base & glued moss all over it. Baba Yaga is known for eating lost children. In her stories, she has a fence built around her house made of bones & skulls as a warning. I hammered some nails into the wood base & glued some plastic skulls on them.

Putting the whole thing together -- Glued the chicken feet (and house floor) into the wooden base. (Lots of moss glued to everything!) Then, glued the house to the floor. And more moss glued on! (That moss gets everywhere! Spent so much time sweeping & vacuuming it up.)

Since the back of the house was rather plain, I strung up a clothesline and hung some fabric on it to dry (hey, even witches have to do laundry!)
Have Fun! -AB

Tuesday, October 4, 2022


 Hi All,

It's Halloween time! I already got started on a new doll for my Halloween porch collection. I've written about these before. I get a "porcelain" doll from the thrift store and turn it into a zombie/goth doll. 

So far, I have 4 "zombie/goth" dolls, and one baby demon doll.

(I keep the baby demon in a cage with some rats)

Here's the doll when I bought it ($5) at Goodwill Thrift store. Isn't' she sweet looking?? I got her because of the BONNET! --Love that bonnet!

First, I strip off the clothing and the wig. (Good Lord, look how BIG that head is!)

Next, I give it a few coats of white and grey Gesso. (Gesso is a good first layer, as it sticks to the clay doll paint, and helps additional coats of acrylics stick.) Instead of adding acrylics, I kept going with the grey gesso. Then, added black gesso around the eyes and shadows. I was going to paint her horrific, with wild eyes and lots of cracks, -- but I liked how sad she looked, so I stopped. I even went back and added a little blush to her cheeks.

I took all her clothes and dipped them in a bath of black RIT dye. I was surprised how much of the clothing took the dye, as these costumes are usually made of cheap polyester cloth (polyester doesn't dye too well.) Even the lace dyed black! (I had to color the vinyl shoes with a black marker pen, as vinyl doesn't dye.)

Usually, I ruin the wig and give it a bad haircut, But I kept this wig the way it was. I trimmed the bangs to show more of the face. But I wanted to keep those sweet "sausage curls" the way they are.

Happy Halloween!


Saturday, May 28, 2022


 Hi All,

I was commissioned to make a "Jack Skellington" and "Sally" doll from Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" movie. These dolls needed to be large -- about 3 feet tall. 

Because these characters were already designed, I needed to be as accurate as possible when making the dolls. I decided to make a quick sculpt of each character to take a pattern from in order to make the cloth bodies. To make the sculpt look just like the figures, I used images of the figures as a model.

First, I found photos of the characters. I needed a photo of each, from head to toe, looking as straight forward as possible. I took these photos to a copy place and blew them up to the size I wanted. Now I had a photo of the characters in the exact size. I traced each body to make a simple line drawing. I drew a profile of the figures by hand next to the new photos. I now had a front and side outline of each body. Here's "Jack" next to his line drawings:

I cut out the bodies from the paper and traced the pieces onto cardboard. By cutting the cardboard in half, and gluing everything back together, I got a dimensional model of the figures. Adding newspaper and masking tape filled out the bodies. Here are some of "Sally's" body pieces:

Next, I used a technique I learned long ago in college when "draping" an outfit/costume on a dress form. I took muslin and pinned it to my cardboard & newspaper model. I pinned pieces of the muslin together where I wanted to put the seams. (This same technique is explained in Robert McKinley's books "Dollmaking, One Artist's Approach" and "Sculpting Dolls in Paperclay") This is half of the "Sally" torso:

I transferred the rough muslin patterns to paper and straightened everything out. With the new paper patterns of the dolls, I was able to make the basic dolls in "deerskin" fabric. (Fabric available at "Dollmaker's Journey" or on some Etsy sites) Here are some "Sally" body pieces stitched in muslin to check if the pieces match the scale drawing. You can see the (hand-dyed) light blue deer suede fabric for the finished body.

These dolls needed to stand by themselves, so the legs needed heavy wire armatures (9-gauge steel fencing wire found at a hardware store) that goes from outside the bottom of the feet all the way up to the neck of the body. I taped the armature wire to wood dowels in the legs for extra strength. You see the taped wood dowels sticking out of the tops of the legs (for some reason I used black tape on one, and white tape on the other!). I try to finish the legs as much as possible before attaching them to the body.

I joined the 2 leg armature wires in the torso, (with the back seam open) so both wires were taped together and went into the neck. I stitched the stuffed legs to the (unstuffed) body, so I could join the wires together to form a "spine". After the legs were attached to the body, I stuffed the body and neck as tightly as I could. The wire in the feet goes down into holes I drilled in the wooden bases.

I made the head, arms, and hands separated and stitched them to the body. "Sally" is meant to look like her body was hand-stitched together. I drew the "seam lines" onto the fabric body with a blue ink pen, then stitched over the seam lines with black thread.

Next came the costume. "Jack" has a very distinctive black & white striped suit. I tried to find stripe fabric in scale with the body and couldn't find anything. Also, I noticed the stripes are not straight up & down but looked more "sketchy" & wavy -- like a wood-grain pattern. So, I painted the stripes onto black satin, using a dimensional paint (Tulip brand) from a squeeze bottle. It went faster than I thought.


I sculpted the head of the "bat-bowtie" from paper clay. The bat wings that make the bowtie were made from thick black felt.

Sally wears a patchwork dress, made of specific colors, shapes, and patterns. I used craft-felt for the dress. I was able to find a close match to all the colors. I drew the patterns on the felt with a magic-marker. Some of the stripes and polka dots were made by appliqueing pieces on top of the main dress. All the felt pieces were fused to black interfacing and hand stitched together.

Sally has yarn hair, so that was easy. I needle-sculpted Sally's features into her face. Her eyes are painted on, coated with several layers of gloss gel. Her eyelashes were tricky. They are meant to look like pieces of black yarn tied into the eyelids. I used small pieces of cardstock heavily painted and coated, so they would stand in the right direction and (hopefully) not break.

And, back views:

Have Fun!


Saturday, March 19, 2022


 Hi All,

Once again, I am attempting to learn how to sculpt a polymer clay head. I took another (zoom) class with Maureen Peck Carlson of Wee-Folk (Maureen Carlson weefolk.com) This was my second face sculpting class with Maureen, who is a dear woman, a great teacher, and very funny. In the past, I've also taken sculpting classes with Jack Johnston and Mark Dennis.

In my first class with Maureen, I sculpted a small (2-1/2 inch) witch head. I struggled with sculpting a head that small. 

So, this time I sculpt a bigger head (4 inch) and the results were much better for me. The finished piece is about 15 inches tall, including candlestick and feathers. 

Polymer clay is a new medium for me. (In the past, I sculpted with Paper-Clay to make doll masks on cloth heads) I'm still learning about polymer and how to bake and paint it. I had a half brick of "Living Doll" Sculpey clay and a half brick of "Cos Clay" (both left over from previous classes). Neither was enough clay for the class, so (after researching to make sure these would work together) I blended the 2 clays together & had enough clay.

I started with a foil egg-shape about 3-1/2 inches long, with a wire neck armature (also wrapped in foil). It's easier to sculpt a face if you have a neck to hold on to. I used 14mm glass eyes (from HeartofaFairy) I spent the 2 days of class sculpting the face. I was using some photo references of older women to help me sculpt. Before I started, I had the concept of a grand older woman who wore too much make-up and living in the past. I hoped it would look slightly comical and yet a bit tragic.

I baked the face in a foil pan resting on a bed of quilt batting (covered in more foil). After the face cooled and hardened, I sculpted the back of the head and baked. Then the neck. And, after adding more foil to the neck armature to make shoulders, sculpted & baked the bust.

To get the bust set in the resin candlestick, I made sure there was enough wire neck armature to go inside the cup of the candlestick. Wrapping the wire armature in more foil, I mixed 2-part Apoxie clay and covered the foil armature & pushed the clay and armature into the candlestick, blending the Apoxie up into the polymer. The Apoxie clay sticks to whatever it's touching while it hardens (about 12 hours). Now I had a solid sculpted bust securely attached to the candlestick.

The next step was painting. To highlight all the wrinkles I had sculpted, I mixed extender medium with acrylic paint, just a shade darker than the clay color. I did a wash over the face and neck, wiping away most of the paint before it dried. This left the paint in the wrinkles. I continued to do thin washes of paint over the face, using darker colors and less paint as I went, wiping away the paint with a cloth. (This technique of painting then wiping away, leaving paint in recesses & cracks, is sometimes called "antiquing"). I used different shades of tan and pink. I went back and added some age spots here and there.


For the "make-up" blush and blue eye-shadow, I used pastel chalk, brushed on dry. I glued on false eyelashes, then trimmed them down a bit. I painted on black eyeliner around the eyes. I used red acrylic gloss paint for the lipstick. I even painted some red paint into the small wrinkles around the mouth. I noticed this detail of lipstick bleeding into the wrinkles in my photo collection. This reinforces the concept of an overly made-up older woman. 

I sprayed the face with a THIN coat of Krylon workable fixative to set the chalk so it wouldn't rub off. (Be careful of adding any kind of finish coating to polymer clay and AWAYS do a test first! -- many products make the baked clay sticky!)

I stitched a fringe of orange mohair locks for the wig. I glued the fringe around the hairline, with the locks going down over the face and back. Then, pulled all the hair up into a knot on the back of her head. I used a felting needle to felt as much of the hair to itself to help it stay in place. Then sprayed it with several coats of hairspray.

Making the costume top was tricky for me, as you cannot pin or stitch into the clay body (unlike a cloth body!). I was able to machine stitch one side of the purple taffeta top but had to hand stitch the other side after pinning it on the torso. Some of the embellishments & trim had to be glued on if I couldn't stitch them on.

Have fun! A.B.