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.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022


 Hi All, 

This post isn't about a doll. It's to show you a textile wall hanging I made. I call it "Magical Scales". It took me about 2 years to finish it. I didn't work on it all the time -- just at times I didn't have anything else to do. 

The size is about 23" wide x 32" long. 

When I make wall hangings, I like to design something where I can use up as much material I already have and not have to buy anything. And, because I know I will be working on it over a long period of time, I like to design something that is made up of small pieces I can work on in my hand. (This is the kind of project I can carry around & do to keep my hands busy when I have to wait an hour with nothing to do).

When I decided to design something with "scales", my first thought was a mermaid. But, I wanted it stronger-looking so I thought of a "dragon". But, in the end it didn't look like either of those, so I just called it "scales". ---I added the "magic" part later.

To start, I made a sketch. This told me how big it was to be, how many rows of different colors I wanted, how many scales (53 scales total!) and, ultimately, what the size was of each diamond-shape scale. The sketch also told me that in every other row I would need "half-diamond" scale at each end.  (Sorry, I can't find that sketch to show you!)

I sorted out all my cottons into the color groups I wanted. 6 main colors: yellow, orange, magenta, purple, blue, and black, --going from very light to very dark. Each diamond scale is a layer of printed cotton fused to a backing of red heavy-weight twill cotton. 

After cutting and fusing each scale, I fused some metallic and glittery fabric to the center of each scale. To hold down this little collage of fabrics, I machined embroidered over all that with some metallic threads.

I wanted to edge the scales with some lace. So, next step was to dye all the scrapes of white venice lace pieces & trim I had. I made a bath of pale yellow, dyed a handful of lace, then added more yellow to the dye bath, and dyed more lace. To that dye bath, I added some orange dye, and so on and so on..... Some of the lace was more polyester than cotton and didn't dye too well. With those pieces, I painted over the dye with some Dye-Na-Flow ink to get the color I wanted. I used a variety of shades of each color for the edges. I glued the lace pieces onto the edges (knowing I would stitch it down when I stitched on all the beads).

I added some texture to the center of each scale by couching down some thick yarns and adding silk flowers and large beads & gemstones of whatever I had. 

Next, I stitched down small rows of pony-size beads in a random pattern over all the lace.

The last embellishment to each scale were the beaded dangles and swags on the edges.

With the scales finished, I could assemble the piece. I used the same red twill for the backing. I knew I couldn't get this under the sewing machine, so I glued each row on, careful that each row overlapped the row under it, and that all the points were straight. After all the scales were glued on, I went back and hand-stitched each scale down to the backing fabric.

I hemmed the backing by hand, then added a black cotton lining to the back of that. I added a loop of fabric for the hanging bar, and it was done.

Have Fun!