Making a unicorn

May 24, 2017

So to break up the monotony of posts about available work I thought it would be fun to show the process of making a sculpture that I recently finished. It's another unicorn!

In the past I would mostly choose polymer clay to make fantasy creature but I've been wanting to try something different. Partly because raw polymer clay makes my fingers break out in blisters and my skin has become more sensitive to it over the years, and partly because I have some other materials sitting around that need used up. One of these materials is this stuff called Celluclay. Let me tell you more about this stuff.

Celluclay is an instant paper mache, basically grey paper pulp and dried glue that you mix with water to make a clay. I have had a bag of Celluclay since I was a kid and somehow managed to not loose it or get rid of it even though i never use it. I never use it because every time I've tried I find it really horrible to work with. It's sticky and lumpy and somehow when I try to smooth it out it always ends up sticking to my fingers more than where I want it to stick. But, not wanting to waste it, I've held onto it thinking maybe someday I'll have a use for it. Don't all artist have extra supplies they never use? Then just recently it struck me! I can use this stuff to bulk up a sculptures form before going over it with a smoother more workable clay.

In sprite of my complaining the Celluclay paper mache does have some advantages. First of it's cheep. You can save a penny by using it under a more expensive clay. Secondly it's strong. Surprisingly strong! I've broken X-Acto knife blades trying to carve into this stuff and have never had that happen with polymer clay.

Enough of that, let's make a unicorn!

The unicorn armature made of wire, aluminum foil, and masking tape Adding a layer of celluclay paper mache over the armature. Filling out the shapes of the unicorns body with more layers of paper mache. Add a layer of LaDoll clay over the dried paper mache to continue refining the shapes.

The smoother clay, the clay I use to finish and detail the sculpture, for this unicorn sculpture is called LaDoll clay. It's an air dry clay that also has paper pulp in it but it is very smooth and relatively non-sticky. I've used this stuff to sculpt ball jointed dolls and find it really pleasant to work with. LaDoll is not a particularly strong clay so it benefits from having the stronger Celluclay form to stick to. And they do stick very well to each other.

The next step, after I was happy with the shape of the unicorn, was to get it ready to paint. I primed it with many layers of gesso and then sanded it smooth, and then repeated that step a few times until I was happy with the result.

It was then spray painted white, even though it was already quite white, to give it an even color. I wanted to keep the detailing on this sculpture fairly minimal and soft so I used just some light chalk pastels for a bit of shading and painted the eyes with acrylic.

After that I sprayed it several times with mate sealant and let that dry before brushing on a bit of gloss for the horn, eyes, and hoofs.

Continue refining the shape of the unicorn in LaDoll clay and add some wire to sculpt the ears over. After the shapes are how I want I add a polymer clay unicorn horn and then paint it over with many layers of gesso. The gesso needs to be sanded to a smooth finish and the horn is covered in tape to protect it from spray sealant. After all the prep work the unicorn can finally be painted with a combination of spray paint, chalk pastels, and acrylic paint. The whole thing is then sprayed several times with a mate finish.

The final step was to add some hair to that bald little unicorn. I chose to use suri alpaca because I wanted something fairly straight but also very fine and soft since I thought it would best compliment the soft and minimal style of the unicorn.
All done!

After making this unicorn I really want to try doing another and I already have ideas about some things I would like to do differently. We'll see how it goes.

The finished unicorn sculpture after her hair is added

Making a simple dress, Meka Dress #1

July 16, 2016

I made a pattern for a simple dress and bloomers for my doll Meka and thought it would be fun to share the process of how I put it all together. I hand sew everything, since I can't manage using a sewing machine on something so small, so maybe this'll be helpful for people like me or people that don't have a machine.

The pattern is free for anyone that wants to use it. From the measurements the dress may also fit pukipuki, petite blythe, lati white, and other similar sized tiny dolls.

sewing supplies used for making a simple dress and bloomers for my Meka ball jointed doll
Tools and Materials
  • pattern
  • scissors
  • fabric marker or pencil
  • needles
  • fray check
  • fabric glue
  • thread
  • fabric
  • a bead or button
  • elastic or string
Download the Pattern
Image file   OR   PDF file
The file is sized for A4 paper, 300dpi, and there is a little ruler so you can check the size after it's printed.

Notes about the supplies I'm using:
I have a fabric marker with disappearing ink but it's fine to use just a normal pencil or pen.
If you're using elastic cord in the bloomers you'll need a needle with an extra large eye. Otherwise you can just use embroidery thread to make a drawstring and just use a normal sewing needle.
Frey check is optional but recommended.
For the fabric glue I strongly recommend getting a small needle tip applicator bottle that you can transfer the glue into. This helps me a lot to avoid getting glue everywhere.
The fabric I'm using is cotton, like the kind most often used for quilting, but you can use whatever you have or want to use.

Let's get started!
trace the pattern, then cut out the shapes, then seal the edges with fray check
  First off trace the pattern shapes onto the fabric and then cut them out.
Next use fray check on on all the edges and let them dry.

fold and glue the edges
  Now time to fold and glue some of the edges as is indicated by the dotted line on the pattern. The folds only need to be about 1/8 inch or as small as you can manage.
  I leave the bottom edge of the shirt part and the waistline of the bloomers unfolded until after they are stitched.

sew the top part of the dress
  Time to use the needle and thread! Stitch the sides of the shirt together using a whip stitch. Because the edge has been folded you should be able to make a very small seam that is still quite strong. My seams here are only about 1mm. I start at the bottom of the shirt and work up while trying to remember to leave arm holes.
  After you finish stitching tie the thread in a knot and double check to make sure the dolls arms fit through the holes. Then fold the bottom edge and secure it with more fabric glue.

add the skirt to the top part of the dress
  To add the shirt part to the skirt first I use some more glue to tack the apron into place so that I don't have to worry about it sliding around. Then use 3 drops of glue to tack the skirt onto the bottom of the shirt. I use one drop on both ends in the back of the dress and one in the middle on the front. Again this glue is just to help hold everything in place while the skirt is being sewn onto the shirt.
  I then use a back-stitch to sew the two parts together. The skirt will need to be gathered a little as you stitch but it's not anything that needs to be done too precisely. Just try to make sure the thread is going through both the skirt part and the shirt.

make a button loop so the dress can close in the back
  The dress is almost finished! The last thing to do is add a way for it to close in the back. How I like to do this is with a button loop.. or bead loop, since a round bead can function like a button for dolls. First sew the bead into place. Then make a loop with thread large enough to fit over the bead and try to secure it by tying a knot.
  Now to make the loop stronger use a buttonhole stitch around the loop. This part can be fiddly but with practice it does get easier. When the loop is finished tie it off and celebrate. Woohoo! The dress in done!

sew the bloomers together
  To sew together the bloomers start by folding the pant leg in half and use a whip stitch to sew up to where the legs should meet. Do this for both pant legs. Then join the two pant legs together and continue stitching up. Once they are all sewn together fold and glue down an about an 1/8 inch around the waistline for a hem.

finishing the dolls bloomers
  Then go around the top of the waistline with a blanket or buttonhole stitch. This will hold the hem down and also give a place to run thread or elastic through. When I add the elastic I like to try the bloomers on the doll before I tie the elastic in a knot to make sure that the bloomers aren't too loose or too tight.
  I then add more elastic to the bottom of the pant legs and again try them on the doll to test fit before finishing with a knot.
the simple doll dress and bloomers all finished
porcelain bjd, Meka, in her finished dress and bloomers

  Next just turn the bloomers right-side-out and try the whole outfit on.
  I would normally wash the clothes once they're all finished to help the fabric lay down a little better and be less stiff. and of course it's always nice to just have clean clothes, even for dolls.

All done!

You can add additional embellishments or leave it as is. This pattern is pretty basic so you could easily modify it if you wanted. I make a lot of these little dresses without the apron and it would be pretty easy to add sleeves. Just have fun with it!

So that's it. If you made it all the way through then thank you for reading and I hope this can be helpful or at least interesting to someone.

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