Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Steampunk Lady...

I would like to introduce you to My Steampunk Lady!  The idea to make her came from the fact that on February 22nd, Allegory Gallery and Second Chapter Books will be hosting a Steampunk Party.  I wanted to make a prop for the window and started working on different concepts.  One of the things that I have been wanting since we opened was a vintage mannequin to display some of the jewelry from the store.  Sadly, finding a nice one for a good price is akin to the search for the Holy Grail.  So, I did the next best thing and made a small scale version.  I'm really happy with the way she turned out and I can see myself making more figurative based work in the future.
The nice thing about having a bead store is that there are ample amounts of supplies at my disposal for working with small-scale projects.  For instance, the eyes are made from Swarovski crystal pearls, the "window" for her clockwork heart is a ring from TierraCast, and the cage that makes up her body is created from Soft Flex Company's Craft Wire.  I also used the two-part epoxy Crystal Clay on several occasions.



Sometimes things don't work out perfectly.  Originally I had the idea that I would have her body sit up higher and the folds of her dress would morph into the bars of the cage.  But as I was working on it, it reminded me a lot of the toilet paper covers that my grandma made from Barbie dolls and crocheted dresses.  The solution was to saw the bottom half of the sculpture off just beneath the line of the corset for a smoother transition.  This meant that she wouldn't sit as high up as I would have liked, but I had a solution for  this particular conundrum that I'll go over later on in the post.

Even though the above picture might not look too exciting... just a stump, really... it shows clues to my process.  I first built an armature out of crumpled aluminum foil and layered Super Sculpey over it.  I also ran wires through the entire top part of the body with the aim to anchor it to the bird cage body.
 This next set of pictures shows a couple of different things.  I wanted to integrate the body with the bird cage a little more, so I thought that I would use vintage lace to add an additional Steampunk element and tie in the bottom half with the top half more cohesively.  The problem was that I couldn't find my box of vintage lace!  I did find a crocheted doily and played Frankenstein with it and cut it up.  I was worried that it would unravel completely, but I managed to get everything glued and sewn down.  I then went over and soaked the doily with watered down acrylic paint to make it darker and give the lacy doily more structure.  I think it looks almost like wrought iron.

This set of pictures also shows the holes I drilled on the head.  I had this idea that I would root the sculpture myself with some felting roving I had on-hand.  I played around with it and came to the conclusion that it simply wouldn't work.  So I quickly ordered a few different doll wigs online.  I didn't really want to master wig making for this project that wasn't supposed to take very long.

The pictures also show the first layers of gesso.  I did some research on painting dolls and a lot of artists will use the natural color of the material that they're working with.  The flesh toned polymer clay wouldn't be so bad, but the problem was that in some spots, the layer of clay was thinner and the aluminum foil armature could be seen just below the surface or peaking out a bit.  Not only that, but I like the look of the thickly painted santos figurines and wanted to duplicate that look to an extent.
This set of pictures shows my early attempts at figuring out how to attach the arms without them getting too bulky and have a nice range of movement.  (I thought that I'd make like these screw eyes and use some kind of adhesive to help hold them in.  But I ended up drilling a hole all the way through and running a wire through it to dangle the arms from.  On the suggestion of a friend, I left the arm joints exposed to make it look less life-like and more doll-like.

I lightened the picture on the right to show what I did with the cavity in her chest.  I filled it in with watch parts, bits of gold leaf, and encased it all in resin.
Here's a detail of the corset strings I carved in the back of the piece.  I figured that since it would be in the window, people would see it from the front looking in and they'd see it from the back looking out the window.  So I wanted to make sure that I considered the back as much as the front.
One facet of Allegory Gallery is that it's a bead store.  I wanted to show some of the beading techniques in this piece.  It made perfect sense to make her jewelry!  This picture is a detail of the peyote stitch cuffs and a detail of the hands.  (You can even see the ring I made for her out of two part epoxy clay and a Swarovski crystal from a cup-link chain.)  The hands are pretty rough in the rendering, but I did them really late at night and I didn't want them to be too fragile.  The fingers are bonded together in a robotic-karate-chop-action pose, but they also flattened out in the oven a little more.  Originally the hands were closed a little more.  Now they're flat-palmed.

Her dress, which was inspired by the birdcage-shaped silhouettes of bustle-laden Victorian ladies, is hung with portrait pendants of her imaginary paramours.  I blacked out their eyes to match her dark eyes.  I also wired gunmetal beads and black quartz beads along the bottom of the cage to make sure that the sculpture wouldn't get top-heavy.
Here's a picture of her with her skin and make-up painted in.  It's also a picture of her with her wig on.  When I was measuring the head for the wigs, I must have miscalculated or measured it wrong, because all the wigs that came were massively too large.  I ended up having to cut it apart and sew back together this particular "Milk White" colored wig.

The picture also kind of shows what's hanging on the inside of the cage.  It's a cluster of different kinds of clear glass and clear crystal beads and pendants that were wire-wrapped onto a chain.
In these pictures, there are some of the final details.  On the left, it shows what the corset strings look like painted and it also shows the seam between the doily and the corset.  I was originally going to make a hard line, but then it looked like she didn't have legs and was propped up on top of the cage.  So, I took a rolled up coil of epoxy clay and smoothed out the transition between the actual fabric and the sculpted fabric.

On the right, it shows the top hat that I made for her.  It was my solution for her to sit up higher.  I made the hat out of a mix of Super Sculpey and the ultra light Sculpey.  I was worried that if I started out making this piece thin, it would collapse.  Thusly, I made it one solid piece and then used a drill bit to hollow it out.  The hat is embellished with a moving propeller, a vintage flower headpin, watch gears, and then some natural brass filigree from Vintaj.

I'm really pleased with the way this figure turned out.  I almost considered making her a male companion, but I ran out of time.  I'll take a picture of the window once it's completed.  I got a small cabinet that I'll be painting and embellishing that she'll sit on top of.  We're considering doing a local science fiction convention called, Sci-Fi Valley Con, and I can see myself doing a series for that of Steampunk characters in painted backgrounds.  Maybe something like Shintaro Ohata, but more in my own style.  The convention is in May, so I have a little time to plan.

15 comments:

Cynthia@Ornamental Style said...

Oh my word, Andrew! I'm so impressed with your sculpting skills! She is phenomenal!

Anne said...

Holy cow! It's brilliant!

Meridy Migchelbrink said...

What a beauty she is, Andrew! I LOVED reading about your process.

Carol D. said...

You are so talented! I am glad you described how she is made as you really put a lot of work in her.

Sharon Driscoll said...

And just why aren't you sculpting more? WOW

Paula, Chief Bead Officer said...

Andrew, she is amazing! How long did her creation take -- it looks like a very time-consuming project. If you have a chance, please post a pic once you install her in your shop window - she is sure to attract lots of attention!

Marie Cramp said...

That is wild!! Great job :)

artistic rejuvenations said...

very cool.

SummersStudio said...

she's wonderful and I love seeing the whole process.

CraftyHope said...

Goodness gracious Andrew, she's AMAZING and you are even more amazing for making her. I'm in absolute awe. Thank you for sharing all the little steps and details you added. I might not have noticed them otherwise and that would have been a shame!

Beverly Herman said...

Andrew your Steampumk lady is AWESOME. I love the detail and seeing the process. Especially how you cut up the doily and used it. I love how it blends in and becomes part of the dress cage.

Marian Hertzog said...

I love your creative process... the vision and the solutions to making it work... thanks for sharing! She is awesome and definititely needs a boyfriend!

Melissa Meman said...

Wow..she is so beautiful! You definitely need to create more of these!

Andrew Thornton said...

Thanks everyone for your kind words! The wheels have been turning and I have been dreaming up what I want to make next.

Works From The Attic by Linda said...

Andrew she really is amazing. We were admiring her again last evening at the party! I think she should remain a permanent figure in the store! Keep those imaginative wheels spinning! You are an amazing creative artist!