The Soft Sculpture Process is basically the art of manipulating fabric to make a shape. It has a broad range of applications, and is used by doll artists to create a wide range of dolls from the simple and beautiful, to the extremely complicated. One of the soft sculpture techniques that I use, involves creating the body, not out of clay, but wire and fabric.
For the doll shown here, an anatomically correct wire "skeleton" is constructed, and then begins the process of layering on "muscle". On this particular sculpture created in 2008, "Clay in the Hands of God", I used clay for the sculpted, head, hands, and feet. I did not use the nylon process. These pictures, only represent a quick snap shot, in an effort to simplify for the viewer, how the body of a portrait doll is created. On average, this is a 4 to 6 week process.
My thanks to Maureen Carlson (weefolks creations) for teaching me how to sculpt in clay, and to Lisa Lichtenfels for so thoughtfully sharing her expert techniques in the art of soft sculpture, for budding artists like myself. I have used a lot of what they both have taught, and come up with my own approaches to this craft. My road was made a lot easier, though, because of their willingness to share their genius with the world of original doll artists.
All body sculptures start on a drawing board with measurements, and planning, to prepare to sculpt a skeleton "base" in wire.
Front view of wire skeleton. The process is somewhat simplified when using clay for the head, hands, and feet. The body will be covered with clothing, so there will be no need for nylon skin covering.
Back view of wire skeleton, next I will attach the hands and feet, which will be sculpted with polymer clay, and baked in an oven, as was the head.
This Bible was also sculpted from clay, and the words and gold leafing on the pages, were painted on with gold paint.
Hands and feet have been attached, and the skeleton has the ability to stand on it's own, which is a sign to me, that the body will have a pleasingly realistic effect when completed. If the measurements are not correct and the wires not put together correctly, the balance will be off. God created us in such a perfectly measured way, that our bodies are able to maintain balance based upon these exact measurements. Everyone's bodies are different, but the rules are always the same, with how to measure hands in correlation to feet, head, shoulder width, etc.
I have began the first layering of the batting process. This first layer simulates the tendons that lie beneath and support, the muscles we all have in our bodies. All body shapes differ, first by height, and skeleton size. Then according to how much fat lies on top of muscle, underneath the skin. Batting can be used to simulate any body shape desired, for the most realistic effect.
Body is being built up with shapes of batting sewn on, until desired body image has been achieved.
Finished with the muscle sculpting, and the figure looks and stands very much like my son (whom the sculpture was meant to reflect). All well made sculptures should have the ability to stand on their own, even though this one will be posed into a permanent kneeling position.
All clothing has been designed and hand sewn by me, to copy the way my son often dresses when he is lounging around. It represents him being in a state of comfort.
Back view of completed sculpture
Front view of completed sculpture
The street preacher
"Clay, in the hands of God"