In my ongoing experiments with sculpting, molding, and resin casting (like this one), I wanted to try out a more functional use for resin casts….Could I maybe make some kind of doll with a resin-cast face?
After a few rough sketches, I got some Sculpey out on an index card, pushed marbles in for eyes, and played around to see what I could come up with. Of course, since Myla loves to be involved, I let her have a lump, with which she made the little figure on the top left, and I came up with these two monster faces on the right (people on Instagram said they looked like monster kittens):
I still have some tricky times with molding and casting, and have wasted more than my fair share of molding rubber and resin…So I let Myla have a few of the wonky ones to paint herself…
And I added some color to a few molds that actually came out well…
(Initially, I put resin on the mouth and eyes for a “wet” look, and only sealed the faces with varnish, but later ended up sealing the whole face in ModPodge Dimensional Magic for better wear & tear).
Aside from painting them, the most fun part was trying to figure out what sort of fabric to use. So many options that completely change the look of each face! And I just used scraps of things I had in my fabric bins, including fun fur, industrial felt, mismatched fabrics, and excess pieces of a patchwork quilt I once made.
I learned from talking to other artists (have I mentioned how much I love Instagram??) that the best way to affix the heads to the fabric is to use E600, and put them under a heavy object overnight. Granted, they smell like chemical warfare afterwards, but if you let them air out awhile, the smell eventually goes away.
The first creature I made was a basic doll-shape:
…And Myla loved him.
Then I made a body for the one she painted herself:
…And Myla loved him.
I tried a more “pillow-like” one, with octopus-legs…
…And Myla wasn’t crazy about that one. (Don’t worry–it’s found a good home at my friend Corrie’s house.)
I did what Myla describes as a flying fish-fairy:
And a sort of dragonfly-dragon:
But by far, my favorite was when I tried something completely different, and made a more 3-dimensional body, with three little legs on each side.
It was my first time making one that wasn’t just a flat front & back without using a pattern, so it’s a little wonky, but I quite like it.
Annnnnd, of course, Myla loved it. She calls her “Midnight” and carries her everywhere lately. I realize these things are not necessarily made to be ‘toys” (how much they hold up to the wear & tear of kid life is still being determined), but she treats her dolls pretty well, so why not?
Thankfully, the horrendous glue smell has gone away. And after repairing her chipped little resin face a couple of times, I think a good coat of the ModPodge stuff has really helped keep her shiny & new.
It’s a funny thing, though, when she takes her little monster places. Other little girls will look at Myla and smile sweetly, and Myla will smile back…then they’ll look down at her fuzzy little monster, and their face will inevitably change to a mortified “what the HECK??” When she takes Midnight anywhere, the comments she gets stem from either complete disgust, or absolute fascination. And when people ask where she got such a doll, she says, with her sweet little 5-year old voice, “my mom sculpt it and cast it in wesin.”
Listen, I know we like weird things. And I know most people won’t “get” the same things we’re into. So we could teach her to either hide what she likes to be “normal,” or take it as an opportunity to share our weirdness with someone else.
We teach her that when someone doesn’t like something, or doesn’t “get” it (like maybe her references to characters she has heard stories of and loves, like Gamora and Groot, or Storm, or Star Wars), it might be because they just don’t UNDERSTAND it, or haven’t heard about them….but that it doesn’t make it wrong. It might just mean that they don’t know, which would be a good chance to teach them something new. People don’t always like the same things, but they shouldn’t try to make someone else feel bad for liking what they like. And no matter what, you should never EVER feel bad or ashamed for liking what you like, no matter how weird, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. If they don’t like it, that’s okay–that’s their business.
So far, she’s done pretty well with that, thankfully. She doesn’t go out LOOKING for a conflict, but so far, she handles it with grace when she does.
On a side note, people have asked if I sell these, and so far, there are many reasons I haven’t. I quite like doing them just for fun, and as much as I’d love to share them, the thought of doing them to order is quite intimidating! (Not to mention, the effort that goes into sculpting, molding, casting, painting, and sewing might be worth a bit more than people are willing to consider.)
I have trouble with that–the thought of custom work and getting rid of the things I make. It really is daunting. I worry that it might lose it’s “fun” or its spontaneity. Also, I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up. Maybe one day, when things aren’t so busy, and I’ve got this whole resin-casting thing down pat/ Maybe I’ll make a few and put them up in a shop as-is. (I keep saying I’m going to do that….)
Until then, have any of you tried resin casting? Have you tried making dolls from them? I’d love to see your creations and hear from you about your resin-adventures!
Inspiration comes in strange places. With the excitement of Austin Wizard Con looming, I have been playing with all kinds of ideas for the table display and the idea of little knick-knacks to show. And since I follow a ton of very talented artists on Instagram, I was inspired by them to try something completely new for me: molding and casting.
So I watched a few videos on YouTube, and now I’m an expert.
I won’t do a full DIY step by step, since I don’t really know what I’m doing and this is all new to me anyway (trust me, this is one of those situations where you have to just jump in and try it). But I’ll give a rough rundown of the basic steps, just to show you what was involved…
Step 1: Sculpt something.
I used Super Sculpey, and tried to come up with a little sculpted version of the mermaid girl Myla & I made. (I realize she looks very little like the original, but Myla said she was cute, so I think it’s okay…) Since kids have a natural magnetic attraction towards clay, I sacrificed a handful of Sculpey and let Myla make her own mermaid. (She modeled her after a character on Doc McStuffins, who is not, in fact, topless–but she couldn’t remember what her top looked like, so she just gave her breasts. I’m not sure if I should put a censored black bar over kid-sculpted breasts? I just go with it)…
Step 2: Make a mold.
I got my kits from a company called Smooth-On (who have TONS of great videos on their site). I won’t give you every little detail on this, since the directions are really easy (and on the box)…but the basic idea is mix This with That and pour. (Plus, if I told you everything, I’d ruin all the messy fun for you.) The main thing I learned during this step: make sure you mix it REALLY well. If you don’t, it doesn’t set right. I made mine from silicone rubber in a plastic cup. I nearly didn’t mix enough for the tail, but it turned out alright.
Step 3: Cut your sculpture out
You know that bit of instructions that you think, “Ah, that’s not a big deal, I’ll just sort of wing it”? Well, turns out sometimes they tell you those little tips for a good reason. When I put my sculpture in the cup to mold it, I forgot to mark on the cup where the back side of her was. So when it was time to open her, and I “guessed,” I guessed wrong, and sort of sliced up her face. The stubby arms were apparently a little too weak for the whole process and broke off. And the body crumbled because I hadn’t fully cooked her. But the mold itself turned out fairly good. And Sculpey can be touched up a bit, so I patched her up and fully cooked her, and she was just fine.
Step 4: Pour plastic/resin into the mold.
The first go-round, I tried a liquid plastic kit from Smooth-On. And along with my repeated advice of making sure you mix everything the right way, I’ll add a couple of pointers I learned: First thing is that it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves. Initially, I gave that bit of advice a big ol’ “Pshhhht, whatever.” But plastic nearly ALWAYS gets on your hands, and it feels super creepy, like when you get superglue on your fingers. Blecch. And later, when I tried pouring resin, I had a bit of a leak in the silicone mold (it was a different mold, and I had two “air holes”), and it leaked hot resin ALLLLLLLLLLL over my work table. Trust me, that’s not fun at ALL. So my bit of advice there? make sure you don’t have a spot in the mold that might leak. And lastly, GIVE IT TIME TO CURE. I’m very impatient. But hot plastic hurts.
Step 5: Plastic mermaids!
So I messed up quite a few mermaids, but after some trial and error, I was able to get a few decent-looking plastic mermaids! Fun! I couldn’t figure out why their faces were bubbly, though, until I looked closely at the mold, and realized that the mold itself had bubbles set into it. Whoops. Later I made a better mold, and made it smaller and on its back, so I wouldn’t waste so much silicone rubber. That helped clear up any bubble issues, and gave me a much clearer mold. Apparently, having her on her back, and pouring the silicone in the corner and letting it sort of “seep” into the face on its own is the big trick with that. (I HAD done that the first time, but she was positioned upside down, and all the details of the face were on the bottom, leaving lots of chances for air to get trapped in there. Whoops.)
Step 6: Paint that junk
I had a little trouble painting on the actual plastic with acrylic paint. (Myla had no complaints.) I even tried a basecoat of brown primer for plastic, but it just didn’t look so great.
Later, after making the bubble-free mold, I tried casting in resin, instead of the plastic…and despite MANY failed attempts (note the mutant mermaid army in the background) I finally got some good ones!
Apparently, again–the trick is very careful mixing. In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that if your mixture is off, it can do all sorts of wonky things to your cast. I haven’t tried painting these resin casts yet (I’ll try that later), but I’ll be sure to post the outcome!
With new projects, there’s always a level of intimidation for me. That casting kit sat in my art room for about 5 months before I actually got the courage to try it. But you know–when you do, it feels awesome to have finally figured it out! Even if you end up with an school of mutated fish-women, you can’t really consider it a failure if you’ve learned something.
So jump in and try something new! I promise, it’s worth it. Wonky mermaids and all.