Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How I Design Things :)

Well, seeing as it's now half term I have a LOT of sewing to do this week to catch up with my minimum number for the Teddies Worldwide Tea Party show, I thought I could waste some time writing a post about how I design new creatures :P I'm hoping to design, trial and finish an Indian Elephant for the show which is something I've never made before: I'd need to have it finished in time for the March 7th preview deadline too so it might not be feasible, but I'm always ready to take on a daft challenge :P
I started this beastie by doodling in my lectures last week: normally I do all my drawings from reference pics so these aren't that accurate, but it did let me think about adding something new to my work: a loc-line skeleton. I've read a lot about using this stuff on Joanne Livingston's awesome blog and I'm hoping it will allow me to give this ellie a bendable trunk and spine... if not I've just made a pointless, jointless all-in-one body and head pattern for no reason :P

When I got home I looked for better references on the internet. It's probably no great surprise that a lot of my references come from Disney as I am a massive Disney nut. I love the elephants and hippos in Fantasia and so I started there and found loads of character references to build on. I also went to Chester Zoo this weekend with my boyfriend and got snapping! Best bit? Watching a big male peeing on a baby elephants head, and then seeing the baby drinking the wee from the floor of the enclosure. Wow, elephants are classy :P

Anyway, weeing ellies aside, today I've started the long, loooooong process of working out a pattern. I think a lot of bear makers have the skill to just see a bear in their heads and form their 2D patterns mentally, but I don't have the skill to do that: I have to sculpt and drape. What I do is get a load of tin foil (a-loooo-min-um foil for my American friends :D) and scrunch it up into a vague animal shape. I then layer plasticene over the top: using tin foil means less plasticene to struggle with! Usually I sculpt head and body seperately (sometimes on different scales too!) but this guy is all in one as you can see from the photo. Now it doesn't have to be perfect as the detail is added later with needle sculpting: all I get at this point is hollows that need darts and the general pattern shape. To do this I lay plastic from A4 plastic ringbinder wallets over the sculpt in straight lines and then pin it into place, marking seam lines and darts as I go. I started at the top and worked my way down with this guy because that piece was the easiest part!

Anyhoo, now I have paper versions of those initial pieces ready to go. Ideally what I should do now is use canvas to make a practise version because they rarely go well the first time but ARGH the mohair is calling me... what I may do instead is make a paper version by using sellotape to hold the pieces together so I can check the fit.... shouldn't, but probably will.

I hope that makes sense? It really works for me and I'm hoping for some budding bear artists out there, this might be a trigger for your designs too :)

Chleo and the Lugly's xxx

P.S. Mmmm.... tasty wee.....


  1. Thank you for showing how to do this form of pattern design. I like how you do it with foil. I have thought about doing this, but it seemed like so much work. Sculpting with foil I can do.

    I certainly think lockline will work well for this, it loves to bend in curves, perfect for an elephant's trunk.

    1. I'm glad it might be of use Joanne! I love browsing your blog becuase your tips are so helpful, thought maybe I should start sharing some of my techniques too :P The foil helps A LOT because then there's a lot less stress on your hands when working with the plasticene.

      I ordered locline from CR Crafts (linked from your blog) because you can't get it for love nor money here... let's hope it gets here soon!

  2. I use a similar technique (but I use tinfoil and cellotape on the surface to get the pattern). For me it seems to be the only way to make an exact pattern of an complicated shape.
    Now that you remind me of it I also sculpted an indian elephant but never made him into a pattern...

    I'm looking forward to further pictures of this project!

    1. Oooh, doesn't tin foil rip? I use plastic because I carve seams into the plasticene first and that way you can see through it :) Clear shopping bags work too, at a pinch.

      I have him sewn up already! Sadly the mouth didn't work so well this time so I may have to add one on later: I'm out of fabric for now though! Got to order more!

    2. I wrap tin foil around the sculpture first and attach it with some cellotape. Then I draw the seams on the foil. When I'm happy with it I put cellotape over all the seams, so the tin foil can't rip there anymore and cut the pattern off along the seams.
      What I like about the tin foil is that it holds its shape even after taking it off (if handed carefully). So I can see if the pattern parts are flat enough or maybe need another dart.

      I hope you can show us your elephant soon!

    3. Ah, makes sense! I think I want this guy to be in the show so I'm not supposed to preview him... if I do though he'd be my preview piece and they're due March 7th, so it wouldn't be long!