Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Starting to Make a Bear (Bear Club 1)

Hi All!

Well Half Term is finally upon us, which means I have a bit of bear making time.  Just before school broke up myself and six interested students came together to begin Bear Making Club: it's the first time I'll be teaching people of their age (although I did show three girls at my American University, but that was a bit more informal!).

For us, the process has begun with DYEING FABRIC (always dramatic, generally coupled with witch-like cackling and stirring of suspicious looking pots of bubbling liquid).  All of my students have chosen their colours, but I was trying to match a paint chip for a commission: hopefully you think I was successful?  Student selections were mostly brown with some lilac and green thrown in.  Next fortnight we'll start drawing out and cutting patterns, before the real fun begins.

Meanwhile (because I won't have a club update this week due to the holidays) I thought I'd chronicle the real first step for me as a bear maker: pattern design.  I've done this for my hare before, but thought it might be useful to have a bear reference in time for the inevitable club assembly at the end of the year.

I always start with a simplified sketch and plasticene model of my creature, generally made piece by piece rather than whole model at once, hence the disembodied head.... I'm aiming to make a baby version of my big Bomb bears: they'll have a traditionally positioned neck but I want them to have the head dimples I like in my Gem style bear and the tendency towards obesity of the Bombs.  The aim is to have a 'one day' bear which would be more affordable but have the look of a chunky bear.

So, once I have my model I will lay plastic from plastic wallets onto the model and pinning it in place: this helps me to work out my darts as you can see from the top of the head here.  It takes a while to work out the best layout but I prioritise the front of the face and try to avoid too many seams there.  Once I have the whole of the head covered, I will peel off the layers, draw them out on paper and try to make a mock up. I make my trial bear heads in mohair now, having learnt too late that the difference in stretch is difficult to compensate for.  If it's a massive body (like a Bomb or Sloth size) I will make a canvas version first, but I often ruin good mohair because I can't wait: bad habits die hard!

 I'm now at the stage where I have something like the head I'd planned! As you can see it is MUCH BIGGER than planned: I always forget to take pile length and type into account... this is a hand dyed alpaca from Intercal so it's very fluffy.  What was hopefully going to me a 'minimal adjustment head' has become a 'mega needle sculpting head' but ah well, I like the look so far.  Sadly this is my last 4mm eye so I have to wait for an order to arrive before I can finish his face off!

Going to work on the body next: planning a fairly chunky one similar to Gems, but the arms and legs will hopefully be stubbier so I need to take that into account... might need to make a set of limbs at the same time to balance him out...

'Till next time!

Chloe and the disembodied heads xxx