Vitruvius Character Development


May 2006 was character development month complete with armatures, mask-making, and clothing. The puppets for the Vitruvius project are made of aluminum wire and epoxy putty for “bonesâ€? in the arms, torso, pelvis, legs, and feet. I’m using the Nick Hilligoss T-shaped tie down method for the feet.

The head construction starts with balsa wood and hot glue which bulks out the shape and also provides weight reduction. A thin layer of Super Sculpey is applied and the heads are baked. The eyes are wooden beads with pre-drilled holes and are baked inside the sockets. I sprinkled some talcum power into the eye socket via the pre-drilled hole to help the eyes move around easier (that’s a tip from Strider I believe).

I use Sculpey flex over the wire armature to bulk out more body shape and then bake the whole armature. The Sculpey flex allows me to create tighter joints while reducing fatigue on the armature wire over time since the edges of the Sculpey near the join are not rigid like regular Sculpey or epoxy putty. Theoretically I will bend my wire joints over time but reduce the possibility of the body mass eating into the wire.

I patch the joints with liquid latex and build up a latex skin over the whole armature. I used polyester fabric and hot glue for the clothing. Some of the edges of the clothes have a strip of aluminum wire hot glued in a seam to allow for positioning. The robes are made of wire-ribbon, purchased at Michael’s Arts & Crafts, and glued together like an accordion to simulate cloth folds. With the polyester tunics, I was able to run a cigarette lighter quickly across the edges to cauterize the fabric’s plastic material and keep the edges from fraying while also keeping the fabric from becoming to bulky. It also eliminated the need for sewing edges.

Here are some photos to illustrate various stages of character development for Vitruvius.

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7 responses to “Vitruvius Character Development”

  1. Ouch! Hot-glued clothing seams? I’ll bet your fingertips felt the burn. You ought to get ahold of some Fabri-Tac fabric glue. It’s great stuff… I use it for all my hems. And just about anything else I can get away with not actually stitching.

    Man, I love seeing your behind-the-scenes stuff! And I love the little column-heads. Everything is looking fantastic!

  2. Wonderful!! Grant, you’ve really been working! I love the technique. Thanks for the details, it helps.

  3. Schweet! Nice puppets, and thanks for the technical bits, gonna have to try out some of these ideas (been wanting to play with sculpey flex). Looks great, can’t wait to see more!

  4. Wow you have been busy. Thanks for the behind the scenes stuff – always great to see. The making of photos for the little capital heads remind me a lot of the Bruce Bickford puppets. (the bodies not the head part0

    Those togas are looking real good too – nice work.

  5. Just thought I’d add…..I love the fact that I can look at one of your puppets and say…”That’s an original Goans”. I think its great that you have a recognizable style, I hope to get to that point someday, but I think its going to take a lot of puppet experimentation before I find that look I want.

  6. Wonderful work! Clever solution you’ve got with the feet. And I’ll also be curious to hear about how the sculpey flex works out — I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a store.

    This is all very impressive… I was just reviewing your photos of creating the set. Everything is blending together into a wonderful whole. Makes me feel envious. 🙂

  7. Wow. Thanks for the compliments everyone.

    I want to thank all of you that share your project development via web sites and blogs. My inspiration for doing this blog came from being a subscriber to your sites. I think production blogs are a great learning tool since they contextualize the mechanics of creating objects for animated films within the process of producing a work. It’s the difference between a dictionary’s definition of a word and hearing or reading that word in actual use…that sort of thing.

    Yes I got a hot-glue burn…but I love the stuff. 😎

    Jeffrey, thanks for the compliment on my style. I agree with you in that all of our styles will continue to evolve and emerge over time. Surely a person’s signature would be infused in some way for such a hands-on media like stopmotion.

    Sculpey Super Flex Bake & Bend is found at Michael’s craft stores around here in the Sculpey rack. In case you have a Michael’s or other craft store near you and want to experiment with the stuff that’s what you should ask for.