Photo of cutting out clay for shoe armature ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

Armatures and even more armatures….With the figure well under way I now turn my attention to the hat and shoes. These too will need armatures. I studied a pair of vintage pumps and determined the size of sole that I need to create at 1/4 scale. Making a paper template I cut out a pair of left and right soles in Super Sculpey bake-able polymer clay. Then I created two hills and shaped the flexible soles into place and baked them. Unfortunately, with the soles this thin I found them to be very brittle and they broke when trying to use them. Next I cut the soles out of two-part epoxy putty. This was more sturdy and after curing for 24 hours I was able to cut holes in the soles for the leg armature wire to pass through.

Photo showing the start of a shoe armature ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

I used more epoxy putty and covered some steel armature wire with the putty to start the shape of the heel. Once it too had cured I drilled a small hole in the heel of the sole armature and pushed the wire through. This wire will go up into the leg of the clay sculpt and secure the sole of the shoe to the foot. You can see the holes in the soles for the leg armature wires which will be needed to be secured into the base. The model shoe, a 1950s vintage pump, is in the background. Once this has set up, I super glued the heels and then began to sculpt the shape of the heel onto the sole.

Photo cutting a hat armature template in paperclip ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

Next up is the armature for the hat. I measured the sketch maquette against the final maquette to determine how much I needed to scale up the diameter of the hat. This time I decided to use LaDoll Paperclay - a lightweight ‘clay’ made from pumice that is very lightweight and dries to a very hard and strong product. I roll out the clay, cut the circle and let it firm up. Then I cut out the crown and shaped the leather-hard clay onto the head of the clay maquette and allowed it to finish drying.

Creating a hat armature using paper clay ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

When the hat dried I added more paperclay to create the shape of the crown. The paperclay hat isn’t very elegant at this stage - rather lumpy and glaringly white. But this is only ever meant to be the armature as the clay simply would hold a hat shape on its own. Once dry I will be able to remove the hat as it is quite hard and it can be sanded smooth. I could also rewet the paper and gently reshape, cut it or add more paperclay as needed. Later I will paint the hat to seal before adding clay details to it.

Photo of removable hand armature ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

When I made the wire figure armature, I made the right forearm separately using a square brass tubing. This allows the wrist and hand to be removed for easier access to the hand and fingers for sculpting. I wanted to make the fingers sturdier as the act of brushing on the mold rubber, if the piece is to be cast, could easily distort the shape of the fingers. So I removed the clay from the hand wires and went back in with epoxy putty to sculpt the fingers. Once cured in 24 hours the fingers are much stronger and I will be able to start sculpting over the epoxy with the oil-based clay.

Photo of start of sculpting pump shoes ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

With the epoxy and glue all cured on the shoe armatures I am able to install them to the feet. I slip the soles onto the protruding aluminum leg wires and thin steel wires from the heels are pushed up into the clay through heel and into the lower leg to secure the soles into place. Working in this methodical manner, making the soles separately from a hard material means that the shoes match in size and shape and will not distort or change as I am working with the soft clay - something that can easily happen as you work. With the soles in place (you can see that I have tapered the heels like the model shoe) I begin creating the shoe in clay for both feet.

Maquette progress Fannie Mae Duncan ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy
Maquette progress Fannie Mae Duncan ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy
Maquette progress Fannie Mae Duncan ©Lori Kiplinger Pandy

The hat is quite distracting as it is very white with no finesse or detail but I will be able to put it on and take it off at will as I continue to rough in the work. The hat details will put in much later so next I will turn my attention to sculpting the suit clothes.

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