Arms Dolly

When I found myself wanting for the upteenth time to take photos of my work on a person, but not having a person handy, I finally realized what I needed was a mannequin. But a quick websearch showed I wasn't going to be able to afford to buy one on my budget. So I decided to make one.

Dolly Step 1 Magnify I started with a styrofoam wigstand I found online. I chose this one because it had the most detailed and accurate face of all those I was able to find.
Dolly Step 2 Magnify I added chunks of styrofoam to begin to fill in the wigstand's missing shoulders, attaching them to the wigstand with a hot glue gun.
Dolly Step 3 Magnify Then I added more styrofoam to the shoulders, and many slabs underneath to build a base for the torso.

Next I began my carving, using a large serrated bread knife. I cut away large areas of the foam using the knife as a saw. For more delicate shaping, I dragged the sharp edge of the knife across the foam to shave it away slowly.

Note: If you try this yourself, be sure to keep a vacuum cleaner ready-at-hand, as the process creates a disturbing amount of styrofoam "snow" that gets everywhere.

Dolly Step 4 Magnify As you can see, my first attempt at the body was pretty bad. I thought of omitting this photo and skipping to where it got better. But then I decided to include it after all, as encouragement to anyone else who might doubt their sculpting skills. Seriously, I was this far off and was able to recover. You can't do any worse.
Dolly Step 5 Magnify After taking a break to let my brain rest, and consulting with some friends, I realized I had forgotten that a person's torso isn't as wide as their shoulders. So a bunch more styrofoam removed, and I was a lot closer to human shape.
Dolly Step 6 Magnify I also started using a bra to check for accuracy. Silly as this photo looks, the bra really helped me to to get the shape/position of the breasts and "arms" right.
Dolly Step 7 Magnify After checking how various items fit I decided to make my mannequin a bit taller, to accomodate very long necklaces. So I added a few more slabs of styrofoam to the bottom. I also decided to reduce her bust a smidge more, as she was still a bit more stacked than the average woman.
Dolly Step 8 Magnify One more bra fitting to confirm I had a good shape.
Dolly Step 9 Magnify Next I added a preliminary skin of paper mache to cover up the strofoam of the body.

Around this time I also realized that my rapidly more human looking mannequin needed a name. In response to a call for suggestions my friend Alex K came up with the perfect name - Dolly.

Dolly Step 10 Magnify Here Dolly is shown with her final skin - a coating of Paperclay.

You'll notice there's no skin on Dolly's face. That's because even thinning the Paperclay as much as I could, it would have obscured too much of the detail of her features. Aside from covering the rough paper mache skin, the purpose of the Paperclay skin was to give the styrofoam a harder shell, not so prone to denting. But I decided better details on the facial features were more important than a hard shell there.

You might also notice that the smooth paperclay skin stops halfway down Dolly's bust. I could have covered the rest of her, if I wanted to sink the money into another package of Paperclay. But It's not like those areas will be exposed when I use her, as I do intend to clothe her. So there just wasn't any point to wasting the money.

Dolly Step 11 Magnify With her skin in place, next Dolly needed some color. So I painted her fleshtone, added eyes and eyebrows with paint and colored pencil, and then gave her some makeup. Lastly, I sealed everything under several coats of a clear matte finish.
Dolly Step 12 Magnify For a more finished look, here's Dolly with her hair.
Dolly Step 13 Magnify And here she is with a different hairstyle, which I suspect I'll be using a lot when displaying earrings.
Dolly Step 14 Magnify Did I say earrings? Yep.

One of the flaws of the original wigstand is that the ears were oddly truncated, with no earlobes.

Dolly Step 15 Magnify So when I added Dolly's Paperclay skin I also gave her earlobes, and then pierced them. (You can't see the piercing in the thumbnail. But if you click to view the larger image, you can just see it as a tiny dot.)

© 2009 Jessica I. Clark
Permission to print a copy for your own use freely given. Please contact me for permission to reprint or distribute.
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