I am now deeply into sculpting these 48th scale dolls’ house inhabitants, in the course of which I noticed myself doing several things which are second nature to me now but which may be new to you.
For new modellers, I’ll remind you that in 48th scale, a foot (12 inches) in reality is represented by 1/4 inch in the model. Thus a six foot tall person would be an inch and a half in the model. Most people are not six feet tall, in fact the most typical British woman is 5 foot 3 inches tall and size 16, which is a 40 inch hip.
I have now started modelling the flexible dolls. These are made the same way in any size. I model a head and torso which I will pour from the head up and empty out in the mould leaving a casting with a hollow interior, so that I can put armholes in the casting. I also model arms cut off at the elbow, similarly hollow legs cut off at the knee. In the finished doll the missing upper limbs are replaced with covered wires, twisted together inside the hollow torso and protruding through the holes, glued into the knees and elbows with the wire then stuffed and covered with sewn leather. This makes a really durable doll who can be bent to sit and stand and played with by successive generations. It might need rewigging and redressing but the basic doll is a good ‘un.
The snag in this size is the size.
In 24th scale one of my most popular dolls has been the ample cook. The aphorism: never trust a thin cook, seems to be burned into the national conscience. To this list I would like to add: a coughing doctor, a plumber with webbed feet and a poor banker. You should always be suspicious too of anyone with so much time on their hands they have fully availed themselves of their own services, so add: a dentist with a full set of perfect veneers, a builder with a finished house and a gardener with extensive landscaping and one of those cute bridges over a little stream.
As ever balance is the secret of life and modelling, even in something as small as the 48th scale cook’s torso.
Although I have roughed this out I need to do the detail. As you can see, I have made a space for the mouth but still need to add the lips. On my basic sculpt I add all the features. She has already had cheeks and eyeballs added and smoothed with the tip of a knife. To add any tiny detail to a model, sculpt the basic shape in freshly mixed Milliput then go away for half an hour. By then you will be able to roll or smear thin pieces of Milliput and cut off a tiny shape with the tip of your scalpel.
Keep holding your addition up to your model until you are sure the size is right. It’s hard to remove material without disturbing the underlying shape. People ask sculptors whether they add or take away. In a maquette, a modelled shape for sculpture, which is what this is, the answer is: both. However it is much easier to add to a soft sculpt than to take away, so make like Santa and check it twice.
Here I am adding the lips which still have to be blended and modelled. In 48th scale sculpting for porcelain I have to exaggerate the features because detail will be lost as the sculpt goes through all the processes to turn it into porcelain. She hasn’t got an inverted nipple, in case you’re wondering, it’s just the hole made by the tip of my scalpel as I added the breast and squashed it on. I’ll correct this later when the sculpt has firmed up. If you are a novice modeller don’t be dismayed in tiny sizes if you find you are undoing your work as fast as you sculpt it; it takes a few years to master the great skill of stopping. In fact knowing when you’re done is a great skill in life in general. Working in Milliput you can go back and do more later, in life not so much, though I would have to say that managing not to break things is a skill that miniaturists as a group have developed quite well.
If you are planning to model with Milliput one of your great allies will be waxed paper. You can glue parts together on waxed paper without them sticking to the base, you can lay wet models on waxed paper without them sticking. You can place freshly painted models on waxed paper without it sticking. For every tricky, sticky process from the house to the contents, in small scales waxed paper and graph paper are your friends. For building furniture you can line the lid of a metal biscuit tin with waxed paper, keeping it still with fridge magnets and then upend the biscuit tin over the work to keep the dust off while the glue sets. It is advisable to eat the biscuits first; if you need help with this, just ask.
Waxed paper is not a thing I’ve ever bought. It is attached to the back of the sort of sticky backed rolls of plastic you find for covering books and shelves. This type often has a fantastically helpful grid of squares on the back, just the job for squaring up all types of wooden kits. Look for free waxed paper anywhere something sticky is purveyed. Sticky labels, glue strips and dots and so on. I found mine interleaving a roll of copper slug tape. I put copper slug tape round all my big pots in the garden. This year I am really hoping to get to the blueberries before the slugs do.
Meanwhile I think I’ll put my feet up.
The pen is not there to give scale, it’s to stop the curly waxed strip curling up and throwing all the feet off. You can also see the beginnings of a spade and a broom. Milliput is very strong when modelled even in small sizes; if you’ve been making things for your dolls’ house in polymer clay, you may wish to give it a go. Best of all with tiny items you don’t have to work out how to get them into the oven, as you do with polymer clay modelling; you just shovel them off onto the waxed paper with the tip of your scalpel and leave them till they’re hard, which is usually about three hours. You can sand the sculpt afterwards and carve it with your scalpel and still add extra Milliput afterwards if you accidentally chop the nose off.
I’m off to sculpt. I’m having such fun with my characters. As proper porcelain dolls have been a bit thin on the ground in this scale I am trying to think of all the dolls that miniaturists might need. If you are bursting for someone please let me know, I’ll be sculpting people for a few more days. The night before last I couldn’t sleep for laughing; in the quest to find the most typical modern man I’d been thinking about what men of our era do. What do they most typically do? Given all the hours of their lives what do men do most of? Hmm?
When I stopped laughing I sculpted a man fast asleep clutching a TV remote control. They’re his feet,
second from the right.
JaneLaverick.com – Milliput mad. www.milliput.com