The end is near.
Once the costuming has been designed, it's back to the figure for the
finishing work. This is probably my least favorite phase because it's
so anticlimactic. It's necessary because the figure usually gets rough
treatment when the costuming gets designed. Ideally, the main proportioning
of the figure is in somewhat final form before designing the costuming
so that it'll fit after the finishing... but the final finishing is the
last opportunity to fix or modify the figure. (Well, not really, since
back & forth is so much a part of the process. And of course, the doll
is never really finished, right?)
I sanded down the raw finish and patched up the many surface imperfections that weren't worth worrying about during the costume design. The figure still has lots of areas that aren't quite flat or symmetrical. This comes from the difficulty of coaxing and blending putty into flatness over a larger area, and from blending in additions. The only way to fix this is with more additions of putty and aggressive sanding. If they're not really obvious, I don't mind the imperfections since I think that they give the figure "character" and distinguish it from a mass-produced doll.
What I do mind are visible blend lines. When putty is added on top of cured, or sometimes even curing putty, it's very difficult to get a seamless blend. These have to be worked out with sandpaper and steel wool or they'll show through the paint coat. Sure enough, I had to deal with that during this phase because I'd made one leg top with a more flattened outside contour than the other; to fix it, I added a guesstimated volume of putty and blended/sanded/patched/sanded.
While I was at it-- "last chance" and all --I added some putty to the outside top of her boobs and beefed up her upper arms a little. I did some browsing for pictures of muscular females, but decided that I didn't want to go there. I'm okay with a little bit of that, and it would make an interesting sculpting task, but I don't think bulging veins and testosterone-fueled muscles was the look I wanted for this one. Since this is fantasy, she can wear lipstick too.
I'm not completely satisfied with her proportioning, especially the transition from her hips and shoulders to her waist. Maybe I should have widened her shoulders a bit since her hips are so wide? This might be related to the problem I had with her torso length, and from not wanting her torso to look stubby. Also, if her boobs had a little droop, they'd probably help mask the problem. Oh well... I'll get over it.
The basic costume construction took about a full day, and tweaking took another day or two. Most of that time was spent doing the trial-and-error, design-as-you go stuff, with far less time devoted to actual fabrication.
THE BRA The costume design started at the bra. That seems to set the tone: If it doesn't look right, then it's hard to proceed with any enthusiasm. (Dunno why that is?) I started with fabrics, and found a leopard print which looked pretty good when positioned with a "V" cut across the cleavage. Then I started feeling that it didn't look very special, left little room for embellishment, and was really too easy and not much fun. I then considered a sculpted solution-- making clam shell halves for the cups. Their radial fluting would look cool, and I might be able to do something interesting with the crotch piece using the seashell theme. Before trying that though, I extrapolated the concept to copper. After pounding out the cups with the fluting, I was sold: The copper seemed to go very well with the skin coloration. I liked it so much that I was willing to overlook that I've already done a lot of copper costuming, and that metal armour didn't have quite the primitive jungle flavor that I'd originally intended.
THE BOTTOM The copper crotch piece started out with some simple fluting, but then I decided to try some engraving... now that was challenging! I'm sure that there's a proper way to do it, and I have a lot to learn. My attempts to engrave clean curved lines came out terribly, so I engraved a freeform series of lines to hide the crappy work, make it look busier and increase the perception of detail. That was the the idea, anyway.
That was the front half of it. I briefly considered making the back half in copper-- hey, a chastity belt! I even had a hinge for the job, but sanity prevailed. Instead, I made a skirt-like thing using the leopard print fabric that wraps 70% around to the front (to work with the crotch piece) and is tied at the front with jute. The copper crotch piece is fastened with a chain that wraps around the back. The strange thing about this design is that between the two coverings, there's no underwear. (Unfortunately, in these pictures, I hadn't tightened her belt chain enough, so the coverings are riding lower and looser than they should. I was mainly concentrating on keeping the doll and camera out of the pond!)
THE PAULDRONS I wanted these to have the look of the the big, rounded pauldrons from my FAK-Q figure, which was based on one from the Bisley paintings. On a basic level, this was easy to do, since they were just dished circles. In practice, the simple dome design didn't really work very well since the copper sheeting is heavier than resin but lacks the body, and they kept sliding around. I squashed 'em into an oval shape to make them more fitted, and pounded out a slight secondary dome at the shoulder end. Since I was using a fluting motif, I didn't try to copy the FAKK-Q pattern detailing. I'm only moderately pleased with how they turned out.
FASTENINGS As I make parts, I like to see how they all look on the figure so I can tell if I like how the big picture is shaping up. Problem is, I don't make any of the fastenings until I'm certain that it's what I want... which means they slide around a lot and fall off. Arrrrrghhhh.
The bra cups were strung together with wire, and wired to a leather strap around the back. Another leather strap was wired from the top of the cups, around the neck. The nice thing about metal is that you can drill it, and the holes make strong anchor points. The nice thing about supple leather is that it's elastic and the unfinished side is soft, with good traction. Those qualities keep the back strap in place over the torso/abdomen seam. With metals, you risk scratching the figure with any movement: To help minimize scratching the figure, the insides were lined with rabbit fur sheared from a pelt.
The top bra strap also doubles back and connects to the pauldrons, which are joined across the back of the neck by a leather strap. This arrangement keeps them in position, but allows them a little bit of movement so that they don't restrict the arms.
THE LEGGINGS These were more difficult than I'd expected. I didn't know what material would work best there to give it that "big-legged mama" look of my FAK-Q doll. For that, I'd sculpted the leggings and made rubber castings. I reasoned that the sculpted detail should be able to be recreated with separate pieces. Easier said than done! The main issue was that I couldn't find a material that had enough "volume". Leather looks best tight-- it's usually too thick to create good folds when you try to simulate bagginess (at least for me). When I tried to create bagginess naturally, the leggings didn't hourglass in at the knees and looked like formless tubes. To solve those problems, I thermoformed coverings that followed the shin curvature, then glued faux suede fabric to that, coaxing in some artificial folds. The plastic shell clamps around the figure's shin and makes the covering appear fatter, while being fitted at the knees. Above that, the natural thickness of the fabric works just fine. I added the black lizard skin at the top (from a failed experiment) mainly to add color contrast-- the brown suede blended too much with her chocolate skin. It had an unexpected benefit though-- the lizard leather has enough friction against the leg to act like a garter belt, and can be used to hike up the top of the leggings.
In my first experiments I used hemp to tie lizard skin leggings on; then I tried leather and stringing cord through eyelets. That seemed borderline out-of-genre (although I've used it before), but mainly, it was a hassle to do and undo. Who wants to spend time with a magnifier and tweezers just to undress a doll? The easiest way to do it was with Velcro. Yep, that stuff that doll collectors used to rail about because it was so cheesy, looked awful, cheap, and unrealistic. Nowadays, we've got this cool Velcro strapping with hooks on one side and the latches on the other. The big difference is that it's low profile and doesn't make the velcro'd parts pucker out as much-- which always looked really shitty at 1:6 scale.
THE ARM COVERINGS I'd intended to give the arms a similar baggy treatment, but tried a gauntlet casting from Dragon's Timeline doll. I liked the oversized look, and I really needed to do something about the funky oversized hands. Sooooo... I tried to recreate some of the look of the gauntlets in thin copper tooling foil. That stuff is easy to detail with finger pressure-- I don't use a hammer with it. The downside is that it doesn't take detail as well as a resin casting, and it's almost too malleable. In this application, the backing is well supported, so it generally holds up to handling. The fluting detail is sturdy enough to endure finger pressure, but not an inadvertent strike from a tool. The blades were an afterthought and are made of the thicker copper sheeting since they're more vulnerable. Above the gauntlets, I repeated the motif used in the leggings.
THE OTHER FUN STUFF For weaponry, I grabbed whatever I had lying around: You can spend a lot of time working on that kind of stuff, and it's a lot of fun if you do it at a leisurely pace. I thought about making a crossbow version of the "BFG"-- something absurdly big, ugly, and mean looking. However, I couldn't visualize the mechanics of a full auto crossbow powered by sinew. The sword is recycled, but with a spiked handguard grafted on. Some of the other recycled weaponry was inspired by Predator (like a lot of other details were): The telescoping spear/bludgeon worn across her back, and the sharpened boomerang thing. I got tired of attaching stuff with hooks to belts, so I glued a magnet on her crotch panel and added steel hoops to her boomerang & dagger. It's part of my new "Velcro" philosophy towards dollmaking: Ditch the tweezers and keep it simple.
The Alien skull trophy was a late addition, from an unbuilt vinyl garage kit. It's a nod to my FAK-Q doll (who had two Alien tongue trophies), and also to the black female lead in Alien vs. Predator, who wore a skull on her arm as a shield.
I'm glad I got to use the beads in the hair and the lizard skull decoration. I was pushing to squeeze in just a few more details without making it seem too cluttered: The eye will tell you when it's too much. I think the lizard skull is borderline, especially with the neck covering, but I really wanted to force it in there. I thought about adding belts and buckles so I could attach more doo-dads, but thought it was better to preserve the clear view of her belly.
Despite all the costuming pieces, the doll assembles pretty quickly and easily, and is reasonably easy to handle and pose. The only handling caution is the forearm covers, because the copper foil is soft. (After posing Hot Toys' Terminator Endoskeleton, this one's built like a frickin' tank!)
This has been a fun project, even though I'd forgotten how long this stuff can take to make. I did a lot of the work in the wee hours of the morning, before going to work. Evenings were harder because the day job drains me, and it's important to pay attention to family life. The same goes for weekends, but at least there's a bigger chunk of early morning time (since my wife's a late sleeper).
Customizing is pretty easy to get back into after a long absence-- You don't forget how to do things, although you may forget what materials you have and where you've stashed them. And the eyesight gets a little worse... but that's just one of many things that suck about getting older.