09/26/99- Surprise! It's not something sleazy! Instead of making German ammo pouches & web gear, I made this modern civilian counterpart: the M89 Fanny Pack. In its relatively brief deployment, this piece of gear has probably seen more beachheads than any piece of military gear.

This piece was sculpted in black Fimo, a tough Polymer clay produced by Eberhard Faber. I knew that one would probably be enough, so instead of casting it, I used one of the more durable clays. Super Sculpey would not have been a good choice because it's quite brittle, but Premo would have probably worked as well.

Durable Polymer clays are extremely tough to knead during conditioning, and have rather rubbery sculpting characteristics. Since this was a small piece, the kneading wasn't a problem. As for the sculpting characteristics-- well, you just have to adapt to it. I found it necessary to use some Turpenoid to restore some of the plasticity to the clay during conditioning, as well as to help smooth out some surface tears which developed during smoothing: this stuff doesn't blend surface tears very easily. Adding turpenoid reminds you that this is a really sticky clay too.

This wasn't too difficult to sculpt: Since it's an "organic" shape, you really don't need to worry about perfect symmetry or smooth, flat surfaces. Because of the clay's rubberiness, I did a lot of the detailing using an Exacto blade. Even that doesn't produce overly sharp lines like it would in Super Sculpey. This has some advantages, as I was able to produce the look of "patched-together leather scraps" in a few areas by lightly scribing the surface joint and the zigzag stitching. With Super Sculpey, this would have required a lot more effort, since you would undoubtedly apply too much pressure and produce deeper, sharper cuts. This characteristic was a hindrance for producing the fine detailing of the zippers though.

The relatively unfinished surface texture worked pretty well for achieving the look of leather. I used a moist Q-tip and stippling brush for that, and it came out matte, without any tooling marks or fingerprints. The zippers only needed a thin coat of gloss to make them appear to be constructed of a different material. For the belt strap, I trimmed strapping from 21st Century's SEAL set. This had a more authentic pattern than twill tape. The buckle's oversized though. If I had really cared that much about this piece, I would have used one of the squeeze-release buckles from Dragon's Michael Chan figure. Those would have been totally authentic-- but I'm saving those for something more meaningful like a front unbuckling brassiere. ;^)

I wouldn't say that this is part of "Gretchen's stuff", because I can't imagine what she'd use it for. ;^) However, I was curious about how leather whips were made, and after finding directions at Matt's Wide World of Whips, I made this crude attempt. For me, it was mainly to learn the plaiting braid, which I couldn't figure out on my own. Once you get started, it's pretty easy- The hardest part is translating what you read into doing. For a second attempt, I'd cut the laces thinner and a more consistent taper, and use a lighter leather.

10/24/99- Can't say that this belongs to Gretchen either... this is Barbie's® laptop computer from her "Wage Slave" set. I did the obvious stuff-- an overall coat of titanium metalizer paint, the key lettering decals (2.5 point Arial bold-- what a tedious pain-in-the-ass positioning them!) and the simulated LCD screen (a sandwich of clear acetate and a transparency backcoated with stainless steel metalizer paint). I didn't know what color to make the trackball since most I've seen these days use a touch pad. I've thought of drilling a center-marking hole through the top to grind a spherical cutout socket from the bottom: this would allow you to insert a real ball from underneath.

Although it's a nice piece out of the box, there are lots of little details you can add-- the bottom is hollow, so it begs for a panel... do you then cut a bay for removeable CDROM & floppy drive? What about the ports & power connector? HD & power status lights? And of course, a carrying case. My wife saw the lettering and said I was sick... ;^) You can get too carried away with pointless detailing.

(Actually, I'd planned to show a picture of a banana here, but I just got that out of a candy machine...)