Creating Doll Armatures

Happy December!

I’m proud to be a Design Squad member and your December blogger. I’m a figurative doll artist and this month I’m going to share a few of my tips and techniques for creating body armatures.

Proportion and body armature are important in creating a balanced and realistic figure. There are several methods depending on whether you want to make a moveable or fixed figure. At this time of year I’m usually focused on Christmas and one of my favorite characters to make are elves. I also teach a workshop on making elves and am going to share a section of the workshop with you. This is for the armature for a 12” poseable elf. You can use this same method for creating other smaller figures like fairies. Here’s a photo of one of my elves. I’ve used Super Sculpey for his head and hands. For his legs and feet which are not visible under his stockings, I’ve used bits and pieces of leftover Sculpey III – a great way to use up dirty clay.

To start, all you’ll need for the armature is a couple of wire hangers, wire cutters and hockey tape. Wire hangers are strong, readily available and suitable for bodies that you want to be able to position and re-position after you’ve assembled your art doll . . . And well, hockey tape is just simply amazing! Hockey tape is a fabric tape. The adhesive is very strong (hockey sticks take a beating); it comes in different widths and colours and it doesn’t dry out or lift over time. It’s better than anything else I’ve tried, and after 25 years of sculpting in polymer clay, I’ve tried just about everything. I can even sculpt over hockey tape without worry. It’s a studio staple for me.

Below is a template for the body armature and at the end of this blog post. The printed template should measure about 9-10”.

After you’ve created your armature you can start the body building process. For these little elves I cut up old cotton t-shirts into 1” strips. I wrap them tightly around the wire, taping as I go. When I tape, I pull on the tape for a tight solid body. By pulling tight it also smooths some of the lumps and bumps. Once I’ve built up the body, I enclose it all with tape, leaving the wire at the neck and from the knee and elbows down exposed to accept the sculpted head, legs and arms.

This is an easy and very adaptable method I hope you will try out. If you want to know more about the “My Little Elf” workshop check out my DIY page on my website. Happy sculpting! – Maria Saracino

Here is a little video to help you on your way to making your first doll!

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