To avoid any potential issues, I decided to try my hand at making an entirely plastic joint system. I bought some 3/32 plastic armature from Mohair Bear Making Supplies, something I've been meaning to do for months. I know a lot of art dolls have their limbs articulated with this stuff but I only wanted to use it for the spine as I had other plans for the legs. My friend Manda managed to buy me a bag of vintage Action Man wrist pegs at a doll show recently, and I knew they'd be perfect for my plan. I had some plastic tubing exactly the right diameter to fit them, so after a couple of brief sketches I started to assemble everything.
At this stage I was in love with the articulation, especially of the paws.
Now that all the sculptural parts were done, it was time to add the floof!
I began by wrapping his skeleton with wadding and then winding thread around that to secure it in place. This also meant it was padded consistently around the whole body.
The fur fabric I used on the previous version was actually a very long piled fur, so I needed to trim it as I went along just so I could see my stitches! I started off with the legs as they were the easiest part, simple tubes I ladder stitched at the seams to disguise them. I sewed the top part onto the thread and wadding just to hold it in place.
Next came the most undignified stage of all.
It's hungry work, being a new dog!
At last, Baxter 2.0 was complete!
At first I just did this joint, but realised afterwards it wasn't going to be sufficient, so I did the lower one too using the same technique.
He was always quite a big dog, but this version is even bigger still - I don't have my own dog, and don't spend any time around any, so my sense of scale has always been a bit off when it comes to canines! He's supposed to be a crossbreed anyway, so let's just imagine there's some Great Dane ancestry in there somewhere!
I took these photos before his second surgery, so he's a little less wonky than he is now!
(The garden they're enjoying was a quick outdoor diorama I cobbled together last summer using scrapbook paper, a bamboo table runner, a few scraps of wood and an assortment of real plants!)
To avoid the eyes getting all mucked up this time around, I painted a couple of layers of liquid latex over them before I started sculpting, so after he was finished I could just peel it off to reveal shiny untouched eyes.
Even without hair he looked so much more like his older version which made me incredibly relieved as I worried that I'd end up making him look even worse!
The next day I touched up his paint a little, (mostly around the mouth, as I think giving his lips black edges was a mistake!) though happily the apoxie sculpt's default colour matched his fur perfectly, so I didn't bother painting most of it in the end.
When it came to adding the hair back, I took my time and applied it in layers, working from the bottom to the top, trimming as I went along so I could see which areas needed more or less fur. While the body was sewn together, for the face I cut the fur fabric off close to the backing, then combed it out to get rid of the bulky floofy bits I didn't need, then glued it straight to the head with UHU glue, using a cocktail stick to blend the gluey ends onto the face smoothly.
When I got to the middle of the face, I used the same technique I use on doll partings, as shown beautifully by Mozekyto here -
where you glue a weft on backwards, then fold it over so you get a nice
neat finish. I thought it'd look nicer than just layers of flocking,
which is what I'd done before.
I made some new ears out of trimmed down fur fabric and beigey grey coloured felt - it's the same stuff I used on the original Baxter, but couldn't find when I went to make the new version. The colour match just wasn't right with the cooler grey felt, so I was really pleased to find a big enough scrap to work with. I just cut out two matching ear shapes for each ear, sewed them good side to good side leaving the bottom open, and carefully turned them inside out. I put in a couple of tiny stitches to give them a gently folded look rather that straight up, but I'm not sure how well that part worked, lol. Once the face was all done, I added glue to the inside of the ears and smooshed them back onto the ball joints.(extended with plastic tubing for a greater surface area)
After all that he got a little bit of grooming with an old toothbrush and some water to get rid of any loose hair and to hopefully train the fur to lie neatly.
Now, finally, he looks like Baxter again!
|A definite glow-up!|
Gone at last was his dead eyed stare (he was starting to remind me of a shark!) and back came the happy, friendly doggo I remembered!
He doesn't sit very well at all, but he can at least lie down reasonably comfortably.
Despite the multiple surgeries, he's still the same cuddly and loyal companion to Max and Juno.
Hopefully this is the last round of surgery he'll need for a good long while and can just continue to do dog related things without worrying if his limbs are going to fall off or that he'll wake up one morning with a different face!
So yeah, the moral of the story is, if you're not happy with a project it's totally ok to go back in and fix things, even if it takes months to pluck up the courage!
Also, it goes without saying, but Original!Baxter is going nowhere, he's just retired from general use - I'd never throw him out!