October 27, 2014

DIY Ichimatsu Doll pt. 1: Prep

As I alluded in my previous post, I have been working on making an "Ichimatsu" doll for the last several months. I put "Ichimatsu" in quotes, as this is not a true Ichimatsu doll, but rather a look-alike using a western porcelain doll as the base.

Like many people who love kimono, I have come to love Ichimatsu dolls, especially really well made ones with accurate kimono that can be dressed, but such dolls tend to be very expensive. I have been lucky enough to have bought a real Ichimatsu doll, but she is a modern display only version of fabrics glued to a styrofoam base with plastic tabi-shaped feet permanently attached to a wooden base - pretty to look at, but not much else. I do realize that many people also find them to be creepy, the same is true for western porcelain and bisque dolls. If you are in the later camp that finds dolls to be creepy, you may wish to skip over this post, since the beginning stages of making my doll looks incredibly weird and creepy!

This is a project that I have mulled over in my head for the last 10 years or so, so I am very happy to finally bring it to life (so to speak). It all began during a usual treasure hunting shopping trip to a thrift store when I spied some western porcelain dolls in the toy aisle and thought, "hmn, I bet I could alter those to look like Ichimatsu dolls", and that is what I've set out to do!

And so begins my quest to show others how to make their own dream "Ichimatsu" doll!

Some skills that you may need:
Sewing - You may need to re-sew a new fabric body for your doll, as well as it's clothes. If you do not feel confident to sew doll kimono, they can be purchased online, but keep in mind the cost of doing so. I will be writing up tutorials for sewing the kimono and other items (boy's ensemble, but can be adjusted for a girl doll), or you can look up my tutorials when I made my son's awase kimono.
Clay sculpting - Well, maybe... I have never worked with clay before starting this project, but somehow figured it out!
3d forms - I do think it is best to have a good artistic eye to interpret shapes and forms in a face, and some skill to replicate those forms with symmetry. For me, I have a little background in drawing, but working that into clay was still a little intimidating.

Step 1: Do a lot of research! Look for pictures of Ichimatsu dolls and get an idea of what sort of doll you want, and how you'd like it to look. Get an idea of facial feature shapes, whether or not you want it to be able to sit, and other features you may like. You can find a lot more examples of Ichimatsu dolls if you search in Japanese, you can copy/paste this in your browser: 市松人形Save reference photos to look at later. I have decided to make a boy doll, so when my tutorials get to the sewing parts, it will be for boy clothes.

Step 2: Find a suitable victim doll for dismantling. There are a lot of different styles of porcelain and bisque dolls, so look over them carefully. I suggest finding a doll at thrift stores for cheap (I spent $4 for mine). Examine the proportions carefully - most porcelain dolls have very tiny hands and feet and very large heads. While the same is often true for Ichimatsu dolls, I think it is best to avoid exaggeratedly small body parts. Small feet isn't necessarily a problem, if you plan to add toes to the doll. Some porcelain dolls have wire in their arms and legs for posing, which may also be a nice feature if you wish. Try to find a doll that has brown eyes (Unless you plan to do a unique doll - I'd like to do a green eyed Ichimatsu doll some day), and peel up the wig if you can and see if the top of the head is solid or if there is a large hole in the head under the hair. I chose a doll with deep inset eyes - Ichimatsu dolls have flat faces without deep set eyes, however flat faced porcelain dolls are hard to find. You will see why deep inset eyes are best for this project in a short while.

This is my victim doll. I chose her for her brown eyes, as they looked exactly like my first purchased Ichimatsu doll. She has a soft body with no wires, and a very basic head mold. Her hands are too small for my preference, but I have another doll to take apart and use it's hands. I did not examine under her hair to see it it was solid or had a hole, which I why I've added that up above for things to look for when buying a doll to take apart. This one does have a hole in the head, but that isn't a deal breaker as I can cover it up with clay. It adds more to the clay sculpting process, but is fixable. This doll's eyes are set in with glue, so it was easy to pop them out, but some dolls have there eyes fixed it with clay or porcelain which makes them difficult to impossible to remove. Some dolls don't have a sculpting bust like this, and that is fine as well, you would just need to insure the collars or the kimono are closed tightly around the neck to insure the fabric body does not show near the neck. The problem with this type with the porcelain bust is that the shoulders have a pronounced slope which would look like the doll has no shoulders underneath a kimono. This can be fixed by sewing the bust back on very tightly so that the fabric near the shoulders bulges upwards.

Other supplies you might need are:
Pliers - for removing the glued on wig or hair
Cotton fabric - if the doll's body is in poor shape, you may need to resew it
Stuffing material - I reused the original doll's stuffing, but if you plan to use new clean stuffing, choose something dense and heavier than polyfill.
Paint remover or acetone (nail polish remover
Glue remover (or do like I did and use sandpaper)

Step 3: The doll needs to be dismantled and cleaned up. First thing I did was remove the hair using pliers. This is when I discovered the head had a big hole in the top. There was a plastic wig cap under the hair, but it didn't fit right and would have given the head a cone shape if I reused it.
Then I removed the eyes. The eyes were just glued in, so it was easy to pop them out, just be careful to not scratch the eyes up.

Remove the porcelain parts from the body. This doll has holes in which they were sewn to the body, as well as a little glue. The glue was weak so it was easy to remove, but other dolls may have stronger glue that may need to be pulled apart with greater strength.

Step 4: Remove the paint. You can use paint remover, I used nail polish remover as it was what I had on hand.
There is still a small bit in the crevice of the mouth, but that's fine. I just needed a clean surface to sculpt on.

I used a low grit sandpaper to remove the excess glue from where the hair was glued on.

Step 4.5: If the fabric body is in bad shape (glue residue, dirty, weak fabric), you can sew a new one.
You can see discoloration around where the limbs were attached, and the fabric has a fairly open weave and scratchy texture. I would not reuse it.

Remove all of the stuffing and wrap the individual portions in plastic wrap or in plastic baggies. The stuffing in mine was still good and no weird smells. It is a dense fluffy stuff that reminds me of drier lint. I'm guessing it is shed fibers from yarn making or other textile making process. I think that traditional Fiberfill stuffing such as what used in making stuffies or pillows would be too light to use as doll stuffing.

Take apart the stitching to the old body, iron it, and use it as a template to cut out the body parts in new cotton. I used an old cotton sheet. You can make changes if you wish. If I could do it again, I would put less curve in the waist.

Sew the body back together with the new fabric. For the edges of the arms and legs, I simply turned under the raw edges and hand sewed them.

Re-stuff. I wanted my doll to sit easily, so before stuffing I sewed together the tops of the legs so it would move easily. I also found that I used way less stuffing than was originally inside the doll.

Step 5: Examine the head and plan how best to sculpt the face. For reference I will show this head side-by-side with my Ichimatsu doll:
The doll that I purchased is around the same size as my mass-produced doll, so that works out great. The porcelain doll has a slightly slimmer head, which is good as it will be covered in clay. The nose isn't as pronounced as the Ichimatsu doll.

From the side, you see that the eye sockets are deeply set, unlike the Ichimatsu doll which has a flatter face and has eyelids. The porcelain doll also has an upturned nose with a a pronounced curved slope, and nondescript ears.

The porcelain dolls hands are the same size as my Ichimatsu doll, but too small for my personal preference. My boy doll will have larger feet once they are sculpted, therefore I feel that larger hands would be needed to even things out. I will save these hands for a later project.

The porcelain doll has roughly the same length of foot as the molded plastic on my Ichimatsu doll, but thicker. I will later add toes, so the foot will be longer and less stumpy.

The acrylic eyes from the porcelain doll are a near perfect match to the eyes in my Ichimatsu doll. Glass eyes would be much better, but these eyes work great.

After examining the differences, I came up with a list of structural changes that need to happen: eye sockets need to be filled in, slope in bridge of the nose needs to be straightened and tip of nose angled straighter, ear shape needs to be built upon, and toes sculpted. As much as I wanted to have a solid idea of what the finished face would look like, I know that is an unrealistic pursuit, and instead I opt for playing with the clay sculpting and figuring out facial features that best suit the underlying porcelain structure. This is where having a lot of reference pictures of Ichimatsu dolls will come in handy, as you can compare what sort of eye/nose/mouth/ear shapes best suit the shape of the porcelain base.

Step 6: Prep the base for clay. The first thing I'd do is position the eyes. This is where the process gets really creepy looking!! In order to fill in the deep eye sockets and bring the orb of the eye closer to the surface of the face, the eyes will need to be affixed to the top of the eye sockets, rather than inside the head. This is why a deep inset eye shape is best to re-sculpt over.
Okay... It looks very creepy, I know... but trust me on this! Play around with it and find a position you like. I did an ever-so-slight angle downwards on the outside corners, as I planned to have my doll's eyes droop a bit on the outsides. I used Tacky Glue to set the eyes in place - it isn't a very good glue for this, and I would recommend using E6000 since it holds really well. I used the Tacky Glue just in case the eye placement didn't work out and I could easily remove them again if need be. Try to set the eyes as evenly as possible so that they are looking in the same direction at the same angle.

From the side you can see the eyes are now closer to being even with the cheeks and forehead. The cheeks will need to be built up so that they extend past the eyeballs, but this is a good eye depth from the forehead.

Next, I need to address the hole in the top of the head. First, seal off the hole - I glued a piece of cardboard (such as from a cereal box) and let it dry.

Use air-dry clay to build up the top of the head into a rounded shape. I used La Doll natural stone clay, a Japanese brand often used in doll making. After it has dried, you can sand it smooth, or you can sand it after the rest of the face has been sculpted. The smeared clay around the face is excess clay that was watered down. I found that the La Doll clay didn't stick to the porcelain as well as the package led me to believe, so roughing up the texture over the porcelain a little bit helped the clay grip better, but not by much. I recommend reserving a small amount of your clay and set it aside to dry out - you can use the dried clay during the sculpting phase by grating it into a fine powder, and add to your sculpting if your clay becomes too wet.

Alright, I will cover facial sculpting in the next post! See you soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment