Sunday, 23 August 2015

Building Armatures: Nausicaa

I began planning this project in April, and when the summer holdiays finally came around I was ready to start making. 

The first step was to draw scale images of my puppets from different angles, and use these drawings to design the armatures. Let's start with Nausicaa.

I knew that I wanted her to be 15" in height, the size of an antique Japanese doll I own. I scaled up a front, back and side profile of a skeleton diagram to use as a base, and traced over it to plan the armature. 

The skeleton I'm making for my Nausicaa puppet is a more advanced version of the previous skeletons I've made for soft sculpture experiments. Although the pelvis and skeleton will be steel, the arm and leg joints are twisted aluminium, which holds its pose best for animation.

The brass K&S metal forms the 'bones' of the puppet, the gaps inbetween where the aluminium wire joints are. These were cut to size and filed down to remove any sharp edges.

The aluminium wire has heat shrink tubing applied to it, which will prevent the aluminium rubbing against the brass when bent - any nicks in the wire will weaken it and might cause it to break. The wire is then glued into the brass tubing with a strong 2 part epoxy.

The square K&S creating the basic pelvis structure will also serve as a rig point. If the puppet needs to be supported whilst being animated, a smaller piece of K&S attached to a rig can be slotted in through the back.

I made the feet in a similar way to Lisa Lichtenfels, with the wire twisted to make that nice back heel shape. This will work as a nice structure for soft sculpture.

The toe shapes are then added on, formed from a very fine copper wire.

By adding nuts to the balls of the feet, they can be tied down to a set. The nuts were first glued to the foot and then encased in milliput. Milliput is an incredibly strong 2 part putty, and once cured goes solid as a rock. This will stop the nuts from potentially coming loose.

Now that I had the basic shape of Nausica's body, is was time to build up the 3D skeleton element for soft sculpture - the ribcage and the pelvis.

The ribcage has always been tricky; getting symmetry and that bell shape with steel wire is quite difficult. I decided to try something a bit different, using very small brass tubing on the spine to slot the wire of the ribcage into.

This seemed to work very well, as it helped with the placement and shaping of the wire. Here is is half built up. The ball joint at the top of the puppet is so that the head and neck can be posed in a natural way. 

I cut the threaded rod to size, which is where the length of the neck. In this image they're just temporarily threaded on - the thread needs to be soldered to the ball for permanence.

The finished ribcage - I'm happy with how it came out!

And here's the final armature, minus the hands (I'm waiting on some wrist joints, so will talk about those in a different post!).  I'm quite happy with how she's turned out, and have certainly learnt a lot along the way. The next stage will be wrapping the armature in yarn for soft sculpture, but before I can do this I need to sculpt as cast the skull for the head.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post, which will be about making the armature for Kai the bird.

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