Saturday, August 20, 2011

ELPHBA (Day 1 Design/Armature)

The other day I got a message from Blogspot saying that I had enough views on the blog that they wanted to offer me a chance to make money by placing ads on the pages. Well, I looked into this; ya know, it would be great to collect money if I didn't have to sell anything. However, I have no control over the type of ad which they would place on my pages and I think it is nice to have one place in the world where you can come and look (and learn) without Viagra and car commercials being shoved in your face. Therefore, I shall resist the urge to make money off this blog. If you truely feel you are getting something of value here and want more details, then buy my book or the DVDs. Otherwise, just keep dropping by and enjoying a moment of fun!
Thanks, Mark

In the spirit of getting something for nothing, lets start a new piece.
I want to make a little something Halloweenish but also rooted in popular culture (easier to sell!) so I have decided to keep adding to my "Wicked" set by creating the Wicked Witch of the west with a flying monkey. In the book by Gregory Maguire, Elphaba is duped into creating the flying monkeys and decided to free them so they cannot be used for the Wizard's evil intent. (great books!) By the Way, the rest of the set has sold except for the Lion and the Wizard (Thanks to The Toy Shoppe and the great folks working with Barrie and Danny!) so I will be remaking different figures to restock the set.
So, here is the design:

The witch will be supported by a steel rod in her dress. The monkey will attach to her wrist as if he is flying beside her.

The armature looks something like this:
The base will need to be either large or heavy to keep the cantilevered piece from falling over.
The support rod is 7/32 steel with the end shaped to fit into a piece of square stock brass which is soldered to the broom.
The broom is 7/32 brass with two additional tubes inside for strength without being solid brass to reduce the weight.

The figure armature is 5/32 tubing with 14 gauge wire inside. The torso/legs are made as a unit and are attached to the broom with a small gap between the figure armature and the broom so there is room for the foil padding and clay.

The front arm (left) is soldered to the Torso/leg armature and to the broom.

The support arm (right) is attached to the torso/leg armature as well but also runs to the broom so the monkey's support runs from wrist to broom - not from wrist to torso so the load is transferred to the broom rather than her body.

The monkey armature is all 14 gauge wire which can be taped together with foil tape or soldered. I got lazy and taped them. The support wire for the monkey runs all the way from the elbow of the witch (inside the forearm tubing), across the wing, and down the spine of the monkey armature.

 The armature looks like this from the side. I added a few extra tubes on the witch arm and spine to be sure the weight of the monkey would not break her arm. The base support rod will be shortened when the dress is made.
A shot from the back to show the motion of the monkey.

 Once the supports are in place, the body is padded with foil.
 And wrapped with tape to keep the clay clean.
This will give you a feel for how the piece will look in the end.
Hope this is helpful, have a great day!


  1. Hi, really enjoy your blog and respect you for not adding adverts. Curious re making process; you wrap the foil in tape, does this not cause problems when the sculpey is heated?

  2. Wow, it looks very promising Mark! Would love to sculpt along, but I'm afraid I haven't enough time yet to start such a complicated piece. However, I want to try your mermaid in the near future. Love your blog and your work! It's a daily page for me :) Nice you sold some pieces! And thank you for not being tempted to earn money with this site ... An order for your book will follow soon ;)
    Have a great day too! Hug, Tonia

  3. This looks complex enough for me! LOL You make it seem so easy, Mark. Fantastic that you've sold some of your pieces but not surprising. They're all exquisite! This witch will be, too, I'm sure! Are you done with her yet? LOL Anyone who does not have your book and is serious about learning from you definitely should invest in it. It's the best out there for learning how to create movement and those suspended in air figures. I do have a question though. How do you get your armature to balance so well that it doesn't tip over your base while sculpting and in the finished piece? Thanks bunches for sharing so much with all of us.

  4. Drooling, here. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pete, The tape causes no problems at when the clay cures.
    Southwood (sorry, I go by the names you all post)The figure is easily balanced side to side by placing the monkey over the contact point on the base. As for front to back, the piece will be front heavy so it will need a longer base which will keep the weight from levering the piece over or a heavy base which will do the same.

  6. wow this is incredible Mark. I've two questions. The witch is attached to the broom that is attached to the base, right? So you'll need to sculpt her there.... the monkey however can be taken on and off while sculpting right? Sorry.... I'm trying to visualize this before attempting. Many many thanks as always.
    Carla Goncalves /Incantostudios

  7. Carla, The witch is attached to the broom though you could make her removable. This will ship just fine attached so i attached her. The broom comes off the support rod so you can sculpt around the figure. The monkey comes off.

  8. Mark every one of your sculptures AMAZES me ... i cannot complete one!! I have drawers full of dead fairies and heads lol By not completing anything im not learning from my own mistakes and these are just simple standing sitting figures and I look at yours very complex, fluid beautiful and done so quickly! I wish I had a quarter of your talent!

  9. Excited to see how this progresses - I've been thinking of reading the books since I saw Wicked on tour and since your tin man and lion and wizard and now your wicked witch I've really got the itch!

  10. Cudos to you Mark for not making your blog about money. I too think the ads would take away from the purity that is a Mark Dennis master crafted piece! The love of the art shows in everything you do! Thank you so much for sharing, and giving those like me a chance to learn from your amazing talent, and gracious nature. I too will be buying your book! Christel