Why make Boris and Donnie? It was a challenge and we wanted to see if we could actually do it! In the beginning there was a 'lightbulb' moment idea, a woolly thought: 'Maybe...' followed by a couple of quick scribbles and sketchy drawings.
The sketches gave us a starting point. We outlined the complete figures to give us a definite size to work to. As you can see, if you are doing the same your drawings don't have to be too realistic. Cartoon style is good!
Armatures give designs strength and using bendy wire means we can pose our characters easily. Standing 30cm (12inches) tall these armatures are made using strong garden wire wrapped securely with thinner wire to create a strong flexible base.
We decided to weight the feet so the figures would stand easily. We stitched pre-felt wool bags, filled them with steel shot and sewed them to the armature. It's all rather organic, the making process, and what a great feeling when it works.
Tight wrapping with core wool is the key to creating a firm base to work on. Core wool is cheaper than dyed coarse wool and often comes in long lengths which makes the wrapping easier.
We built the body shape up gradually, occasionally needle felting the wool to shrink it round the wires and firm it up.
We always use a slightly thicker needle - a 38 triangle, to prevent breakage when needling near wire.
Now for the heads...scary stuff! We took time to model them from modelling clay first to familiarise ourselves with their features. We worked from clear photographs and to the size of our drawings, slightly emphasising the features, making them smaller or bigger to create the caracature. Hooded eyes and mad hair for Boris and a wee nose and enormous quiff for Donnie!
Needle felting the heads was not easy! Noses, eyelids, cheeks, lips and chins were all made separately, then added to the basic head shapes. There was loads of tweaking until the faces just felt right.... and when they did it - what a giggle and an achievement. Each head took around 6 hours to make.
A smart dark blue suit, white shirt and tie for Donnie. We completed his body and added the hands before attaching his head. Then he was kind enough to help us to finish his playmate, Boris.
Now the fun begins. We have had so much fun making mini props for these two characters. Their favourite things are tea and cakes, needle felting, knitting, bunji jumping and generally causing chaos here in Felty Towers. We often animate our characters so watch this space for their first appearance in one of our Home Spun Movies.