Saturday, December 28, 2013

Polar Bear Tutorial Part 3 (Adding wool to fine tune the shape)

The next part is to add wool so you can fine tune the shape of the sculpture to actually look like a bear.  This is where we left off last time, but with the wool tucked under and around.

Here it is after I have needle felted it a bit, and also compared to the sketch.  Remember to always compare it to your source material so you stay on track!
Since I want to make this bear pose-able, I am making sure to felt the joints well.  As you wrap, it can leave a depression between the joints if you are not careful.  If you take care to remedy this, when posing the sculpture it will help with looking realistic.  I move the limbs around as I am doing this so as to make sure that I have felted the wool enough to get it all to stay in place when the limbs are moved for posing.  However, you actually don't want to felt it too hard if you want it to be pose-able.
After I felt the places where the wool meets in the joints, I lay a piece of wool over the joint to cover up where the wool meets from different sections.
Here you can see how the back leg looks after that wrap, and I am also beginning to add wool to the front leg.  Again, begin the attachment at the shoulder joint in order to mimic realistic musculature.

Here is the result of the wrapping and needle felting around the limbs.  In the second picture you can see that the nose is not quite long enough, so I added wool to extend it.  Overall the shape is pretty much what I was going for at this point.  Next I just added more wool to smooth it out and needle felted it all as evenly as possible, which you can see on the following photo.  I am not posting all of the photos here because there are a whole lot of them.  If people show a desire to see them, I will make up a full tutorial to sell in my Etsy shop.

Now that I am happy with the general shape, the next step is to add wool to mimic the direction of the fur and to add the details: eyes, nose, mouth, tail, and paw pads. 

Needle felted animal

pose-able needle felted animalHere you can see my final polar bear and cub!  I am very happy with how they turned out.  I have since added another cub to this pair.  Once I take better photos tomorrow morning,  I will be putting them up for sale in my Etsy shop.  So be sure to check my shop, or my facebook page,  to be able to see them better.  If you make anything using this tutorial, I would love to see it!  Also, please leave any questions, or criticism in the comments.

Pose-able needle felt animal
I love that she can stand on her hind legs without falling over!

Needle felted polar bear

Polar Bear Tutorial Part 2 (Wrapping the frame with wool)

The next step is to wrap a little bit of wool around the frame.  I tend to start at the limb attachment point and poke the wool with the needle after a few turns just to get it to stay in place.  Then I wrap all the way down and around the foot loop.  I felt through the loop, also to get the wool to stay in place.  You don't have to felt it a whole lot around the wire as long as you anchor it down on the ends.  Wrap the whole frame so that the when you add larger pieces of wool you can get it to stay in place as you felt it down.

After you wrap the whole frame, take larger pieces of wool and wrap them around to build up bulk.  I use wool roving so that is why my wool is in strips.  However you can do it with wool batts or whatever you prefer.

Here you can see how I built up the body first, and am now adding wool around a foreleg.

When adding strips of roving to my sculpture, I first attach the strip from the beginning of where I want to start to wrap it.  In the above photo I attached this piece at the shoulder in order to wrap it around the leg.  By doing this I am mimicking the musculature of the animal, thus creating a more realistic end result.

As I am working, I keep my sketch close by so I can compare my sculpture to it.  It needs a lot more wool at this point, but the general shape and proportion are OK.

Polar Bear Tutorial Part 1 (making the wire frame)

     This is the first needle felting tutorial I have ever made so please let me know if anything is unclear.  During this first part I will show you how I made the wire frame for these polar bears.

Needle felt polar bear

     The large polar bear is the one that is being used as the example, but the baby was made in the same way.  Because they have wire frames they are pose-able which adds a fun dimension to them as sculptures.  Please keep in mind that the steps I show are not concrete and are only the way I happened to get from the beginning to the end.  There are many ways that one could have gotten to the same place.  Well, lets begin....

First I gathered the things I will be using:  paper, pencil, eraser, ruler, wire, and wire cutters.  The wire I used is 20 gauge galvanized steel wire that I got at the hardware store.  Lots of people use jewelry wire or pipe cleaners, but I think that this steel wire is stronger and a whole lot cheaper.

Add caption
Next, I found some source material to make sketches.  I used a mammal guide book and a natural geographic kids magazine to draw some generalized polar bears.  

This is the sketch I came up with.   

This is the sketch with my wire frame pieces.
After making the initial drawing I cut a length of wire to make the 'skull' and 'spine.' It needs to be twice the length that fits inside the drawing.  Twist the wire to make the 'spine,' leaving a loop to mimic the skull.  By laying it over your drawing you can predict how large you sculpture will be and also be confident that the proportions will be correct.  Next I cut a piece of wire for the back legs.  This wire needs to be four times the length of one leg, plus a little extra for the twisting.  Bend it in half, which is where it will meet the 'spine.'  Make a loop (which will be the foot) on each side and twist the wire back up toward the spine.  Next you can attach it to the spine by twisting it around the spine several times in the spot where your drawing indicates the attachment should be.  The front legs are made using the same process.

needle felt bear tutorial
This is the wire frame I came up with for my polar bear.  Good luck, and until next time!