Monday, February 9, 2015

Belfry Minifigure, Part One

The success and demand for my minifigure, "Pipsqueak", who debuted at DesignerCon 2013 made me really want to try my hand at another character.  I say that Pipsqueak is "successful", not just in that lots of folks are buying him, but because I am extremely proud of him. I love Pipsqueak. To me, he truly embodies the emotion and "feel" of my characters, and to be honest, I was having trouble getting started on a new character, because I was afraid that I would never even come close to making a character that I felt was as successful as Pipsqueak. In fact, that crippled me from starting, for a long time.

A group of blue Pipsqueaks, staring forward. Cute.
Pipsqueaks, in the "Winter Sky" color.

I toyed around with a few ideas before really cementing this one in my head. I didn't want to make another bunny character, because it would be difficult to make one in the exact same size of Pipsqueak, and not have them compete with each other. In the end, I drew a little doodle of a bat with large ears and folded wings, and was really happy with the idea.

Rough sculpting of a bat character, in clay, with sculpting tools.
Belfry in early stages of sculpting.
I showed the idea to Chris, and he helped me get started with a very rough sculpt. From his rough shape that defined the height, ear-to-body ratio, and basic shape of the wings, it was up to me to do all of the finishing sculpting. This takes a while, as my technique for this is nearly all reductive; shaving material away using tiny rakes and wire loop tools, and smoothing with a little metal spatula. I finally decided he was "done" when the shape and facial expression matched what I'd visualized in my mind. I always like to leave imperfections in the sculpt, even when making toys that will not be painted. I like to see the marks made by the tools, small nicks and pits, and just a general slight lumpiness that lets everyone see that it was handmade in the beginning stages.  I've had toys produced of my characters that, by either digital sculpting or painstaking smoothing before the mold is made, are extremely smooth and perfect. While that's absolutely fine, I prefer the resin figures that I produce to carry some of the same slightly naive, homespun, primitive look that my originals have.

I wanted Belfry to be sort of an extension of the Pipsqueak "family", so I kept his face fairly similar. I brought his wings down around his sides for two reasons. The first is that I wanted to keep the "stretched gumdrop" shape of my characters intact, and the other was logistical. When doing these minifigures, it's important that they are not too difficult to cast. This is what keeps the price down for everybody; many can be pulled from the same mold, and the bottoms sanded to finish them off.

Unfinished grey resin bat toy prototypes in a group.
Belfry prototypes in resin, still attached to the mold bases.

Unfinished grey prototype of the "Belfry" bat character, with black eyes.
Resin Belfry prototype, with eyes. The base will be sanded off.
After I get a good finished sculpt, a mold is made out of silicone, so I can get at least one good positive cast from. I will make a bunch of resin casts, and fix them up as much as they need (sanding off the mold base, filling bubbles, sanding or fixing spots that were difficult to fix in the clay, etc.) and coating them with primer spray. Then I'll make a mold that will yield a number of figures in one pour.  I'm almost at that stage now - more information as I get closer to the final mold, and eventually, release of Belfry into the world!

Here's a little video showing some sculpting and how I use a base to sculpt tiny things on so that I don't accidentally squeeze or melt the clay while I'm working on it.


  1. Belfry is very cyoot indeed! Its great to see some of your process too, always interesting to see how the little dudes come to life :)

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I realized that I should show more's just sort of "what I do all the time", but a lot of folks don't ever get to see it, so it's interesting!

  2. I have a couple of years as a follower of your creativity. I really like your critters. A video about the "maker" accompanied by music violin generally sunk deep into the heart! I received great inspiration from your work. Long thought to do some interesting character, but do not want for anything plagiarism. Last year I did a character invented by inspiration of your baby.
    It was a bat! What a wonderful coincidence! I would be very glad if you a visit to my blog and look at my work!
    Sincerely, Helen Rogers.

    1. Hi Helen,

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      Your bats are so cute! I really like the way that you made the wings, they look very realistic, but still whimsical and cute at the same time. You're talented, thank you for sharing your art with me :)

  3. I am very glad our virtual acquaintance! I wish you inspiration!
    Sincerely,Helen Rogers. )

  4. Seeing the rad little bat guy on his base makes me think minifigures would make an amazing chess set — dark Maleficent-like queen, pious pipsqueak bishops, pipsqueak knights riding pipsqueak steeds. Anywho, Belfry looks fantastic, and look forward to whatever you come up with next.


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