A wonderful little short film by Timothy Hittle, "The Quiet Life" is the third of the Jay Clay feature series. Originally about a nomad and his dog and their adventures, things take a slightly different direction in this instalment.

The exposition of the story sets the scene beautifully, first using a few nice wide shots and pans to show the audience the setting and landscape or the environment. Also note the references to Hittle's previous animations in the series, with Canhead now appearing as a garden ornament in Jay's new garden, a sign of a past conquest if ever there was one. All of this adds to the newly found nature of Jay - no longer that of a wanderer and vagrant, but now of a home-owner, and a proud one at that. Nothing makes this more clear than his house-proud actions during this opening section. The slow pace is relaxing and letting the viewers into Jay's world and letting them see just who he is. Small movements like how he spins the broom, and his casual smooth gait let you know he's in good shape and enjoying his easy-going life.

Enter the dying bird - the start of conflict in Jay's perfect world. His home is invaded and damaged, a good metaphor for his life at the moment - something he had worked hard to get just right has been suddenly thrust into strife. The arrival of an attractive stranger on a horseback, warning him of the impending danger brings out two aspects in the protagonist; that of the possibility of a love interest, but also that of impending danger. His stubborn nature is shown with his reluctance to give up his home (a good side to this character trait), as well as his dismissive gestures towards an opportunity to forge a relationship with someone new in his life (the obvious downside to his stubbornness). This backstory and emotion is told through Jay's internal dynamics and movement alone.

Soon enough, the crisis unfolds and his worst fears are realised as his home is destroyed. The machine making it's impression on the landscape with bright red (psychologically notorious for danger) 'waste' standing out amount the muted browns and golds of the landscape.  The 'Canhead' fountain is a great metaphor for Jay's mind, being turned off when danger first approaches [putting past glories behind him to face a new threat], then reaching into it to extract the tools needed to fend off this new threat [using what he did back then to help defeat this new threat].

During the final climactic fight scene, we see much faster frantic action, as well as a change in the sounds of the piece. An angry electric guitar for all the scene involving the skeleton, giving him his own unique sound, and much more menacing.

As well as this, there are some great point-of-view close up shots to accentuate punches during the fight, and some nice metaphors such as the skeleton 'wiping his feet' of Jay after supposedly defeating him.

After the fight is over the story is resolved and Jay is able to take up the offer of a love interest in true 'happy-ending' style. Also, a cheeky little hit back from the resurrected skeleton, leaving that character open to a comeback in the future? With the rebirth of the bird, phoenix style, it leaves us knowing that despite the loss of his home, it's alright as he's been left with the journey of rebuilding again, this time with some company of his own kind. Almost like a family.

"Zeke" is complete, click to embiggen.
Any feedback appreciated!


Going back to working on the body of Zeke, most of the 'skin' had been complete, it was time to work out how I was going to go about making some clothes and accessories for him. I had planned for him to be a scavenger, living off the throwaways of humans, and so all his bits of clothing and tools must be as such. First step was some shoes for his feet and I decided some simple gladiator style sandals maybe the best bet, only needing some leather straps and soles. Breaking out the sewing kit I got stuck in, and soon to follow was the leather belt for his waist and some under-pants too. Little bits of co-ordinated thread held everything together along with some epoxy glue to strengthen it all.
Bits of string were fashioned into a shoulder belt for clipping some of his tools onto, such as a simple club I built out of balsa wood and a screw with a bit of acrylic paint to weather it a little. Also, a grappling hook out of paperclips, with a special 'rope' I built out of a piece of wire (so its manipulable during animation) wrapped with a white thread dipped in white latex to make it appear as if the whole thing is string.
Photos will be up soon as this puppet is pretty much finished now...
I wanted to have a go at seeing what thickened latex is like, usability-wise, as compared to the previous alginate compound I used for casting. I'll be using the exact same sculpey model (goblin head) as last time, so I can get a good comparison of the final moulds. Already I know silicone latex won't dry up as fast as the alginate has (it's already starting to harden after less than a week).
Anyway, as you can see, I put one thick coat of the latex over the model, let that dry and then another thickened layer over the top, so only 2 in total, but it did take a few days to dry properly, and ever then I was a little worried it would be too soft still, but I went with it anyway. It turned out to be just about okay for use.

 Next step was to seal up the gap that was cut into it to remove the original model, and to find a way to prop it up as well. A few small pieces of duct tape seemed to do the job of closing it up well, and a nice ring of clay help hold it up in the desired position. The plaster was mixed up smoothly, and poured in and left to cure.

When I popped it out, it wasn't all that great quality. The silicone took some of the plaster with it and left some big chunks missing. Other than that the detail looked good, it held it's shape well, and I know it'll last a lot longer as a mould than the alginate one. I think perhaps using something other than plaster of paris might be on the cards next for casting harder materials.

Back to the plaster of paris head from the alginate mould: I managed to get three out of the mould, but it is starting to deteriorate a bit. I think I could get another couple out at a push, but for the purposes of this test I don't really need to - it was all about what level of detail could be achieved and the practicality of using the alginate. Which, I think is pretty good. I coated one of them up with a bit of green latex for a nice goblin finish, and quickly made a few replacement mouths for the photos. I didn't want to spend too long on this though as this wasn't about having a perfectly finished model. But you can get the idea of where these might lead from these quick snaps:

 I think from all of this, I've seen that alginate is a good viable option for the production of any hard pieces that might need replacements or identical copies made. It gets good level of detail provided you manage to mix both the alginate and the plaster of paris smoothly, with minimal bubbles in the mixture. Although on the later moulds, where the plaster found its way into tiny air bubble pockets, it produced some great little nodules and bumps on the surface which look nice and warty!

After a good day and a bit of drying off, the feet were coaxed from their moulds (fairly easily, which was a surprise) and turned out just lovely. They have great flexibly in the arch of the foot and are lightweight and hold their shape really well. And as a bonus the mould is completely undamaged so ready to go again for when I next need some feet! This is definitely the way forward I think...

Back to the alginate and a little more planning with this one. Firstly a made a nice little Sculpey head with no mouth for a replacement face puppet. I made a small wire stand to support him upside-down in a tin-foil lined jar, and made sure the neck was nice and long (as this would be acting as the funnel to pour the plaster into the mould once it was made). Then the alginate was mixed again, firmly but slowly so as to avoid as few lumps and air bubbles as possible, then poured over and into the mould, and tapped to let it settle into all the cracks and crevices:

After twenty minutes or so the alginate had set nicely and I up-ended the jar and peeled away the tin foil.  Carefully slicing down one side of the mould with a craft knife, I was able to gently slide the Scupley head out with almost no deformation - it's good to go again! This is great as I managed to only cut one side of the mould which means there will only be one seam to worry about when casting in plaster:

 So then mixing up the plaster of Pairs, nice and smooth, and gently pouring in and giving it a shake to make sure there are as few air bubbles as possible and it fills in all the gaps:

 Another ten minutes later and voilĂ , the plaster of Paris version next to the original Sculpey one:

Turned out much better than I had expected and has encouraged me to perhaps use alginate a bit more in the future, although I think might try and repeat the process with latex to see which mould making process works out the best for me.


I'd been meaning to try this for a little while; I had a bag of quick setting alginate left over from my Fine Art course, and wanted to see if it would be any good for mould making, so giving it a go on one of my old model heads, see what level of detail we get and how it'll react. It was simply a case of mixing it with the water pretty quickly, then slopping it over the model.

Unfortunately, as you can see, it was a bit too thick in some parts and thin in others, causing it to fail when removing the model. Detail-wise though it looks promising! Stay tuned.

Adding the skin layer of flesh coloured latex into the mould, and building the feet 'bones' with bolts in for tie downs, and flexible sole for greater movement possibilities. The extra sponge is to pad out the foot so that it won't be solid latex and should hopefully make it a bit easier to bend and move around:

 Putting them in situation and pouring the latex in and around them, I'm guessing it's going to take the good part of a dry all the way through, possibly more, so I'll leave them there for now and move onto something else...

Digging out the old hand cast from before and it's in perfectly good condition to get a few more hands tried out. The Aluminium wire ones turned out to be too firm so trying a slightly thinner one, and will see how that goes once it's all layered up and looking nice:

 I need a new cast for feet that will hopefully get a few dozen uses out of it, so the first step was to make some soft, unbaked sculpey feet, and get them in a container just the right size (as I had no potter's clay to make a mould), then smother them in a thin layer of vaseline (as a release agent). Next, mix up the plaster of paris, and (stirring it slowly and gently to keep the air bubbles out) and pour into the mould at leave to set. I also added a pair of wire handles into the plaster to allow myself something to grip when trying to remove it from the tupperware mould.

Next step, getting the feet armatures baked and putting them in the moulds with the latex...


Laying out the components on a scale diagram to get the size right.

Adding fastenings and the solid sculpey parts to hold it all together, making sure to all suitable room for screws and movable joints:

After baking, bulking out the body parts with foam, leaving solid areas for moving and posing the puppet (something firm to grip onto when animating):

Thin latex bandage to smooth ou the underlying foam and give a bit more shape to the body and its limbs:

Neck fastening screw hole (top) and rig mount (bottom), and the body with its first layer of latex on.