Have you ever wanted to add little elf ears or fangs to your reborn baby doll?
That urge hasn't struck me just yet, but like you, I need a sculpting medium that will allow me to make tiny tweaks to vinyl reborn doll kits. If I could tweak an eyelid, or fill in a clef chin, my portrait dolls would look significantly more like the children they represent. So, which medium is it going to be?
Super Sculpey Test
My first stop was Super Sculpey. Since clay is less flexible than vinyl, I figured the clay would crack when the vinyl is bent. But I tried it anyway. You will not be surprised to see that our hypothesis was correct.
Beige Super Sculpey looks gorgeous on vinyl - until you bake it and torture it. When I pressed the face, the clay around the eyes cracked. The little teeth I added fell off.
I also tried Super Sculpey for a simple eyelid repair. This Arianna by Reva Schick doll arrived with a tiny nick in her eyelid. Again, the raw clay repair was beautiful. But once I cured it, even the simple act of inserting the eyes produced tiny hairline cracks in the clay. Still not acceptable.
So, as I always do when I'm stumped, I turned to the brilliant people on Facebook and got some excellent tips:
I even reached out to my Smooth-On representative, Shand B. for ideas. His suggestion was similar to Dan's, "using the clay (our Sculptex is sulfur free) for the modifications, then mold that version with Dragon Skin platinum silicone after sealing with clear acrylic."
So, obviously, casting your modified piece in a different material is the technically correct thing to do - though copyright implications may be sticky. I do not have the time or budget to cast anything, so I tried a combination of Terri's and Minnie's ideas - Bake and Bend with holes to lock it down.
Sculpey Bake & Bend
Just for the fun of it, I decided to test my desired modifications with an additional horn and elf ear in Bake & Bend. I didn't put much effort into sculpting well because I knew this would not be the final product.
Raw clay modifications below. Click to enlarge.
Before adding the clay, I used a dremel tool to roughen the vinyl to improve adhesion (my husband's suggestion.) Where I added teeth, I also bore a hole (Minnie's suggestion) to lock it in.
Bake & Bend Test 1
One BIG LIMITATION of the Bake & Bend is that it cures at 285-degrees Fahrenheit, whereas Super Sculpey cures at 275. Its only a 10 degree difference, but my oven works in 25-degree increments. So the first time through, I tried curing Bake & Bend at 275. But that was not hot enough and the clay crumbled right back off. The horn, teeth and elf ear peeled off with little effort.
Bake & Bend Test 2
I did a quick addition to the other eye and cured it again - this time at 300-degrees Fahrenheit. The clay cured beautifully and retained its promised elasticity. BUT 300 is too hot for the vinyl and caused the head to lose some of it's shape. Granted, had I stabilized the head, the warping may have been avoided. But 300 is not a temperature I'm comfortable with.
Bake & Bend is a fine product, but I don't intend to use it for major vinyl modifications - especially not for a play doll. Maybe for a display-only doll.
The main limitations of Bake & Bend are:
The benefit of Bake & Bend is that it is sufficiently elastic to withstand bending vinyl. So if you can cure it properly and figure out the color matching issue, it may be a good product for creating your fantasy dolls.
In the meantime, I'm sticking to Super Sculpey for small modifications to areas of the doll that will not be under a lot of stress - like teeth. But no worries about my Bake & Bend going to waste. I love making little toys out of clay!
Hi! I am Kim. I've been creating dolls all my life. I started stuffing cotton balls into my mom's pantyhose when I was a little girl. Now I hand-craft dolls that look and feel like real babies.