Sunday, 6 October 2013

A Posting in Three Parts

Part 1: Various Disappointments

Sorry to have been away for so long. 
No news is not good news, it just means there is no news.

The first factory have stopped replying to my emails entirely now (why they kept up the replies so long is beyond me). I have written it off to to bad luck and ignorance.  Eventually I found another factory that said they could do it. That was a long story in itself, as there were two factories in the running. I was all set to go ahead with a specialist doll making factory when the contact said something about stringing the dolls together. When I pointed out that no stringing was involved with my design they suddenly said they couldn't do it, that they couldn't make these shaped parts. So I went with the other factory. Not specialist doll making one, but very highly recommended to me by someone whose credentials I trust. We went through all the hoo-hah of negotiating etc and sending off my master.  They sent me the first samples a couple of days before I went off on holiday, one painted and one unpainted. The samples looked fine and I was excited.

However… The pieces don't fit together well. In fact they hardly fit at all. In a supreme wind-up the first joint went really well, and then all the rest were awful. You can imagine how depressing this was. Parts are somehow too big to fit inside each other, and the resin is brittle and has no flex in it. I think many of the problems are to do with an additive they use, which adds bulk. It's calcium carbonate (chalk powder) and it's added at between 55 and 60%. I am waiting for another sample with a much lower percentage and we'll see what that is like. But also they had muddled up a couple of the pieces and so I have two left knee joints and no right knee. This doesn't work as the parts for left and right sides are not interchangeable. If they can sort the resin mix out then we will address this other problem. So I am trying to resolve it with this factory but it is a tiny bit tortuous...

So frustrating, but patience, people, patience… Just you wait till you hear the next development!!!

Part 2: People - they are Extraordinary!

Before I went on holiday I sent an email to a customer who purchased from me last year. She had got a very good example of Twelvemo, and I asked if I could buy it back from her, as I am concerned at how the masters get damaged or do not get returned in the casting process. I promised the customer that she would get two in return, eventually, at no charge, if she could agree with my request. I explained in some detail why I was asking for this, and how much the first factory fiasco had cost me, because although it is embarrassing (to be honest) I wanted her sympathy rather badly.

Well, after a while she answered me. In the negative. She explained her reasons, which are that the figure is simply too precious and she feels she cannot it let it go, or even lend it back to me. She had obviously thought about it very hard, and was sorry she was turning me down, but she couldn't bring herself to relinquish the figure. So in her email she me asked whether a donation of £2000 (to cover my losses with the first factory) would help me to develop the project.

!!! What the heck?!!! 

I had to take a little pause there, I can tell you. Having verified that I was not dreaming, and that I was not inventing the text in the email purely through wishful thinking, I started considering what she had offered. If I had two grand to invest in this again the three options are these; resolve the issues with the 2nd factory; make them myself, for which I would need some significant pieces of equipment; or get someone else to oversee the whole process in return for a cut of the profits.

Last time I cast Twelvemo pieces myself the results were pretty flawed, but that was about 15 years ago... I have learned so much since then that I am sure I would make a better job of it now. I didn't even know of the existence of vac chambers and spin casters back then. In addition to this the Twelvemo figures that I have now are more highly developed than they were then, so should cast more successfully.

So… I plan to buy a lovely new vacuum chamber. They are a few hundred pounds. A spin-caster is another thing entirely and they cost thousands, but what I need is not very complicated really. It needs a sturdy upright spindle with variable low speeds. (I might be over simplifying this, but over complicating things doesn't get you anywhere.) My friend's dad, who is a retired engineer has given me some useful advice about how I might go about improvising this bit of kit. He understood straight away what I am after and he can also help me with making adaptions to some regular tool if I need. And I'll need to experiment a bit with different rubbers and resins but there is a good place locally where they know their stuff and will give me good guidance.

Anyway, my benefactor has actually sent me a cheque. Her opinion is that doing it myself is the way to go and I agree.  After so many frustrations to actually take back the control of this project myself would be fantastic. And it opens up a whole world of other things I could make and do in the workshop. It's so exciting! I could not possibly have justified the expense of going down this route without support, and I have earmarked the donation for this project only.

It is so strange, to have received this gift. Nothing has been asked for in return, absolutely nothing. The only interpretation I can put on it is that this kind stranger loves her figure too much to let it go, but at the same time is so enthusiastic to see the project develop that it is worth it to her to support it. It is a pretty powerful testament as to how potent and seductive the Twelvemo figures are, don't you think?

All of this is rather exciting, but it will take a while to get it going. Strangely enough (you may be glad to know) I do have other things happening in my life that need attention, not just the Twelvemo figures! Some of these other things might actually also earn me some money, so I need to focus on them some of the time. But bit by bit I am going to do this myself, in my workshop, with my own hands and my own tools. How about that for a plan?

I thought this was too good a story to keep to myself and I wanted to share it with you all. 
I am feeling blessed, lucky, and very thankful.

Amazing or what?

Part 3: Some photos to look at...

And finally, something that you may not have seen before. 
I have this one called Snake Charmer printed up large so Twelvemo is pretty much life size. It's cool! 

I found the snake curled up, cutely and very dead, in France one summer. Popped it in a jar with some alcohol to preserve it and taped the lid of the jar. Years and years later I came across it again, completely dry and dessicated. Perfect! 

A friend saw this image and said 'Wow, how big was the snake?' 
I replied that it was 'about this big', making a little circle with my thumb and forefinger... 
My friend was surprised. He had been totally taken in by the size of the print, even though he knows Twelvemo is only 6 inches tall! That pleased me mightily.

Here's a photo of the Japanese Shelf Collection on my wall. 
I'll be taking it down in a week as I need to make room for making more artwork. 

And here are some images of some laser cut art work, one of my new ventures! 
They are for sale in my Etsy shop, if you want to take a look:


  1. Wow that's fabulous news. I hope it works out well for you :)

  2. Congrats for the good news! I`ll bee looking for more of them to come for you!

  3. Wow! I'm really thrilled for you and think, after all the fannying about with China and companies who clearly think they're making a strung resin BJD, you can probably embrace this on your own. Why not set up a donations button here? Lots of people (like me) are more than happy to bung a few dollars to help someone move forward with their dream. And it says a lot that the owner of the Twelvemo didn't want to part with it. Even if she got two back, they wouldn't be the same. Dolls acquire a personality.That was very generous of her to send the money and a sign of how much you're supported in this venture. Seriously, add a donate button!

    1. That's a brilliant idea, but I think I'll see how far I get with the gift I have been given. It should pretty much cover most of the equipment and materials. Can't wait.... It will probably be a month or two till I can properly get started, but I talked to a man about some motors today! He understood what I was on about ok and I think will be helpful!

  4. God works in mysterious ways and I think that He is answering a prayer for you in a very special way! This is His doing and it is Marvelous in our eyes!