Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Before the start of day 2, I had the hard decision of selecting the designs I was going to develop into sofubi. I have many designs floating around but I wanted to generate new ideas from my Japanese experience.

As mentioned in my last post, Sunguts has allowed me to use his master spouts, that way I can create heads and bodies that are interchangeable with majority of his character work. With this in mind, I wanted to design a character that can fit well within the Sunguts 'family' while also being my own design.

I sat down and sketches for a few hours. Normally it takes me a very long time before I feel comfortable with a design concept, even more so if I am going to produce a toy from it. However, this time there was one design that felt really natural, that design was of a Mermaid!

Sketch of mermaid concept

I never though I would be creating a Mermaid figure but after being surrounded by Sunguts designs and seeing his reference material it made me think of mythological creatures out there. I have always enjoyed the mythos of mermaids and find them intriguing. There are many beliefs of what mermaids 'are' but I prefer to believe they are creatures that seduce you into the water, drown you and then feast on your tasty tasty human flesh.

While I am on the subject of reference material, I had a few requests to see Sunguts library of reference material. So with permission, I took a few pictures. I was told this isn't all of it either!

 Lots of books and manga by Mizuki Shigeru

A vast collection of yokai, kaijin and kaiju books

Lots of really cool toys in the mix

One book Sunguts showed me was 'Phantom Beast World Encyclopedia of Shigeru Mizuki', I have tried looking for it myself as it's an awesome reference book. It was released in 1994, so it is hard to find new. I will keep an eye out for a good quality second hand copy. If you are keen on one, the ISBN is: 4022585722

I want to keep one as a pet.

Bug monkey!

 Fish upper torso with bear legs!

For my second design, I wanted to extend the ideology of the grant and blend some 'Australiana' into the mix. Like most of the world, when Japan thinks of Australia, they think of our animals. In my experiences, the number 1 animal Japanese people mention is the koala. It tends to be within the first few sentences of meeting me.

Japan: Where are you from?
Shane: Australia!
Japan: Oh Australia..... Koala! Kawaii!!
Shane: No Kowai
Japan: Eh??? Kowai?!
Shane: Yeah big claws and teeth that bite!

'Kawaii' being 'cute' in Japanese and 'kowai' being 'scary'. Just a little play on words, with a whole lot of truth. Koalas are scary, they have huge claws, beady little eyes and sharp teeth. With that in mind, I decided on a koala with a 'drop bear' vibe. I have wanted to do something really Australian for some time and drop bears are perfect!  

Random sketches of a humanoid koala

Humanoid koala/dropbear

Happy with my two concepts, I started on my two basic form sculpts. My plan was to create a koala head that would be interchangeable and a full mermaid figure with head and body.  

Koala head and Mermaid body - basic form sculpts

The second day is here and was excited to be moving forward with my basic form sculpts. Teresa wasn't going to accompany me on day 2, so I was ready to listen carefully and watch intensely. In the end, the language barrier wasn't an issue at all! It was lots of fun!

Now that the basic form sculpts are dry, I am able to carve, sand and easily add extra clay if required. I spent majority of my time working on the mermaid body making it symmetrical and cleaning up the form. When I arrived at Sunguts studio, I prepared my area and got to work right away.

Sketched a centre line to help with symmetry

At first I used a pen to add the line but Sunguts quickly pointed out a pencil is better as it doesn't bleed into the clay.

Sunguts has a very keen eye for detail and form. This is already clear from is work but seeing it 'on the fly' makes you respect his skills so much more. While I was sanding and sculpting away, Sunguts would give me suggestions and examples of how to fix and develop a form. Some times he would sketch a little drawing on a piece of paper, sketch on the sculpt itself or give me a little demonstration. Each time it would improve my sculpting and understanding of form immensely.

Removing clay. Sunguts sketch in the background.

Sanded down and made symmetrical.

Add clay to each circled area.

Sunguts demonstration

Adding a wider hip

Sexy hip added, I would add the other side.

Each time I added more clay, it had to sit and dry. Sunguts had a bar heater setup to keep us warm and for fast drying. As I only added little bits, it would dry within 10 minutes or so. While waiting for it to dry, I would work on the koala head and vice versa but I mostly worked on the Mermaid sculpt, focusing on its tail. 

Koala head in the 'quick dry zone'

Carved form
Smoothed form by sanding

 Sunguts adding lots of clay to the tail. Seems simple enough but I had trouble adding large amounts of clay to the body. Turned out I wasn't adding enough water to the dried clay.

While waiting for the tail to dry, I started on the head sculpt for the Mermaid. It was actually interesting to notice my new 'skills' were already at work. I had a better understanding of the material and was able to hold it and mould a basic shape without warping the form.

The 'fishy' head of the Mermaid.

For me, having hands on mentorship is the best way to learn. Even within two days, I feel I have learnt so much. Even the 'simple' things help me improve, such as arrangement of workshop spaces, sanding techniques, carving techniques and something as simple as cleaning sandpaper. Yes, it might seem obvious to many readers but I didn't know you can use a metal brush to clean off sandpaper. Personally I have tried to washing with mixed results but a metal brush works perfectly. 

Cleaning the sandpaper to reuse.

Only sculpting the Koala head was originally planned but Sunguts and I both agreed it would be best to make a koala body too. The day was coming to an end, so I was to sculpt the body at home. We were wrapping up early as Sunguts was going to take me supply shopping. There was no need to pick up more clay as Sunguts had a few in supply. I love seeing artists supplies, I don't know why, I just find it neat.

Impressive supply of clay.

Studio TV with a serious Japanese drama on. Good background entertainment.

I packed up my sculpts safely to continue working on them at home. We drove to the train station, where the local hobby store was, I got some supplies and we checked out the toys in the hobby store too. It is really enjoyable browsing toy stores with toy fans, I don't have many chances to share my passion of toys

The day came to an end, I said my thanks and headed on my way home to start working on the koala body; which will be covered in my next post. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing my adventure with other like minded people. Once again, if you have any questions please post in the comments section! 

Till next time



krakit said...

Thanks for sharing the great
photos with us readers.
Sunguts' place is definitely
a cool place to be.

Shane Haddy said...

It sure is! Great studio setup with awesome toys surrounding you while you work!