Last September at Affordable Art for Everyone, a yearly local art market, I met a talented artist by the name of Jeremy Wilken. For years he has been producing some of the most amazingly inventive, found-object robot sculptures called Woah-botz. I cannot urge you enough to check them out. The concepts he comes up with are just a pleasure to look at!
As we got to talking, we agreed to an exchange that would be a fun challenge for both of us. He had never made an animal Woah-bot and I had never sculpted a robot doll before.
I did a number of concept doodles for this little guy, and I knew that I wanted him to be more pose-able than any of my previous creations. Inspired by Jeremy’s use of found objects, I started to search for materials I could incorporate into my sculpt that would add to the character and illusion of him being an actual tiny automaton.
His arms and legs needed a way to remain bendable but also conceal the wires underneath the surface. In all of my other dolls I build up a layer of batting around the armature and cover it with cloth. With a robot, cloth would have been an out of place choice – though I did consider metallic meshes. I found inspiration at work however in a stretchy spiral keychain bracelet. After a bit of searching I found a 10-pack of black ones which fit perfectly over the armature wire and created the illusion of coiled spring arms and legs.
For the core of his body I also wanted to try something different. Jim McKenzie is a brilliant sculptor whose youtube videos showcase an array of techniques using Apoxie clay. In his Pumpkin Crab video, he uses floral foam to create an underlying sculpt – then applies clay over the top. Once the clay is set, he removes the foam, leaving a hollow and durable shell. This worked amazingly well, and allowed me to feed a strand of orange battery powered LED lights into the chest like glowing coals. I sculpted the back so it would hold the battery pack in place while also allowing easy access to change the batteries out in the future and to turn the lights on and off.
For the front view of the lights, I added in a piece of plastic with a Holographic Light Vinyl that we stock at Craft Warehouse. This vinyl distorts lights placed behind it making them look like starts. It helped to stylize the lights and make them a cohesive part of the figure.
Also brought from work were tiny adhesive pearls from the scrapbooking section. Before paint they looked rather out of place, but once they were covered with metallic paint and alcohol ink, they became perfectly sculpted rivets and bolts. On larger ones, I used a clock repair file to sand a groove into the tops to make them look more like the tops of screws.
Two of the most unique parts of this character were his hands and eyebrows. When Jeremy first saw my dolls he described them as being like action figures, and that really stuck with me. Each finger was sculpted as an individual shape. Once the clay was dry, I sunk a hole into each finger and into the corresponding spot on the hand. The fingers were attached to a double twist of floral wire and more clay, and then connected to the hand. With the flexibility of the wire it meant that each finger would be able to flex independently, allowing the robot to grab, point, and gesture with more expression than before. The same technique was also applied to his eyebrows which created an assortment of often mischievous expressions!
Of course no documentation of this project would be complete without a group photo of the bots together. Jeremy’s creation – “Cluck Rogers” – is the most incredible combination of a tea pot, light fixtures, a wristwatch, and even goth collar spikes! All eyes were on this prize at Denny’s that afternoon! Just look at those details!
For more information on Jeremy’s work, please check out his website at www.woah-botz.com He appears at many venues throughout the year and is a show-stopper wherever his booth and bots pop up!