Sunday, April 30, 2006

You Say You Want A Resolution

late night snap after Clare's opening of his piece at the x1 art show at Transport Gallery downtown last year

Clare is Brilliant

At Himself's urging, I made an official date today to go (downstairs) and talk over next steps for better armatures with friend and multi-talented artist/builder, Clare "The Killah" [name deleted]. (no, I don't know what that means but it made me laugh, I guess because it makes him sound like a pro-wrestler.) And it was a struggle of sorts, of the mind...

Clare has enjoyed many many (ok, not THAT many) years as many many things, one of which was one of those union construction dudes at the Music Center in Los Angeles, working to build sets and gags for big ballets and such. You name it, this man can build it right. And, as I mentioned, he used to be heavily into the model steam locomotive world and would machine fabricate perfect miniature trains that would run like the big boys.

I brought down print outs of ball/joint armatures and splained what I wanted something like that for. He said that he could see clearly what I was after but did not have all the equipment here to do it. Undaunted, I asked him if he had any ideas for a way I could get what I wanted without the toxic silver solder and big noisy presses or other herculean amount of work, and he did!

He had what I think are three very clever and more-my-speed solutions to offer, two for the armature and one for the rigging. Get ready. Well, you may have thought/known of these options already, but I hadn't.

The first thought he had was for me to go toy shopping, find a jointed doll/figure in the right size and use it inside my fiber-filled, latex-skinned and dressed puppet. You know, I think I will, even if it just works for a smaller side character. It might save me a great deal of time and effort using an already made skeleton. I'll report back.

The second idea he had was for me to buy and cut the rod/pipe bones and essentially sculpt a ball/socket joint (like a Loc-Line unit) around them, make small 2-part molds of them, and then cast them in resin. I love this idea but--I'm going to have to see about finding a non-toxic, rigid substance to cast these joints out of because I run a strictly No-Tox Shop. Latex is as fumey as I'll go and that with a cartridge respirator.

The coup de gras was his notion for how to keep ma feets to the floor. Clare understood my walking and staying put issues (after a thorough and dazzling pantomime on my part) and he agreed that plumbing flanges installed on the ceiling o'er the set, with flexible wire attached to the individual shoulders and spine, like a marionette, would do the job with one addition--magnetic flooring! Flexible magnetic sheets (something like this that I could lay in the set and be painted to look like wood planks (a compromise over the little wood planks I have--but if it works it'll be worth it). Mighty magnets ( or perhaps even plain metal pieces would go under the footal areas and voila foots held down enough during walking.

You know, I think the best part, much like what we do for eachother online, was to present a puzzle to someone that really had me stumped and at a loss to resolve on my own and have the act of saying it outloud bring about the opportunity for a resolution. I surely would never be working through these many blocks to making Halfland real without The Other. It's Mike, Clare, Himself, and every other person reading, that gets me past my personal limitation of thinking up new ways to get things done. It's like my brain can only go to 3 or 4 on a dilemma and then someone else comes up with an 11. And we all know that's better.

Thank you, Clare!


  1. Hi. I can see you are working on some type of stop-motion project. I came across your website through an extensive search I've been doing myself for small ball joint machinery parts to be used on puppets for my own short stopmo. filming endeavor. I see you address the same issue which I've been dealing with. This question being "I do not have metal milling machinery or equipment, nor do I want to buy them or spend the extra time learning how to make them, what do I do as an alternative?"
    I thought of the idea of using small balljoint components from legos bionicle toys, Have you considered this or something similiar? I bought some and the ball joints are remarkably strong (and a lot easier than casting them yourself) but the real question is, are they strong enough? A couple other ideas I had was to dissemble a "helping hands" hobbyists tool. which is basically a pair of alligator clips connected to armature ball joints and a large magnifying glass. I found some other options but I won't bore you with them. What was your solution to the ball-joint dilemma? Feel free to browse my project blog

  2. Welcome, J., to Halfland, I've got you covered. go immediately to the Stop Motion Animation message boards,, click on the word "handbook" at the top of the first page after entry, and proceed to every question you or anyone could ever raise concerning any and all aspects of creating your own fabulous stop motion work!! I am not overstating this. the compilation there has been built by generous expert animators who wish only to see to it that you can make your art.

    There are many many alternative solutions to ball joint armatures. You may have tried wire with bones, etc. already. I think every new animator has to go through their own process of discovering their method of choice based on what amount of labor they are willing to do. For myself, I'm at the stage where I am trying to avoid the metal smithing of ball joint but can see that much of the work arounds to circumvent it would be more work in the end. A fact so often true in life, as well as stop motion, isn't it?!

    In any case, I shall add your site to my daily reads and follow your progress with delight!

  3. I'm familiar with but I've always overlooked the handbook link. Thanks for the headsup. It's an excellent resource.

    I'm with you there on avoiding metal smithing, not because I don't want to learn the craft. (I am an art student and I recently tried out a jewerly and metals class and did well in it) Rather it's the expensive facilities which I was unable to have at my disposal.

    Being new to stopmotion, I've found how it crosses disciplines so easily and how it can span so many things. I've been enjoying it. Anyways I appreciate your attention and I'll be keeping up closely with your progress as well.


  4. Hi Jack, I feel the same as you do about the cross over
    of interests. I love that I can make tiny stained
    glass windows, sew bedding, make jewelry, clothing,
    whole worlds really!! It's actually shamanistic in
    some ways.

    I like your art very much and feel your work will be a
    contribution to the genre. Be sure to check another
    artist/illustrator come stopmotionist, Gary Baseman,
    if you haven't seen his films.


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