Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Pro" and con

Did you read Glen Rappold's response on Newsy Vents to the definition of a "pro" vent figure? Ouch! Out of respect, I don't want to create a debate on Clinton Detweiler's fine blog, but I'd like to respond here.

Glen correctly states that the professional standard for years has been 38-42" for vent figures. He also writes that "pro" figures CAN be smaller. But he goes on to say that if vent figures are built from toy figures (like my Charlies), they are only "semi-pro". He infers that these figures are not "original" or "one-of-a-kind". I beg to differ.

Glen does beautiful work using Mike Brose casts. I especially like his paint jobs and I have told him so. But I can more easily recognize Mike's casting than most folks could recognize Charlie McCarthy from my finished figures. In fact, each new figure I have created is a further departure from Charlie McCarthy than the last. I use the Charlie McCarthy dolls as armatures. Using MagicSculpt, I create a completely new face for each figure. Even the one I'm currently working on will end up different, even though I am actually trying to copy a character I previously sculpted. Why? Because I wanted to see if I could.

Regarding disclosure, I admit that I don't disclose in my Ebay copy that the figures are made from old Charlie McCarthys. Why? Because of the very derision cast upon such figures by other builders. If anyone asks, I'll certainly "disclose". But my figures (in my opinion) are as professional as any created by Glen Rappold or any other figuremaker. There are figuremakers who make better dummies than me, but I am not threatened by builders I admire. (And Glen is certainly one of those builders).

I offer a "Certificate of Authenticity" because I hope to establish a good reputation for my work, and because I hope that someday that certificate will be of more value than it is today. I also issue the certificate because my efforts (whether judged good, mediocre or bad) are an attempt at being artful. And third, I issue a certificate because it's FUN!

Just because one figurebuilder resculpts a Mike Brose casting and another chooses to resculpt a Charlie McCarthy does not make one result "pro" and the other a lesser product. My figures require untold hours of effort (I make about 10 cents an hour) and I do not have a crisis of conscience over the modest prices people pay for my handiwork.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

To PVC or not to PVC...

I came across a diagram for arms and legs made of PVC pipe connected by clevis and cotter pins. It looked intrguing, so I posed the question on ventfigures Yahoo Group. Alan Semok responded that he thought the approach sounded clunky. Not being conversant in PVC pipe, I went to the local hardware store and stared at it for awhile. I lifted it up, shook it, peered down the middle of it, and in the end decided not to decide. I also searched out clevis and cotter pins to poke at those, too. I definitely didn't like them. I did find some cool brass connectors that I thought would work (and look) much better.

I am investigating ways to build my own vent figures from scratch... that is... without using Charlies. And I'd like to fabricate as many of the parts as possible. I want to continue buying the Braylu bodies, control posts and the Mike Brose eyes. But I'd really love building my own limbs and heads. I don't, however, want to build molds. I like sculpting each figure in MagicSculpt. I'm in no rush to change, but I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for ideas.

Got any?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Going... going... wait a minute... GONE?

Charlie 5 (aka "Dexter") is completed. I usually post the photos and a "coming out" announcement with a link to Ebay. This time however, he was on the Ebay auction block for only an hour and he was bought by a guy in Chicago with a "Buy It Now". I form an attachment to the figures as I build them, and the 7-day auction usually gives me a chance to emotionally let go. Not this time.

At least you get an opportunity to view the little dude before he is shipped off to his mentor. Within a month or so, I hope to have Charlies 6 and 7 ready for their new homes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The answer

Not surprisingly, Mike Brose recommends buying smaller eyes. Tearing into one of his beauties could risk a lousy outcome. The nice thing about Mike's eyes is that the holes above and on the back are pre-drilled and with precision. I don't have the precision power tools to duplicate that. So, I'll think about it. Charlie 7 doesn't have the same problem, so I'll proceed with him while I ruiminate about Charlie 6.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Eye yi yi

There's a famous phrase when building anything. "Think Ahead". Well, coincidentally, it's a "head" that I didn't think about. You see, I ordered my standard eyes from Mike Brose of Puppets & Props. (He makes gorgeous eyes). The face I've sculpted onto Charlie 6 has the eyes too close together. In other words, there isn't enough room inside the head for the eyes to sit side by side. I'd prefer not to re-sculpt the eye sockets because I really like the look of this little guy.

I have written Mike Brose an email suggesting that I shave off some eyeball so that the eyes CAN sit side by side. I've asked for his advice on this, including the wisdom of using a Dremel for the "shaving".

He's probably horrified at the prospect that I would take a power tool to his beautiful creations. We'll see what he says.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

No pants

I really like the new 2T bodies from Braylu Creations. It's easier to find clothes that fit. The interior of the bodies provide more room for the hand. They're built well, too. As you can see, I need to buy some black slacks to complete the wardrobe.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On the Braylu site

Buzz James of Braylu Creations was kind enough to post photos of my completed vent figures on his site at I use Braylu bodies and posts to build my retro-fitted Charlies. If you ever decide you'd like to tackle building your own figure, Braylu Creations is a website you'll enjoy browsing.

Thanks, Buzz!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The guys

I just got back from doing a variety show benefit for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). I don't perform that often, but every now and then a friend will talk me into it. As I've mentioned before, I perform with a little grey stuffed dog named Chester. He's cute and has a bright red nose (Chester, The Red-Nosed Canine). Yeah, we sang a song with slightly altered lyrics. It turned out to be a great crowd pleaser.

As you can see, I have three guys currently under construction. The one on the left has all of the mechanics installed with cords connected. Next comes mounting on the post. The other two fellas are having facelifts. The one in the middle will be similar to "Ferd The Nerd", which just sold on Ebay. The character on the right is inspired by a Ray Guyll design I saw on Ebay.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Size doesn't matter

Clinton Detweiler solicited opinions as to what constitutes a "professional" vent figure. This was in response to an inquiry from someone who was looking to buy one, possibly on Ebay. Clinton posted a reply from Dale Brown, which I thought was far more insightful than my reply. I suggest clicking the Newsy Vents link on the left to read it. However, I thought I'd post my response here.

"I think a Professional Vent Figure typically will have a moving mouth, ball and socket head in a hollow body and often moving eyes. This can include dummies made from kits and professional figures made from toy figures. While 40-inch figures are more typical of "professional" figures, size is actually irrevelvant since dummies of various sizes can and do have professional attributes and may even have additional animations. In essence, a professional figure is one designed for character development and live performance."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ferd the nerd

Charlie4 (aka Ferd the Nerd) is now available for sale on Ebay. Here are some photos of the little guy.

Charlie5 has gone under the knife again (actually a Dremel grinder... ouch!). I think I finally have the face the way I want. He, too, will have moving eyes, raising eyebrows, and eye lashes.

I've started Charlie6. The facial sculpting has just begun. I wonder who will emerge?