Building Kali's Face



Introduction: Building Kali's Face

About: I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. I re*use often. And sometimes I staple drape.

Kali's face needs help. The blue fiberglass mannequin I'm using as a base for her body is good, but the face is too dainty. It's no shape for a Vedic goddess capable of slaughtering thousands of demons.

I'm re-making an old aluminum walker into Kali, the multi-armed, three-eyed Hindu goddess of time and empowerment. Kali is the feminine form of 'Kala', the Sanskrit term for Time. Her "skin" is made out of leather remnants and pieces of old jackets, skirts, and pants. In this portion, I rebuilt her facial structure and added a headdress form.

Here are the tools I used:

A work table

Cardboard from a variety of sources: toilet paper rolls, old cardboard boxes, backs of sketchbooks and art cardboard scraps

Leftover batting, both the loose and sheet variety

Quilting pins

Masking tape

Sharp fabric scissors

Kitchen shears (also called utility shears)

Fiberglass mannequin torso, arm, and hand

Sharpie pens

Clear plastic rulers and a cloth measuring tape

Safety blades

More scrap cardboard to use as a cutting surface

Glass "eyeballs"

1 1/2" diameter ethafoam rod (about a 2-foot chunk)

As many sculptural references as I could find online of Kali's face

And many time-outs to feel up my face.

Check out my other Instructables if you'd like to make some mobility art of your own. Or take a peek at Opulent Mobility if you want to know why I make such fancy scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs. The call for submissions for Opulent Mobility 2016 is now open, so please send in your art and inventions dealing with mobility, disability, and accessibility. I'd love to see your ideas!

***NOTE: it took a while to put up this Instructable because a couple of folks near and dear to me died. Unfortunately, not all of life is beautifully crafted. If you're following the work, thank you for sticking with it.

Step 1: Neck Measurements

My first steps took a while because I wasn't sure how to get started. My mannequin's face was nowhere near the shape I wanted for Kali. It needed a lot of work, and I didn't want to damage the fiberglass any more than necessary. What to do? I dragged out scraps of art board, cardboard of many kinds, bags of scrap batting, safety blades, pencils, pens, and a couple of rolls of masking tape. Somehow I would find a way.

The neck on my mannequin was very thin. I took a series of neck measurements: around the neck base, the center of the neck (from under the chin to the center neck base), and the length of the right side from below the ear to the right side neck base. I sketched out those measurements on a scrap of art board, marking the center first. I then drew curved lines to join up the points at the top and bottom. Those lines were my best guess at the neck shape. If they weren't quite right, I would adjust them on the form. After drafting up the right side, I repeated the process for the left side.

Pro tip: Separating the face into parts was the simplest way to rebuild and reshape it. I started with the front neck because I had a good idea of how to begin.

It helps to start with parts that look straightforward. All I wanted to do with the neck is to make it wider. The shape was fine. If you're in doubt, start with a simple first step. Ideas will come to you as you work so you can move on to the next step, and the next, and the next. Working on the project will give you ideas and inspiration that you can't imagine while in the planning process.

Step 2: Neck Cardboard

I added about 3/8" on either side of the neck piece andput the art board on top of an unfolded cardboard box. That box would be my cutting surface. I used a safety blade to score the board along my pencil lines. Scoring along the lines made the piece easy to pop out, without having to press hard enough to break all the way through the board.

Art board is usually used for the mats around prints, photos and other pieces of art. It's heavy duty material. Scoring the lines, which means cutting the lines out without cutting all the way through, is a great way to make shapes with a minimum amount of hand and wrist pain.

Once the piece was cut out, I folded creases about every 1" so it would curve nicely around the neck. I then held the piece up to the mannequin neck. The left side was a little too tall, so I adjusted and re-cut it. That did the trick. I taped both sides of the board over the front neck and got ready to work on the back.

Step 3: Back of Head

Building up the back neck was just like working on the front. I measured, drafted, cut out the art board, and taped it into place. Then I moved on to the back of the skull.

My first attempt looked a little like a crown. I started with a basic cardboard shape, taped it to the back of the mannequin head and drew and cut it on the form until I liked the shape better. I pulled out some empty toilet paper rolls and cut them apart. The curved rolls seemed like a natural for making the back top of the skull. I held one roll against the back crown of cardboard and marked out the top back curve with a Sharpie. I added 1/2" beyond the line, cut it out, and then taped the toilet roll in place.

Using a pair of utility shears I made a series of cuts into the top of the crown cardboard. That made the edges easier to mold and reshape into curves. I bent those snipped areas up towards the toilet roll and taped the pieces together. It looked okay, but it was not tall enough.

Step 4: Head Stuffing and Gap Filling

One easy way to make a flat area fuller is to stuff it. I had several bags of scrap batting left over from old projects, so I used some to fill up the top of the head. This made it taller, but the shape wasn't right. It looked more like a pillbox hat than a skull.

I pulled the stuffing back out and took the cardboard head off the mannequin. Using utility shears, I made a series of cuts on the bottom edge and put the head shape back on the mannequin. The cuts made the cardboard fit smoothly to the back of the head. I taped the cardboard in place on the sides and removed the tape holding the toilet paper roll on top.

I made another series of cuts where the former toilet paper roll and the back of head met. I taped them together and shoved loose batting into the gap between the mannequin and the cardboard. It looked better than before, but it still wasn't tall enough. I cut slits into the cardboard and tape at the very top of the head, shoved in yet more batting and re-taped. The profile looked great!

The back of the neck needed some filling out, so I cut pieces of cardboard to fill the gaps between the head and neck. I filled in the left side, then the right, and then taped everything in place.

Step 5: Raising the Roof

Once the back of Kali's head was close to the right shape, I was ready to work on the top of her head. I figured out an approximate height and curve with my hand and then looked for some cardboard to use.The backing cardboard of an old sketch pad was just the thing. It was too wide, but that was easily solved by cutting it into 2" wide strips.

I taped one strip to the mannequin's forehead, made an arc over her head and taped the other side down to the back of her skull. I then added another strip around the side. Working from the left up to the top, I kept taping cardboard strips until I got an approximate head shape. I taped those strips together loosely, shoved loose batting to fill in the area from the side and took a look at the profile. It was a pretty good shape, but the strips of cardboard made the head look like segmented armor. Not precisely the effect I was after.

More snipping, clipping, and stuffing was required.

Step 6: Refining Head Shape

I peeled up the tape from the cardboard head strips and made a series of cuts on both sides of each strip. These would help me to mold the cardboard into a smooth head shape. After that, I used more strips to fill in the right side of her head, taping each cardboard strip into place and snipping each edge.

The strips were easy to move around, so I shoved loose batting in between them as evenly as I could. This filled in the top of the head nicely. One of the strips wasn't long enough, so I cut it, added an extension piece, and taped it down. I kept on stuffing until I got a good dome shape and adjusted the strips of cardboard so they covered the batting evenly.

After that, I taped the entire head as evenly as possible.

This new head profile was much closer to what I wanted for Kali. For my next step, I wanted to work up her tiara. In most images of Kali, she has a headdress that's almost as tall as her head. Time to drag out the research again!

Step 7: Tiara Time

Using the research as a guide I sketched out a rough shape onto a piece of cardboard. None of the research images agreed about her tiara's shape, so I faked it. I came up with something that looked like a cross between a lotus flower, a Russian ceremonial headdress, and a blend of my research. I drew in a half circle at the base, cut it out, and put the cardboard on top of the mannequin's new head.

The cut out didn't fit well, but it got the tiara into position. I refined the shape on the form, re-drawing the top points and adjusting the curves. I cut out the left side and checked the silhouette. It looked good, so I took the cardboard off the mannequin, folded the piece in half and traced around the left to create a matching right side. After cutting that out, I tested the fit again. I re-drew the half circle head opening and re-cut it so the tiara would sit further down on the head.

Unfortunately, that made the tiara too short and narrow. I cut the tiara down the middle, spread the pieces apart about 3/4" and loosely taped the pieces to the head. I filled in the center gap with scrap cardboard and taped it in place, and then filled in the gap at the base with more cardboard. I smoothed out the joins with masking tape and stepped back to take another look.

Step 8: Tiara Backing

I turned the mannequin around to check out the tiara's backside. I wanted to add more dimension and height. The simplest way to make that happen was to add a cardboard backing. I tore off the back of a big sketch pad, cut some wedges at the base and held the board up the back of the head. It looked like it would do the trick.

The wedges I cut formed a half circle, which helped me fit the new cardboard to the back of the tiara. (See picture #2.) I folded them out of the way and trimmed them off at the top of the head. I pulled the side wedges gently over the back of the head and taped the back cardboard to the front directly above the ears. This held the cardboard in place.

I turned the mannequin around to the front and drew in the tiara shape, extending each point about 1 1/2". After trimming the right side down to the new lines, I taped the edges together loosely. I continued to cut out the left side and to tape the front and back together as I went. The fit on the bottom right side wasn't great, so I didn't cut it yet. Instead, I turned the mannequin back around to tape from the back.

I finished trimming off the wedges and then taped the backing to the head, starting at the top and moving towards the left. Once that area was secure, I took another look at the right bottom edge. I re-drew the lines and cut the cardboard so it fit snugly to the side of the head. The next step was to tape all the tiara's edges together.

Excellent news! The silhouette was great. Sadly, the mannequin's face was tiny in comparison. Time to get to work on that.

Step 9: Ethafoam Rod

Before working on the face, I looked at my research again. Kali had a wild mass of hair with a center part. I wanted her hair to have as much depth and dimension as the rest of her features. In my scrap materials bin, I had pieces of ethafoam rod left over from a first attempt at the Nebula's sail struts. The foam was 1 1/2" in diameter. If I trimmed it down, it would make an excellent hair base.

I got out some safety blades and sliced about 1/2" into one side of a piece of foam rod, and then sliced again at about a 45-degree angle to the first cut. I was making 1/2 round molding, sort of like the quarter round used to finish off the edge of a shelf. I made a few more strips and got out the quilting pins. I pinned one strip right at the tiara's base in front, pulling on the foam slightly to mold it around to the sides, and pinned the bottom edges into place. Pinning through the tape and cardboard was sticky, but it worked!

Pro tip: it's a really good idea to set aside pins to use for crafts and difficult art projects. Pinning through things like masking tape, glue, and stiff materials makes pins dull and sticky and not good to use on delicate fabrics.

I am not always so clever and sometimes find sticky and dulled pins right after I've pinned chiffon. And then I am sad.

I pinned another foam strip right below the first, cutting the ends at an angle so they fit smoothly against the first strip. I took another look at the research and drew out my front hairline with a Sharpie pen onto the forehead. After that, I drew in her third eye. Maybe it would help me find the wisdom to figure out how to reshape Kali's face.

Step 10: Cheeks and Nose

Building up the face took some guesswork. I looked at the research to see the differences between my mannequin and the images of Kali. Most of the pictures had rounded cheeks, a prominent nose, and large eyes. Almost the exact opposite of my base!

I used my hand to get an idea of how much fullness to add to the cheeks. Next, I cut out cheek pads from a scrap of sheet batting leftover from quilting the Peacock Scooter's back feathers. I used a long, thin piece of the batting, wrapped it under the mannequin's chin and pulled it up on both sides to the ears. It looked good, so I set it aside and moved on to the nose.

I held a piece of toilet paper roll between the eyes and curved it out over the tip of the mannequin's nose. Once I got a shape I liked, I drew it on the cardboard, cut it out, and then taped it in place. Afterwards, I put the cheek padding back over the chin and cheeks and held it in place. It looked all right, but I wasn't sure if the nose was prominent enough. Not to worry. I could change it out later.

Step 11: Face and Nasal Padding

I pulled the batting towards the center of the face until its edges reached the new nose. It almost disappeared! For the time being, I moved on to the cheek and chin padding.

I adjusted the cheek pads and taped them down, and then pulled the strip of sheet batting from ear to ear around the chin. I taped over the padding as smoothly as possible, removed the tape holding down the nose base, and cut out another piece of batting to fit over the center of the face. That made the facial surface nice and even. I took the nose off and taped the center pad down.

Once the face was evenly padded I took the nose cardboard and traced around it onto another scrap of cardboard. I added about 1/4" to both sides of the nostril area and cut out a new nose, bent the sides down and test fitted it on the mannequin. It looked good, so I taped it in place. I left the bottom edge open, shoved loose batting into the nose with a pencil, and then cut a plug of foam rod to fill in the base. Nostrils could happen later.

Step 12: Mouth, Tongue and Eyes

I cut a thin strip of ethafoam rod and trimmed it into upper and lower lip shapes. Next, I pinned the lips in place and started to carve a foam tongue. I cut out a general tongue shape with an exaggerated center line and test fit it. The curve wasn't right, so I checked my research again.

Kali usually has a fetching smile and her tongue sticks out past her lower lip. I wanted the tongue to form an arc over her lower lip and to come to a point right over her chin. To get that profile, I cut a couple of tiny wedges out from underneath the tongue and taped the edges together. Once the curve was set, I pinned the tongue in between her lips, drew in her eyes and eyelids, and outlined her nostrils with Sharpie.

So far, so good. Kali's face was shaping up!

Step 13: Eye Sockets and Hair

Drawing the eyes helped give Kali's face character, but the eyes needed depth. I cut the tape on either side of the nose and underneath the inside corners of the eyes. I squished the padding around until I found my way back to the fiberglass base. I taped the corners down and drew in eyebrows. That helped define the forehead, but the eyes still didn't look right.

I took a little break and worked on her hair. I cut more strips of foam rod, angled the ends with utility shears and pinned pieces one at a time into the hair line. I used the drawn lines as a guide, but if the foam made prettier curves I didn't argue. After filling in her hair to just below ear level, I took another look at the eyes.

I cut more foam rod into eyebrow shapes and pinned those in place. Next, I cut all the way around the eyes with a safety blade and pinned the corners down. That helped, but it wasn't enough. Time for surgery! I pulled the eyes off and cut out the batting covering the eye sockets. I shoved loose batting up under the tape to form upper brow ridges and taped the edges down to the fiberglass, then did the same to the undereye areas. I pinned the eyes back onto the new socket area. The sockets and brows were good, but the eyes lacked dimension. Time to find eyeballs.

Pro tip: I spent a lot of time feeling up my face and checking it out in the mirror during this process. Sometimes it's not enough to look at research images. I need to feel the shape in order to get a better sense of how to build it.

It's really easy to look at things in a general way. We see our own faces all of the time. But how often do we really pay attention to details? Can you remember how far your nose sticks out from your cheeks, the exact shape of your ears, or how long your chin is without sneaking a peek or poking at it? I can't.

Step 14: Eyelids, Lip Lines and Final Check

Okay, I forgot to take pictures while building up her eyeballs and eyelids. Sorry about that. Hopefully, my description will give you a pretty good idea of the steps I took.

I found some glass terrarium rocksto use underneath the center of the eye. They were irregular domed oval shapes with flat backs and fit perfectly into the eye sockets. I taped those underneath the iris and pupil of each eye. I used some more foam rod to make eyelid shapes and taped those on, and then pinned the eyes in place. Much better!

I taped down the lips, outlined them with Sharpie, and cleaned up the edges with the point of a pencil.

Kali's face was ready to get draped.

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