Garbage Pail Kids Sculpture (from Old Cabbage Patch Doll)




Introduction: Garbage Pail Kids Sculpture (from Old Cabbage Patch Doll)

If you're a child of the 1980's then you remember the awesomeness that is the Garbage Pail Kids.  (Cool people call them "GPK's.")  If you don't know what Garbage Pail Kids are then surely you remember Cabbage Patch Dolls.  If you don't know what Cabbage Patch Dolls are then you're probably either 95 years old or a gurgling newborn pawing at the computer screen right now.

Garbage Pail Kids were collector's cards that parodied Cabbage Patch Dolls usually in gross ways.  And each had a name that was rich with hilarious pun and wordplay.  For instance, Adam Bomb (get it? Adam Bomb?), was acute little fellow whose head was exploding just like an atom bomb.  I guess it was funnier during the cold war.  Each card was also a sticker.  To a nine year old in 1985 it was mind blowing.  I always thought it would be great if they had made GPK dolls.  It seemed like it would have been easy enough.

This Instructable (which I am writing in first-person perspective for a change) details how I made a "full sized" sculpture of Smelly Sally.  Smelly Sally was card number 108a in the 3rd series of GPK's released in 1986.  Smelly Sally is an ugly mermaid that has emerged from a newly opened sardine can.

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Step 1: Design

The first thing I did was make some sketches based upon the card. I can draw OK. But please don't judge my abilities from this picture. I used a small ruler to get measurements from the card and used the proportions and the dimensions of the doll's head to determine the size of the sculpture overall. I figured that 1cm on the card equalled 7.7cm on the sculpture. Even though I am in America I usually use the metric system. It just makes more sense. I believe that the US should adopt the metric system officially.

Step 2: Materials and Supplies

Smelly Sally is basically two parts...A doll and a sardine can.  Much of the doll portion is made of newspaper. I like to use "The Nazareth Key," which is a free weekly newspaper that comes in the mail. I don't read it. But I save all of the issues in a bin for times just like this. 'The Key' isn't really a "newspaper" since it doesn't actually report any news. Mainly it is just full of advertisements and announcements for Kiwanis club meetings, Dean's list, etc. But since it is printed on newsprint, I will call it "newspaper" from here on.  Let's not get stuck on semantics.  The sardine can is constructed of wood and cardboard.

In addition to newspaper, you're also going to need:
  • Cabbage Patch Doll
  • Razor knife
  • Masking tape (several rolls)
  • Cardboard
  • Spray Paint (clear and metallic)
  • Artist's paint brushes
  • Acrylic paints
  • Sculpey (plus cookie sheet, oven)
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Candles
  • Wire
  • Old Beadsheet (or a brand new one if you're a Mr. Moneybags)
  • Wire or wire coat hangers
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • White glue
  • About a million things that I probably forgot to mention here

Step 3: Body

For Sally's body, I needed balls of newspaper of various size. I tried to estimate the size of the "body" balls as best as possible with the understanding that the head is slightly larger than the torso.  I fashioned the balls together to form a body piece and tail piece. I use lots of masking tape to fix them together. Then I use a piece of wire clothes hanger to give the piece a bit more structural integrity. Then I cover the whole thing with lots of masking tape. I go through a lot of tape when I do these projects.

Step 4: "Paper Mache" (not Really)

The body and tail were just balls of newspaper and didn't really have any structural integrity (if I sat on them, they'd flatten). So to make them hard, like rocks, I covered them in paper mache using newsprint. It's not really paper mache that I'm did here since I'm not using any paper pulp. But since I'm calling 'The Key' a newspaper when it really isn't I can probably call this technique 'paper mache' even though it really isn't. I started with a large bowl and put in some bleached flour and add warm water. It was important to me that the water be warm because my hands were going to be in there and warm goo feels better than cold goo. I used a wire wisk to beat the flour and water into a paste, removing all lumps. I made the consistency like that of a crepe batter (a thin pancake batter, for those of you in the mid-west). Now I needed to tare strips of newspaper. Mostly, I made wide strips, like half a page wide. But I did make some narrower strips too.
Now the fun part.  I got my hands completely wet with the paste and messaged the paste onto the ball so that the ball was completely wet. Then I covered the wet ball with a strip of DRY newspaper. Then I wet that piece of newspaper and applied another strip. It was important to 1) not put the paper into the paste, instead put the paste onto the paper 2) not apply the next piece of paper until the layer underneath is completely wet. I repeated this until there are about 8 to 10 total layers of newspaper on each piece. I made sure not to make 7 or 11 layers because those are "bad" numbers. I put the pieces on a cookie sheet and placed them outside to dry. In the hot Summer sun it took about two full afternoons for them to dry completely. When they were dry, they were very hard.

Step 5: Sardine Can

While my balls were drying I set off to construct the sardine can that Sally would spend most of her time in. Using the proportions determined from the sketches, I made a template out of cardboard for the bottom of the sardine can. The stuff that most people refer to as "cardboard" isn't actually cardboard. It is called "corrugated paper." You know when you buy a notepad or notebook there is usually a stiff piece of board in the back to give the pad some stiffness so it is easier to write on? Well that stuff is "cardboard." The material that makes-up a "cardboard box" is actually "corrugated paper" and a "cardboard box" is properly called a "corrugated carton." "Corrugated paper" is a piece of convoluted paper (i.e. it looks like a wavy line) sandwhiched between two pieces of paper. I learned all of this while I worked at a corrugated box factory for two summers during college. But since I am calling 'The Key" a newspaper and a 'paper layering technique' papier mache I have no problem calling 'corrugated paper' cardboard from here on. Why break precident? I found some scrap plywood in the garage and, with the help of a jigsaw, cut out the bottom of the sardine can.
I used some more cardboard to form the walls of the sardine can. I made a double layer to create a good thickness (plenty of glue between the layers) and attached the walls to the plywood with a staplegun. I covered the staples with masking tape so they would not cause any unusual texture after paper mache-ing. To create the rolled lip around the edge of the sardine can I used an old section of coaxial cable. I taped this to the edge to hold it in place until it is covered with paper. On the Smelly Sally card, the sardine can is open which creates a torn-away feature on the inside of the can. I used more cardboard to do this by tracing the perimeter of the sardine can and making a jagged-edge. This piece was then glued and taped into place.
To make the roll I used a piece of posterboard rolled-up and taped. Then I used more wire clothes hanger to create the key. I covered the wire with newspaper and lots of tape. I closed both ends of the roll with a circle of cardboard and inserted the key into one end through a hole that I cut. The key was glued and held in place by lots of tape. Now I could determine the length of the arms by positioning the body inside the sardine can and holding the roll in place.

Step 6: Ritualistic Decapitation

At this point it was time to remove the head from the original doll’s body. To do this, I like to light some candles and turn the lights down. I then lay the doll upon the alter (my work bench). The actual head removal takes only a few seconds so it is best to draw it out as much as possible with theatrics.  Put a piece of tape over the doll's mouth. The heads of these dolls are attached with a regular nylon zip-tie. So a quick snip with a razor and the head is removed.

Step 7: Body Assembly

Since my balls were now dry I could attach the body ball to the tail. With a razor knife I cut a hole in the tail piece to accept the body ball. I used some glue and lots of tape. It was important to give the body a nice hour-glass shape. Next, I marked and fit the hole for the head. I couldn’t make the arms quite yet because they needed to be a specific length so that the left arm would touch the sardine car correctly. So I had to work a bit more on the sardine can, particularly the roll and key.

Step 8: Arms and Hands

Now that I knew how long the arms should be I balled-up some newspaper: 2 balls for each arm and 1 ball for each hand. I taped each arm together in the correct pose as per the card. For fingers I used some balls of Scupey instead of paper. Each finger was then held in place by hotglue and lots of tape. I did not yet attach the arms to the body because I still had a lot to do with the tail and did not want extra nonsense getting in the way.

Step 9: Tail and Scales

To create the fish-tail I used pieces of wire clothes hangers to create the “skeleton of the tail. I then I covered the tail with a piece of old bedsheet soaked in thinned white glue: I cut a piece of sheet to size and dipped it into a container of slightly thinned white glue. I squeezed out the excess and carefully laid the clothe over the wire frame. I pushed the clothe in a bit with my finger between each piece of wire to create a realistic effect. I let this dry overnight. Once dry, I trimmed it with scissors to make the shape of the finished fishtail.
For the scales on the tail I again used Dan Reeder’s techniques. I cut about 150 3cm squares out of old bedsheet. I readied my container of thinned white glue and hung the body from a wire on the ceiling to make it easier to work with. I soaked a handful of squares in the glue and squeezed out as much glue as possible. Each scale is a single square, with two corners folded in, to create somewhat of a triangle. The scale is placed on the tail with the folds down starting at the tail end and working up to the torso. The residual glue holds the scale in place. This was very time consuming and was done in three sessions, allowing some to dry overnight and then proceeding the next day.

Step 10: More Assembly

Once the tail was dry I could attached the arms. I did this with glue and lots of masking tape.

Step 11: Applying the "Skin"

At this point the body and sardine can are ready for the paper mache skin. For this I like to use wallpaper glue and paper towels. The best paper towels I have found are made by Kimberly Clark. They are called Shop Towels and they are blue. The reason I like these is that they are very strong, flexible and stretchy. They can easily traverse any corner without causing a crease. I like to use wallpaper paste that is specifically for bathrooms and kitchens because it has anti-fungal agents in it. I tear the shop towel into little bits and discard any of the edges. Using a paintbrush I coat the entire piece in paste. Then, as I apply them, I coat each papertowel piece with paste and smooth it on with the paintbrush. Each piece overlaps until the enter sardine can, arms, and torso are covered. This dried overnight and then got a second coat of papertowels.
Once the second coat of papertowel dried I brushed on a coat of straight white glue. Thinned white glue will not work here because the water causes the papertowel to swell, potentially disfiguring the work. Once that coat was dry, a second was applied in the same manner. The glue acts to seal the paper and also fills-in any uneven blemishes. The paper towels have a definite texture that is unwanted. The glue fills that in and makes it smooth.

Step 12: Sanding

Once the glue is dry, I lightly sanded the piece with 220 grit sandpaper. I used a tack cloth to remove any dust and also blew the whole thing off with compressed air to further remove dust.

[I don't really have a picture of the sanding process. But I remember it looking something like this.]

Step 13: Priming

Then all of the blue areas got two coats of spray primer (I just used white spray paint). I find no need to prime the clothe parts since 1) they are already white 2) they have sufficient texture to forcefully adhere the paint.

Step 14: Hair Style

I have no idea how to braid hair. And I’m very proud of that fact. So I had my wife braid two pigtails onto the sides of the doll’s head. She held them in place with two small rubber bands. I pushed a piece of wire through the tip of one braid, through the braid itself, through the skull and “brain” and on through the braid on the other side. This would allow the braids to be poseable. The braids were finished off with two blue bows. How pretty.

Step 15: Name Plate

To create the name plate, I printed the text from my computer. The font that best fits the Garbage Pail Kids style is Times New Roman. I measured the text to get an idea of how big the name plate would be. I cut out two pieces of cardboard. One piece would be the black “outline” and was slightly larger than the other. Each piece was covered with paper towels and given two coats of white glue. I sanded with 220 grit sandpaper and gave two coats of white spray paint for primer. The smaller of the two pieces was dedicated to receive the text. So I positioned the text over the name plate with a sheet of carbon paper in between. Then I traced the lettering so it would transfer to the name plate. I then went over the outline with a black Sharpie. I did this before painting because I knew that the paint color (bright yellow) would not cover the marker completely. So I could get two coats of paint on the name plate and still be able to see the marker underneath, which I could fill-in with black paint. The other, larger piece was simply painted black. Once dry, both pieces were glued together to create a stylized 3D nameplate.

Step 16: Painting

Painting of the sardine can involved metallic paints, silver and bronze. These types of acrylic craft paints are notorious for not providing good coverage. So I used metallic spray paint instead.  I find that metallic base paint works best if you use a complementing base coat first.

I printed the words “FRESH SARDINES” from my computer and transferred these to the sides of the can using carbon paper. Red paint was used to finish the lettering along with a black outline.

Step 17: More Painting

I first put an undercoat of blue on the tail using acrylic paint. I did this so I could then spray over the tail in silver spray paint and the blue would show through as a highlight from under the scales. Once the spray paint was dry I covered the entire body and tail with glitter spray, concentrating and putting a heavier coat on the tail and fin.

I painted Sally's body with flesh colored acrylic paint.  That was easy enough.

Step 18: Details

I tried really hard to find real dried starfish for the bra. I searched every craft store in the area. And while they do carry dried starfish, I could not find any that were small enough (about 4.5cm max) for this project.  So instead, I made two starfish from Sculpey. Sculpey is a polymer clay that is baked in a household oven. I covered the starfish with papertowel-mache, painted the starfish, and glued them in place. For the straps of the bra, I used tiny seashells that were glued into place.

Step 19: Final Clear Coat

The body, sardine can, and name plate were given one coat of glossy clear spray paint to seal them.  Once the first coat was dry I assembled the entire sculpture by gluing (white glue) the body in place, gluing the head on, and gluing the nameplate in place. 

Step 20: Keep Making Other GPK's!

There is a nearly endless supply of Garbage Pail Kids that you can make.  And for many of them you don't even need a Cabbage Patch Doll head.  Farrah Fossil, here, was made without a doll head.  Here is a great source for Garbage Pail Kids pictures and info:

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    7 Discussions


    4 years ago

    What a fun project. That brings back some great memories.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, this is fantastic. I'm surprised I haven't seen a sculpture like this before, since Garbage Pail Kids were a parody of Cabbage Patch Dolls.

    Nice work, and thanks for sharing!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    awsome!!! very creative. Well presented...I wish be the winner. Grate job....really i loved Smelly Sally....

    M.C. Langer
    M.C. Langer

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Totally disgusting. It means that you made an awesome job!!!! :-)