Crafting like a Man with Patrick Murillo: Bobblehead Dolls

Some people are crafty, some aren't (i.e. me). It's the way of the world. But taking a cue from Mantastic Crafter Patrick Murillo, I'm training in the art, and hoping to work my way up to something truly mantastic, all while trying to avoid what Murillo calls a "craftastrophe."

Meeting up with mantastic crafter Patrick Murillo this week, I felt a bit more prepared for round two of craft training than I did my first time around.

At least for a bit.

I wasn't shocked by his artistic living room this time, but the project laid out for me that day was daunting -- we were making a bobblehead. I'd seen Murillo's bobblehead, it was a pirate figurine decked out in DIY clothes and hair. I thought this might be a bit overboard, so to speak.

When I realized just how much was involved, I got queasy. The next two hours were filled with painting, sawing, cooking, and molding.

It was like a things-I'm-bad-at cocktail.

1. Step one was to take clumps of polymer clay and knead them into spheres. I noticed it helped some to spread your thumb or index finger over cracks in the clay to get rid of them.

"Wipe on, wipe off," Mr. Miyagi Murillo advises me.

Now, like an overly-obtrusive parent, you need to pick a career for your clay doll. I panicked a bit and glanced around Murillo's house for something that wasn't crafted/painted. "A guitar hero controller? That'll do." We started on making a rock star bobblehead.

2. Next, we fashioned the clay into a human shape, using lumps to keep the arms and legs in a guitar-shredding position. (Keep a second sphere for the head.) We stuck some wire through the bottom of the clay model and through the neck so that the bobblehead could stand when the wire ran through a wood base. Then (without the wire), we stuck the figurine in the oven for about 20 minutes at 275 degrees so the clay could harden.

3. After the bobblehead was cooked, it was time to decorate. First things first, he needed a guitar. Murillo grabbed a nearby scrap of cardboard so I could cut out the instrument. At this point, I started realizing just how wide the crafting gap is between me and Murillo; it's like a glittery Grand Canyon.

As we continued to decorate, Murillo kept looking in a cardboard box for materials. The guitar needed a strap, and he found some leathery material. The doll needed some hair, so he pulled some thread out of the box and frayed it with a comb. I needed crafting self-confidence, so -- actually, that wasn't in there.

Me: "It's cool that there's, like, everything you need in that, uh..."

Murillo: "The magical box?"

I'm still wondering if he was joking.

4. With a wooden base (that you can find at any crafting store), Murillo handed me a drill-saw to carve out a hole in the bottom where the wire could be run through. I paused for a second.

"Don't hurt yourself," Murillo says.

Did I mention I'm bad with power tools too?

Still, it went better than expected and we stuck the bobblehead back onto the wire, ran it into the base, and added the smaller wire into the neck hole. We glued down the clay figurine by the feet and bottom wire, then I painted it with black pants and a white T-shirt.

5. Then, Murillo found a spring ("Sometimes you have to sacrifice a pen," he says) and wrapped it around the neck-wire for me while I painted the head a flesh-tone and glued on the rocker-hair.

I went home a bit later and found a picture of myself to glue onto the face. I don't think this gets me any closer to getting a job as a rock star, but I think I'm closer to that than being a crafting master... until next time...

Check out my final bobblehead (left), and, for comparison, Murillo's (right).


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Colin Lecher
Contact: Colin Lecher