On October 15th it was my big sister’s birthday, and while I want to give her something she’d love – I’m not buying stuff made in china.
Really nowadays I try my best to make every present I need to give and if I really can’t think of anything fitting that I could actually pull off then I buy something handmade from someone on Folksy.
But this time I had a good idea of what to make.
She is a huge fan of anime (japanese animation) and one of the things that she and I both absolutely love are the Studio Ghibli series of films. A few weeks ago we were in St.Ives, Cornwall visiting my mum (who does brilliant tours of the town) and there was a shop full of all kinds of awesome Japanese stuff. In particular there was all sorts of products based on my absolute favourite (and I think my sister’s favourite) Ghibli movie: My Neighbour Totoro.
I thought at the time that some of them would be great presents for my sister but the problem was that they were all cheaply made in china. So I’d noted it in my head and while I was wondering what to make her months later, like a leaf floating down onto the forest floor of my mind – I remembered that note. I could make little Totoro figures out of salt dough!
So first thing’s first: I needed to make salt dough.
Salt dough is really easy to make. It’s just white flour, cooking salt and water. I’ve got the ‘recipe’ somewhere, but not to hand so just message me or do a quick google search and you’ll find one. It seemed to go very well, but was very loose when it got warm and it was seeming like I’d never be able to make these figures. I just couldn’t get the right shapes, and even when I did they’d droop down and end up all wrong within a minute (I got very upset). So I went back to the kitchen and kneeded in more flour (I did this 4 times over two days) and eventually I had good, firm, non-drooping salt dough. So really, I wouldn’t bother contacting me for the recipe. Find your own. =)
So then I just searched on google images for some pictures of totoro and his friends. My plan was to make Tororo himself, the little blue forest spirit and the even smaller white forest spirit. So I set about with my recently firmed-up dough to make their bodies.
I then began getting them painted, which at first seemed very easy but little did I know just how scary and difficult it was going to get. The only difficulty at this stage was getting the colour of Totoro’s fur right. But with a bit of experimenting, I managed to get it looking pretty good.
So as my sister’s birthday edged ever closer, I got onto the hardest part of all – the details. The faces and markings on their bellies had to be reproduced accurately otherwise they’d just look wrong. I took a few evenings of trying, letting it dry, painting over it, letting that dry and then trying again. Thank god I started when I did! It was taking a long time to get these finished to a standard I was happy with. Thankfully though, with a lot of effort and studying of images from the movie and images of the figures you can buy online – eventually I had succeeded:
Thanks to Dan Jackson (who is a genius) for taking photos of them for me (as while rushing I somehow forgot to take my own photos of the finished creations.) Also thanks to Studio Ghibli for conceiving such a wonderful film with such great characters. Everyone go and see this film! (and all the others!)
So there you go. I hope you enjoyed getting to see the process, I enjoyed sharing it. (any chance to share the wonderfulness that is Totoro really!)
Thanks for reading, see you again soon I hope,