Saturday, 26 July 2014

My Samantha Bryan inspired Bumbling B.

A few years ago I came across these great little craft figures in one of my wife's craft magazines. The creator, Samantha Bryan produced these strange little fairy creatures from who knew what material and imbued them with their own character and names that hinted at the story that I'd like to hear.
For our 50th birthday presents to each other my wife and I bought our own pieces at a gallery in Birmingham.
Brain's Portable Dust Distribution Service
for fairies. 
Mine is on a little scooter and I'd often marvel at his construction and wonder 'What was his head made out of ? His suit was leather but how had it all be stitched around the wire frame ?'.
As a fan of craft artwork, I often visit a local artist studio and gallery called Unit Twelve, and at one visit early in the year I found that Samantha Bryan was to be running some workshops, where she would teach people how to make their own little figures.
I was in. I booked two places, taking my wife along as she's far better with materials and stitching than I'll ever be.
And I got to work designing what I'd want to make.
I decided on a figure from my upcoming little From SuperZeroes to SuperHeroes book. A character from the A to Z of SuperZeroes called The Bumbling B.
I didn't notice any strange looks Jane, my wife, may have cast in my direction and never for a moment doubted that I could make this little chap.
And then the 11th of May duly arrived and I found myself sat a a table facing Sam (as she prefers to be called) and she started to tell us how we could make our own fairies.
Sam was quick to notice a few glances that Jane sent in my direction and asked what was wrong. Jane told her that I'd come up with my own design, and despite me saying that I'd happily create a fairy, Sam's interest was piqued and she asked to see the sketch when she'd finished explaining how we go about making the heads.
Sam took to the idea straight away and we agreed to have a go. So as she set off looking for a tube we could use for the body, I got to work on his head.
Bumbling B was to be the first on the left in the back row.
The idea is to make a few heads in the hope that one of them is usable.
The day passed with me looking at those around me progressing really well with their little fairy people whilst I didn't actually get as far as even sewing his trousers on. I promised Sam that I would finish him though and left not feeling despondent but feeling challenged.
A stuffed tube, some wire packed solid with newspaper,
some medical bandage and incomplete hand sewn leather  trousers ...
And the days that followed passed with me getting out my box in the evenings after work and doing a little more...
His striped coat was tricky, getting it all to come together
for the dome at the top in particular.
I was lucky to have Jane around, as she could visualise the patterns that I needed to cut and stitch together for the more tricky pieces, like his coat.
But piece by piece, day by day, he started to come together.
A box of bits of something in the making.
And eventually the box of bits looked less like a box of random bits of leather and wire and more like a figure of some description.
The bits actually starting to look like something in the making.
Now as the body was progressing I was also working on the head.
He needed a mask,
Would anyone like to play hangman ?
as worn by all true super-heroes but at first he looked more like a Hangman.
So I decided to add some goggles as they're cool, and my daughter Jemma, who by now was beginning to believe that I might actually finish the little guy, suggested antennae.
A little cut here and there, a pair of antennae
and a pair of goggles make all the difference.
And his head was complete.
'What are you looking at ?'
If I'm honest, it was about this time that I also thought I might actually finish this little chap off, and decided I'd better turn my attention to his Jet-Pack.
I'm always picking up bits and bobs at antique fairs or shops and when I saw this old (but not too old) fishing reel I knew it'd be perfect.
It was the wrong colour though and had too many
holes showing that there was nothing inside.
I quick, well maybe not quick, paint job...
It'd have to have a dark wash on it to tone it down a bit.
...some wire mesh...
It'd need something inside though.
... something inside...
An interesting old valve.
...and a dark wash to tone it all down and his Jet-Pack was complete.
Just needs some wire mesh on that hole.
Which just left the body to complete, and the feet, oh, and the hands.
I decided to mount him on a big block of wood, the idea being that if I put him on the table at Comic Conventions he wouldn't keep falling over, and made a little pair of leather boots.
Drilling a hole and pushing the wire in made him very stable.
I'd need to push him down so that the wire under his foot wasn't visible, and that would only leave his gloves to make and the small matter of fitting his Jet-Pack such that it looked like there was more of it under his jacket.
Almost ready for lift off.
The Jet-Pack was a challenge and required some more cutting, glueing and stitching but I was happy with the effect, and the gloves I decided to make mittens...
Ready for lift off.
but I was really happy with how he came out.
It was fun to put the pencils away, to leave the computer switched off and to pick up scissors, leather and a thick needle. Sewing leather is much more painful than drawing and there's a world of different skill needed to turn a three dimensional shape into two dimensional pattern and then us this to make the three dimensional shape you wanted, but it was always achievable, after a few false starts.
Would I do it again ?
Yes, and in fact I'm already drawing the designs for the next one.


  1. This is looking great Dave.
    I've got a feeling this is just the start of a long line of super zeros.

  2. I think you may be right Gary ... I think I've caught the craft-bug.

  3. Aha! so this is the l'il fella you've been talking about, not bad at all Dave, well done.

    By the way i've a pair of trousers needing a hem taken up if you've got a moment?

  4. Ha !! I won't be turning my hand to repairing clothing or making costumes for future Cons ... before you ask :o)

  5. Great post Dave, well done for persevering and creating a hero of your very own.

  6. Thanks, I really did enjoy making him. I've often wanted to make a 3D figure like this but had no idea how to even start it. Sam's workshop was just what I needed to get me going. She covered everything I needed to know and I'm certainly going to have a go at making some more. I really have got the craft bug :o)