Making Miroku Part 2: The Props
WARNING: VERY LONG POST AHEAD!
After I managed to get my Miroku doll sorted out, next was the hardest part besides the doll itself... That aforementioned staff. I went to several craft stores and bought all kinds of materials to make that staff. Key rings, round beads in various sizes, jump rings, wooden dowels/bamboo skewers, even any tiny earrings or charms of crescent moons I could find. I had to be able to conjure something up, right?
Well, as with most of my crafting projects, I buy materials, have ideas in my head, but then my perfectionism kicks in along with my impatience and butter fingers, and I wind up looking for something to buy. LOL
My husband couldn’t use his Glow Forge to make the staff because it would be flat and not 3D. That wouldn’t look right at all. But then I thought, hey, what about a 3D printer... I don’t own one, but surely someone on Etsy does, right? Yep, and there are several people on Etsy who take 3D print commissions! And I was even able to find a free 3D print file for Miroku’s staff! Granted, it was in life-size because it was meant for cosplay, but I took some measurements and gave them to an Etsy shop owner (3DDeluxe) and asked if he could scale the file down. And yes, he could! That was a big relief!
All I had to do was paint the staff and add jump rings to it! Or so I thought. The file for the staff didn’t include the top part for some reason:
Well, that looks like a simple enough design... enter Crayola Model Magic! Form the shape, let it dry for a few days (to make sure it’s completely hardened), and then glue to the staff and paint! YES!
Scratch that - NO! Looking closer at the staff in the photos, plus with figures I have, the top design seems to be more long/tall rather than wide. So I broke out some of the small crescent moon charms I’d purchased and stuck one of those on top of the staff. Before doing that, however, I had to remove the ring holding the jump ring in place that allowed the charm to be added to a bracelet or necklace. Using some side cutters took care of that, and my eyes glanced at the small half-hoop that came off the charm, and my brain saw tiny earrings! So I removed the earrings I’d previously had in the doll’s ears (and by “in” the ears, I mean glued on LOL) and, after much of the glue wound up in my fingers, I had earrings closer in scale to what they should be! Yay!
First earrings (4mm jump rings):
Current earrings (half-hoops from charms):
Now, back to that staff top. I’d purchased some porcelain air dry clay previously, so I broke that out and started sculpting with it. My counter was a complete mess with all sorts of attempts at creating what looks like a simple design... but all mine seemed to come out resembling the Assassin’s Creed symbol. So I tried a different approach and rolled little pieces separately until my counter looked like it was full of grains of rice. But doing that helped, because I was then able to take some clay that wasn’t yet dry and attach it to that said grain of rice to create the desired effect. I made several and finally picked a suitable candidate. Still may not be perfect, but I’m happy with it!
Oh, and those jump rings? I’d purchased a few different sizes so I could see which ones looked best in terms of scale, and finally settled on the 12mm ones. Of course, the only ones I could find were silver, not gold. But that’s okay, since I wanted to make sure they were the same color as the staff itself, so I just painted them. That was fun, let me tell you! LOL
Next up: Prayer beads! After making lots of mini necklaces of the sacred jewel (some with clasps, some without for photos, one based on what’s seen in the anime vs. the one you can actually buy, etc.), I was sure I could make some beads that didn’t even need a clasp.
Big surprise - it turned into a chore as well. I thought the beads consisted of a strand of beads held together by one larger bead. Well, no, there are smaller beads tailing that large bead with tassels on the ends. This meant I had to have three different bead sizes (and finding the perfect color was fun LOL, so many shades of blue/turquoise/light blue) in the same color (can’t always find the same brand/color in different sizes) plus make teeny tiny tassels.
I managed to find lots of miniature tassel charms, but even they were too large in comparison to the beads. So I tried some embroidery floss. It worked for making tassels, but looking closer, these tassels are mostly just the tails sticking out of the beads. So I didn’t need the top part. So I achieved that effect by tying a knot in a piece of embroidery floss and cutting off one end.
My first instinct was to try to push a needle through this tassel to secure it to the string holding the beads together. Well, that wouldn’t work because the tassel’s knot kept coming out and the white bead string was visible through the purple tassel. So I tried one final tactic - stringing the beads through the same embroidery floss as the tassel, then tying a knot after the beads to secure them in place, followed by tying a separate strand of embroidery floss around the knot securing the beads to create a tassel effect. That worked! At least, it did, until I went to wrap it around the doll’s arm and the knots came out, sending beads flying.
Apparently the string didn’t leave enough room to allow me to wrap the beads around the arm. I’d tried removing the doll’s hand and arm wrap, then putting the beads on the arm and draping them over the arm wrap, but no go. So I had to redo the entire thing... a few times because of knots and various other issues. Glad I have plenty of beads! I finally finished the strand, though! Fingers crossed that it doesn’t come undone LOL.
They’re a tad loose compared to what they should be, but that does allow me to help “shape” them and remove them if I want to without them getting snagged on the fingers.
I wasn’t going to give Miroku his ring because the tops of his fingers are primarily covered by his arm wrap (it’s just the design, can’t be helped). But then I decided to go ahead and do so because of the pictures I took of him using the Wind Tunnel. To make the ring, I looked up some tutorials on YouTube and they were all pretty consistent - use jewelry/bead wire, place it on a doll’s finger, and bend and cut. DONE! That was the easiest prop of the entire bunch, and yet the one I almost didn’t even make LOL
The ring was the final prop! Miroku is now complete! I’m very pleased with him overall. He definitely had less props than Kagome did - I may even make him some sacred soutras down the road if I can figure out what some of them say. Because, again, I’m nothing if not accurate! hehehehehe Stay tuned for my next custom doll - Sango!
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Creating Kagome Part 1: The Doll
WARNING: VERY LONG POST AHEAD!
The journey began with me finding someone who could make Kagome’s school uniform since there’s no way I can do that lol. If her outfit couldn’t be made, the entire project would be in vain. Fortunately, I found a very talented seamstress who’d made Sailor Moon outfits for Made to Move Barbie bodies. I contacted her, and she said she could make Kagome’s uniform! Yay!!!
Next up was choosing the perfect doll. That alone took a good month and a half. I’d planned to use a Barbie for sure because I’m familiar with Barbie and her mechanics (i.e., head swaps and body compatibilities), plus she’s the most common fashion doll for clothes and accessories. And these days, she comes in a variety of skin tones... which turned out to be a big deciding factor for choosing the perfect candidate. I was making this doll specifically to go with my 12″ figure, and if you look at official images of the couple, and even watch the episodes, you’ll see that they have almost the same skin tone. In Barbie terms, the purple top Made to Move doll (ironically, the Asian one) was too pale in comparison to my figure. If I were making Kikyo, she’d work. But I wasn’t. I was making Kagome, and despite the story, the two are vastly different in terms of personality (and even, in my opinion, appearance - I never thought they looked that much alike).
My first plan was to use one of these dolls:
They’re both anime Mattel dolls from the Barbie Video Game Hero movie. They already had the anime face, so I thought whichever one worked best would just need a reroot and a body swap and I’d be done! WRONG. The neck hole in the doll’s head was vastly smaller than that of a Barbie, and I wasn’t comfortable cutting it to make it larger. I only had one shot, and knowing me, I’d mess it up drastically and be majorly sunk. So I knew I had to use just a regular Barbie instead, one without the anime face mold.
So then I found some Barbies that had the appropriate skin tone - I chose the wheelchair body, and of course it had to be a Made to Move body for posing capabilities. Victory! But of course, anime characters have those distinctive large eyes, and a Barbie face wasn’t going to cut it. So I had to contact a repainter on Etsy and ask if he could repaint a Barbie face to resemble Kagome’s. Then we had to determine the best face mold for that because of how defined the lips were. Anime characters also have tiny noses and mouths, so we agreed that the Lea face mold would be the most effective.
The doll I finally decided on was a Fashion Fever Lea circa 1999. Her skin tone matched the Made to Move body, so I was thrilled to finally have a doll picked out!
She did, of course, need a reroot because she had blonde/brown streaks in her hair, and Kagome’s hair is solid black. I can’t reroot, and I’m hesitant to dye doll hair for fear of staining the doll or her clothes, so I had to send the head off to get her rerooted. When that process was done, I sent her to my painter.
This process alone took about three months. When I finally got the doll back and complete, I was so happy - until my mom, who isn’t even an avid fan of the show, asked me if I thought the doll really looked like Kagome.
(NOTE: That uniform is one I got from a different seller, and she’d mistakenly used an old 90s TNT body rather than the Made to Move body as the base, so it’s a little large on her. That backpack was made by Beautyshare on Etsy).
So after looking at the doll, while I do love her, I decided that yes, she is more of a “Barbie as” version of Kagome rather than the actual character. The problem was her largely defined nose and mouth. Nothing wrong with her, but I decided I needed to keep looking. Like I said, being an OCD perfectionist is both a blessing and a curse.
So I continued to hunt for the perfect doll to use. I thought a Momoko doll might work, but she was too short and also didn’t have the desired face sculpt. So I finally decided to just type into Google Images one day “11″ anime doll.” I had no idea what would pop up, but what I got changed everything. Among the results were, of course, some Azone dolls and generic action figures, but then my eyes drifted to this doll and my jaw dropped:
Her face really helped seal the deal - her eyes were already the perfect shape, and she had that itty bitty nose and the small mouth that was smiling! She’d obviously need her eyes painted brown, and her eyebrows would need to be black and not blue, but I knew I could do that easily enough. Larger anime eyes are easier to paint those little details on as opposed to the tiny Barbie eyes.
The next step was to see if I could even find this doll. She’s an older one, based off an old Sega game known as Sakura Wars. I’ve never heard of it, but at this point that was irrelevant. I was making props in between searching for the right doll, plus having some custom made due to my lack of ability to sew and ordering others (thanks, ReMent!), so I knew I had to get this doll going. To my pleasant surprise, eBay had a large assortment of this doll available, all in the United States!
My next concern was whether or not the skin tone would work. All the anime dolls I’d seen so far (Azone, Obitsu, and even custom-made ones by other people over the years) had that super pale skin tone that belongs to Kikyo, not Kagome. So I looked at several listings, trying to determine if the skin tone would work. Then luck really came to my side as I found this doll for sale deboxed, resulting in a much lower price (this doll wasn’t expensive even in the box, but hey, I’ll save money wherever I can! I don’t need the box!)... and the seller was actually holding the doll in their hand! That allowed me to see the doll’s skin tone in comparison to someone’s actual hand, and it was almost the exact same shade. So I knew I had to jump at this chance.
Next up - wait for the post office to deliver this doll (don’t get me started on the USPS...). I was so anxious, wondering if she’d be okay for what I wanted to do. When she arrived at last, I opened her up and was pleased to see that she was about Barbie-sized (a tad shorter but her head wasn’t too small like some other anime dolls out there, so it would fit on the Made to Move body), and her skin tone didn’t look like the purple top Made to Move. That’s good. So, moment of truth. I took the doll into my doll room, where the decapitated body was waiting. I held the Barbie hand up to this doll’s face, and...
SUCCESS!!! A perfect match!!! The relief and excitement that washed over me was intense! At last I had an anime doll!!!
Of course, nothing is quite that simple. This head removed from the body super easy (it’s just a peg inside, no hooks at all), but the head hole was too small for the Barbie body. But only by a little bit. So I took a chance and grabbed my X-Acto knife and sliced off the inner ring inside the head. That did it! It took a little bit of elbow grease, but the head did get on the body! I then had to use a bit more force to slide it down the neck so it didn’t look like it was just sitting on top of it, but I got that too!
Original neck hole:
After using the X-Acto knife:
The prepared body (the neck peg is necessary to secure the head to the neck, but I did completely remove the hook portion since that isn’t necessary and it was too tall for the head anyway):
On the body!
Next up was the hair. I’d hoped to just dye the hair, somehow, thanks to various YouTube tutorials. Her hair was blue, and obviously that wouldn’t do. So I took it out of its ponytail, and received yet another surprise... not a pleasant one, though. Because the doll’s hair had been in a ponytail, the manufacturers apparently thought there didn’t need to be a lot of said hair, so there were a TON of bald spots! So even if I did manage to color the hair, there was no way there’d be enough of it to make it look how it should. So to Etsy I went to find a rerooter!
What luck I had yet again when I asked a few potential rerooters and came across Paradise Doll Designs, who was actually following me on Etsy and turned out to be a fan of Inuyasha! So I knew I had my candidate! And she did a superb job! I enjoyed talking to her during the duration of the reroot, which didn’t take long at all! The process took about a month starting from shipping the head to it being shipped back. Yes!!!
Even my mother agreed that this doll looked better than the Barbie! LOL! So when the reroot was done, the head was returned! Every time I got a step closer to my ultimate goal, I just felt like this:
Now granted, the character’s hair has kind of “spiky” shapes in the back, and her bangs aren’t uniform in size and kind of stick up, but keep in mind this is doll hair, so there’s only so much that can be done with it. It’s not like a sculpture that can be manipulated, even with a ton of hair spray and mousse. I used some of that (cream and spray meant specifically for synthetic/doll hair - I’ve read not to use real people hair products on dolls because it could cause damage down the road) on the back to give it that kind of uneven look, and once I got the outfit on the doll, it really helped tie it together!
I looked at those pictures for so long trying to get the hair just right! LOL It looks better with the outfit on, because when the doll had no clothes on, there was no perspective or context. :D
So the next step for this doll was getting her eyes painted! Finding the right shades of brown wasn’t as difficult as I feared it would be. I managed to get the eyes painted, though of course one had to be stubborn while the other was nearly perfect. But I eventually got them! I’d bought some special tiny acrylic brushes just for this project, and had been saving them in anticipation. I used one of them to go over the blue eyebrows with black paint (no Sharpie in case I made a mistake), and though they aren’t perfect, the bangs cover up the imperfections.
Well, she should be done by this point, right? Not quite. Remember the lovely rerooter I mentioned? Well, she was also among those on Instagram who discovered that it’s possible to switch out Barbie doll hands! YES! I was terrified to do that for fear of breaking the little pegs, but with Sara’s guidance, I managed to accomplish it! She told me that the DC Super Hero Girls dolls, also by Mattel, were perfectly compatible with Barbie. This was ideal for me, as the hands that were designed to hold swords and hammers would be perfect for Kagome to hold her bow, walk her bike, and even hold her little bottle of jewel shards (more on props later)! So... hand swap time!
This doll is my biggest hybrid doll ever. Sega doll head, Barbie Made to Move body, DC Super Hero Girls hands, completely custom-made outfit and accessories, full reroot, fresh face paint, etc. All in all, I am so excited to have this doll at last! And just in time for the anime’s 20th anniversary!!! Yes, the anime debuted in October 2000, and 20 years later, in October 2020, the series not only celebrated its 20th anniversary, but also dropped a sequel! And the manga that the anime is based off of? This year is its 25th anniversary! It debuted in 1996! I thought this was the perfect time for such a large project that’s been nine months in the making (plus 17 years considering when I first had the idea!). So now, behold, the final product:
HALLELUJAH!!! This has been a long, and at times stressful, journey, but I am so ecstatic now! I had so much fun bringing this character to life, not only to go with my beloved 12″ figure but also because I enjoy turning dolls into characters that I love, that I’ve decided to try my luck at making some others... I think Miroku and Sango should join in, don’t you? :D They most likely won’t be as perfect/detailed as Kagome, but I’m still excited to get started on them as well!
Stay tuned for the post about Kagome’s props - because no doll or figure is complete without those!
Reroot by Paradise Doll Designs
School uniform by elenpriv
Face paint by me
Bow and arrows by me
Quiver customization by me
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