Saturday, 18 February 2017


My daughters and I love the movie My Neighbor Totoro. If you haven't seen it, I recommend watching it and other movies by Studio Ghibli.
I decided that I needed a Totoro sculpture. At the time I started this project, my medium of choice was wool fiber. Since Totoro is gray and white, I could use naturally colored fibers to make it even easier.

This is the process of how I made my Totoro.

Undyed Targhee combed top
I start with loose wool fiber. The specific fiber that I'm using for this project is white Targhee (that's the breed of sheep) combed top. Targhee is pretty good for felting. Here it's shown in the washed, combed prep that is combed top.
The only tools I use to make these sculptures are a wicked looking needle and a block of foam to hopefully save my fingers from too much poking. Sometimes I'll use a bit of wire for armature, but Totoro won't need it. The needle is 3 inches long and has 9 little barbs on it that catch the fibers and push them into the sculpture, felting it.

A basic Totoro shape
 The first step was to rough out a shape. Since Totoro is kind of a big oval, that wasn't too difficult. I will worry about things like noses, ears, arms and legs later.

Making the gray parts gray
 Then I needed to start making the gray areas gray. On the right side, you can see where I added some fiber that I haven't stabbed into place yet and the needle that I'm using to do so.

Now with arms. One is ready to hold an umbrella
Arms! My plan is to make him holding an umbrella, so I put one arm up.

Legs to stand on
Legs! With each step, he's becoming more and more recognizable.

Ears! Are those his ears? I was never quite sure.

A tail helps him stand
Shortly after giving him legs, I also gave him a tail. I failed at getting pictures of his tail in progress, but here is his tail after I finished the rest of him.

The beginning of a mouth
He started looking a bit demonic at this point. I don't think that's totally inappropriate, but the mouth gave me trouble. It kept wanting to look crooked. I could have left him with a smirk, but was trying to make it look somewhat even. Looking carefully, you may be able to see a bump of a nose just above the center of the mouth. Totoro doesn't have much of a nose, but there is a definite bump seen in profile.

Tooth definition and eyes
I added some black for his nose and started adding the eyes and divisions between the teeth.  Here, the white of one eye is mostly finished and the other...isn't. Yes, I seem to use his head for needle storage at times.

Mostly finished eyes and nose
A mostly finished face. I've added the pupils to the eyes and the rest of the lines between the teeth. The black lines spent a while being way too dark before I went back over it with some white to make it look less glaring.

A leaf to who knows what kind of tree
Again, my plan was to make him holding an umbrella. When we first see him in the rain, he has a leaf on his head, so I've added a leaf. The leaf was made separately before being added to his head. I did the same for the arms and ears.

Whew, the leaf fits between his ears

Belly spots!
I also added the gray spots to his tummy.
He isn't quite finished. I still want to give him an umbrella, but my first attempt to make his umbrella went pear shaped and looked horrible. It's got me defeated for now. I will get back to making his umbrella, and succeed at it, but it may be a while before I get the chance to figure it out.
He also needs his whiskers. I plan to use some black wire, but since they will need to be glued on and be a bit fragile I want to get the umbrella made and on before I add the whiskers.

Smaller Totoros for my girls
During this process, my girls both wanted their own Totoros. I made a smaller Totoro for each of them. I wasn't as concerned about details because my girls are young yet and would be rough with them.

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