The Flapper

The Flapper

I've started sculpting base meshes which are fairly generic and can be used a a framework for future models.  This shouldn't result in my work looking "samey" (well, I hope not) but it will save some time.  For this model, I  focused on a human face, which unless very deformed (or has non-human elements added), follow a basic rule of proportion. I decided to start with a female head, neck and partial shoulders (what is also known as a bust) as there is a very complicated model I want to make in the future and I'd like to get practised with as many components as I can in advance. This blog entry is not a tutorial, rather a record of the creative process I went through to make this model. The files are located here:


The theme I chose for this model is that of the Flapper - a rebellious young woman who lived in the 1920s. Here is a poem I found which describes the idea fairly well:

The New Fashioned Girl

Let them sing of the girls of the long, long ago,
Who were shocked if their elbows or stockings did show,
But I'll chant of the maidens whose ankles are free,
To show their half-socks and the shape of their knees,
Let them praise those back numbers who turned in their toes
And panted and fainted when MEN would propose;
Compared to the short-haired, bob-headed fry
Who meet all proposals with right to the eye.
Let them shed all their tears in a crocodile pour
For the simple simp sister who flourished in yore
But I'll cast my vote in the way that I feel -
For the girl self reliant, bright, snappy and REAL.


This is my first attempt at a printable huamn sculpt. The process began by drawing a face on and profile of human female, who while stylized, still conformed with ideal of human beauty. The drawings were kept purposefully flat as anything more than the hint of form can distort the model (which I still managed to do as you will see). In hindsight, the features are too pronounced to translate well to 3D.

I wanted to ensure the mesh would be have clean geometry, so I was delighted when I found this excellent tutorial series by the very talented Duylinh Nguyen.

This model was built in Blender rather than Maya but the same principles apply and there are equivalent tools in each application. The tutorials only covered the head, so I had to work out how to build the chin, neck and shoulder areas of the mesh by myself. Luckily, the foundation that the tutorials provided was solid enough that it was easy enough to continue with the build.

I should mention the eyes. I didn't want to sculpt "layered" eyes (where the iris and pupil sit on top of the eyeball) because I don't think it looks right. I wanted the printed model to use any light in the room to create depth - after all, an eye is reflective. Looking at prictures of statues, hollowing out the space for the iris and pupil seemed to create the effect I wanted.

I had originally thought to do a single print piece (support free, of course) but in order to do this, the head has to be angled so it looks up (with sufficient lift to the chin) or looking down to the side or front (using the shoulder or hands as a support). I had concerns about the back of the head, during the original test print this seemed groundless but the test model was bald (and that lovely seam over her eye gives her quite the air of a female Blofeld:-)) and I still had problems with her ears - which was expected as I had sculpted them as they would appear on a live person.

The design of the hair (a classic 1920s bob) meant I could forget about the ear problem but 20s bobs are cut into the neck and stacked at the back and this caused problems with overhang no matter how much I played with the angles. In the end I added in a collar. It was a quick additon and it shows.


Here is the result. I wasn't displeased with it, but I wasn't happy either. Coming back to it a couple of days later, I concluded that I didn't like her face - well at least for the Flapper theme. It's a face that might work well for a robot or futuristic style but it had none of the playfulness or mischief a Flapper should have (in truth, it lacks an expression altogether). Overall the model looks rushed. In times like this, it's always best to look at the masters of the time and who better than Erté or Chiparus - two of the greatest artists of the Art Deco period.  After some enjoyable research (and digging out my anatomy books to have a proper look at faces) I decided it was time for an overhaul.

In the end, I completely resculpted her - not only making her softer but introducing expression which would hopefully survive the print process. I liken making details show in 3D printing to tracing through carbon - one must press very hard to make an impression. The "support free" requirement was there but I wasn't going to get the look I wanted if I insisted on her staying in one piece. A Flapper, I feel, would look at you rather than look up. The only way to achieve this was to create an assembly. There are advantages with this; the clothes and accoutrements can be separated and printed in different colours and one can also make models taller and larger than a printer may be able to accomodate. This way, detail does not have to be compromised by scaling down too much and the model can be customised by each user through colour choice. I changed her hair so it is tucked behind her ears because I think it looks better with the headband and it had taken me so long to sculpt them I was determined that they be on show. However, they were sculpted into the head to avoid overhang problems.

This has been a valuable learning experience, I feel that my understanding of human faces and proportions has grown. I cringe when I look at the reference drawings because I can see mistakes but only practice will help that.

I hope people enjoy this model and that somebody will think to perhaps design a new dress or hair band for her!

Posted by Louise Driggers

Louise Driggers

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