Creating Pim in my makeshift Creature Shop

Someone asked me what I was going to do with the art dolls of my goblin characters, and the question caught me off guard. They couldn’t figure out what purpose they would serve for my books. Was I doing a marionette puppet show? Was I creating models for a movie? I didn’t want to tell them the truth: “I’m creating the characters from my book because that world is very important to me, and I want to see it visualized… And, because, for 25 years I’ve wanted to work in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, so I’m pretending I am.”


I hadn’t sculpted for four years, so I think there were multiple years of pent-up creativity and at least two years of planning and mental creation going on. I was secretly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to sculpt Pim the way I saw him in my head. But as his face began taking shape, his personality came through in the clay. I tried to give him a more relaxed expression; his mouth just opened as if he were about to speak. His big, square teeth and broad, wet nose give him a comical and friendly look.

Pim was sculpted in Fimo Soft clay (Oh, the irony — that clay is anything but soft! Still great stuff, though) on top of a wire, foil, and masking tape armature. After his sculpt was finished, he was cured in the oven and I painted him with layers of acrylic paint. His big, amber eyes were highlighted with copper and gold metallic paint to give them that magical glint.

While working on this piece, I keep admiring the INCREDIBLE illustration work of Bailey Quillin Cooper. I hope the future holds many more collaborations with her.


This is after 3.5 hours of carefully gluing on alpaca, wool roving, and American bison hair (the whiskers). I was smart enough to think ahead and create holes to plug the whiskers in. But forcing wiry strands of glue-covered buffalo hair into the clay head was a task! I also glued a lot of alpaca hair to my fingertips in the process of furring his over-sized, tasseled ears.


The marble resting in his paw appears in the beginning of the book and plays a part in the story’s resolution. This is the actual, antique ruby marble that inspired the book, a treasure I found it my grandparents’ basement when I was 9.


Now that his head is finished, I’m working on sculpting his hands. One hand is posed to hold the marble, and the other is shaped so that he can “hold” your hand. He will have sewn clothing and a soft body. His arms and legs have armatures inside them that will give some pose-ability. I’ve already begun sculpting Wilden, who I’ll show you in my next post later this week.


Goblin toes! A little monkey-ish with their long digits and prominent big toes.

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