Needle-Felted Wool Sculpture
Bifur is the fifth doll completed in our "Hobbit project", and he's based on William Kircher's portrayal of Tolkien's character, as seen in "The Hobbit" films by Peter Jackson. After making the Throin and Bilbo dolls, Elizabeth and I decided that it would be a fun idea to make all of the dwarves from Thorin's company in "The Hobbit" films, so we're working on multiple dolls at one time. Several of the characters are very intensive as far as leather work or embroidery (Elizabeth's department!), so working on multiples helps to keep things moving ahead. This gives Elizabeth time to work on the hand sewing and leather, while I'm felting on another doll.
Bifur is an older dwarf and a bit paunchy (though not heavy by dwarf standards!). He stands 9-1/2" tall and weighs a hefty 4 ounces. He was felted with .40 and .42 gauge needles and features some pretty advanced felting techniques in his costume — along with a lot of leather and embroidery work. I used six different types of wool and fiber to make Bifur. The base of his body is made of dark Romney (though none of it shows), and his head and clothes feature Cotswold, Merino and Blue-Faced Leicester wool and Tibetan Yak fiber. His hair is made from three different shades of "All Cooped Up" wool hair. Bifur's mantel and hand mitts are hand-embroidered vinatge wool fabric.
In "The Hobbit" movies, Bifur's character is highly influenced by the Wild Boar. With that in mind, we decided to use Pig-Split leather to make the tops of Bifur's boots and arm guards (which are branded in a decorative pattern). We used decorative stone beads that look very like the Wild Boar tusks used on the real costume, and the fur trim on the shoulder mantel is real Wild Peccory (pig) hair! Bifur has four metal tube bead decoartions in his hair, and his axe-head is hand-carved wood painted in a dark metallic colour.
The most challenging part of Bifur's costume were the chevron stripes on the coat. Getting those straight and even was quite a job. The embroidery was quite time-consuming on Elizabeth's part, and, putting all of this together, Bifur certainly turned out to be the doll with the most amount of work hours that I've ever made. As far as "one of a kind" experiences, getting that wooden axe head into Bifur's forehead was . . . interesting! We thought that we were going to need to sew it in, but the bottom is made wider than the top, which enabled me to felt over the opening and keep the axe head in place with the wool.