Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Meet Umberto, the strongest man of Donaustadt!

Servus, hello and welcome to Our Creative Corner!

Today I am not only excited because I want you to meet Umberto, who is the strongest man of Donaustadt (which is the district I live in in Vienna), but also because this is my first post as the Resident Guest Designer of OCC, working alongside one of the most amazing DTs in crafty blogland - which is such an honour and always so inspiring to me!

If you haven't checked out the introduction of our new members I recommend you click HERE and see for yourself! Laura has managed to put together a most brilliant team of talented ladies! But maybe you have already seen and admired the fab projects they all made for the first challenge for this year, which is hosted by lovely Pamellia (and can be found over HERE).Then you will surely know why I am so excited ;)

Pamellia suggested we should all use leftovers from Christmas wrappings, gift boxes and other Christmas bits we all love to hoard. So I decided to join in and use one of the emptied parcels that some of the presents I bought online were shipped in (as I love that particular cardboard)!

Christkind (aka DH) brought me some fab Sizzix dies (from the latest Sizzix Sale) and among them was a die that is originally meant to cut parts for a moveable garden fairy that I hadn't seen used anywhere in blogland before. And to be honest I don't like or do garden fairies or fairies at all (although I always see their little houses in the forest on my hikes)...but I immediately saw the potential of that die: it is just perfect for die cutting body parts for jumping jacks in one go. I LOVE jumping jacks and it is so easy to customize the die cut parts (by manually cutting some parts off and/or altering their shapes) so they would fit with my ideas of proportions or head shapes and even get slightly different parts each time!

So this is Umberto:

He is wearing an original swimsuit from the time around 1900 to the 1920s and he stems a weight of approx. 440 lb (200 kg) as if it was Grandma's shopping bag! While lifting this incredible weight he does ten knee bends in a row without his face getting red. What a man! And look at his well trimmed moustache! *sigh

What will you need to make your own Umberto?

- DecoArt Americana acrylic paints: Light Buttermilk, Alizarin Crimson, Navy Blue, Charcoal Grey
- DecoArt Americana multi surface Metallic "Gold"
- DecoArt Americana Decor Chalky Finish paint "smitten"
- Decou-Page matte and/or Antique

- Sizzix "Moveable Garden Fairy" die (or cut your parts free hand)
- thin but strong cardboard (packaging leftovers)
- some old dictionary pages
- scissors, small hole punch, soft brush with fine tip
- tiny brads
- two corks
- black wire, pliers
- tissue paper scraps
- thin thread and a small bead
- white Sharpie (optional) 
- something to use as a palette for mixing the colours on

First cover a piece of cardboard with some old dictionary paper using the matte or Antique Decou-Page. Let dry. Then cut out the jumping jack parts using scissors or the Sizzix die.

Then create a wash of Chalky Finish paint "smitten" (= dilute heavily with water) and paint the parts with it.

Lay the dried parts into positon and lightly sketch the outlines of Umberto's swimsuit, the belt, his face and shoes. You can even erase mistakes without damaging the painted surface.

I already had an idea of Umberto's face before I cut the fairie's hair off and gave the head a new shape including the ears and hairstyle I wanted Umberto to have. But you can as well do it the other way round and sketch first and then cut off any excess.

There's actually no right or wrong when doing his face (as we are not aiming for any naturalistic painting. The quirkier the better!) - so there's no need to be afraid! It also helped me a lot to browse old photographs of that time to get an idea of the funny suits, moustaches and hairstyles back then. So here is the link to my pinterest board where I collect old photographs which I love to use as a reference.

Umberto's face was coloured by first painting the hair and moustache (with Charcoal Grey), then painting the white shape of the eyes (with Light Buttermilk) and then using "smitten" chalky finish paint with a drop of Alizarin Crimson to paint the shades of the nose, around the eyes and the ears. The lips were painted using a mix of Alizarin Crimson, a tiny bit of Charcoal Grey and smitten. For the highlights on the nose, chin and forehead I added a tiny bit of Light Buttermilk to the "smitten" and I used Navy Blue for the iris colour.

I used a soft fine detail brush and switched to a slightly larger soft brush for painting Umberto's suit. You can see all the colours used for painting in the image below:

I then painted the upper part of the suit with the Alizarin Crimson and afterwards the pants with the Navy Blue. Once that had dried I added the white belt and stripes with Light Buttermilk. Shoes and socks were painted with Charcoal Grey and Light Buttermilk.

For painting the belt buckle I used the multi surface metallic "Gold" and the fine detail brush.

To add the reflection to the eyes I used a white Sharpie pen, but you can as well use the small brush and the Light Buttermilk acrylic paint. Make sure you place both white dots slightly out of center and identically - this will make Umberto's looks less "staring".

To build the jumping mechanism flip Umberto over and punch a small hole into the upper legs as shown in the picture:

I inserted a piece of thread in both holes (using a threading device) before I fixed the legs to the body. Once all was in place I tied the upper legs together so that the thread was tightened while the legs were in a relaxed (straight downward) position. I then tied a separate thread to the center of the connecting thread (see picture) and tied a small pearl to the lower end for a pulling grip.

Next I did the weight that also works as the hanging mechanism. I cut to size a piece of soft but thick wire and gave it a loop right in the centre (using a pair of pliers). Both ends were stuck into two corks and these were painted with Charcoal Grey and set aside to dry.

Then it was time to assemble Umberto with the tiny brads and add the hanging mechanism!
To fix Umberto's hands to the wire of the weights I used two tiny scraps of tissue paper which I generously dipped into some matte Decou-Page and stuck to the back of his hands and the wire.

I hope the image above explains what I mean: the weight of the cardboard hands (and whole Umberto being attached to them) resting on the wire keeps them in place and even gives a little pressure -  and the tissue paper scraps fix it all from behind. I left it all to dry this way and didn't move it until I was sure the Decou-Page had dried thoroughly!

After I had trimmed of the tissue paper excess (which you can see on the image above) it looked like this:

I then painted the two brads that connect the upper legs to Umberto's body with Navy Blue and dried all with my heat tool (as I tend to be very impatient).

I added some rough cord to the wire loop so Umberto can be hung (sorry, Umberto!) in place. Done!

See how he's doing his knee bends while still lifting this incredible weight!
You shouldn't try move his arms though - as the tissue paper will tear. It is strong enough to hold Umberto in place and to withstand the pulling when he does his knee bends but it won't resist a rotating motion!

I hope you like Umberto and his moves! And I can already imagine some other strong men to follow... ;)
Hugs and happy crafting,
Claudia xxx



  1. Oh he is stunning Claudia, much better use of the die! He's painted beautifully, a lovely inventive creation! Ruth x

  2. Oh my gosh Claudia, this is spectacular! Boy oh boy, your strong man really made me smile today! I have never seen that die before, but you really put it to good use here and what a fabulous way to use your leftover Christmas bits too!! Amazing job colouring him, I love his pants!! Creative way to recycle those corks too! I am just loving this fun, creative project! Thank you so much for supporting my Christmas Leftover challenge!

    Super duper big hugs to you :)

  3. Claudia you did it again....utterly amazing creation...I love your Umberto!!

  4. This is super fun and beautifully made !

  5. Fabulous make Claudia, so clever and so original!

  6. Very clever of you Claudia!! Your strong man is so fun! What a great make!thanks for sharing your tut! ")

  7. Claudia
    Your Umberto is so funny.... I love it.

  8. Well Claudia you never cease to amaze me and keep me guessing. This strong man is a dream! And oh so very strong. I love how quirky and fun your project is! Awesome job!

  9. wow what a gorgeous make, love your strong man!

  10. Amazing project Claudia, soo very cool and clever! Hugs, Kerstin

  11. Claudia this is so clever!! I used to love these when I was little although they were usually animals or dancers as I recall. Sooo creative my clever friend!!

  12. Großartiger Hampelmann, großartige Story! Und Liebe Grüße aus dem 22. Bezirk ;).

  13. I LOVE UMBERTO, Claudia!! He is simply ASTOUNDING and quite fashionable with his wonderful stripped bathing suit!! LOVE HIM and all of the detailed and caring steps that you took to create him!! He's a truly wonderful feat of creativity!! :) XOXO-Shari

  14. Oh Claudia! Your Umberto looks like a real toy from the early 20th century!
    Great idea and great execution!
    Max :)

  15. Wow!!! This is fabulous, I LOVE this funny project, so cute and wonderfully inspired by your city Claudia! Thank you for the great tutorial, also for the link on your Pinterest board with these old photos, so expressive! ^^ Coco xx

  16. A surprising and strong creation, this Umberto in your hands! I love his suit, reminds me of the 1920's. I made this kind of puppet when I was a child, it was a "Breton", in his traditional costume...


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