Sunday, March 18, 2012

WIP, Easter Egg Dolls

This is a convoluted 'Work-in-Progress' post that demonstrates my adult 'attention deficit' approach to doll making. I get very little doll work accomplished, but it does relax me and makes me happy :-) I have done a lot of business travel this past winter, and thinking about all of this and doing searches on my iPad has been a great way to deal with airport delays!
So my original goal was to finish some unfinished sculpts I had done several years ago. I wanted to experiment with a couple of new techniques since these originals were done in paper clay and in general they are too big for my current taste. At first I was worried that the paperclay was not quite rigid enough, and they would dent when they tip over or fall to the floor (I intend to let grand-children play with them) . After consulting with several doll makers, the general consensus was to do a cloth over type technique. This works best with a bald head, but my creations had sculpted hair. Two of the three heads I was content with the results, but the third (the middle head with the most detail ) I was unhappy, and ripped the fabric off. She is now a bit damage and will need some repair. However while working with her, I know now what type of doll she will be-- she is a mermaid and will not be a doll to play with, so I have abandoned the need to do a cloth over for her. As a fantasy type doll, I realized I wanted to do a different type of painting which lead me to a new digression.. working with pigments. . I typically paint with oils in a painterly type of style that works well with a folk art style. I think this lovely mermaid needs a more delicate application of color, and wanted to try pigments using a chalking technique. Chalking approximates the look you get with a Parian doll in porcelain in that you build up transparent layers of color that is matte. The backup option would be to use watercolors, but I really was motivated to try chalking. This requires a perfectly smooth, matte surface which lead to yet another technique that might enhance the look I am after.... gofun! In traditional Japanese doll making, the wood sculpts are covered with a 'gesso-like' material made from crushed oyster shells and hide glue. This material can be sanded and burnished to give a hard, eggshell like surface to paint. The problem with the gofun idea, is there will be some trial and error experimentation that needs to be done to figure out the correct ratio of glue to oyster shells to get the surface I want. I did lots of internet searches on Gofun, but the recipes are not consistent. So this lead me to the final craziness... I wanted to create a series of heads to test recipes. I had a mold of one of my original sculpts that I thought would be fine, and I could sculpt over them (hair) which would approximate the surface detail in my mermaid. So as I am sculpting these gals, and of course I get attached to them and want them to be real dolls. I pulled out my Hertwig parian dolls, gazing at them and said 'Oh My', these test dolls I could dress in 'Easter Egg' colored dress. So I am currently pouring and sculpting my test heads, and looking at Easter Egg colored batiste. I wonder if I will get any of these dolls done :-)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

My New Collection, A is for Annabelle Update

Early on when I started this blog, I shared one of my many doll obsessions of having my own Annabelle doll , trunk, and accessories as described in the classic book by Tasha Tudor 'A is for Annabelle'. At that time I was painting 10 inch papermache french fashion dolls and making tiny clothes, but somehow that didn't quite satisfy me. I kept looking at antique dolls and wishing I could create a collection of antique dolls and accessories. I looked at antique fashion dolls for years, but never found one that really spoke to me. I found her this spring. I must have haunted the website where she was offered, since I could not get her out of my mind. So eventually I knew I had to purchase her.
She is a German made ( maybe 1870s) bald and wigged china which had the most serene and charming expression. She was my Annabelle, and I knew it right away. To me she looks like a young lady, not quite yet a woman. She captured the excitement and delight of pretty clothes, ribbon, and pretty flowers captured in Tasha's classic book. As I was searching antique online doll listings, I also found a damaged shoulder head, a German Kling china head that was actually a boy. His head is perfect, but unfortunately his body is in poor condition. But the price was right and I thought, fantastic, Annabelle has a little brother. I am still on the hunt for a china baby ( rare and likely costly), but haven't found the right one. You might notice the frozen Charlie doll in the group shot. I purchased him thinking he would do, but I think he is too big to be in scale with the other dolls. He's pretty though, isn't he! My most recent acquisition is an antique trunk big enough to fit them all in, and you can see my dear Annabelle looks wonderful sitting on the lovely tray. So my ambition is to someday have a set of clothing for Annabelle and her brother and a few accessories. My current thinking is that I can make some new clothes (from antique fabrics), but I should try to find a couple of antique gowns and accessories. And lastly, I am slightly re-interpreting the Annabelle story to reflect a big sister and her younger siblings. Somehow that feels right to me!

So here is my questions, what is Annabelle's brother's name ? If you have any great ideas, please leave your suggestion in a comment!

Ta Ta for now my lovelies!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Doll Trunks

I have been fixated on doll trunks recently. The first couple of images are a trunk for doll house size dolls (in this case some antique german dolls) , although they poor dears lack some clothes ! But I wanted to experiment with collage and 'mixed media' techniques. I think the little purse trunk is cute, and I really need to prioritized some clothing. The idea behind this one was a travel trunk to a vacation spot - the beach! As is typical for me, I gathered 5 times the number of images I need, and this little purse is only 7 x 5 inches! This is also my first attempt at textured techniques using stencils and artist pastes, and using Golden's interference acrylic paints. My they are addictive, and something I will have to use with caution, or everything I paint will glow in the dark!

This second trunk lid, will be for an Izannah Walker reproduction doll I will make at a Gail Wilson retreat in a couple of weeks. I must say I am embarrassed on how poorly the painting is coming along. I think this is clearly a case of where my painting skills are slipping , and I need to devote more time to them.... This trunk is also a papermache oval hat box shape, and will be covered with fabric ( civil war print) . The lid is also covered with fabric, but I have tried to paint a folk art style portrait . I think its the three quarter view which has me all screwed up. I will let this dry ( oils) and see if I can add more detail and depth next time. She's looking too cartoonish for my tastes! Also antiquing is a marvelous way to hide all ills!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Challeges of sculpting Historically Referenced dolls

To begin with , I want to credit doll artist Susie McMahon with introducing me to the term 'Historically Referenced' dolls, a term that fits very nicely with allot of my doll work. I love old dolls, and often use them as a jump-off point for my own work. But how do you know if you have something timeless, like the old dolls you love, but also make the doll your own ?

I am taking an online class with Gail Wilson where we are creating a Queen Anne doll , including a marvelous hand carved body. I encourage you if you are interested in making your own Queen Ann, to check out her class. Its a real bargain considering you end up with a wooden doll, completely hand made. You can get more information at . I am a big fan of Gail's style of historically referenced dolls, because she gets the balance of recreating the 'essence' of the original doll, but also puts her own artistic stamp ( her original sculpts).

I was overly ambitious with her class, and decided to order an extra body to carve, which I wanted to add my own hand sculpt head. So I will end up with a doll of Gail's design, and one hybrid doll with Gail's body, and my head. The pictures summarize my first efforts to sculpt a head. There is allot of refining left to do on this head, but honestly, I am disappointed with what I made and am trying to decide if I should start again, or press on with this one. I am not sure it 'goes' with the wooden body. This brings me to what I wanted to blog about, how to find the balance in a historically referenced doll of your own style, but make clear what classic doll is inspiring your work!

My original idea was to make the doll look like a peg wooden of the 1910's and dress ala Jane Austin style. I had looked at some carved wooden dolls, but didn't refer to them as I sculpted... I just wanted to go with it... and I am not sure I like where I went. I will add sculpt hair on this one, and will wait to judge if she belongs on the wooden body.

So what is it that you need stylistically to get a peg wooden doll that nods to the 1810s ? I am looking at these dolls ( from John Darcy Nobles book) and although there is often a high degree of realism in the sculpting, there is also some stylistic elements. Namely the features are further down on the sculpt ( bottom third to half of the head) than my head. The rest of this, I am trying to figure out. If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.

It is my opinion my own sculpting style works well for late Victorian and Edwardian style dolls. What do I need to do to reflect an earlier time period ?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wigging and Clothing the Naked and Bald

I have had a trying spring in terms of my favorite creative outlet... doll making. At the end of May I was bothered by a pinched nerve in my upper back which caused numbness and weakness in my right hand. I am allot better now, and healing, although I am still have trouble with the right hand, so I am not terribly motivated to work on painting or sculpting projects and ruin something in progress. But like many doll enthusiast, I have quite a backlog of old doll projects. So pictured is a group of porcelain dolls I finally wigged and dressed. I want to point out that I DID NOT make these wigs, but rather these are beautiful creations from Wendy Feidt who makes the most wonderful mohair wigs. These porcelain dolls I painted and I am partial to, and wanted them to have nice hair. For those of you knowledgeable about antique dolls, these are reproductions (Long Face Jumeau and Laughing Jumeau) but I did not do faithful reproduction. I painted the eyes instead of using glass paperweight eyes and the lashes and brows and not either true to the original nor really a modern style either. So I have broken all of the rules here, but I enjoy these dolls and they will stay with me.

Wendy also created some incredible wigs for a pair of original porcelain dolls I did. I am still trying to figure out how to put their heads onto their bodies ( right arm isn't working too good right now) , but I hope to have them finished soon and will post. They are looking spectacular.

I couldn't resist. I included are some pictures of the heads waiting for bodies and clothing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can you really see ?

This title probably sounds ridiculous, but I have a hard time deciding if I am getting the affect I am after when I paint. I think the reason I paint with oils is so I have to wait until a layer dries, and I can stare at what I have done to decide the next step. So color on this picture isn't great, but I think I need to stare at these heads a while to know what the next step will be.... I want to colors on these dolls to be transparent, delicate, and not too bold. I am not sure I have that yet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Progress on AFIC dolls

This is a self-serving posting. I want to track my progress on these three dolls I want to bring with me to the April AFIC conference. So as you can tell, I just got started on painting them. in oils I am trying to pursue the painterly,portrait style, so am doing this slowly, with layers, and letting them dry before adding the next. It probably looks like I haven't done anything! I have some base skin and hair tone on, and some blushing . Probably I will tackle the eyes next, and then go over everything again to harmonize, blend, and add depth. Also I just got some excellent advise from a trusted artist friend, to focus on the faces and add as much expression as possible and pursue a simple costuming strategy... I want to follow this , so I am putting it down in this posting!