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 :-)