Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flapper Girl

This doll was my first official "cloth-and-clay" doll, since joining Jane DesRosier's group on ning. Originally, I was super-inspired by Rachel Whetzel's circus themed dolls in the last issue of Art Doll Quarterly. Her work reminded me that I had always wanted to do something circus related.
I have a vintage reproduction Barnum and Bailey poster of a bareback rider hanging in my daughter's room which I have always loved, so I took all this inspiration and dove in.

I loved the long, lean silhouette that Rachel used for her circus girls, so I drew a pattern that would give me a similar look, since my doll was going to have a definite 1920's style.

The body was made from a heavy, coarsely woven linen which I don't think I would use again. I purposely wanted the rough "artist's canvas" look this fabric would give me for the surface... and it definitely did... but raveling was a big problem. After stuffing, Creative Paperclay was layered over the head and neck, down to the shoulder area, and the hair and features sculpted by layering on more bits of clay and shaping them with wet fingers and tools. After drying, the entire doll was painted with a dark burnt umber acrylic paint, then the flesh tones, hair, clothes and features were painted in stages over that.

The hair and makeup was definitely modeled after the circus girl in my 1920's era poster.  She has a wavy, side-parted blonde bob, with those thin, downward slanting brows and sleepy "bedroom eyes" of a 1920's film star. I tried for a sort of Clara Bow style for the lips, and painted the lower lip just a tidge lighter, to pick up the light.

The girl in the poster is wearing nothing but a pale pink tank leotard, so I needed to add some details for interest. I also soon realized that unless I was willing to sew, stuff and sculpt a horse for her to ride, it would be hard to convey her as a bareback rider. I considered putting a hoop in one hand and a horse whip in the other, but thought it might still be lost on anyone but me.

First, I added a bit of vintage lace around her hips. Then, over that, a piece of pink drapery fringe. Still... she was too "blah", and too pink!  Pawing through a box of goodies that a friend gave me recently, I came across the perfect thing.... a little strand of rhinestones with black detailing that makes an ideal belt for her drop-waisted flapper skirt.

Her legs are very plain and simple, as this doll is definitely done in a very primitive style. Although the girl in the poster is barefoot on her white horse, I just thought that would be too utterly bland, so she's wearing ballet slippers, instead... with ribbons wrapping their way up above her ankles. I suppose that technically makes her a flapper ballerina?

(Photography by Amy Picchioni)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My First Doll

This Holly Hobbie rag doll was made for my sister in 1974, the year she turned 11.  I was 20-yrs-old at the time living far from home in Monterey, California.

If you remember back, this was the time period that the Little House on the Prairie TV show was at the height of popularity, so this doll was very much inspired by that era.

The body is white muslin; the head is a white stocking, all stuffed with poly fiberfill. There is some slight needle-sculpting to give the head some shape through the eye area. The features are all embroidered, including eyes embroidered on covered buttons.

I used this Simplicity pattern for the doll and her clothing. My own pattern is long gone, but I just happened to find the same one listed on and grabbed the photo. You can see how my rendition of the face/ head did not quite turn out they way it was supposed to! Not bad for a first try, though.

She has two outfits... two dresses, two pinafores and two matching bonnets, plus undergarments. I think she had shoes at one point, but am not sure. I'll have to ask my sister if she remembers. If so, they must have become lost. Poor thing... her French-knotted nostrils are a little lopsided after all these years. She may need some reconstructive surgery!

I was interested in posting "my first doll" here, and this doll came to mind, but my sister was unable to find her at first. She finally surfaced after months of searching. What fun to see her again. I am tempted to buy that pattern and make a few more Holly's.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My first submission!

I recently decided to just go for it, and send one of my dolls in to Art Doll Quarterly for possible publication. Their March deadline is for the fall issue, which always includes lots of Halloween-related dolls, so I sent my witch from last fall. 

An acknowledgment postcard just came the other day from ADQ, with "Thanks!" written in big green letters, so I'm hopeful! That doesn't mean that she will ever grace their pages, but my fingers are crossed. I know they'll keep her for a good long time, as that's the usual process. Hopefully, she'll be back home in time for this Halloween! Here she is, sitting next to our Faerie Door.

I have been so remiss in posting lately. I've been meaning to mention the wonderful playday I had recently with my new doll maker friend, Lulu. I had the pleasure of visiting her home a few Sundays ago and seeing some of the WONDERFUL dolls and other artwork she has created. Her place is filled with vibrant color and so many interesting things to look at! We spent a few hours working on dolls together... sewing, stuffing and chatting, and finding out how much we have in common- not the least of which is our mutual fascination with Frida Kahlo. I absolutely love her Frida doll, and am so inspired now to make one of my own. Thank you SO much, Lulu for a memorable and fun day... hopefully, the first of many more to come!

I made an attempt at a Frida about a year ago, but you may recall I really got stuck and never finished that project. Now I have a better foundation to work from, as I recently joined the Cloth and Clay Doll group, and took Jane DesRosier's (aka "Gritty Jane") video workshop. I highly recommend the workshop (it's quite affordable at only $25) and the group! There is much talent and inspiration to be found there. I will be using Jane's cloth-and-clay technique for my Frida doll.

I am just finishing up a doll I started prior to taking the Gritty Jane workshop, in which I did use paper clay over cloth, then painted with acrylics, in similar technique. Let's just say I learned a lot from both Jane and plain old experience! This doll is a 1920's "bareback rider"... circus theme-inspired...and styled after a re-pro Barnum and Bailey poster that has hung in my daughter's room for years. I have yet to name her... and alas, can't post any photos yet as my camera took a little trip to South America with my in-laws. So, stay tuned!