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.
(Photography by Amy Picchioni)