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)


Gena Rose said...
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Anonymous said...

She is so elegant, and your friend took such fabulous photos of her. You are definitely onto something with your doll making. When you finally decide to teach a class, I will be on board for moral support!

I love the details like the dots painted around the bodice neckline. I think the linen fabric almost gives the body parts a primitive feel which contrasts nicely with her refined "spirit".

Gena Rose said...

Very sweet Patti....are you going to do the "bird doll" ?

Patti said...

Ann- Thank you! I especially thank YOU for the rhinestones!
Gena- I just saw the bird doll challenge this morning. I'll have to do some sketches and think about it. You already have one, as I recall! :)

craig said...

NICE ! All i could think was that in 200 years one of your great,great great great grandchildren will bring this doll to the antique roadshow and will be told .. Patti was a very famous dollmaker of the late 1990`s famous as an artist and a nutritionist ! .. but folk art like this is hard to come by .. for insurance purposes or at auction this piece is worth easily 3 million semolies !!!who was that photographer???

rachel whetzel said...

I LOVE HER!! You did a great job. I agree with you on the larger weave fabrics. They are TOUGH to work with. I would never have guessed by looking here, that you had issues, so congrats on that!