A First Peek at My Mary Poppins and Mole Art Dolls

I hope all of my American followers had a safe and happy fourth! I was able to start some new projects over the long holiday weekend!

The biggest project I’m working on right now is my Mary Poppins art doll. I’ve always loved Mary Poppins – the vain, no-nonsense Queen of Air and Darkness Mary Poppins of P. L. Travers books, not the singing Julie Andrews incarnation – and I’ve often dreamed of creating an art doll of the iconic nanny and her parrot-headed umbrella.

I chose to sculpt my Mary Poppins’ head and hands from Paperclay. The books often describe Mary as looking like “a Dutch doll,” with her shinny black hair, round blue eyes, upturned nose, and pert mouth. By sculpting her features, and even her hair, with Paperclay, I felt like I was able to stay as true as possible to that description.

Mary’s umbrella was another fun challenge. I ended up buying a working doll-sized umbrella, sculpting the parrot head onto the handle, and then painting the entire thing so that the style matched that of the doll.

Right now I’m putting the final touches on Mary Poppins’ outfit – a blue overcoat and skirt, and a black straw hat with a daisy, of course – and she’ll soon be compete and ready to photograph!

The second project I’m working on is based on the characters from “The Wind in the Willows.” I recently bought a beautiful copy of the book with illustrations by Tasha Tudor, which inspired me to create a miniature set of Mole, Ratty, and their riverside picnic. So far, Mole is done, and is stitched from mohair, with tiny handmade clothing and little bitty spectacles!

a miniature cloth doll based on the character of mole from the wind in the willows

I’ll be sharing more photos of Mary Poppins and my “Wind in the Willows” characters, along with the links to purchase them in my Etsy shop, as soon as they are complete!

 

Making My Two Jointed Paperclay Dolls, Blush and Rose

 

Blush and Rose are the first two art dolls in my new Watercolor Series, a group of jointed Paperclay dolls based around a soft watercolor color scheme, with hand-dyed bodies and outfits. In addition to these two pink girls, I’ll also be making a blue girl called Skye and a purple girl called Lavender.

After creating my September doll (who is too special to me to sell), I got a lot of requests from fans interested in purchasing a similar jointed Paperclay doll of their own. I decided to use my Watercolor Series to create a new group of dolls made similarly to September. Rose and Blush have cloth bodies and upper limbs, with Paperclay heads and hing-jointed Paperclay lower limbs, hands, and feet.

Rose's body
Rose’s body

With Blush and Rose, I explored new ways of mixing mediums in my doll making.

When making my art dolls, I often struggle with finding a balance between creating the handstitched cloth dolls which first got me involved in doll making, and using Paperclay, which is a newer and exciting medium for me, as well as between creating a piece of art and staying true to the idea of making a “doll” which can be manipulated and dressed/undressed/played with. These were two issues that I really wanted to take on in my Watercolor Series, and I think I was able to find an interesting balance with Blush and Rose.

When looking through the work of other doll artists I admire for inspiration, I hit upon the idea of creating cloth upper limbs which can be joined in the same way as Paperclay limbs, and of using non-traditional patterned and colored cloth for the dolls’ bodies.

working
Hard at work on Rose and Blush’s cloth bodies!

Rose and Blush each have one upper arm and one upper leg stitched from rose-patterned velvet, while their bodies (which I stitched, for the first time, from two pieces, for a more realistic look) and opposite limbs are painted with pink watercolors and covered in free hand-embroidery done in rose silk thread. Their Paperclay body parts have been sculpted, sanded and carved, and painted with more watercolors before being sealed. When their bodies were finished, I used pink ribbon and more of the rose silk thread to join them.

Blush and Rose are designed for gentle exploration and play.

For this series, I decided to create removable outfits and shoes, so that the posable dolls can be dressed and undressed and gently played with. Each of Blush and Rose’s dresses snap in the back to easily be taken on and off, and were tea stained and dyed with pink watercolors after being sewn. Underneath their dresses, Blush wears a bralette and panties made from pink ribbon and tea stained lace, and Rose wears floral-print bloomers. I hadn’t tried making removable shoes since I was a little girl, so these were really a challenge. Each pair of slippers has red leather soles and pink ribbons which tie around the doll’s ankles.

doll clothesline
Dresses and shoes

Blush and Rose will be available in my Etsy shop by the beginning of next week, and I’ll soon begin work on Lavender and Skye! These two will be dark-skinned girls, and I believe will be a little smaller than Blush and Rose, who, at approx. 24 inches a piece, are two of the biggest dolls I’ve ever made! You can view photos of the finished dolls and read more of their story in this blog post.

 

Progress on Flora and Fauna

This weekend I took advantage of the snowstorm we’ve had here in Brooklyn to make some progress on Flora and Fauna, my first fully sculpted art dolls.

I’ve sanded them down from the rough sculpts you can see here, and have moved on to painting and sealing! Painting is always my favorite part of doll making – it’s when the doll’s faces are complete that they really start to come alive for me.

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Flora and Fauna are painted in watercolors and then sealed to protect them. Once sanded and sealed, their light Paperclay bodies are surprisingly strong! For Flora, I went with peach and pink tones, while Fauna is painted in browns and yellows.

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Next I’ll move on to stringing them, and adding their wigs and clothing. Stay tuned for pictures of the finished dolls!

Flora and Fauna

I’ve been taking a short break from my Neverland project to work on something new – my first full-sized dolls made entirely of Paperclay! Though I’ve already been making Paperclay mini dolls and full-sized dolls with Paperclay heads and limbs, these are my first to have Paperclay bodies with jointed arm and leg sockets.

Flora and Fauna are sisters born from the forest. Flora, with her flower crown, is the happy summer child, while Fauna, with her antlers and heavy wool cloak, is a daughter of the winter.

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Flora and Fauna are still in that rough stage between sculpting and sanding, but I’m very pleased with how they’re turning out. Though I struggled at first with making their bodies and limbs thick enough to be proportionate, I’ve been building them up in layers and I think they’re finally fully filled out.

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After sanding and painting, I’ll work on stringing their bodies together. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to use to string them – for my mini dolls I use simple thread, but for these I’ll need something much stronger!

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When finished, each doll will wear tiny coordinating dresses, which I’ve been working on between sculpting while waiting for the Paperclay to dry, and will carry similar wicker baskets.

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Neverland Works in Progress – Captain Hook and Tinkerbell

“His eyes were of the blue of the forget-me-not, and of a profound melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly.”

Last month I blogged about my new project, a group of dolls based on Barrie’s characters from Peter Pan, and shared a first glimpse of my Peter doll. This month I want to show you some work in progress photos of my Tinkerbell and Hook!

WIP - Tinkerbell
WIP – Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell is “life size;” an all Paperclay doll just six inches high. Tinkerbell is described by Wendy as “lovely,” and yet I wanted to retain some of the rustic English impishness of the fairies and goblins of Victorian fairy tales. Tinkerbell has a sharp face, large feet, and knobby knees and elbows, but when she’s finished, she’ll also have beautiful butterfly wings and wear a long gossamer gown.

WIP - Jas. Hook
WIP – Jas. Hook

Hook was so much fun to design and sculpt! I’ve had an old vintage brass hook thrown in with my art supplies for a very long time, and when I decided to create characters based on Peter Pan, I knew I had finally found a use for it!

Hook’s head and hand are sculpted from Paperclay, and he has a handstitched jointed body. I wanted to give him a classic hooked nose and chin, leering smile, and hooded eyes, and had a lot of fun mixing the perfect shade of “forget-me-not blue” to paint his irises. Of course, I also couldn’t forget the red dot in each of his pupils!

Hook's hook
Hook’s hook

Hook looks quite a bit less dastardly before receiving his wig and mustache, which will be made from long black curls of mohair. When he’s finished, Hook will also wear a coat made of black velvet and red silk, and a large feathered hat.

Stay tuned for a first look at my Wendy doll, and to see all of the finished dolls!

A New Project: Neverland

All children, except one, grow up…

I’m very excited to announce that I have a new group of art dolls that I’m working on – the characters of Peter Pan! As I did with my Wonderland dolls, I’ll be photographing and releasing all of my Neverland dolls together, but couldn’t resist giving you a first peek at Peter!

WIP: Peter Pan
WIP: Peter Pan

This is a project that’s very close to my heart, and one that I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time. Along with Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan was one of the defining books of my childhood, one I still reread fairly often and which I can quote pieces of from memory. If I made a group of dolls from Neverland, I wanted to be sure I could do them right.

Peter
Peter

Right now, I plan on making dolls for Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook, and Tinkerbell, though if I have time, I may make John, Micheal, and/or some lost boys as well. Each Neverland doll, like Peter, will have a head and possibly hands sculpted from Paperclay and a cloth body and limbs, except for tiny Tinkerbell, who will be all clay. I even have a tiny antique bronze hook that I can’t wait to use for Captain Hook!

Stay tuned for peeks at more dolls in progress, and for the final reveal!

September’s Dress

Over spring break, I finally had some time to work on my paperclay art doll, September! The poor thing had been naked for quite a while, but now she has some clothes! September is based on the heroine of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books, a brave little girl who is carried by the Green Wind from her home in the 1930’s Midwest to Fairyland.

September wears a tea-stained cotton petticoat, edged in lace, over her bloomers. Wool socks will keep her feet toasty on her adventures.

september's petticoat

September’s dress is based on that she wears in the second novel, a birthday dress cut-down and taken-in from one of her mother’s dresses, which, September decides, could almost be called orange, her favorite color, if you squint at it. Her dress is hand-sewn and dyed with tea and watercolors. I had originally dyed it closer to orange, but decided that the pinker color looked better with September’s lips and cheeks.

dress

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September also wears handmade red leather boots that I purchased from a seller of antique dolls on Ruby Lane. In Valente’s story, September loses one of her shoes, and I imagine the fairies giving her this pair of fantastic boots in return!

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September is now almost finished! The last thing she needs is the Green Wind’s coat, which he loans her to keep her warm in Fairyland. I’m going to have so much fun designing and sewing it!

september art doll