My Mary Poppins Art Doll is Ready to Fly Away

mary poppins ooak art doll with her flying umbrella

This past weekend, I was finally able to put the finishing touches on my new Mary Poppins art doll, and she is now in my Etsy shop waiting to fly away to her new home!

“Jane and Michael could see that the newcomer had shiny black hair – ‘Rather like a wooden Dutch doll,’ whispered Jane. And that she was thin, with large feet and hands, and small, rather peering blue eyes…” – Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers

 

It was very important to me to get Mary Poppins’ face right – the round blue eyes, the upturned nose, the smug smile and the shiny black hair – “Like a Dutch doll.” That’s why I chose to sculpt her head and hands in Paperclay, which I painted in watercolors and sealed, using extra glossy sealant on her hair to give it shine. If you’re interested in the steps I took in sculpting her head, I go into more detail in this blog post.

an ooak mary poppins art doll sculpted by the free folk

Mary Poppins’ body and limbs, which are jointed at the shoulders and hips, are handstitched, and she wears her iconic navy blue coat and skirt, and black straw hat with a paper daisy. She also has striped stockings, a red silk scarf, and red leather Mary Janes, and her white blouse is made from vintage linen and lace which belonged to my grandmother.

My Mary Poppins Art Doll Carries Her Own Doll-Sized Parrot-Headed Umbrella and Carpet Bag

handmade doll sized mary poppins umbrella with a sculpted parrot head handle

I had more fun making Mary’s umbrella than I did during almost any other part of her creation! I built the umbrella around a plastic and fabric umbrella intended for American Girl dolls. The iconic parrot-headed handle and top spike are sculpted in Paperclay over the original plastic, and the entire umbrella has been painted and sealed in shades of black, silver, and brown so that it looks more realistic. Mary also carries a handstitched carpet bag, which I built around a toggle closure intended for a coin purse. The metal closure is etched with daisies, and when I found it online I knew it would be perfect!

Mary Poppins Was One of My Favorite Dolls to Photograph

mary poppins with her umbrella, an ooak art doll

From the beginning, I’d had in mind that I wanted to photograph my Mary Poppins art doll as if she was flying through the sky with her umbrella. I was actually able to set the scene very easily using a blue ombre sheet, and “clouds” made of extra polyester doll stuffing. I can’t believe they turned out so well!

Don’t forget to visit Mary Poppins in my Etsy shop!

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!

 

New Art Doll Custom Order Options from The Free Folk

My custom order options are changing! My new options better reflect the current techniques and materials I’m using in my doll making, and give you a new option to purchase a personalized jointed art doll like Blush or Rose.

Paperclay Peter Pan art doll by The Free Folk
My $300 option has changed so that you can commission a custom cloth and Paperclay doll like Peter Pan.

My $300 option has changed to eliminate the possibility of purchasing an oil-painted cloth doll, which has been replaced by the option to purchase a cloth doll with a Paperclay head and hands. In addition, a $400 option has been added, with the option to purchase your own personalized jointed Paperclay doll.

two jointed cloth and Paperclay art dolls by The Free Folk
An example of my new $400 custom jointed Paperclay doll option.

You can view all the custom options on my Etsy site, or under the “custom order options” tab above.

 

My New Jointed Paperclay Art Dolls, Blush and Rose

Blush and Rose

After over three months of work, Blush and Rose are finally finished. These are the first two jointed Paperclay dolls in my new Watercolor Series, a group of art dolls based around a soft watercolor color scheme, with hand-dyed bodies and outfits. Blush and Rose are my two pink girls; I’ll also be making a blue girl called Skye and a purple girl called Lavender.

Jointed Dolls

Blush and Rose are two romantics, throwing tea parties in the evening in the rose garden, and lying in the grass to watch the fireflies. At 24 inches each, they are very large dolls inspired by Victorian Bru and Jumeau dolls, and with their jointed limbs and removable clothing, can be gently posed, undressed and redressed, and played with. Their clothing has been tea-stained, painted, and weathered so that they resemble antiques.

Blush and Rose

In keeping with the pink watercolor scheme, Rose and Blush’s bodies are painted with pink watercolors and covered in free hand-embroidery done in rose silk thread, and their limbs are jointed with pink ribbon. Each doll has one upper arm and one upper leg sewn from rose-print velvet.

Blush and Rose’s removable dresses were painted with pink watercolors by dropping bright splotches and quick strokes of color that, when dry, would give the dresses the antique look that I wanted. Underneath their dresses, Blush wears a removable bralette and panties, while Rose wears a pair of bloomers. Rose’s flower crown is attached to a pink ribbon, and every petal of the artificial flowers was highlighted with more watercolors.Blush and Rose each also wear a removable pair of slippers. Blush’s are made from pink felt and lace, and resemble ballet slippers, while Rose’s were made using the remnants of the rose-printed velvet that makes up two of their limbs.

Blush and Rose will each ship in a special box which will include their original watercolor sketch and a certificate of authenticity.  They will be available in my Etsy shop in just a few days, and I’ll soon begin work on Lavender and Skye!

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.

 

Introducing Tinkerbell

I’ve been holding onto my Peter Pan and Tinkerbell dolls for a while now, but I think it’s finally time to introduce them to the world! Making dolls inspired by Peter Pan has been a project that’s very close to my heart – I devoured this book almost weekly at a certain age – and one that I hadn’t wanted to undertake until I was sure that I could get them right. After many, many sketches, and a lot of practice with Paperclay, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell were finally born.

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It was a girl called Tinkerbell, exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf…

Tinkerbell is made in the style of my jointed Paperclay miniature dolls, but at six inches tall is a little bit bigger. I wanted Tinkerbell to be pretty (she’s described as terribly vain!) while still retaining some of the rough, gnomish character of traditional English folktales about pixies and sprites. Tinkerbell is skinny with a pointed nose and chin, and her long feet and hands are proportionately very large for her body. She has windswept strawberry blonde mohair curls, and two large butterfly fairy wings.

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Tinkerbell wears an “exquisite” fairy gown of leaves and magic and mist. Fabric leaves cover a bodice and skirt of hand-dyed silk and sparkling tulle. Pearl seed bead “dew drops” form a line of tiny buttons on her bodice and are sprinkled over her skirt. A belt of golden thread and red berries pulls her dress together.

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Both Tinkerbell and Peter Pan will be available in my Etsy shop on Tuesday the 16th, but feel free to reach out with any questions about reserve, layaway, and pricing.

Introducing My New Art Doll, Peter Pan

I have a special Valentine’s Day treat! I’ve been holding onto my Peter Pan and Tinkerbell art dolls for a while now, but I think it’s finally time to introduce them to you. Making art dolls inspired by Peter Pan has been a project that’s very close to my heart – I devoured this book almost weekly at a certain age – and one that I hadn’t wanted to undertake until I was sure that I could get them right. After many, many sketches, and a lot of practice with Paperclay, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell were finally born.

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Wendy, Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed, you might be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars.

Peter has a large, sculpted Paperclay head with a jointed cloth body. Even his hair is made from Paperclay, with sculpted leaves and red berries tumbling through his auburn curls. Peter’s proportions and wide, curling smile were inspired by drawings of pixies done by Arthur Rackham and Tony Diterlizzi. I loved the way the combination spoke of an exuberant and cunning mischievousness.  I had so much fun painting Peter’s bright green eyes, red cheeks, and many freckles.

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Detail of Peter’s head

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After many concept sketches, I decided to give Peter green tights, felt upturned slippers, and a tunic of leaves and mist. Dozens of paper and velvet leaves and seed bead “seeds” cover Peter’s hand-dyed silk tunic, while his slippers are embroidered with silver thread and more leaves and beads.

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Detail of Peter’s shoes

Peter’s photos turned out even better than I’d dreamed – I was able to set the scene with a blue tablecloth, sparkling painted wooden stars, and the rest of the silk I’d used for his tunic!

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Tomorrow I’ll share my finished Tinkerbell doll. Both dolls will be available in my Etsy shop on Tuesday the 16th, but feel free to reach out to me with any questions about reserve, layaway, and pricing.