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.
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.
Next I’ll move on to stringing them, and adding their wigs and clothing. Stay tuned for pictures of the finished dolls!
I absolutely love making these jointed miniature art dolls, because they’re so tiny I can sculpt several of them in an afternoon! The sculpting stage is a great rainy afternoon project for when I feel like getting out my Paperclay.
I spent a few afternoons this past week sculpting, painting, and dressing two new little dolls, Sprout and Peony. I’d been wanting to make a fairy this size for some time, and so I had a lot of fun with Sprout! She has tiny antennae made from curls of wire, and I used the top wings of small plastic butterfly to give her translucent fairy wings.
Her little green cap is topped by a leaf charm I’d had laying around for a long time, just waiting for the right project. I imagine Sprout living hidden in someone’s garden, happily chatting with bumblebees and working away in the flower beds!
Peony, on the other hand, is a refined lady who kept telling me how she couldn’t wait to move into someone’s Victorian dollhouse.
I’d held onto the scraps of floral cotton that I used for her bodice for years, after dismantling on older doll dress that was coming apart at the seams. I’d never before had a project small enough for the tiny pieces that were left, so I was very excited to be able to use them for Peony! A tiny bit of gathered lace was perfect for Peony’s skirt, and I topped off her dress with two tiny seed bead buttons.
Peony takes her name from the two huge flowers in her hair – I tried giving her just one, but she demanded a flower for each side!
Peony is already hosting tea parties and baking tiny cupcakes in her new home, but Sprout is available in my Etsy shop.
Over my Christmas break, I decided to try a brand new project – sculpting a jointed doll from Paperclay.
Even though I don’t have much experience sculpting, I’ve always wanted to try this. I decided to make the doll for myself, unsure of how my first attempt at sculpting would turn out. I based my doll on the heroine of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books, September, a brave girl from the 1930’s in a homespun cotton dress and the Green Wind’s fantastic coat. As I made my plans before sculpting, I took inspiration from antique French Bru dolls and the Paperclay art dolls of Holli, an artist I admire.
Sketch in my journal for September
Initial sculpt of September’s head
When I began sculpting, I immediately fell in love! I love the way Paperclay feels, and how easy it is to use. In the past, I’d had a hard time with clay and Sculpy, but Paperclay was soft and flexible, and much easier. I loved the feeling of literally forming something with my hands, something that would carry my fingerprints. I spent over a week sculpting and re-working every part of my doll, which, with Paperclay, which softens with water, was easy to do!
After September was dry, it was time for sanding and carving, the most tedious and labor-intensive part of the process. But then it’s time for the really fun part – painting.
Before getting started, I spent time with my watercolors mixing colors and testing them on a sheet of paper to make sure I got them right. I’d originally wanted to give September hazel eyes to match the brown hair I’d bought for her and the green coat she would wear, but as I played with colors, I decided to go with a purple -grey instead.
The painting stage was when September really came alive for me. Another doll artist I know has said that she doesn’t feel like her dolls are alive until she’s painted their eyes, and this is true for me as well.
After September dries from being painted, I’ll be stringing her and creating her wig. I decided to give her a cloth body that her head and limbs will be sewn to. Before painting her, I quickly arranged her together and snapped a photograph to see what she’ll look like.
Several weeks ago I bought the sweetest miniature ceramic birdbath and tiny flower pots to use in pictures with my art dolls. I filled the flower pots with moss and roses almost as soon as I got home, but it was a long time before I had time to go outside and actually snap some pictures. Yesterday the weather was gorgeous and warm, I was out of school, and so I finally headed outside to play with my camera.
Here’s some of my favorite pictures from the secret garden scene I set up with my Mary and Dickon art dolls. I had some trouble with glare, so I might have to head out again on a cloudier day!
This week I finished my newest art doll, modeled after a Chinese bride from the early 1900’s. She was the first jointed doll I have ever made, and the first that I painted with oil paints. Her outfit was sewn from coral red and green tapestry silk, and she has matching tiny slippers. Her hair sticks match the buttons on her robe. Her fan is made out of balsa wood that I painted with water colors.
I have named her Red Butterfly, because of her traditional red bridal outfit and her “butterfly” hairstyle.
In October, I added the option on my etsy site for parents, grandparents, etc to have me create a very special personalized doll just for their child. Since then, the response has been fantastic!
My first order was for matching “Big Sister, Little Sister” dolls for a little girl and her new baby sister. I loved the idea, and I think they turned out super cute! They baby sister ended up having a huge personality, and they both seem a bit quirky… Their outfits ended up a little vintage-inspired, with Baby’s lace bonnet, and Big Sister’s yellow dress and sweater set.
My last order before Christmas was from a mom who wanted to give her little girl, whose nickname is “Little Squirrel”, a very special gift for Christmas – a squirrel girl doll! Creating a doll with a little squirrel tail was a unique request and a challenge, but I had a lot of fun with it too! Her daughter also loved flowers, fairies, and butterflies, so this doll’s theme was right up my alley!