Thursday, May 26, 2011

Making Discoveries While Falling Down the Doll-Making Rabbit Hole

So my first "complete" adventure in doll making has come to a conclusion.  I finished the art doll that I've been working on.  I think I like this doll making endeavor!

I've discovered some interesting things that endear me to the whole doll making idea...

1) Doll making is a great way to use up a fabric stash.  Wow, I didn't need a lot of yardage for this--in fact, I was able to use up some of my metallic trim and some other supplies that I never thought I'd ever get back to using...  While making this doll did require a wide variety of tools and adhesives, fabrics and other materials, it was really a great way to use a lot of the craft supplies that I had purchased over the years but never used.  For example, for the first time, I was able to use my Stiffy Fabric Stiffener, which I had not yet experimented with.  I had kept that on a shelf for over a year!  It certainly came in handy for the hat that I made.

2) It's easy to work organically when making dolls.  I sort of made things up as I went along on this project.  I made a form out of spare wire I had laying around, and then sort of extemporaneously developed everything else after that...  I chose to use what I had on hand because I wanted instant gratification, and only when I had to make the guitar and stand did I end up going to get balsa wood and a wooden plaque.  I didn't really have a plan for this--I didn't know I was going to make a fake stringed instrument, nor how I was going to paint the face, nor that I was going to use string for hair...  It sort of just developed.  I like working that way--I can have part of a plan in my head, but let it grow as more ideas come to me during the process.

3) Dolls with wonky body shapes are okay.  I like making art dolls.  I'm not sure I could make realistic dolls--there's not enough flexibility in the development for me...  I like to abstract things and be suggestive without being literal.  I guess I'm just one for allegory and metaphor, in a way.  There's a real magic in being illustrative, I feel.  Even in traditional painting, work that is too photo-realistic just doesn't "ring my bell".   I've realized that dolls with bodies that are proportionally off-kilter are okay!  It's much more interesting to me that way.

4) Doll clothes seem like costumes.  With a doll outfit, I can use my costuming skills and not worry if the garment is actually something that someone would wear in real life.  I have carte blanche opportunity to design and build whatever my heart desires, as long as it adds up to a pleasing composition to look at.  Wearing something overtly dramatic is one thing.  Looking at it as a soft sculpture is quite another.  There's a different lens, a different perspective to making clothes for dolls that is much more like making clothes for a character.  It's heightened reality.  And it's right up my alley!

5) Doll making seems to have more freedom than fashion does.  For me, anyway.  It speaks to my skills in a much more readily apparent way than making clothes for real people does...  It is theatrical, and has the potential to be a much clearer artistic mechanism for my self-expression than clothing does.  I think I can say more with doll making than I can with fashion, because of the very basic fact that the dolls don't have opinions like a person does.  If I want to make a sad doll, I can dress it sadly.  If I want to make a happy doll, I can dress it happily.  It is a freeze-frame, photographic moment of an emotional state that is very similar to theatrical presentations.  In a play, a character serves a purpose for the overall structure--beyond that there is no reason for them to exist.  Dolls are similar to me somehow...

There are a lot of things I need to be able to "conquer" if I'm going to continue making dolls...  First, I must learn about the industry.  Second, I need to be able to control basic elements of the doll making process--like height.  Third, I need to develop a little more of a "plan of attack" if I'm going to actually make statements with my dolls like a regular artist does.  A piece of fine art usually elicits an emotional response, and I need to have a better grip on what I desire that emotional response to be before I just dive in...  I also need a way of labeling/signing the doll as well, and to explore the world of pricing a lot more--I have no idea how much to sell this little guy for!

But overall, I think this was a good start!  I need to consider the photography a bit more, but it's okay until I figure out how others do it.  I've decided I need to make a different kind of silhouette now--something short and stout.  I've also found a different way of suggesting hands using polymer clay that I am going to try.  And I'm going to try some different wrapping techniques for the head--maybe make a stuffed head that's formed with stitches instead of a wrapped one, but we'll see.  I think that will allow me a greater field of opportunity when it comes to painting the face...

Regardless, let me introduce "Joplin".  Inspired by the tragedy in Missouri, and a sanity saving device that kept me occupied, I'm liking the fact that looking at him makes me imagine what kind of life he's lived, and how he keeps going.  He's a common man, with a bit of skill in something.  All he can do is keep going.  He's very inspirational, to me...  Like those folks in Joplin who've lost everything, but have to keep going despite it all.

I'll be putting him up on my Etsy site eventually, but only after I research pricing and such.

This has been a good experience.  I'm really really looking forward to my next doll project.  I'd appreciate any input or feedback, site recommendations, or construction suggestions that you all can offer me!  Oh, what a brave new world...

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!


  1. Oh my God another whole post swallowed up by Blogger!! What am I doing wrong???? It's far to late and I'm far to tired to rewrite again tonight. I'll come back in the morning Kiddo, with my morning coke er... caffeine in hand!

    Talk to ya tomorrow,
    Pattie ;)
    Mazatlan Mx.

  2. I wonder why it's doing that? Can't wait to read what ya think, Pattie! : )

  3. Well..Corey,you're on the Doll Journey.I love Joplin.He looks so Folksy and friendly.There are just so many skills needed in Doll making.You will be on a continuous learning journey.
    Fray Check is also good to spray on cloth doll fingers when you get to them. An excellent Doll site is There are lots of books, etc.Forceps(yes the doctor kind) are great for stuffing dolls, and for pulling out tiny fingers.
    I am going to buy the needle sculpting dvd by Mimi Winer..she's a master!!!Lots of face painting onfo there too. Have you thought of Art Doll brooches..these can be WILD!!!This is where Beading comes into play.thanks for nice comment on my blog.

  4. curiously, I actually have some forceps because a dollmaker I used to work with at the Old Globe Theatre would have them handy for her costume work! Haha! So I got some. Thanks so much for the link--I'm going to go there and check it out! I've never done any needle skulpting--I think I'm going to have to look into it, too!

  5. Well done. He seems to have a bit "old soul" in him, likes he's traveled many miles and seen many things.


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