I'm a bit of an oddball. If you hadn't already guessed that about me. I hear many other designers and doll makers talk about their process of making and designing dolls and many of them talk about how much their dolls change during the process of making them.
And here is what makes me weird. Once I have settled on how a doll will look in my head, they pretty much always turn out the way that I pictured.
The thing is that I actually make the doll many times over in my head and it is there that the doll evolves.
I think that I ended up with this strange process because I had surgery on my right hand in 2005 with a fairly lengthy recovery process, so the only way I could design dolls was in my head. After months of not being able to make anything and then years of pain I have perfected the technique of "mental doll making". I can't waste my hands on ideas that don't work, so I try them out in my head first and discard them if they don't work for me.
That's not to say that I don't change my mind about how something will look. I just change my mind, in my mind, and not while I am in the middle of making something. I do try out different techniques to try and find the easiest way to do something, but the look I pictured in my head, is the look I end up with.
Take the Bamboo Oracle for example. The idea for this doll came out around the time that I had surgery on my hand in 2005. I had intended to participate in the Hoffman Challenge for 2006 and had already bought the fabrics. The main fabric for the challenge was a pink background with a bamboo motif (you can see it in the Bamboo Oracle's waistcoat lining and cuffs).
As I sat on the sofa with my arm bandaged so tightly that I could only move my finger tips, I conceived of the idea of a miniature oracle who would hide amounst the bamboo stands in a bamboo forest. But here is the weird bit - when I first thought about a little tropical seer who could read the future (if you could find them of course) "she" was a "he".
For some reason, when I first thought of this idea I was going to make the Oracle a male doll. I had seen a picture of a doll by Cyndi Mahlstadt that inspired me. If you click this link you can see him in Cyndi's gallery - look for the little rotund dude with a long staff and flowers on his head. I wanted to create a rotund and characterful doll.
I drafted and re-drafted that doll in my head, but wouldn't you know it, it turned into a beautiful woman. Not quite sure why that happened. That's the mystery of creativity, I suppose. As soon as I decided to try making a female doll, the pattern just presented itself in my head.
I did sort of come up with a compromise though. I was looking for costume inspiration in books on Chinese history and in Chinese movies. I ended up watching the film House of Flying Daggers .
The female character in this film dresses as a man at one point and it was that male costume that I used for my female Bamboo Oracle.
The shoes however were inspired by the little rolled toe shoes that the female character wears when dressed as a woman. The curled toes were perfect for my intended purpose of using the doll as an eyeglass caddy - you could perch your spectacles on her feet and the curled toes would hold them there.
Funnily enough there is a stunningly beautiful scene in this film where a fight takes place in the most vibrantly green bamboo forest. After I saw that scene I realised that the Bamboo Oracle was perfectly suited to the aesthetic of this film.
I did add one little extra twist - Chinese Opera style make-up. During my university years, I saw someone apply this tyle of make-up as part of one of my theatre design and production courses. This make-up look is very otherworldly and I thought it would make the doll look more magical without adding wings.
Bamboo Oracle never made it into the Hoffman Challenge because it was almost 4 years between when I conceived the idea for the Bamboo Oracle and when I actually made her. But her mental image never really faded from my mind and she remains one of my favourite designs.
I am teaching the Bamboo Oracle as an online class on Doll Street beginning Friday, September 2nd. So if you want to try making your own tropical seer, sign up and get more information on the course by clicking the link.
Cloth Dolls... the Final Frontier. These are the classes of the starship Blue Haze. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new techniques, to seek out new patterns and new doll makers, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Cue the music (or you could just hum the Star Trek theme here if you want).
That's right, that introduction was an announcement that I'll be teaching my brand new, exclusive workshop doll "Ascending" at Blue Haze Arts and Crafts in Chesham, Bucks, UK on Friday 11th & Saturday 12th November 2011 from 10am to 4pm.
"Exclusive workshop" doll means that this design will only be available to be taken as a class with me live and in person. You won't see her as a pattern, nor as an online class.
Find more information and sign up for the class online by visiting the Blue Haze website here. Or call and speak to Hazel at the shop on Tel: 01494 782030 or email: [email protected].
Just to keep to my mission of exploring new techniques and new patterns, I'll also be teaching Dive Into a Book, a fun, fabric bookmark fairy who looks like she got a bit squished between the pages of a book. Only her wee toes survived the ordeal unscathed.
This class is great for all levels including beginners. The fairy's upper body is provided pre-printed on fabric so we can focus on learning to colour faces realistically. Then we'll make a simple skirt and learn the basics of needle sculpting tiny three dimensional toes. This class will be one day, Sunday 13th November 2011 from 10am to 4pm. Wouldn't this little bookmark make a great gift or stocking stuffer?
Find more information about this one day course and sign up for the class online by visiting the Blue Haze website here. Or call and speak to Hazel at the shop on Tel: 01494 782030 or email: [email protected].
If you are thinking that the book is closed on the idea of taking one of these classes because you don't live in the UK, check out my schedule of classes to see when I might be teaching in your area. Even though I live in London, England, I teach in Canada and the US frequently.
If I'm not currently teaching in your area, why not think about hosting a class through your doll club or local craft store? Here are the classes that I offer and a bit about how it works.
I've recently found some great doll making tutorials out there on the net. Here's a round up of some inspiring doll making links. Of course there are many more, just use the Google search box at the top left of my blog to search out past links.
Craftside shared how to make a basket for a doll out of foam as excerpted from Patti Medaris Culea's book Creative Cloth Doll Collection. If you haven't already got all of Patti Culea's books on cloth doll making, then this collection is a great compilation. You can even get it in a Kindle edition. (Look out for my doll Loiseau between the pages of this volume).
Judi Ward shared her special doll jointing technique in the following video:
Doll artist Jessica Acosta Hamilton shared s great tutorial on her blog Doll Project for making simple slipper shoes for dolls.
Jessica Acosta Hamilton also shared some tips for where to find some unique doll making supplies including tiny zippers.
Ric Rac shared a super fun tutorial to make a personalised cloth doll using a friend or family member's face printed onto fabric. What a great gift, huh?
Lotta Jansdotter shared another personalised soft doll tutorial that I found via the Burda Style blog. Using her son’s drawings of super heroes and monsters, Lotta created very simple cloth dolls using transfer paper and lightweight cotton fabric. Watch the below video to see how to make your kids or grandkids drawings into dolls:
Anna Branford shared a tutorial to make her pebble dolls. These are simple embroidered linen dolls that look rather like pebbles.
If rag dolls are more your speed check out The Crafting Fiend's Modest Mermaid Doll pattern here.
Jennifer Carson shared a tutorial for needle felting hair, eyes and fangs onto a cloth doll on her blog.
Instructables user JL Larson shared a tutorial on how to convert a full size commercial sewing pattern to a doll size.
So many things to learn about dolls, so little time....
I have a secret. I like kids crafts. I even buy kids crafts books. And I don't have kids. Mostly, I just like to pretend I'm one and play. But I also think that some of these kids crafts are downright ingenious and I find them inspiring. So whether you have a kid or two who needs entertaining on a rainy day or you just want to play yourself, check out these creative and cool dolls that are kid friendly.
Make a popsicle stick ballerina with a tutorial over at the blog 4 Crazy Kings.
If flowers float your boat, you might like this tutorial to make Flower Friends dolls from artificial flowers at Disney Family Fun.
Craftbits shared a flower fairy doll tutorial that makes use of some easily accessible craft materials.
Peggy Flynn shared how she made a flower powered doll with a cloth doll face on HGTV. Older or more adventurous kids could tackle this one. Unfortunately the instructions do not include a face pattern, but you could use the head from Mary Tressler's free child doll pattern here.
Disney Family Fun also featured a tutorial to make easy felt dolls, so that kids can make Felty Friends galore.
Hands On Crafts for Kids shared a cool way to use a doll face mould to create a simple doll.
If you know any budding ballerinas have them pirouette over to the craft table to make this ballerina peg doll with a tutorial from Kelly at Be A Fun Mum.
While you still have those clothes pins out, why not make a mermaid doll with Disney Family.com.
For world wide wise clothes pin dolls , check out this tutorial on Disney Family Fun.
Ellen of the Long Thread shared a tutorial on painting eggs to look like Matryoshka dolls.
Never mind the kids, I want to make one of these quirky dolls. They are made from bottles covered in yarn with spoon heads. Learn how to make these bottle dolls with Disney Family Fun.
Emma Jeffrey shared a tutorial to make a humble sock into a puppet. Have the kids make one of these and then be prepared to applaud as a puppet show will likely follow.
We Bloom Here has a rod puppet tutorial to keep the kids busy.
For another doll craft that will result in play afterwards, use this tutorial from We Bloom Here to make a Jumping Pixie game.
Get the kids psyched up for the new school year by having them make these pencil buddies with Disney Family Fun.
I hope some of those tutorials inspired you to get creative with the kids or without.
I've just added my little one of a kind cloth doll glasses case to my Etsy shop. So if you have some spectacles to store, check out this little four eyed cutie here. This doll is now SOLD.
Loiseau, who appeared in Patti Culea's books Creative Cloth Doll Beading: Designing and Embellishing with Beads
is now on sale in my Etsy shop at a new price. Check out Loiseau's listing here. This doll is now SOLD.
This is the doll that I made during and after the riots that hit my city of London, and my neighbourhood specifically.
When I conceived this design she was meant to represent rising above the ordinary, humdrum things in life, but as I worked, I realised that she also came to represent rising above the terrifying and horrible things in life too.
This doll is called "Ascending".
1. Moving, going, or growing upward
2. Moving or progressing toward a higher level or degree
Sometimes it seems we are standing in one place, rooted to the spot. And many times we don’t like where we have planted ourselves. But if we are willing and are brave enough we can soar above all of the mundane, the ordinary and even the terrible things in life. And oh what a view from above.
What lifts you?
“Ascending” is an exclusive in-person workshop doll that was designed to allow you to express and explore exactly what it is that helps you to rise above the commonplace. This doll is made entirely of cloth and measures 15” tall from the tip of her toes to the tip of her chin. The doll’s wire and fabric stand lifts her a further 2” off the ground, letting her body float in space. In this intermediate to advanced level class, costume elements are kept to a minimum with only basic draping and simple beading, allowing greater focus on the creation of a beautiful cloth doll face and body. Particular attention will be paid to drawing, needle-sculpting, and colouring a serene face complete with applied eyelids and eyelashes. Instead of just letting the face express emotion, this doll’s entire body has been designed, with an arched back, outraised arms and pointed toes, to evoke a sense of rising above it all. You will learn to make this doll from the bottom up, including how to needle-sculpt bare toes, create beautiful smooth body parts, sew and wire articulated fingers, and use a separate neck and ears to create a beautiful, expressive form. Needle-felting will be used to create a smooth hairline and to root the doll’s long, luxuriant hair that will cascade down her back, adding to the sense of upward motion.
Finally, let your mind and creativity loose and explore what it is that allows you to rise up, by creating a wire and fabric mixed media stand that will both hold your doll up in the air and tell a story of what makes you ascend to new heights.
What the riots have taught me is that good things can come out of bad if we let them.
If you are regular reader of my blog, you will have noticed that I haven't posted a new Extreme Doll Making location in a while. This is down to be unable to wrangle some time with my official photographer (read: my hubby) for some weird and wacky public doll making. Added to that, the recent riots in London have made the prospect of Extreme Doll Making a bit more extreme than I'd like.
However, Jan Wiebe came to the rescue.
Jan, of the Cloth-a-Dollics Doll Club in Victoria BC (one of the groups I taught in April of this year)got in on the Extreme Doll Making by sewing on a doll in her kayak in the middle of Tuc-el-Nuit Lake in Canada. Dudes, that's cool and that is extreme.
Feel free to get in on the Extreme Doll Making action yourself. Think of some place weird to make dolls and go for it! If you send me pictures like Jan did to [email protected] , I'll blog about it or you can blog about it yourself and send me a link.
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