Sunday, 14 August 2011

Naked, Bald, and Beautiful!

It's been a while since my last post. And I've been a busy girl getting a whole heap of new dolls painted, varnished and strung together.
Now all my new girls are sitting quite pretty, waiting for their turn to be dressed and finished.

24 lovely new dolls in four sizes are now waiting for me. And now is the time I like the best.
New faces and personalities just waiting to tell me who they are and what they want to wear. A new doll is very demanding. And only the exact right fabric and colour will do.
Some of them are cheeky, some happy, some sad, some quiet, and some loud.
Who will be the next to have a brand new handmade outfit to show off?

Among all the skinny arms and legs on my work table I can see now an Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy (a rare boy doll for me). The twins from the horror film The Shinning as a gift for a friend as I know he particularly wants them. A sunny, smiling suffragette, eager to join her sisters in the struggle with her purple satin sash worn with pride. A murderous early Victorian asylum nurse that was even more insane than her patients. A fantasy steampunk vixen, and a tiny delicate fairy. All waiting for me to go to work with needle and thread to create exactly the right clothing.

Possibilities are endless - and I can't wait to get started.
I've too many ideas already!

As always, each stage to get me to this point has taken me longer than I wanted it to. I love to sculpt faces in a big batch so I can explore lots of different things all in one go. But, of course, making dolls also means that the bodies, arms and legs also need to be sculpted to make these dolls complete. And that all takes time.

Each limb has to be cut from a hard wood dowel, sanded, drilled and the hand or foot sculpted (I like sculpting the tiny feet on the end of it's leg and shaping the pointing toes :). Each body has to be made from a dowel with a wooden ball mounted on top to give me something to build a face upon. Layered with foil to create bulk. wrapped in tape and then covered with rolled out sheets of paperclay. And only when this is dry do I get to start on the faces, sculpting the neck into the shoulders as I go.

I've overcome a few problems while making this new big batch of dolls. And have discovered some new tricks that have saved me a lot of time.

I like to create a very simple body shape, most of which is just a long thick rod shape, as I find the stiff Victorian styles that I love seem to suit this straight backed posture. Making creating the look that I want much easier. Ladies didn't slouch back then. They couldn't. I'm truly glad I don't have to wear the tight, restrictive, permanently damaging corsets that women then wore. But there is something about the posture, elegance, and detail of the clothing they wore that i never get tired of.

This simple shape with its thread strung limbs is something I've developed after being inspired by the beautiful carved, moulded or stuffed ancient dolls that can still be found in Britain's museums - A very basic construction with layer upon layer of rich detailed clothing. The simple doll itself transformed into something intricate and outstanding.

One of the new tricks I developed during this round of sculpting was how to get a hole through the shoulders of each doll without having to drill them. It's always been a pain to get a hole that goes straight through the shoulders so that the arms can be attached in my preferred way - with vintage linen thread. But I've never been able to get this straight or true without countless mistakes and repairs.
But now I've figured out how to get this and get a nice flat place where the arm joins all in one go.

I'd never thought of it before, but now I know it seem obvious. And all I had to do was use a long strong needle and some wire.

This time I drilled the hole in the armature before adding any layers. Through this I held a long strong soft sculpture doll needle and built the armature, and then sculpted the body, around the needle. Sliding it back and fore as needed so I could get the shoulder shape I wanted. When I was done with a body I replaced the needle carefully with a piece of strong wire so that the whole thing could dry. And I've had not one problem with mis-drilled holes, feeling through a shoulder with needle to try and find the way through when stringing a doll together, or the horrible wonky shoulder issue. Simple!

I've spent all this weekend getting all of the arms and legs sewn together and then attached to each doll body. It's something that I never think will take very long, but of course, it always takes longer than I could ever imagine.

A nasty surprise this morning left me with 8 of  my new dolls with arms that hung below their knees and looking very odd. I'd somehow managed to measure the arm dowels wrong for one of the sizes I was making, so got delayed cutting each painted piece, sanding, painting, drilling and re-varnishing the lot before I could be done. But seeing them all sitting so cozy on a big pile of my damaged vintage books was worth the effort it took me not to scream and give up this morning.
Just look how cute they all look :)

For a while now I've been being pretty tough on myself. Pushing myself to get more and more done in shorter and shorter spaces of time. And as you'd expect, I've been failing to get things done. I'm always so disappointed that I can't get this or that done, out of the way, so I can move on and get on with things I enjoy more. But I'm slowly starting to realise that yes, I am only one person.
As you'd probably expect of a creative person I'm not too keen on the daily admin type tasks that selling my dolls needs. You think I'd find this easy seeing as I spend each day during the week working at a day job in an office. And I really am quite organised and systematic. But when I'm doing my things and what I want all i want to do is create. Failing to get things done in the impossible time limits I set myself has left me feeling really down. So to try and show myself what I can achieve I spent one Friday night earlier this month tweeting everything I was doing. I really was surprised how much I got done in one night. And it's made me feel so much better about leaving a few things waiting. Take a look below how my typical Friday night turned out. I'm really not exaggerating. I got all this stuff and more done in one night, and now I can see what I really do.

My Twitter Feed - Fri 5th Aug - Starting at 6pm - @NatashaDolls

- Thinking my next doll should be one of the Victorian asylum inmates I've been reading about. What do you think?
- My to do list is getting scary. It's swollen off the paper and is now standing towering above me making horrid growls and gurgles :'(


  1. WOW,I think see the twenty four of them staring up at me would intimidate the heck out of me! Having one incomplete drives me nuts! Good for you!!

  2. Thank you Nancy :)
    I always love having lots of them waiting for me. So many options, and just waiting for the next one to shout out and tell me what she wants.
    If I worried about all that was waiting to be done I'd never get anything finished. There is just so much waiting :)
    This is honestly my favorite part of making dolls. And I always prefer having a few to choose from so i can pick which one suits what I want to make next. I find sculpting in batches easier.