Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A Special Offer to Say Thank You

I'm offering Scarlet, my own little doll that's kept me company on my work table since I first began making art dolls, FREE to anyone that purchases one of my largest dolls or makes a purchase of $200 or more before Sunday 4th December.

I found out today that my last shipping date to the USA, Canada, or Australia is Monday 5th December according to the UK Postal Service. I'm really disappointed that in this day and age Britain can't do any better than this. And it makes this my last chance to offer all of my wonderful customers the chance to get my own little Scarlet free of charge and get her to them before Christmas day arrives.

I've met many wonderful, kind and friendly people through sales I've made through my Etsy store -
And have learnt just how kind, supportive, and truly amazing people that you don't know can be. So this is my small way of saying Thank You.
I just wish I was in a position right now to offer you more. Which is why I've decided to give up Scarlet; my patient companion that has always listened to me babel away when I'm trying to decide which direction to go in when I'm stuck or when I'm trying to refine what I'm doing.

Scarlet is a small (approx 20cm) doll that has jointed shoulders, knees, and hips. She's dressed in scraps of fabric and lace, and wears a mix-match of tiny jewellery pieces. But she's very special to me for so many reasons.

As I've said, Scarlet is my own doll. I made her for myself, and she's never been listed for sale anywhere before.
She's the very first jointed doll I made. The first that I sculpted in paperclay, and the first doll that I managed to perfect applying marabou feather hair on. She's not one of the first of her kind - She is the very first!

I agonised over how to attach her legs and arms before finally being brave enough to drill the holes in her limbs, hips and torso. Only after practising on little scraps of dowelling did I finally manage to do it. Still, there was quite a bit of trial and error before I was happy, and I unfortunately wasted quite a bit of the strong vintage thread from the wooden spool given to me by my Grandmother. And I still string my dolls in a very similar way.

Before I made Scarlet I'd made a few really awful fabric dolls that quickly got discarded, and a few fixed position clay sculpted dolls. But I dreamed of being able to make a doll that could be positioned, that could sit down and be animated, and that came somewhere towards the stunning old dolls that until then I'd only ever seen in museums (which is why I make my dolls in the way that I do).

I'd also used feathers on some of these earlier dolls as they remind me of a tattered little clown with feather hair I owned as a child that I loved dearly. But Scarlet was the first doll that I managed to get the very full, wild, and in this case mixed colour hair, just as I wanted it - even down to the tiny sparkling gems cut from a piece of a broken old bracelet that I used as a hair clip for her.

Scarlet wears a tiny black bodice under a high waisted tartan tutu with a wide lace petticoat, and has white and turquoise stripped knee high socks. She has perfectly stripped black, dark cerise and white hair. And has lots of bracelets, a sterling silver coker necklace, a diamonte hair clip, and a tiny faceted glass bead hanging from her waist.

She's imperfect, small, and has overly pointed feet. But she's my own, my friend, and my first.
Scarlet has helped me come such a long way in making my dolls, and I'll miss her greatly ( I don't mind at all if i get to keep her). But I can't think of a better way to say Thank You.
I wish I could offer more.

Tiny Fairytale Hanging Art Dolls

Before I start this post I just wanted to give anyone out there that's interested the coupon code currently available for my shop for 10% off any of my dolls until 24th Dec. please use code GIVETHANKS at checkout if you'd like one of my dolls for yourself or to give as a gift.

I couldn't resist making four of my very smallest dolls as hanging decorations for the Christmas tree this year. And as I wanted them to be suitable to hang from a shelf or against a wall or object after the holidays, and after making my Little Red Riding Hood, what could be better than more Fairytale dolls. So instead of choosing the most popular or well know characters I went with my favourites. As well as having a ribbon to hang them from anywhere you can think of, all these tiny 20cm dolls can sit on any ledge or on top of books and other objects among your treasures. The first can also stand unaided if you puff up her skirts and petticoats.

I knew I had to make the Princess and the Pea because I've always loved the story of the lost Princess that comes across the castle where the King is trying to find the perfect bride for his son. I love the rich detail and imagery of her being tested by being asked to sleep on a huge towering pile of mattresses and blankets under which they have hidden a tiny pea. Even as a child I always got annoyed that she had to be tested at all. Why should she have to spend a night being frightened of falling off this huge pile of bedding when the Prince faced no challenges at all!
But I still always loved it :)

My Princess is dressed with layers of petticoats in crisp cotton lawn, with a deep ruffle around the hem of her topmost fancy one; which is why when they are puffed out a bit she can stand unaided. She has a white chemise under a cream stripped bodice. Her high waisted silk dress is a rich paisley of sage green, blue, gold and white with long pointed medieval sleeves. In her arms she carries a silk cushion trimmed with lace and red satin ribbon to hold the tiny offending green felt pea.

The story of The Little Match Girl is one I never let my Mother read to me when I was little. How was a story about a poor abused child out on a freezing night and so afraid to go home again that she ended up sitting in the dirt and dark having taunting visions and dieing alone in the cold suitable for a child? But now I'm older my opinion of this sad tale is so very different, and I can see the small joy and happiness at the end of the story. It is really a happy tale at the end, all be it in a very strange way.  
This young girls devastating life and hardships ended in the joyful reunion with her much loved grandmother. After her seeing beautiful images in the tiny flames of her matches she saw the one thing that made her happiest of all things. When they found her they thought she had used the spent matches in her lap to warm herself. When we know she had used them to hang onto her last vision long enough to be able to pass over and go to be reunited with her family.

My little Match Girl wears a simple cotton shift and bloomers under a plain dark burgundy blouse and grey tweed like check skirt. She has a thin ragged brown paisley shawl and a dirty white apron with her bundles of matches in the pocket.
I left her with her shoes on, before she lost the thin too big hand-me-down slippers in the snow. And cut the matches themselves from real ones, painting the ends and tieing them together with vintage thread.

This little doll even smells Christmas-y as part of what I used to stain her apron was powdered cinnamon from my baking cupboard. And for a change I tied up her hair. But if you prefer it down and wild like my other dolls the thread holding it can be snipped, and the feathers blown around to make them full again.

My next little doll was The Steadfast Tin Soldier. A story full of romance and adventure that ends very sadly when the petulant little boy discards the little soldier in the stove, and then the wind catches hold of the love of his life and blows the Dancer into the flames with him - leaving only a heart shaped lump of melted tin and the spangle from her dress.

His little life is a sad one again. After starting out with only one leg after being the last to be made from the tin ladle and there not being enough left. Then falling from the window and not being found, being sent through the drains in a paper boat and having to fight off rats, and being stranded in the dirty gutter among the rubbish. He is rescued by a kitchen maid and taken back to the very place he had started from, with his love still there waiting for him, standing on one tiny foot with the other stretched behind her in the doorway of the play castle.

I've no idea why so many children's stories are so sad. I know the old ones always have some moral or lesson for the young, and this one is trying to teach it's young listeners not to be like the nasty ungrateful young boy that owned these little toys. But there really is a lot of cruelty, death and frightening events in them. Even with all that I'm not the only one that still loves and treasures them I know.

My Steadfast Tin Soldier has dark blue trousers with one leg folded up neatly and tacked in place to account for his missing leg. His uniform is made in the style of a period Victorian soldiers uniform, with a red jacket trimmed with white epaulets and straps for his equipment bags, with a white high collared shirt underneath. He has gold coloured bead buttons, and I gave him a tiny heart shaped blue enamel charm on his breast as a medal. I made his hat from black felt with a strap under his chin and decorated it with more gold beads.

This little man didn't stay with me long once he was finished, and is currently on his way to the lovely Nancy in Canada. I really hope that she likes him when he gets there, and that he looks just as I pictured him on her tree this year.

The last of my little hanging fairytale dolls was the Steadfast Tin Soldiers very own Dancer as I didn't like to make one and not the other.

Over her lace trimmed bloomers and shift she wears a pretty dress that has a blue pattern with sprays of pink and purple flowers, with a tight bodice and puffy sleeves. She has a wide pink satin sash trimmed with white ribbon and her glittery spangle attached in the middle.
She has really full gathered skirts and petticoat to make her look like a ballerina. And they stand out around her in a soft folds. Near one hand she has a small metal heart attached to her skirts so she can't loose it. I imagined it as a gift to her from the Steadfast Tin Soldier before he left on his adventures.

I'm not sure what it is that I'll be making next. I have one project to finish as a Christmas gift, and then I'd really like to work on something a little larger again. Maybe I'll get to work on my Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

My Little Red and Childhood Memories

I don't mind admitting that I got really stuck for what to make when I wanted to pick up my needles and tools to start my next doll. I'd really enjoyed finishing off Jane, but didn't want to start in on the project I've had put away for a while now as it meant another Regency dress, and I really felt like doing something different. So I had a tough time trying to change my track and move past finishing off my Elizabeth and Darcy until I have the right fabrics and am in the right mood. For now they are back in their box waiting until I find that perfect piece of cotton lawn for her dress and suiting for Darcy's morning coat.

As always my husband has been wonderful and truly supportive, nursing me through a few tough months that I'm finally coming through. And the one thing that keeps me sane when I feel unwell is making something, so I've been making a point of making my dolls my main priority after my health so that I can see that I am actually getting something achieved each day.
Everything was leading me to do something different and new. Something of pure fantasy and imagination, letting me do what I wanted to do in a way that happened spontaneously rather than the way I usually plan everything out. So I looked in the one place that always provides tons of inspiration and looked through my book shelves.

Me being me I still couldn't decide.
I love fantasy and fairytale, but don't really ever turn to it when looking into what dolls I'd like to make. For some reason I turn to real women when I decide to make a new doll, and love to share the little known lives of the women from the past to give them a voice, even though it's only a tiny one for a little while. So when I spotted the three ancient fairytale books standing on the bedside table in my guest bedroom I knew straight away who my next doll would be - Who could be better than Little Red Riding Hood!

I was already feeling a little nostalgic for my childhood years. My mother has just been back to visit for three days from her home in Spain. And it's the first time I'd seen her face to face in the longest time. Picking up the very books that she read to me from as a small child, full of my own tiny dirty fingerprints and the odd scribble where I've tried to colour in a few of the black and white pictures brought back a lot of happy memories. I've had these books since I was very small. Proper big colourfully illustrated hardbacks, still in quite good condition for their age. And the best of all, in the best condition, was my favorite fairytale book - A Gift Book of Enchanting Fairy Tales. Full of stunning romantic fantasy illustrations in rich colours with lots of details.

I can still clearly remember the day when I was four years old when I first met my little sister and was made to sit far far back in my dad's chair so that I could hold the big wriggly red headed bundle on my lap for a few minutes while my mother perched on the arm making sure I had her safe. And getting woken up by this same little sister when she was about 6 at 5am on Christmas morning because she couldn't sleep anymore, she was just too excited to see if Santa had been and if he'd left her any toys. I had to try my best to keep her quite so as not to wake our perants, and we both sneakily took one small wrapped gift from the stockings my mother always left at the end of our beds. Both of us under my quilt whispering and eating chocolate coins.

This little sister of mine has just turned 30, and part of me feels that I really should feel more grown up by now. She asked us to get her a tattoo for her birthday gift, and I think that after Christmas I'll go and get another one myself to mark the occasion. It feels important somehow.

As soon as I'd made the decision I had a bright shining idea burning in my mind of just how I wanted my Little Red to look. I knew she had to have a pure white dress with a red sash, and a red satin cloak. I knew that I wanted her to be a young lady rather than a little girl, so started by making her a pair of lace trimmed bloomers, a corset and lots of white cotton lawn petticoats so that she'd have a really full calf length skirt. And an chemisette or blouse under her bodice in tight gathers with a lace collar.

I gave my Little Red layered sleeves with puffy tops and a tight bodice made of layers of lace pieces and a pure white crepe. Her skirt is the same white crepe with pieced lace applique around the hem with flowers spreading up towards the waist. I gave her her red sash with a  bow in the back, and made her hooded cloak from rich red satin with a cross-body tie to keep it in place. The very last thing I had to do was add her soft brown feather hair and make sure that there were no loose threads.

I love the way my Little Red turned out. It was such a joy to do something so different I'm planning to make four tiny dolls as hanging decorations of some of my other favorite fairytale characters that can be hung on a Christmas tree, against a wall or from a shelf. There will soon be The little Match Girl, the Princess and the Pea, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and his Dancer all finished and ready :)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Wonderful Jane Austen's Miss Bennett

I can never really explain to anyone why I love Jane Austen's books. There's just something about them that always appeals to me.

Every character she writes has been so carefully thought out that even the hardly mentioned have a life that jumps from the page and sticks in your mind. And even though there doesn't seem to be much meaning in her books for our modern lives I always take something away from them with me that lasts much longer than it takes to read them. And I always go back to read them again and again.

Like many my favorite is Pride & Prejudice. And the large family of girls, all different and unique, somehow always draws me back whenever I need a little comfort and gentle entertainment.

The awkward family relationships and courtships, the mistakes made and waiting needed, and the power held by a few over their friends and relations tell a deeper story of life during those times than the romantic tale that sits on the surface. And the very different way in which women then lived thier lives can really be seen in her novels.

I have two dolls put away for a rainy day that I've sculpted but have yet to dress. And one day I will finally finish my Darcy and Elizabeth. But the gentle smile I managed to sculpt into this gentle face reminded me so strongly of the passive, delicate, kind Jane Bennett that I couldn't wait to find the perfect piece of cotton lawn and start work on this Regency lady.

As gentle as she is she still had strong opinions of what she should and would wear, and gave me a few problems along the way.

Of course you can't dress a doll without starting with the underwear, and even though she's a fantasy character I wanted to make sure she was dressed as Miss Austen would have intended. So had to suck it up and do without the one thing I'd never leave the house without - Knickers!

No matter how many times I think about it or look into it it just somehow goes right against the grain not to give a doll a pair of knickers or bloomers. I know very well that people are going to look up her skirts because I do it myself. And I've no idea why we do it even though I've tried to work it out many times. But there it is. Jane Bennett has no pants on!

She does have a long white cotton shift worn under a set of soft stays and a long petticoat that sits just under her bust with straps over the shoulder. Over that she has her soft checked cotton lawn day gown that I made with a gentle rounded V neckline.

The Miss Bennett of the fabulous BBC TV series of Pride & Prejudice (with the lovely Colin Firth) always wore this kind of neckline instead of the square neckline favored by Lizzie. So when I think of her I always she her this way. Her gown has narrow sleeves and a narrow satin sash, and the hem is trimmed with lace applique.

Over her shoulders she has a small lace cover tied in front , and she has a cream stripped shawl to keep her warm.

Jane should have had a cream crush treated silk pelisse coat. And I made two attempts at making one for her. The first went very wrong and had to be redone from scratch. But I was very pleased with the second as I'd managed to sew in an extra detailed puff at the shoulder and a shaped hem in three points. She's not wearing this lovely coat as she just refused to look tidy in it. And instead looked boxy and restricted like I'd made her a silk straight jacket instead.

I've saved it for another doll and another day after a bit of a fight. All Jane wanted was a shawl to sit in with her arms crossed. And I have to admit she does look more like herself.

The second problem she gave me was today when I started taking photos. I'd forgotten that in her pale dress with her pale blonde hair that she would almost disappear into my cream backdrop. And I missed the brightest part of the day to try and make sure that the photos wouldn't just show her round eyes.

I was really pleased that I thought of getting out my Jane Austen book collection and arranging her on top among the pages of the story that she came from. I think she looks quite sweet, and it did the trick of making sure you can see her soft wild hair.

I really enjoyed making another Regency doll as I love the style and simplicity of the clothes. Once I've finally plucked up courage I'll get started again on Darcy and Elizabeth, but for now I'm working next on a true fantasy - My take on Little Red Riding Hood :)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Joel & Hazel Jones - My little Cake Toppers

Now I've had chance to edit a few more of the photos from yesterday's wedding I wanted to share them with you.

It was a beautiful day, and as you can see the Bride and Groom looked fantastic!

The ceremony took place in a rustic converted barn, and after dark the guests send paper lanterns floating into the firework laden sky. The sun shone all day long, and the music and company was fab. It was a really lovely wedding.

I'd never seen the cake that my two little dolls were to stand on, and was really looking forward to seeing how they looked.

I was amazed to see that my little figures looked fantastic. They suited the Burtonesque wonky tipsy purple and black cake as if they had been made together. And I was relieved that after only seeing a few photos of The Dress I hadn't done too bad a job of making it's tiny doll copy.

It was so nice that they got a lot of admiration throughout the day. And I can't wait to see the photos the professional photographs took of them, rather than the few snaps I managed to take on my phone.

You won't ever see many photo's of me as I hate being in front of a camera and not behind one. So it's worth pointing out that the blonde in the blue faux fur you can spot in the mirror behind the cake is actually me. Not a very flattering photo mind you, but I can't deny it's me :)

I have to add as well that I love the little bugs made of icing that were positioned flying around the cake. It's a really nice touch, and really made the whole thing fun.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

My Little Cake Toppers

Just wanted to share my first look at my little bride and groom cake toppers on the wedding cake. They looked fab. Ans the wedding was fantastic. How often do you get to go to a wedding where the happy couple, bride in her fab glam purple dress, get up on stage and perform with thier metal band :-)
Lanterns were sent floating into the air. The roller derby team where looking fab in vintage style with sick tattoos. And I got to wear my blue faux fur. That's me you can see in the mirror behind the cake :-)