Monday, 28 May 2012

Charlotte & The Peg Dolls

I really love making my Asylum dolls.
There's just something about them that make me happy - they sooth my own worries, and understand my excentricities (didn't want to say maddness, but ok).
There is something so vunerable about them, and at the same time many of them have a hidden strength. They always wait quietly in my imagination until I take notice of them and get started on bringing them to life, unlike some of the nosy bossy demanding dolls that won't leave me alone and haunt me until they sit before me finished.

Charlotte is the largest Asylum doll I've made, in the largest size of doll I make at the moment. I have dreamms of one day making a doll big enough to sit at my dining room table. But that's a long way off yet. And I have to convince Hubby it's a good idea and not creepy first.

I spent a while trying to decide how I would dress Charlotte because I wanted her to have a very feminine shape. So I decided that I'd make her between one of the dramatic changes of style during the Victorian period, just after the decline of the huge crinolined skirts but before the narrow skirted high bustle back shape.

Charlotte’s clothes were once smart and neat, now they all but fall from her frame. Over her drawers, shift, corset and basic petticoat she has a supporting shaping petticoat that’s gathered in back and has row after row of gathered lace ruffles down the back. At her time the fashion for wide crinoline skirts was fading, and the high backed and narrow bustle skirts were still a few years away.

She doesn’t wear a support bustle or hoops under her day dress as there really wasn’t a need for them around the house. She really loves her bright red and white checked petticoat, and was once very proud of her blue patterned dress. The cold Asylum affects poor Charlotte’s hands, and she managed to gather just enough black wool to crochet herself a pair of mittens. And the strong rough fabric of the straight jacket them make her wear to keep her quite rubs her skin.

Charlotte was once a young wife and mother happy in her new found role in life. But everything changed for her on one tragic horrific day, and now she’s left alone and confused at The Asylum where her family have committed her. A lot of the time she carries on her day to day routine, ignorant of why or where she is. But unfortunately there are times when she remembers all and can’t stop herself from screaming and raving at the memories she has. She has no help. And the worst of her attacks are met with beatings and torturous “Cure Treatments” from the nurses and wardens. No one will listen to her – All she wants is for someone to tell her where her baby is. Is he ok? When will she see him? Will her remember her?

The little peg dolls I was making came flying along, and now 5 of them are finished and dressed, smiling at me from the mantle shelf.

This little lady is Dot, and she's the very first little peg doll I’ve made as a grown up girl, and it’s her that made me see just why they are so much fun to make. She’s a patriotic little thing just in time for the Queen’s jubilee.

She wears a pretty red check dress with sweet little puffy sleeves, and a white apron.

Lolli is one of my first tiny little peg dolls. She’s not quite sure if she’s as regal as her clothes would suggest. But she’s a happy little thing with a jolly look in her eyes. She’d love to perch in a sunny spot and bring a smile to the faces of people that see her.

She has a very lavish soft paisley satin dress trimmed with lace at the hem and cuffs, with a highly gathered lace ruff around her neck. Her petticoats have an extra ruffle, and because she is so light she’ll actually stand on her own.

Mary is a shy retiring little peg doll. A Regency lady doing what Regency ladies should do. But hidden away deep inside her is a wild streak, and she needs someone to take her away from her stern family and let her have some fun.

She has a white voile gown with a flowered white green and dark red bodice and sleeves. And she’s trimmed up her sleeves and added a sash of dark red satin to match. The fabric of her skirts is just stiff enough to allow her to stand on her own.

I'm also really happy that this little lady will be flying off to live with the lovely Cynthia, who some of you may know from her beautiful Faries Nest dolls :)

Faith is a very determined little peg doll, all dressed up to go see her favorite Goth Rock Band. She’s very particular about what she wears, and very carefully choses each piece to give her the exact look she wants.

She wears a skirt very similar to one I wore myself as a student, one of the first pieces of clothing I ever made myself. And I still have it in the back of my wardrobe. She has a tight black corset worn with separate puffy sleeves, a black sating chocker, and a layered black lace skirt, very gathered at the waist and falling to the floor. Just to finish things off she’s added two little jewels to her hair and breast.

(Once apone a time, many years ago, my hair was this color. I miss it sometimes :) )

Sal is a sorry scruffy little urchin peg doll. She helps her mother sell flowers at the corner of Whitchurch Street in the East End of London, and the few pennies they earn each day get them a little food and a bed to share at one of the dark dreary logging houses a few streets away for the night. She works hard. If she doesn’t she knows she’ll be sleeping in a cold damp doorway again.

She has a marked and stained dark red petticoat, and a course wool bodice. When her Mothers shawl got torn beyond repair she made little Sal a wrap-around shirt or tunic to try keep out the chill.

I enjoyed making these little lovelies so much. And I can't wait to dive back into my fabric treasure box looking for just the right bits for the next ones :)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Charlotte At The Asylum, And New Ideas

It's been a lovely week this week.
The only fault I can find with it is that I wish there had been more time for doll making and friends.

Like all of us I get caught up in all the day to day rubbish of life, and days, sometimes weeks, pass between me thinking of getting in touch with someone and me actually doing it.
It's a bad habit, and one I really hope I can break soon. Or I might just find myself with none of my lovely friends around and slowly becoming the recluse I know is hidden in my head.

I've been busy with my dolls - Ruby is all finished, and Charlotte here just needs her straight jacket and the layers of years of dirt and wear she would have accumulated at the Asylum. I've also been working on a new idea (more about that later).

So far Charlotte is looking quite sweet and tidy. Just as a young woman from 1862 should.

But I can see in her eyes that something is a little wrong with Charlotte.
She's not told me yet what it is that troubles her, or why she's been committed to the Asylum. But a part of her is missing. An important part of her heart is gone and she's very reserved about dragging the pain to the surface to share with me.

I've given her her underwear and petticoats designed to build up the shape in her skirts. At this time skirts shape was changing, and Charlotte would have last been fashionable between the time of the huge wide crinoline skirts and the narrow bustled behind fashions.

Her skirt is narrower than the really full over the top ones, even more so as she's wearing a neat day dress. But it's started to have the fullness at the back making her rear look high and full.

The weight of the fabric is gathered at the back with ruffles of lace for her second supporting petticoat. And her top fancy petticoat and dress skirts have been gathered and pleated to add to the fullness.

All Charlotte needs now is a little trimming to finish off her gown before I start on her straight jacket or restraint.

Here you can see the natural unbleached and pre-shrunk calico that I'll be using to make this with, and some of the straps for her arms and the back of the jacket that I've already sewn.

You can just see her small lace cuff and black crochet mittens just above the straps. And although I know that once she's wearing her restraint you won't actually be able to see this detail, I'll know that it's there. And if at all possible for my sewing skill I'd really love to make the jacket removable.

I finished off my Vampire custom order, and I've fallen in love with Ruby and her flame red hair.
I'm just waiting now to make sure she's as Anita wanted her before I send her off to her new home. But in the mean time she's sitting prettily on my mantle shelf in between all my photos so that I can see her as much as I can while she's here.

I really need to remember to make more Vampires. They are so much fun to make, and you can really do anything you like with thier costume - make them in any style, from any period.
Ruby has a 50's look with a little 80's mixed in. I love how her hair falls over her face, and her sharp teeth and dark lips :)

And now to tell you about my new idea, so if you think its rubbish just keep it to yourself or my feelings will be hurt :)  Like many of the doll makers I know I have a problem. Basically, I'm an addict - Fabric, buttons, lace and trims, I do my best to keep my spending to a minimum and only buy what I know I'll use reasonably soon (unless it's stunning of course). And if I think that the little off-cuts and scraps I get from making clothes for other dolls or clothes for myself could ever possible be used they go in The Box. I just can't bear to throw away these pretty little bits of fabric, lace and ribbon, and my bits box is overflowing with tiny treasures. It's also another reason why my long suffering Husband thinks I'm nuts!

So... I wanted to find a way to use up these bits and pieces. And I also wanted to find a way to make sweet inexpensive little dolls that I can sell to my lovely customers but that wouldn't cost as much as my larger dolls. I knew I had a price gap in my shop that needed to be filled, and have wanted to make a little doll that can be used as a decoration for ages - Just how to do it.

I thought of making busts, but would lose out on the sewing part which I really enjoy. Or a frozen charlotte type doll with half painted and half fabric and trim clothing. And I still might try these ideas too. But one of the things that came to my mind were the cute little peg dolls I used to make as a kid.

I loved those dolls, and spent ages carefully drawing on their little faces and scrounging scraps of fabric, ribbon and buttons, making princesses and fairytale characters, playmates for my Barbie and Cindy dolls, and just making them so I could have the fun of making a new outfit. So that's what I'm making. I've gone back to my childhood and am making my own tiny series of Peggy Dolls :)
So far I've sculpted some faces with tiny round eyes on a number of pegs as a trial because I still want these little cuties to look like my dolls, in my style. Once they are dry, smoothed, painted and wigged I'll be diving into that scraps box of mine to find them some suitable fabulous outfits :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Vampire And The Asylum Doll In Progress

It's been a busy week.
A busy week in both a good way, and in a not good way for those I love. The sun has shown it's face around here for the last couple of days, and I actually wore a summer dress today!!!
I've managed to get a lot of work done to my dolls, which I always enjoy, and I found a couple of great Vintage dresses in local charity shops. Plus, I finally finished sorting through the bedroom and getting everything organised and put together neatly. I won't go into details about the sadness in my life and in the lives of my friends. Needless to say if I could take their pain away I would do it in a heartbeat. If only it were possible...

To talk about dolls...
At the end of last week I started to sculpt a new doll for Anita. A lovely little Vampire who I've named Ruby for the time being. She looks quite small here sat next to the second project I'm working on (close your eyes if doll nudity shocks you), but it really is just because my next Asylum doll is very tall.

Ruby is a cute little size, and the more I work on her the better I feel about her. You can't see her sharp little teeth in these pics yet as I haven't set them. I'd rather not get bitten by my dolls as I work on them, and I'll be using a lovely soft charcoal coloured satin for her skirt and don't want to snag it.

I tried something new with Ruby. Anita asked me to make her look like she's just left her grave, so as I was painting her body and limbs I added a very fine wash of grey to her skin. Unfortunately it doesn't show up well in the pictures, but as I hold her here in my hand the touch of gray has added a real other-worldly look to her.

I choose to give her shiny black shoes and a dark burgundy red for her lips, making her skin look even paler. If you look close at her face here you can see the little groves in her bottom lip where her teeth will sit.

Now that she has her underwear and bodice on Ruby is starting to look the glamorous Gothic part.

I've given her a little pair of black lace knickers, and a mass of lace and black netting petticoats to hold out her skirts which will come to just knee length.
Her bodice is layered over with more black lace, and she's already looking very pretty.

After I sew her skirts from the dark gray satin I have I'm planning to find some fabric with another nice texture to make her a little cropped jacket so that she can have some more details added to her - After all, what lady from her time would be seen out with bare arms and no gloves!

Last of all I'll add in her sharp little teeth and give her a full head of rich bright red hair. I'm flying along with her clothing now that I'm started, and I should be able to start on the final details next weekend when Ruby will get her last little bits and be slightly roughed and frayed to add to her grave look.

I'm not really used to sculpting one doll at a time. I usually like to sculpt a big batch of arms, legs and bodies while I'm in the mood as it can get to be very tedious. Then I work on faces and clothing as I go along, or if I know who I'm making from the start I get all of the faces done in one go too. Get all the messy stuff out of the way as I've not much room here to keep things out to dry - I really wish I had my own room.
So, to get to the point, while Ruby was drying through all the stages of sculpting and painting I began working on another doll. This one a large Asylum doll.

So far this lady has her underwear done - A pair of split crotch drawers, a knee length shift with a wide gathered neckline, a black corset, a plain white petticoat, and a stiff cream cotton petticoat that has one long ruffle in the front and rows and rows of lace ruffles filling up the back. At the moment this seems like a very odd petticoat, but it's there to provide the right shaping for her dress. This lady is from around the 1860's, just as the extra wide skirts were disappearing and just before the back heavy bustles and narrower skirts came in. Once her next red checked petticoat is added and pleated onto the back, with her skirts attached in the same way, this wide skirt should have a slightly trailing shape, fuller in the back than in the front.

I have a beautiful dark blue patterned fabric I'm planning on using for this dolls dress, but I'm not totally sure of it quite yet. She's on hold now until Ruby is done, and I'll only get a little done to her over the next week. This is the largest doll I've made for my Asylum series of poor unfortunate women. But as I looked at her big blue eyes and the way she tilted her head I couldn't resist. She came out just as I wanted her, with a slightly vacant melancholy look. And I know that once I'm done she'll look just as I see her in my mind. Her dress once she's done will have drop shoulders to her narrow sleeves, a simple day dress without the trouble of a crinoline or bustle that she would have been unable to dress herself in without help. And I'm going to try and make her restraint removable so that it can be tied differently or removed as wanted. I always find it scary when an Asylum doll gets to the point when I need to attack their carefully sewn clothes and make them rough and dirty. And I can see it being even more scary this time because of all the extra detail I'll be able to add because of her size. It's odd, but I'm really looking forward to it.
I think that may mean I'm nuts! :-S

Monday, 7 May 2012

Hester Prynne & Her Little Pearl, Plus A Little Vampire In Progress

Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl are the wonderful characters from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter. And I made these art dolls after being recommended and reading the book by a very lovely lady that a few of my other dolls now live with.

This wonderful tale leads you through the story of Hester and Pearl from the time of her imprisonment and public shaming for her out of wedlock affair, which resulted in her falling pregnant with Pearl.

She refuses to give up the name of the man that was the other half of this shame so that he can also be punished, and the reader quickly learns who this man is.

Hester shows tremendous courage facing her exile from society alone with her small child. And although she has the option of just leaving the community she stays to be near the man she loves and suffer the penance she truly feels for what she has done. The odd goings on with those around her, from the cruel doctor that is someone from Hester’s own past in the mother country to the old woman that everyone believes is a witch – The story is full of detail and beautiful imagery.

Hester and Pearl are both dressed in period correct Mid-17th Century outfits with white cotton shifts, stiff stays, bum rolls and petticoats as underwear. Where Hester’s outfit is quite plain and simple, Pearl’s is over the top with decorative details.

Pinned to Hester’s breast is the infamous Scarlet Letter, sewn by hand onto silk in red and gold threads; the public sign of her shame, and the symbol of her indiscretion. She keeps the rest of her clothing plain and austere to match her feelings of penance. As the living symbol of what she has done, and the direct result of her affair, Hester dresses Pearl in the best fabrics she can afford, using her incredible skill to decorate her daughter with fine lace trimmed collars and cuffs to go with her embroidered red satin gown.

I've already got started on my next project - A little vampire for a lovely lady called Anita.

I don't have a name for this little one yet as she's a special order and Anita has yet to let me know what she'd like to call her. For the moment I've been calling her Ruby which will probably end up being a middle name. Really I think I've been watching way too much Supernatural. But how could I do without Dean, Sam and the dreamy Castiel :)

It's been such a long time since I made a vampire. I'm really looking forward to making this doll, and I can't wait until the clay has dried thoroughly and is ready to be sanded and painted.

So far, Ruby has has layers of paperclay built up over her wooden base. Her arms and legs have been shaped, her eyes set in, and her teeth temporarily added. As you can see her sharp little biters are at the moment in back to front. Just to make sure that the holes I'll finally set them into don't close up as her face dries.

Once Ruby is painted and varnished I'll cut the sharp sewing pins down to size and use a tiny dab of glue to make sure they stay where I want them. She has a certain cheekiness to her look at the moment. I can already see she's out to cause trouble. And as she'll be heading to Anita and my little doll Patsy I'm sure she'll have a great time with her beautiful cats. It was so nice to see a photo of one of my little dolls all comfy and welcome cuddled up to Anita's cat :)

I've given Ruby slightly longer legs than usual as I think she should be a tall and glamorous Vampire.

Anita came to me with a fantastic idea for her doll, and she'll be dressed in a mixture of Victorian clothing with modern Gothic details. I need to make her look like she's come from her grave, with a slightly roughed up appearance. I've not quite decided what fabric I'll use for her yet, but my brain is already trying to decide on the details for her full but short Victorian skirt.

I'd like to add a full bustle type bow and some swags to her outfit, along with satin bow garters for her stockings and long black lace gloves. But it all depends on the fabric and what it will do.

Ruby's eyes are a pair of vintage amber coloured buttons which have turned a very attractive deep dark amber colour now that they are set. Her lips need a little refining, as well as her hands and bust area. I just can't wait until she's dry.
Why does paperclay take so long to dry when it's cold and wet outside?

Think I'll go pop Ruby on the radiator to see if I can speed things up...