Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Fashion Designer's Request - Custom Art Doll

Over quite a long period I've been working on a very special custom doll order for Ashley Pearce of Mystic Magic -
Ashley had used one of my dolls as a part of his fashion shoots in the past for Project RED (!project-red/c11ss ), and wanted a special doll for his upcoming Redemption Collection (which you can read about on his blog here - ). I was thrilled to work with him to make the doll that he imagined.
PS - Sorry for the link overload but Ashley's work is well worth the visit to have a look at. He has some truly amazing pieces.

On the last link to Ashley's blog you can see a newspaper article with a tall net like mask structure next to the man himself while he hold the crown as worn on Strictly Come Dancing, and this was the mask he's chosen for the inspiration to our doll, who we named Katrina.
The list of requirements was simple and well thought out by Ashley to match his new collection, and included that the doll would be Black and White only, would have a miniature mask for the doll to match the full sized version he had made, and a dramatic gown. And over a few months we worked together to come up with a design to meet his needs. I searched far and wide for just the right lace netting to use, and sourced a beautiful off white bridal silk to make Katrina's dress from. The headdress was an issue for me as I'd never made anything like it. But at first I put thoughts of it aside and concentrated  on her gown.

Of course when dressing a doll you start with the underwear, and after giving Katrina stripped black and white drawers I worked on her silk shift. This needed to be tightly gathered around the neckline as I knew it would show in the finished costume, and the soft light Haboti silk allowed me to pull tiny gathers that sat very prettily almost but not quite off the shoulder. As Katrina would need to be held and carried I decided against making her a stiff wire crinoline as they can make the skirts very unwieldy and make odd movements. Katrina needed softer bulk to hold out her wide skirts so she could easily move and sit in any position Ashley needed, so she got layers of cotton and heavy cambric petticoats to make the same effect.

Once all these layers were in place Katrina already weighed a fair amount and I hadn't even started on her gown, which is were I met my first problem - getting the bulky lace net and heavy bridal satin to work together as one piece of fabric. Now it may not look it, but the skirt hem is almost a meter and a half wide and made in two layers. I had no idea how I'd even get so much fabric gathered around Katrina's tiny waist (in the end I had to resort to the heavy strong vintage thread I use to string the dolls arms and legs to be able to pull it all so small), let alone how to get the ridged satin and stretchy lace to sit comfortably together. But after some experimentation I laid it all out on the floor and very carefully tacked the lace to the satin at a few inch intervals all through the length and width, making sure that it wouldn't sag when I held it up. In fact I hung it that way for a few days in case any unsightly bulges appeared that I'd need to fix. Next the lengths were hemmed and the bodice and sleeves made up in the same way.

One of my favourite things when making my dolls is the decoration, all those tiny little details that make up the finished piece and make them shine. And Katrina needed beads - lots and lots and lots of tiny shiny glittering beads.
From the neckline of her bodice trailing downwards, and from her skirt hems trailing upwards lie wandering trails of silver lined and jet beads. Each of them individually strung and sewn into place, creating a second web over that of the lace and concentrated on the front right side of her skirts. To add even more glitter I then glued around 300 tiny crystal diamante all over her dress which catch the light when she moves.

Katrina's hair is made up of mixed smoke grey and black marabou feather fronds. And around her neck is a wide black organza ruff edged with more of the tiny silver lined beads. She looked just perfect to me, but the mask I had ignored was looming large now and needed to be made. How to make such a thing was baffling! And I sought the help of my dear American friend who specialises in wire crochet (well, all types of crochet and jewellery making) if she could help. Of course Dear Linda agreed straight away, but the poor thing was just about to have surgery on her eyes and her recovery took longer than she'd have liked before she could work on such a small scale gain. I'm happy to say that she's all well now.

I can crochet myself, but the neatness needed for such a thing as this mask was not something that I was confident in. And Ashley came to my rescue when a friend of his was willing to make us the needed crochet panel for the mask. So after taking some careful measurements and a short wait the exact panel I needed arrived in the mail from Amanda. Exactly the size and shape that was needed.
I measured again and made up a wire test piece to make sure I could fit the mask to the doll when the Crochet piece was attached, then very gently wet through and blocked the panel on a cork board. To get the right strength of wire to hold the shape I plated together three strands of thinner wire rather than use a thicker one so that my stitches would have something to hold onto rather than them slip about of the frame. Then I carefully shaped the area to go across Katrina's face. The wire I used was plastic coated black so I knew it would scratch her eyes or face, and I hope it'll last through time as wire isn't a material that I'm used to using. I pinned and then sewed the crochet panel to the frame, adding more wire around the sides and top to make sure the shape held. Then added wire straps to go behind her head, through her hair, to hold it in place.

After the last bends and tweaking to get the wild curve to the top of the mask Katrina sat before me looking beautiful and regal in her gown and mask. She's not like anything I've ever made before, and I've learnt so much while making her. In the end she was very hard to part with as I'd fallen in love with her, but I knew that she was going to a good home with Ashley. And now I can't wait to see what he does with her and how his wonderful Redemption collection looks. I truly hope he gets to show it off on that catwalk. xxxxxx

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Joker - DC Comics Art Doll

Styled after the costume worn by Heath Ledger in the 2008 The Dark Knight Batman film I made my fiest version of this doll for my husband. He now lives on our mantle with my doll collection, and I’ve made this version in my small size for you. For me, no one will ever make a better Joker, but the character will soon return in the new The Suicide Squad film now in production.

I love the costume designed by Lindy Hemming with the strong colours and scruffy roughed up look of his suit. To add the scars to his face I’ve carved jagged rough lines and then covered them with smudged red to match his lips.

My Joker has a smoky blue shirt with a black tie under a grass green waistcoat finished with glass bean buttons. His trousers and Jacket are both deep Cadbury purple with marks of dirt and smudges of the white make-up he uses on his face. His dirty, greasy green blonde hair is slicked back from his scared painted face.

He weighs approx. 45g, and she is 27cm tall.