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Thursday, 27 May 2010

Sculpting Dolls - The Creagers

There are many wonderful books and videos out there to help the doll artists. The Creagers are amazing doll artists who have shared major parts of their videos to explain how to model a doll head using Super Sculpey

You can visit the Creagers at their blog or at their website.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A quick update

Adele Sciortino let me know she has a new site offering online classes - it is called A for Artistic and you can find it here.

The first three classes on offer are Viking Knit & Beaded Branch Stitch by Adele

or a Beaded Cuff by Adele
The Elder Elves by Peggy Wilson

and Gourd Penguin by Martha Boers
The cost of these classes range from $30 to $60 - what a terrific price for such wonderful projects. Why not check it out?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Books about Dollmaking - Susanna Oroyan

One of the key influential figures in Dollmaking, Susanna Oroyan, published a series of seminal books on dollmaking from the late 1990s through to 2004. Susanna was proficient in both clay and cloth media and was well known to many as an artist, mentor and friend who did a great deal to raise both the knowledge and standard of doll artistry in the world.

Susanna passed away in 2007 but her books stand as a legacy of her extensive knowledge or doll making, doll artists, and the elements that contribute to making a figure that makes a statement. Each book is beautiful to look at, each doll has been well photographed and the illustrations are clear in their demonstration of the technical aspects to be considered.

Susanna's books are not "pattern" books - but rather guides for dollmakers who want to evolve into more serious and technical aspects of their craft to create their own one-off, one of a kind figures. They are also an historical snapshot of dollmaking at an inspirational zenith and of interest to any collector who wants to inform themselves further.

Fantastic Figures: Ideas and Techniques Using the New ClaysThe first book published in 1995 was Fantastic Figures: Ideas and Techniques Using the New Clays . The "New Clays" refers of course to polymer clays such as Sculpey, Cernit and Fimo as well as Paperclay and there is a chapter dedicated to understanding the technical aspects of these mediums. The book also covers tools and equipment, armatures, sculpting the head and body, curing, finishing and painting, construction, clothing, accessories, display. There are many colour plate photographs and artists include Van Craig, Robert McKinley, Maureen Carlson, Gail Lackey, Patti Bibb, Katherine Walmsley and Susanna Oroyan herself.

Anatomy of a Doll: The Fabric Sculptor's HandbookAnatomy of a Doll: The Fabric Sculptor's Handbook (1997) really focusses on the art of the cloth doll and guides the artist from the simpler forms of elemental, primitive, simple and basic forms through to the fully sculptural, needle-sculpted, pressed cloth and fabric covered forms. The book covers all the standard considerations of the anatomy - with particular attention paid to the parts which give expression - the face, hands and feet as well as the posture and pose achieved through body contours, armatures, joints, bases and of course costume and so on. Doll artists included in this book include Virginia Robertson, Julie McCullough, Barbara Chapman, Antonette Cely, Sally Lampi, Jane Darin, Akira Blount, Tomiko Takahashi and Gloria Winer.  

Designing the Doll: From Concept to ConstructionThe next book was published in 1999 and was called Designing the Doll: From Concept to Construction . This is a book that will teach a lot about the thinking process a doll maker must go through to create a new piece or, as Susanna refers to it "imagineering". The book is about the process of making choices in doll design and construction and solving problems as well as some of the technical aspects and considerations that the artists needs to understand. This book contains over 250 full colour photographs from 130 of the top artists of the day and even includes some automata by Chris Chomick and Bill Nelson.

Finishing the Figure: Doll Costuming, Embellishments, AccessoriesFinishing the Figure: Doll Costuming, Embellishments, Accessories looks very specifically at costuming and the elements of design as well as accessories, furniture and display, photography and even safe packing and shipping practices for artists who need to ship pieces to buyers or to shows etc.  The costuming information provides detailed descriptions of the construction of both men and women's historical constuming and how to draft patterns to create clothing. Artists in this book include Charles BattePaul Crees and Peter Coe, Dan Fletcher, Akiko Anzai, Christine Shively, Annie Wahl, Martha Boers and Marianne Reitsma and Marlaine Verhelst.

Dolls of the Art Deco Era 1910-1940: Collect, Restore, Create and Play
 Dolls of the Art Deco Era 1910-1940: Collect, Restore, Create and Play (2004) was the last of Susanna's books and celebrates her collector's passion for dolls in the Art Deco era - there is information on the era, the types of dolls available to collect, the main doll manufacturers of the time and tips on caring for and restoring these collectible dolls. Many beautiful colour pictures describe the different types of dolls and there is also a gallery of "new" dolls inspired by the era made by many of Susanna's friends in the doll world.

So, if you couldn't afford all these wonderful books - which one would you buy? Well Fantastic Figures is ideal if you are especially interested in clay sculpted dolls but you could probably give it a miss if you are into cloth, although it does contain fantastic information on scale, proportion, armatures and so on. Likewise Dolls of the Art Deco Era is a beautiful book but more specialised in being about that particular era and style - with less information on actually creating and making the dolls. So that leaves Anatomy of a Doll, Designing the Doll and Finishing the Figure. Ideally, I would recommend all three but if you are really hard up for cash then I would certainly buy Finishing the Figure and recommend Anatomy of the Doll if you are interested in multiple media or Designing the Doll if you are particularly dedicated to cloth dolls. Certainly all of them are recommended for any serious doll club resource library. All of Susanna's books are available through Amazon (just click on the links above) or you will find them from time to time offered on ebay.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Doll Conferences in 2010

Going to a Doll Conference is a wonderful, intensive experience for any doll artist. Conferences maybe an annual event for a Doll Club or organisation; or the work of one inspired individual who wants to gather others to a particular time and place to share their passion.

While each conference has its own unique features - a typical conference will probably include the following:
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Workshops with a number of different teachers
  • A Welcome Dinner or Gala Dinner - perhaps featuring a key speaker. The Dinner may be themed or have a fun element to it (e.g. "Hat and Heels")
  • Free Demonstrations, Mini-Workshops, Round-table Discussion Groups
  • Fun Social Activities such as a Pin-Doll swap, Raffle, Annual Themed Challenge
  • An Artists Display area - perhaps work by the teachers, students or the results of a Challenge
  • Trading Tables - the opportunity to buy patterns, supplies or completed artworks from the teachers and others attending the conference
  • Side trips to downtown shops, local artisans, regional suppliers
As you can see, there are a lot of elements that go into making up a great conference but some may induce anxiety if you haven't been before. So here are some thoughts on each of them and what questions you need to ask - of yourself and of the organiser.

Accommodation -
should be at the location or close and easy to get to where the workshops will be held -e.g. hotel, motel, guest house, school/ university. Accomodation could be private or share. Bathroom facilities could be private or share. If accommodation is on a shared basis - you may be allocated a "roomie" if you are attending alone. If you prefer private accommodation be aware that it might cost you more than the standard rate quoted. If you have special needs - such as disabled access - it is best to enquire about this up front. Sharing a room with someone you don't know can be daunting but also an opportunity to get to make a new friend! You might want to discreetly ask if there is somewhere to store valuables (such as a hotel safety deposit box) if you are sharing with a complete stranger. It's probably also better to let the organiser know if you snore like a chainsaw, sleepwalk, are an insomniac or like to go to bed at 6.30pm  etc. etc. BEFORE the conference -rather than springing that lovely suprise on your unsuspecting roomie. If there is a single room available - it makes sense that you should have it rather than inflicting any of that on a poor, unsuspecting roomie.

Meals -
some or all of the meals may be included in your conference package. If you have special dietary requirements - then ask whether these can be catered for - most venues can cater for the usual dietary needs  such as vegetarian, gluten/dairy/nut/wheat free or kosher/halal dietary requirements - so long as they are given advanced notice.

Going to group meals can be daunting but remember -  you get to meet and mingle with other conference attendees. Don't walk into the dining room and sit down at a lonely table - find a table that already has a few people on it and ask if you may join them. Better still - invite people to join you!
Keep the conversation light - none of the big three topics (Religion, Politics or Sex) either in workshops or at the meal table please! This is not the time to espouse your views on universal healthcare, the death penalty or whatever the topic du jour is in the newspapers. You just know you are THE most likely to be sitting next to a person whose views are diametrically opposed to yours and nobody wants to hear about it from either of you - any more you want to hear about their husband's impotence, their struggle with alcoholism & drugs or the intricacies of their hysterectomy. Really.

Workshops -
there will be a number of workshops run by different teachers. Groups will be limited in size - usually teacher from overseas will fill their groups more quickly. It does not necessarily imply that they are a "better" teacher but rather that attendees perceive that this may be a "one off chance" to attend a class with that teacher. Workshops on offer may run the whole duration of the conference, or be a combination of 1, 2 or 3 day classes. It may be possible to attend the conference "part-time" and only attend one particular workshop or it maybe that all attendees are required to "full-time" because of the package negotiated with the venue.

Misunderstandings around workshops are probably the single greatest cause of discontentment in unhappy conference attendees. Here are a few pointers to make sure you know (and get) what you paid for:
  • Make sure you have a clear understanding what fees cover what elements - for example - the cost for the workshop may be included in the conference cost or ADDITIONAL to it.
  • Find out if there is a Workshop Kit  - again - is it an additional cost? If so - how much is it and what does it include? Is it mandatory or optional?
  • If you sign up for a conference, you may be asked to list your workshop preferences. If there is only one workshop you wish to do - seek clarification whether all monies will be refunded if you can't have your first (and only) preference. Similarly - what are the alternatives if the workshop is cancelled (for example - due to low numbers)
  • Make sure you understand what is going to be achieved during the workshop. You might fall in love with a doll and sign up for a workshop only to leave bitterly disappointed because the doll is unfinished. A good tutor should be able to map out what is going to be covered in the lesson and stick to the plan. Clarify whether the doll should be able to be finished in the time available or whether you will be learning a number of techniques which will allow you to complete the doll at home.
  • If the workshop requires a sewing machine and you are travelling from interstate or overseas - make sure that it is possible to rent a machine or that there is one available for you. Overseas travellers should check the power requirements of their machine is compatible (e.g. USA = 110v, Australia = 240V).
  • You should receive a list of requirements well before the conference as well as instructions and information on any pre-work that needs to be done prior to the workshop. Don't turn up without the requirements or without your pre-work done unless you want everyone in the workshop to give you the evil eye! There is nothing more annoying than someone who wants to wing it through by "borrowing" from everyone else - it's called being cheap people!
  • Pack well for the workshop. Don't take everything you own "just in case" - most workshop rooms have limited space - you don't want to be guilty of urban sprawl all over your neighbours. Make sure you label your tools - so that you go home with your own and not someone elses (or vice versa).
  • Be wary of any class on offer where there is not very much detail about the project, or images and a proto-type of the doll. Good teachers should be able to supply the organisers with a well-thought out submission as to what they are going to teach, the techniques covered, an image of the proto-type and so on. An organised teacher will also be on the ball about providing a list of requirements and any pre-work needed.
Challenges/Swaps etc -
Your inner critic may well loom large and make you doubt yourself. Participating in a Challenge will stretch your creativity. Some events may offer an optional critique - usually by one or more of the tutors. If so, then lucky you! Take the opportunity to learn from others about how you can improve on your doll making skills. A good critique will point out what you are already doing well and can build on further as well as pointing out (kindly and gently) what additional tips, techniques or skills you may need to focus on to take your dolls to a new level.
If you are going to participate in a swap - make sure that you do your very best work. Don't dash something off with the expectation that you will receive something better than you made. Do your best -always!

All in all, conferences are a wonderful time for everyone involved. They take an enormous amount of organisation for those involved in putting them together. Don't leave it to the last minute to book a place because you might miss out or the conference might be cancelled due to a lack of numbers. If you are going to attend then be supportive and get in early - otherwise there may not be a "next time".

So - with all that in mind - here are a few conferences that are coming up in 2010......

Annie Mayer Hesse has been running Magic, Mischief and Mayhem (better known as MMM) for several years - featuring a wonderful collection of teachers including herself, Pam Grose, Pearl Moon and others. Feedback and buzz about this conference is always so positive - Annie always organises a topline group of teachers.

The Joy of Jubilee - Cyndi Mahlstadt

Xiuying - Patti Medaris Culea

Marottes - Judy Skeel
MMM images used with permission from Annie Hesse.

When: 8 April - 11 April, 2010
Where: Best Western Hotel, Shelbyville, Kentucky, USA
Cyndi Mahlstadt - The Joy of Jubilee & Garden Pixie
Patti Medaris Culea - Xiuying, Lantern Maker
Judy Skeel - Cloth Marotte

The Canadian Doll Artists Association is a very active with international membership. They hold a conference each year and the standard of teaching never fails to impress. Many dollmakers from the US venture over the border to Canada to attend this wonderful event. Even the Aussies make the long haul flight to be there.

Spartacus - (c) Gloria Winer - used with permission - all rights reserved.

Canadian Doll Artists Association (CDAA) 29 April - 2 May 2010 Four Points by Sheraton, Mississauga,Ontario, Canada
Theme: Renaissance Dreams
Leslie Bailey - Designing Your Own Woodland Elf in Polymer Clay
June Cable - Figure Development in Felt and Refining Facial Features in Felt
Kate Church - An Inspirational Approach to The Doll
Chris Jammer - Expressions and Sculpt a Mini Soft Body Baby in Polymer Clay
Diane Keeler - Sculpting a Fairy Bust in Polymer Clay and Creating Beautiful Handmade Shoes
Elena Loukianova - Wall-Oh-Ghost and Inspirational Fantasy Art Doll in Polymer Clay
Wendy Lynne Reinhart - Creating a Soft Sculpture Face
Gloria "Mimi" Winer - Spartacus Full Body Fabric Sculpt Male

The next conference was one I had not heard of before - but one look at the line up and you know it's gotta be good.
Doll Gatherers
Date:  May 14 -16 2010
Where: Punderson Resort and Conference Center Ohio
Leslie Molen - Meow-Meow-Neko
Barbara Schoenhoff - South America
Adele Sciortino - Witch Doctor Wears Prada
Christine Shively - Passage to India and Beyond
Kathryn Walmsley - Mother Earth, The Centre of Our World
Mary Kochevar - Allusion and Open Classroom

I always think of NIADA as Dollmaking on Steroids because of the quality of the artists who are accepted in. Here is a little Youtube video that Antonette Cely made about the NIADA Conference in 2007.

National Institute of American Doll Artists (NIADA) Annual Conference
Date: 17 July - 21 July 2010
Where: SwissĂ´tel Chicago, Illinois, USA
Marlaine Verhelst - Container Doll with Air Dry Clay Head & Cloth Body
Ankie Daanen - "Big Belly Boy" Sculpted Doll
Deborah Pope - Needlesculpted Piece
Olga Roehl - Sculpted Piece
Stephanie Blythe - Marketing, Self Promotion and Pricing

Enchanted Doll Artists Conference (EDAC) is held annually and organised by a dedicated committee who bring it all together. It has a great reputation and has been consistent for a number of years.
Enchanted Doll Artist's Conference
When: 29 July - 1 August 2010
Where: Embassy Suites, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Theme: Cirque De La Lune
Teachers: TBA

Di from Di's Dazzling Dolls started retreats last year in Queensland, Australia. Obviously it was a big success because she's planning another one this year.
Dollmakers Retreat 19 - 22 September, 2010
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Royal Esplanade, Manly, Queensland Australia
Suzette Rugolo - The Pied Piper
Jenny Romano - "Flotsam" or "Jetsom'
Chris Boston - 2 Babies
Julie Barton - Whimsical Journal

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Believe - a Free Class by Linda Misa

Linda Misa is a wonderful doll artist from Tasmania, Australia. She has just launched a Free Doll pattern which you can access through the Yahoo Group that she has started. You'll find it here.
I've signed up  - she's so gorgeous how could you not?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Inspiration for a Doll - the Movies

Doll artists can take inspiration for doll from anywhere - nature, a single colour, a phrase or expression, a child's storybook, folk tales, a real life person, a different culture, a political issue, an historical figure and so on. There are so many wonderful movies with amazing costuming ideas that it's hard not to be inspired.
Consider for example the wonderful world of Pandora from the latest James Cameron blockbuster. Not just the creatures dreamed up but the whole beautiful, lush world they enhabit. If you are inspired to make a fantasy creature ask yourself - what environment do they live in, how do they breathe, communicate - experience all the senses. How do they dress and show individual identity, rank, importance or role. What weapons or articles would they use and carry?

What about the magical creatures that are just over the bridge in Bridge to Terabithia?

Alice In Wonderland is a perennial favourite with Doll Artists. I am sure the 2010 version by Tim Burton will spark another frenzy. It's so interesting to see how art directors and costume designers play with such defined characters like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts or even Alice herself. Johnny Depp is almost unrecognisable as the Mad Hatter (as is Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen - love the Bobble head look!)

Of course, we can't forget the always spectacular Lord of The Rings Trilogy. Firstly - my personal favourite the Ents.
Those interesting creatures - the hobbits .....
(Photo credit - Pierre Vinet)
Then, of course there were the ever luminous elves......

(Liv Tyler's gorgeous headpiece is absolutely glorious....)

Not to mention Gandalf with his wizard's staff and amazing hat, Aragon, the Riders of Rohan,  - even the baddies- Gollum, the Orcs, the Witch King - all provide enormous inspiration to the doll artist.

But perhaps your 'thing' is realism and historical dress? Well of course if you love the Elizabethan period there is Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Elizabeth the Golden Age....

If you fancy a bit of Ante-Bellum charm how can you go past Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind?  The white dress with the green sprigs and ribbons which Scarlett wears in the opening scenes is very iconic - but I've always adored the red dress she wears to Ashley's birthday party - looking every bit the Scarlet Woman!
or perhaps you're a bit of a fan of the Victorian period - what about Emily Blunt in Young Victoria?

Maybe Chicago inspires you to make a doll from the Jazz age?

Or my personal favourite by Francis Ford Coppola - The Cotton Club?

Which movies inspire you with your dollmaking? Do you love fantasy films or realistic ones? Are you a sucker for a costume drama? Which movie makes you want to hit the sewing machine and try to recreate a character? Share some inspiration.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Free Dollmaking Resource - Adele Sciortino's Newsletter

Adele Sciortino is a dollmaker originally from the US who now resides in Canada. Her work is completely stunning - she is well known for her very detailed costuming and embellishment. Her dolls are always presented properly posed with suitable props and a base upon which it is displayed.
(Image 1: Music by Candlelight - (c) Adele Sciortino - used with permission)

Journey Woman's Fish Tale (c) Adele Sciortino - used with permission.
Ming - Origami Gypsy (c) Adele Sciortino - used with permission.

Adele has a fabulous quarterly newsletter which she offers free to readers - all that is required is a quick registration - according to the latest newsletter there are over 3000 subscribers for her newsletter. It's not hard to see why! They are PDFs with wonderful colour photography and in depth articles about the various topics which to date have included Santas, Mermaids, 18th Century Fashions, Elizabethan costumes, the Art Deco period and so much more. It's an essential read for those who are serious about creating art that's "a cut above".

Neptune's Daughter (c) Adele Sciortino - used with permission
Adele's gorgeous creations don't stop at figurative sculptures. She also creates stunning beaded pieces such as beaded cuffs, necklaces and so on.

(All images (c) Adele Sciortino - used with permission)

I caught up with Adele's latest news via email. She is working on two new classes, is planning a workshop in Italy and launching a new online class "A is for Artistic" in March. The workshop in the Tuscany area of Cortona, Italy will be May 25 to June 1 of this year. The trip includes workshops with Adele but  apart from that there is a wonderful list of things to do including a Renaissance Festival, Tuscan Cooking Class, visits to local Etruscan Museums, a day trip to Florence, a farewell wine-tasting dinner and all meals, accommodation and more. To find out more or (better still) to book your spot - you can go here .

Australian readers will be happy to know that Adele is also scoping out a possible visit to Australia to teach her workshops. If you have a doll making group who would like Adele to come and teach, or you are an individual who like to attend a workshop you can contact Adele to let her know you are interested. I know I am!

Apart from all that activity Adele also runs the Figurative Art Consortium Conference on a bi-annual basis. 2009 saw the last one with a wonderful line up of teachers including Adele, Marilyn Halcomb, Pearl Moon, Barbara Schoenhoff, Wendy Rinehart, Edwina Sutherland and Peggy Wilson. Apart from the workshops, there was also a Shoe-Delicious Challenge,  a Vendor's Market, Pin-doll swap and Auction, hands on workshops and a whole lot more! The next Conference will be June 9 -12, 2011 at the Algonquin College in Otowa, Canada. with a theme of time-travel, hot air balloons and starships.

Adele has also produced a beautiful Figurative Art Calendar which is available from her website. She is currently working on the 2011 Calendar which is her fourth. This very busy lady has also just started blogging too - you will find her blog at be sure to bookmark her blog - it will surely be worth reading!

Thanks to Adele for sharing her plans for 2010 and beyond and for her permission to use her images. Be sure to subscribe to her wonderful newsletter - it is chock full of information for doll artists.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Cloth Doll Making Books - Patti Culea

Good books about dollmaking are not overly common occurrances. Some of my absolutely favourite ones are by Patti Medaris Culea. The books provide wonderful "eye-candy" and inspirational "galleries" where different dollmakers have interpreted the patterns in their own, unique way. There are also interchangeable patterns (from Book 1 through Book 4) and wonderful step-by-step instructions - particularly for that challenge for all doll-makers - the face.
Book 1 is still my all time favourite - many's the night it has come to bed with me for a bit of late night inspiration! The patterns range from a simple pancake face and single piece arm and leg doll (which can still look stunning - it is the pattern used on the front cover!) through to a pieced head with multiple piece arms and legs. The face instructions in book one are excellent and then expanded upon further in Book 2 - Creative Cloth Doll Faces.
Patti's background was in portraiture and her doll's faces are instantly recogniseable as "hers". Despite this talent, Patti has a wonderful way of breaking down the construction of the face so that even a novice can create a well proportioned and detailed face on their dolls. Instructions for colouring the faces covers not only pens and watercolour pencils but also crayons, dyes and other media which gives different looks to the doll.
Book 3 - Creative Cloth doll Couture, expands upon the great role costuming plays in contributing to the interpretation of a character. The constuming ranges from tailored clothing through to "illusion clothing" and once again the gallery sections are full of inspirational dolls - all made from Patti's patterns but interpreted in so many different ways.
Book 4, which was done in conjunction with Annie Mayer Hesse, looks at beading as a way of providing embellishment to the doll. This is not just simply beading here and there - the instructions are easy to follow, but the effect is to add a level of complexity to the surface of the doll which is beautifully done. The section by Annie on beaded faces provides an amazing alternative to face colouring. Patti has more recently been exploring flat dolls in a series of workshops with her good friends Barbara Willis, elinor peace bailey and Betts Vidal. This new direction led to her 5th book, Creative Cloth Explorations. The wonderful thing about this book is the layering of different textile media to build up the page. A lot of the concepts can be added to as an adjunct to Patti's Stargaze Arca and Tome patterns.


Welcome to my new blog which is entirely dedicated to art doll making.

Art dolls encompasses dolls made from all types of materials - from cloth to clay to felting, found objects and mixed media - art dolls encompass the sweet, the weird, the fantastic, realistic, faerie, fantasy and even occasionally the grotesque. Needless to say it is not antique porcelain or rag dolls (or teddy bears)  - but hey - in the world of Art Dolls - never say never!

The art doll world is (in my mind) in a bit of a state of flux at the moment. I am hoping to create a space that you will want to come back to for inspiration, news, techniques, freebies, interesting links, interviews with dollmakers and more.

So welcome - leave a comment, tell me what you want to know more about.