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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.