Friday, December 18, 2009

Gentlemen Prefer

It occurred to me yesterday that I never did post my Lorelei doll on my blog. This past summer, I spent probably 100 hours creating and fussing over the doll I made for the Dimensions in Dollmaking 2009 event. The theme for 2009 was "Make Me Laugh." I love Marilyn Monroe and her work has always made me laugh, so I decided to create a doll that would resemble her Lorelei character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I used silk for the costume, sequinned and hand-beaded it for endless hours, with beads along the neckline to resemble diamond jewelry. The top-hat is hand-beaded and sequinned to match. She's got some cute little black silk high heels and fish net stockings, and she looks ready to entertain you! The doll made it safely to San Diego and back this past fall and eventually sold to a dear friend, Carol Jones. I want to show it to you now, if you haven't seen it already.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wonder Woman

As is the custom, I spent this Thanksgiving with my husband's family in Syracuse. My sister-in-law, Sue, graciously hosts quite a motley crew for Thanksgiving Day, and we all eat to excess and catch up from where we left off at the last gathering. Since I really admire my sister-in-law for being such a sport year after year, I thought I would make her a doll that would be her, but in a more dramatic style than she would assume in her day to day life. I chose Wonder Woman as most closely representing her true nature, and set to work making up a Suzanne as Wonder Woman doll. I failed to take pictures when it was actually ready to give, since I didn't have the base done until the last minute, but I got a couple photos of the doll at the mostly finished stage. The actual base is white and on the bottom it reads the following:

"Wonder Woman is a member of an all-female tribe of Amazons (based on the Amazons of Greek mythology) who was created by William Marston in 1941 as a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a 'world torn by the hatred of men.'” Her powers include super strength, super speed, stamina, and flight. She is highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat and in the art of tactical warfare. She also possesses an animal-like cunning and a natural rapport with animals, which has in the past been presented as an actual ability to communicate with the animal kingdom. She uses her Lasso of Truth (which forces those bound by it to tell the truth), a pair of indestructible bracelets, and an invisible plane, which was later replaced with an ability to fly unaided.

In addition to possessing all of the above skills and talents, Suzanne has prepared and endured countless family holiday meals and get-togethers whilst wearing a pair of indestructible bracelets, thus earning her this award of recognition."

I think that about sums it up. I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and had time to get together and gab, which is the part I like best about the holiday :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mary Read, Pirate Bucko

I just finished my second pirate lass yesterday, Mary Read, friend and comrade of Anne Bonny. Mary, the poor girl, died of fever whilst in prison, but only after a number of high seas adventures. The story goes that Read remained dressed as a man and no one knew she was a lady pirate until Anne Bonny developed a bit of a crush on her. The misunderstanding forced Read to reveal to Bonny that she was in fact a lady pirate. The famous Calico Jack Rackham, who was Bonny's lover, became jealous and threatened to deal with Mary Read. To prevent Read's death, Rackham was also let in on the secret. At some point Mary fell in love with another man on deck, who had the poor sense to offend a pirate superior. Mary, fearing that if she didn't intervene, would suffer the loss of her lover, challenged the offended pirate to a duel. Once the duel was begun, Mary flashed the pirate her bosom. Her opponent was so stunned, he was caught off his mark, and Mary took the opportunity to mortally wound him! Good thinking, mate!

I started this doll with men's white cotton under drawers, same as Anne Bonny. I gave her a yellowish-beige chemise with lacy edging, and a blue silk bandana. Her hair is mohair dyed a warm dark brown.

I painted her face as I would imagine her, quite a bit darker than the first pirate I did. I like how it came out.

I added a black vest, navy breeches that are worn and ripped, some black suede boots, a red band at the waist to hold her weapons, and a black pirate's hat. For weapons she got a large sword, which she wears at the hip and a pistol, which she has ready at the waist. She is again 12" tall, all cotton body, mostly cotton costume. I put her on a wooden base, which I will likely paint black at some point.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Anne Bonny, Pirate Lass

After finishing my last character doll, Olive Malvery, I asked my friend in London if she had any other interesting characters on her list of fascinating women. She sent me a photo of Anne Bonny, a 17th Century real Pirate of the Caribbean! Thinking that female marauders are entirely under-represented, I couldn't resist.

Thinking that the 12-inch size doll I made last time is really quite convenient for placing on shelves and so on, I started with a body similar to the Olive Malvery doll. I made her quite pale skinned, as Anne Bonny was of Irish descent.

I gave her a bit of the wild-eyed, slightly fierce look with some extra shading and coloration. I also gave her auburn locks made from alpaca.

Back in the day of lady pirates, corsets and stays were de rigueur. I am doubtful that a gal wielding double-bladed swords and packing a pistol was likely to be bothered with such silliness. Instead I gave Anne a man's white cotton chemise. I also gave her a man's drawers, which were made of slightly lighter weight fabric than the chemise, since I would be putting breeches over top. I edged the undergarments with a pink thread embroidery just for fun and added a pair of Ultraleather black pirate boots to the ensemble.

With the underthings sewn on, I added a pair of man's brown britches, a dark brown jacket and a pirate hat. I also gave her a plaid neckerchief, but later removed that, as it wasn't quite right.

At this point, she was looking a bit, well, fashion runway. At the suggestion of my husband, I distressed the clothing, which meant rubbing a pumice stone over the pants and jacket, which gave the clothing some holes and wear. This was actually quite hard (emotionally) to do after all that hard work, but I think it was worth it for effect. I made weaponry (a cutlass for her to hold, a saber worn at the side waist, a knife, worn in her shirt, and a pistol worn in a striped hip sling) from polymer clay that I painted with acrylics. I added a plaid headband, changed the hat, because I didn't like the first one, and added a plaid band to the hat's crown. I also neatened up the face a bit and painted the base black. I'm quite pleased with the finished doll. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daughter of the Empire

A friend who lives in London and who likes to read and write about women living in interesting times, has turned me on to a rather fascinating Edwardian woman by the name of Olive Malvery. My friend sent me a funny photo of Olive doing undercover work as a flower girl on the streets of London. Olive was a writer/photojournalist who went undercover, seeking employment in a variety of blue-collar settings, as well as spending nights and days amongst the poor in order to investigate the lives of the working poor of London. My friend is doing quite a lot of work herself, investigating Olive Malvery, and I thought it would be fun to make her a doll likeness of this most interesting woman.

As I said in my last post, I have joined in to do a traveling doll in January. In order to save on postage, since the dolls will be traveling across the world, it was suggested to me that I should make a small doll. Not wanting to wait until then, I worked up a 12" doll body and decided I would try that one out as the Olive Malvery doll. I also thought it would be fun to take photos of the work in progress. Here, I am going to share them with you just for fun.

Here is Olive as she started in a combination undergarment, which is a white cotton corset cover and drawers combined. It is sewn onto the body and does not come off. At this point I had designed the body, which looks a lot like the collaboration one I am doing with Deena, but quite a lot smaller. She stands 12" tall and has one leg with a brass rod that screws into a wooden stand. I added black silk boots, the face and hair. At this point the face is not quite right, perhaps a tad too Italian, and Olive is of East Indian descent. I will be tweaking it as I go along. Keep in mind that the face is flat, and only about 1-1/4" in height. To start I was not sure I could draw a face that small, but in the end I am satisfied.

From there, I put on the petticoat, which is the same white cotton, It has a flounce and a panel at the back to add a bit of fullness and bustle so that the final skirt lays correctly. This is all sewn to the doll and is not removable.

Next came the blouse, which needed pintucks and some loose sleeves. I used machine embroidery to anchor the tucks, make the neckline and attach the cuffs. Working the sleeves into the armhole was a bit challenging for me, because the armholes were so tiny.

Once the undergarments and blouse were sewn into place, the only thing left was the hat, skirt and accessories. Interestingly enough, I was most worried about the hat, which is kind of silly, since making hats is one of the things that comes more easily to me. Nevertheless, I wasn't sure how to proceed. In the photo of Olive, her hat is quite large. I didn't want to make a hat of quite that proportion, as I thought it would hide the face too much and make photographing the finished doll too difficult (one must always be practical :0). So instead, I scaled it down a bit, made a couple of padded wire frames (one for the brim, one for the crown) and attached black silk velvet. I then sewed that to the head and added the plumage.

Prior to placing the hat, with all the costuming, and things being pulled on and off over the head, the face took a bit of a beating. I also felt it wasn't quite right. I added more paint and defined it a bit, neatened up the hair, and felt that overall she was right. From there I added a 4-gore black silk taffetta skirt.

Finally, the accessories. I took a piece of black silk dupioni I had and fringed it for her shawl. I couldn't find a basket small enough, so used a wooden napkin ring and glued a wooden disk to the bottom for a barrel type basket, had John drill holes on either side, and made a twisted bronze-colored copper wire handle. The flowers I found in the bridal section of Michael's.

So, she's finished. Hurray! She is going to live in London at some point, though my friend tells me there is a postal strike there in the UK, so perhaps she will have to wait just a bit. Hoping she likes being at home in London. She ought to, as it's where she lived her life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have been a bit possessed by the idea of collaborations lately. My doll group, Art Dolls Only, started an annual traveling doll project last year. I decided to join the one for 2010 and can hardly wait to jump in. The main groups are 6 people, each starting their own doll, which is then passed on to each other person in the group to do their magic upon. When the doll has finally passed to the sixth person, it is then returned to the originator. In this group, people have all sorts of skills and talents, and work in a variety of mediums. The possibilities are endless.

Wanting to get my feet wet ahead of time, I contacted a new friend in Michigan, Deena Maurus Both she and I are at the moment strictly cloth doll makers, and both, I think, a little intimidated with the idea of working with polymer clay. Quite a lot of the ADO artists sculpt in various clays, painting, glueing, sewing, and all sorts of things as they go. I have little experience with sculpting, other than pinch pots and things like that they get you to struggle along with in college art classes. So, before I was thrown into the fire, so to speak, with a collaboration involving so many different techniques, I asked Deena if she would collaborate on a cloth doll with me just for fun. She agreed and was very enthusiastic (she is always enthusiastic, so the perfect person to collaborate with). She is in the middle of some other things at the moment, so I cannot predict when I will be able to publish her completed work on the doll, but she has tremendous costuming abilities and I am frothing in anticipation. When it is done, she will keep the doll and it will likely be used in some way for one of her charitable works. In any case, here is what I sent her, so that you can see what a cloth doll might look like sans clothing. It is about 20" high, had a metal rod running up one leg that is then screwed into a wooden base. The legs can be bent and posed. Her face is flat and painted. She is quite naked! At the moment, we are calling her "Naked Alien Doll" because she looks quite bizarre. I did try draping ropes over her head to see what she would look like with hair (see above), and I think it is quite a lot better. I also put a feather boa around her face to see what she would look like if she were a snow bunny. I have no idea what Deena will do with her, but I can't wait to see.

The faint of heart should look away right about now :)