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 :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

According to Deena

"Things are not always black and white."

I was very excited to see late last night that my new friends Deena Maurus and Abi Monroe had put together a lovely treasury (please click on it to have a bigger view) featuring some of the doll artists from the Etsy team Art Dolls Only, and I was featured! Actually it was Deena who put the treasury together. Doesn't she have an artful eye? And she is one of the most supportive and creative people you will every meet. She was also kind enough to post my Dimensions in Dollmaking doll on her blog this week (I will be posting about that myself sometime soon). Abi is ADO's resident etsy treasury expert. If you need info on making treasuries, she is the go-to gal. Both ladies are wonderful emerging doll artists. I believe both have only been making dolls for about a year, and already they have accomplished loads! Both make beautiful art dolls that should not be missed. Please visit their blogs, where you can find out more about these terrific women.

Thanks, Deena. Thanks, Abi. For including me in your interesting and beautiful world!