Thursday, January 14, 2010

Benjamin Franklin

Yesterday I finished a doll I had been thinking about in between holiday stuff in December. I didn't actually get started on it until January, but I had been mulling over ideas about how I wanted to portray a favorite historical character of mine. This doll is a bit different in style for me, because I made the chair he is sitting on. It is covered in wool upholstery fabric and is a style I think Ben would have sat in in his day. It has wood and leather legs and is fastened to a wooden base I painted a deep raw umber to resemble wooden flooring. You can't see it well in the photos here, but it has a seat cushion and a high back with solid sides.

I searched through photographs of paintings of Ben and it appears that he was quite a portly chap. In some paintings, I am not sure if it was the coats he always seemed to be wearing, or the posturing, but he seems to be coming right out of his chair. In the chair I made him, he fits without much extra room. He is a man who fills the space! He was also, well, balding a bit, and that made it a bit of a challenge for a flat painted face.

I modified the body proportions I had used for my Ambrose Bierce doll quite a bit. I ended up stuffing him firm and then wrapping further cotton wadding around his mid-section. I plumped up his arms and legs as well.

His costuming was really fun to do. Probably the most fun of any doll I have done to date. His coat is rayon upholstery fabric with a cotton sateen lining. It has Swarovski crystal buttons. The breeches and vest are a green sandwashed rayon that feels like washed silk. There is decorative edging, which is basically machine embroidery and free machine dinking around. His stockings are silk charmeuse, which was stretchy enough to pull up over his feet and calves. His blouse is off-white silk and has a fancy flouncy neck tie and ornate cuffs.

The shoes are buckle shoes, black silk taffeta. The shoes gave me a bit of trouble, frankly. I had originally started them in leather, but they just were disproportionately large. I pared them down to a thinner silk taffeta and added polymer buckles that I painted silver. I procrastinated for a week about the shoes. I gave him a little handmade book that has a silk fabric upholstery fabric cover and off-white paper pages. I also made him a magnifying lens from polymer and sheet plastic for reading.

Finally, his hair started as white mohair that I dyed gray shades. I think it turned out pretty well, considering how much I pull my own hair out putting in "real" hair. The top of his head I left a bit bald. I styled the hair by steaming, and I think it came out quite well.

I'm really happy with portly old Ben. You'll have to let me know what you think.


  1. I think even ol' Ben would approve - he's fabulous!!!

  2. Cindy - this is FANTASTIC! Each one of the historical characters keeps getting better and better! This is Ben to the T!! When will your book be coming out?? Just fabulous!

  3. I think he is awesome... Everything looks so good!

  4. Cindy, he is amazing! Fabulous likeness!

  5. He is awesome. Love the outfit and the expression on his face. You are very talented.

  6. Thanks so much for all the support. Appreciated it!

  7. Wow! How did I miss him? He is fantastic--you did such a great job on the face and neat to see your dolls evolving!

  8. Thanks, Ivy. This is probably my favorite doll I have done. He is not the most handsome, and certainly not the most svelte, but he apparently was quite a lady's man. I really had fun making his costume. Never clothed a portly doll before!