Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dollmaker on Thursday : E J Taylor

Some time last Millennium I bought a dollmaking book from a charity shop (That's a thrift store to you) by
  E J Taylor.  That book became one of the wisest things I have ever bought and I kept it with me through financial trouble, homelessness, divorce and emigration. It is one of the very few books I made sure I brought with me in my suitcase when I left the UK.

 The Miss Pollys and the others  wouldn't have been possible without this book; not just because of the instructions and the patterns, but because Mr Taylor inspires you to have a go.  

In the introduction he says:

 " don't have to have professional aspirations to create beautiful dolls Anyone who understands the basic techniques can succeed." 

He goes on to say that if you run into problems, fabric is cheap enough to start over,  but that mistakes sometimes look better and give character to a doll. The freedom this gave me, just to plunge in and try stuff, meant I was less frustrated by mistakes and am more prepared to try something new.

E J Taylor is probably best remembered in the UK for his Ivy Cottage series,  which he wrote and illustrated with gentle images of charm and sweetness.

His own dolls are gorgeous creatures, with expressive faces full of character. They clearly have their own past, their own story.

 They wear clothes of rich texture and subtle colour. The gowns themselves have an identity, narrating the tale of the doll who wears them.

If you're interested in artists, in costume, in dollmaking or in the fabric arts. please pop over and see some of Mr Taylor's dolls. They're worth the trip.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Green Fairy

Well, someone mentioned Absinthe (you know who you are) and I had to stop wallpapering to rustle up 
La Fée Verte

Absinthe was much vilified as a drink and had attracted lots of romantic associations since its ban.

 I must admit, I was a little disappointed to find the green fairy doesn't give much in the way of visions or dreams.

It does seem to be poisonous to Vampires, though, so I ought to keep some about.

For skeleton-bending instructions and more, see here.

And, for those of you with harder hearts and stronger stomachs, I have other, less fortunate fairies in my collection.

You can see more here. But remember, you have been warned.
 Not for the faint of heart or tender of soul.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sneak Peak

Marie says 'Hi!'

Dollmaker on Thursday: Noel Cruz

Ok. Look at this.

Voldemort, right? In all his creepy glory. 
And yes, it's a doll.

 But, before Noel Cruz got his skillful hands on it, it looked like this
Not the same thing at all. This Voldemort is clearly just a plastic doll. 
Faithfully modeled and painted, but just a plastic doll for all that.

 Want another look?

Even more amazing close up, right?

Noel Cruz is a re-painter. He takes quality factory-made dolls, cleans off their painted faces and repaints them. It sounds pretty simple and it's a simple process to describe. However, the effect he, and artists like him produce on those blank, vinyl masks is breathtaking, bringing life and expression to faces barely an inch high.

Like this.

or this, where we can see the original and the re-paint side by side.

Or (be still, my beating heart) this

There's some controversy around re-painters, which I guess I don't understand. Doll re-painters, of which Noel is one of the best, have a lot to teach other dollmakers about how much paint and shade and colour can make the faces and emotions of their dolls come alive. I learnt everything I know about painting 
dolls' faces is from the skills of these wonderful artists.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Skeleton Fairies: Tutorial

There is an updated tutorial
on my Steampunk blog

Yes, I know this is a creepy photograph, Skeleton in a poke bonnet peers at some sort of device...

I saw these wonderful, wonderful beauty queen skeletons at Pinkbuttercreme's

at the end of September and featured them here because I was so smitten with them. 
I wanted to make my own, to hang on my Halloween tree.
 I wanted them to look like they were flying, rather than dangling, s
o I needed a way to bend them and have them retain a pose.

So, I've been boiling bones *cue maniacal laughter*.

 I'd read about these technique for shaping Barbie hands into a more naturalistic pose. 
For the life of me, I can't remember where I read it, 
so if someone has seen such a tutorial please let me know?
So, to bend a skeleton,  
you need a bowl of very hot water, 
and another bowl of ice cold water.

And you need to be sensible.
 Hot water will scald and burn. 
Use tweezers, haemostats, tongs, to keep
 precious fingertips out of  very hot water.

Bend the skelly arm or leg or spine and immerse into the hot water. 
Hold it  a moment and then, PLUNGE it into the icy cold water. 
It seems to be the sudden chilling that helps the plastic hold its new shape. 
The skeletons dismember pretty easily, which means you can attend to each set of limbs separately. 
 Wearing dark robes and having a servant called Igor are not necessary,
 but if it helps you get into the mood, fine by me.

 The skelly can hold any pose you want, within reason, 
although I couldn't get the fingers to stay curled or the arm to move out from the shoulder. 
Once the skelly is posed how you wish, you can embellish it to your heart's content. 

This is my first,  Mother Crow.

Here she is with her friend, Cuthbert.

And I'd have more to show but my glue gun broke! What's a girl to do?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dollmaker on Thursday

Hannie Sarris was a Dutch dollmaker, who made ethereal, serene dolls from air dry clay.

 Her website tutorials introduced me to paperclay and its use for dollmaking.

She developed paperclays and paints for dollmakers to use and her sweet  influence can be seen in the work of others. She gave classes, published books and  most wonderful of all, posted free tutorials on her website.

Hannie died last year, after a long fight with cancer, and she is sorely missed by the dolmaking community. I'll let her creations speak for themselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I won this book

A long time ago in a country far, far away, (England, to be exact,) I was just starting out and I had two cookery books, 'The Pauper's Cookbook' and 'Cooking in a Bedsitter'. They were perfect, for my student poverty and my greedy appetite and neither of them are available now. Cue Sadface :(  

 But now I have a replacement!  I entered a giveaway on Beverly's Back Porch   for cookery e-book  called 
Tight Budget, Tiny Kitchen, and No Time: How to Eat Well in Your First Apartment  

And I won! Yes! So, a  HUGE thank you to Beverly and to Angie Ballard, over at The Jammie Girl for writing it

Angie's book is not just a cookery book, It's a shopping guide and a lifestyle guide and it's full of warm, sensible advice, presented in a palatable way. It makes penny-pinching into a kind of adventure, where you can play the game and win, keeping the wolf from the door with simple, tasty, heartwarming recipes. 

If you're a new couple, or a student, or a change in your life means you're counting your change, you'd do well to buy this book. If your bunnies are leaving for college, this would be a thoughtful gift, along with a stock pot and some basil seeds.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dollmakers on Thursday: Deridolls

If you're of an artistic bent, you need to join Deviant Art. Don't worry about the name; it's no more deviant than Blogland and just requires the same sort of sense. But if you make or craft or cook things, this is a showcase for your own stuff and best place to meet others of the same persuasion.  Every level of skill is there and I've never come across any nastiness or poor social skills. Try it. Let me know if you do.

Mary Tudor, to show scale

I've found a lot of doll makers there and my choice for this week is Deridolls. The artist is Portuguese and she makes tiny, sweet little cloth dolls, with the most charming of simple faces and the most amazing detailed, historically correct costumes fitted to their tiny bodies.

She's not limited to the sweet, either. The gristly subject of Judith and Holofernes is treated with the same charm and care.
I love the crosses for eyes!

She takes commissions and makes dolls from books and video games and films. She's opened my eyes to all kinds of historical portraits and always posts a reference when she shows a new doll. And she's always helpful and supportive of other doll makers.

Harry and Hedwig

Please go over and see her dolls.  They're all charming, gorgeous little bundles of love and care and amazing skill.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Miss Polly

This is more about taking pictures of the doll, than the doll itself  Any critiques or advice would be welcome as I'm about to take the plunge and put her on Etsy.
Pensive Polly

Polly is a cloth doll, with a cloth head covered and sculpted in paperclay, painted with acrylics and sealed. She has Tibetan  lambswool hair, dyed in kool aid. (generic, but it's just as bright as the real deal). Her body and limbs are sewn from hand-dyed  (with tea, actually ) cotton, She wears green dupion silk knickers, a cotton lawn waist slip and a dress of ivory dupion silk and embroidered tulle lace over green tulle (Thanks, Cindy!), with a green satin ribbon sash. Oh, and little black glove leather dancing shoes.

Too much detail? Here's a picture!
Polly Rules!
She's about so big and she has bent knees, for sitting. and wired hands, for holding things ( a hat,  flowers, rabbits, ten dollar bills, whatever).
Posing is hard work!

She was fun to make, which, I guess, is the most important thing. She's nice to play with, too, 

Cindy's Blogging 101

See that lovely new blog header up there? And the sweet little blog button? That was all given to me by the wonderful, the amazing Cindy over at Whimsical Musings. 

And if you're a blogger (if you're not blogging, you need to get busy) you need to get over to Cindy's place and read her blogging lessons for newbies. They're helpful, useful and short and thankfully free of lectures, pedantry and scary HTML stuff. The first one starts here . Do your blogging self a favour and get over there.

Oh,  and when you've read it, grab her button, because you're going to be going back there. Cindy's a blogging guardian angel.