Thursday, December 20, 2012

Amethyst. Not a Christmas Elf.

When I tell people that some of my doll heads
 are made of leather
they pull a face,
like I've made some kind of 
monstrous mask of rawhide.

I can understand that 
'leather head'
doesn't seem like a 
pleasant description of a doll.

Amethyst is a cloth doll
whose head is made of
stiffened and moulded leather.
I actually made her about seven years ago, 
and she came back specially
for a photo shoot.

I started making dolls
 with leather heads
because I wanted to make cloth dolls
with three dimensional profiles
and realistic features.

I'd tried felt
and I'd tried cloth over paper mache
but neither of these had been satisfactory.

Then I saw some moulded leather masks at a craft fair.
Remember those, way back in the 90's?

I had to guess at how they were made.
Fortunately for me, my first attempt,
using thin leather soaked
 in diluted PVA (white) glue 
worked well enough.

The leather was draped over a cheap bisque doll head,
and pushed and moulded into shape.
I found I could influence the expression of the doll, 
depending on how I squeezed and shaped
the leather while it was drying.

Usually the leather dries to a warm yellow.
 Like Bess, here.

Amethyst, however, is painted.
And she's painted because
I buggered up the original  face.

Originally, she was going to be a boy Elf.

But I had real problems
getting his face to look masculine.
(Even for an Elf.)
He got cute ears, though.

So I made him into a girl
and she belongs to my dear 
sister-in-law, Cherie

Amethyst has a gown of vintage green satin
and lilac silk,
with a dark green velveteen bodice.

She has little green leather ballet shoes
made over a tiny last.
Green glass leaves hang from her chain belt, 
and she wears
an enameled and jeweled headpiece 
and over-sized brooch to match.

The jewellery was the original inspiration
for the design of the dress.

She even has a green leather dagger sheath to match her shoes.

With removable dagger, obviously.

I didn't know how well the 
leather heads were going to last, 
when I first made them.

But Hubby has a little boy doll
I made over ten years ago, 
and it's exactly the shape
and the colour is as bright
as the day it was made.

And I'd make more
and put them on Etsy,
I just still don't know how to describe a
leather-headed doll
without it sounding a bit

Talking of creepy,
this is my Christmas door wreath.

"And then let any man explain to me,
 if he can, 
how it happened that Scrooge,
 having his key in the lock of the door,
 saw in the knocker, 
without its undergoing any intermediate process of change 
-- not a knocker, 
but Marley's face..


  1. Wow! What a beauty! The details are stunning and I, for one, have no problem with the "leather head" description...your work speaks for itself, regardless of how it's described! Also, the Marley doorknocker is absolutely AWESOME!

    1. Thank you so much! Maybe I'm being squeamish about this, and don't need to be?

      I'm glad you like Marley! He is resting inside today; there's some fierce winds out there and I'd hate him to fly away, like the real Marley.

  2. Amethyst is so pretty. Love her dagger. The leather head technique sounds really cool and came out very nice!
    I wouldn't worry about how it sounds. I'd just put in the description that her face is made of leather. That doesn't sound so bad!
    Love the door knocker! What a cool idea! I have a friend who looooves A Christmas Carol (he even bought a gown to wear like Scrooge's!). He would LOVE this idea.

    1. Oh, thank you! It was fun, getting together all the bits for this doll. The little dagger used to belong to Hubby. I ought to get him a replacement.

      You're right, maybe I should just come out and say how it's made, and then see what people think.

      You friend has a Scrooge-style nightshirt? How wonderful!

  3. she is a beautiful doll, Rhisanna. I, as a complete ignoramus in doll making, would have never understood that the doll's head is made of looks nice and indeed natural. so carry on, moreover, if you like ti this way, why not?:)
    have a great day! Anna

    1. Thank you, Anna. And yes, that makes a lot of sense, thank you.

  4. Your doll is amazing! Truly she is stunning! A leather head, does not bother me. Funny how it would bother some people? Your creepy Christmas wreath is cool! Have a very Merry Christmas ;o)

    1. Thank you so much! Maybe it's just me, then? It might be because I see it when it's all wet, gluey leather, before it becomes a doll head.

      I'm glad you like my Marley Wreath!

  5. Amethyst's hair look like human hair, isn't it?
    Cool doll...

    1. Oh! You're very clever to spot that! Yes, indeed, it's human hair, from a nice (new!) hairpiece.

    2. I see... that's why the hair shine so natural. keep your work.
      Although I don't make any doll, but I learn something new from your blog.
      Stay cool...

  6. I have heard tell of leather faced dolls, but never seen one. Very clever, very charming. I really like her delicate lips!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeri! I don't suppose there's many leather-headed dolls out there. I know when I started making them, way back in the 90's, I couldn't get any information. The internet was much smaller then!

  7. She's lovely:) I've seen dolls that had faces made with chamois leather. They were made in the 1920's as boudoir dolls. I don't know where you'd get chamois today. My dad used to buy it in pieces and use it to wipe down his car after he washed it...LOL It was so soft when it was wet but dried hard as a rock til you wet it again.

    1. Oooh! Thank you, Mary Ann! See, I didn't know that 20's boudoir dolls had chamois heads. That's what this leather is, white-glue-soaked chamois! It's pretty tough when dry, as you said, and the glue adds some strength. I've always assumed if they got wet, the heads would turn back into mushy leather.

      You can find chamois sometimes. the problem is finding a big enough piece. The stuff I used to get in the UK was old-fashioned and cured with some kind of fish oil. Yah, it smelled awful! Took a year or so for the smell to fade!

  8. Here I found one for you.....

    1. Thank you so much for the link. Jane is a cutie!

  9. Oooo....there is much here to comment on! OK,that doll, her face is SO LOVELY! LEATHER????? How on earth do you do that?Do you get a special leather for dolls? It is truly gorgeous my dear Rhissanna and then.....those lines from A Christmas Carol....I will never forget them as when I was a child, reading this story over and over gave me chills! I saw the old 1951 movie the other night and it really captured the creepiness of Marley's ghost!


    1. Thank you so much, Anita! it's just ordinary chamois leather like you can use to wash cars and windows. It goes very soft in water, which makes it possible to drape and fold the stuff into shape. I add PVA (white glue) to the soaking water, to make sure the leather is strong and a bit flexible when dried.

      I keep meaning to do a tutorial. When I started doing this, a little over ten years ago, the internet was still a baby and I couldn't find any instructions or guides.

      Oh, yes, that's a good version! Hubby and I watch the Muppet's version, with Michael Caine. It's surprisingly close to the book and we know all the songs!

  10. I find this very intriguing, a doll face made out of thin leather. It reminds me of the Martha Chase vintage dolls and other German vintage dolls. I could see an Izannah Walker doll face made this way, it may just work.
    Amethyst is beautiful, even though she was to be a boy elf.
    I adore her clothing and sword and embellishments...very, very lovely.
    Have a Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you so much, Teresa. I'd forgotten how pretty her shoes were. It was a wrench to give her back!

      I really ought to try and make another, as my father-in-law tracked down some of the right leather for me. I'll have to look up Martha Chase dolls. The name is familiar but I can't remember what her dolls look like. You're quite right! An Izannah Walker would be fun to make this way as the leather takes paint really well.

  11. I think the idea of leather heads sounds very authentic, very old world. I think it makes them seem more valuable. Great idea!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! I had rather expected to find that leather was a traditional material for dolls' heads, but there don't seem to be many around. Kid leather bodies, yes, heads, not so much. But I'm delighted to hear they sound authentic. The material moulds to shape so well, I'm not sure why there aren't more dolls like this out there.

  12. Rhissana...on gosh ! I love this doll ...her face is absolutely precious.....

    1. Thank you so much, Colleen! I was surprised that the leather was such a good medium for acrylic paint. I made her about seven years ago and the paint looks just as fresh!


Thank you all for the wonderful and supportive things you say! I'm thrilled to read them and I reply to each one.