Friday, August 20, 2010

Making Dolls

Not A Tutorial, More of an Explorial!

It has been many years since I tried my hand at dollmaking. As you may recall me mentioning, I had tried to make dolls for my dollhouse when I was quite young but with very little success. I tried again in my teen years, wanting to make something elegant and Victorian and wishing I could do porcelain, but again, with little success. I vaguely remember a salt-dough concoction or two that just didn't work and died a natural death. I remember trying to carve a wooden peg doll and managed to make one that was very un-handsome and rather uneven in the legs. He managed to stay around for a few years, but I think I gave him into my boys' keeping and he wandered off somewhere and never made it home again. I did carve a larger scale "Penny Wooden" doll, about 16 inches tall and fully articulated joints in those teen years (her picture is my icon for this blog) but she was much too large for dollhouses. In my early twenties I made a whole series of cloth fashion dolls, again much too large for dollhouses, and in my mind they were less about the dolls and more about the costumes. I made clothespin "dolls" in elaborate costumes for Christmas Tree ornaments, and I even made a costumed "Santa Clause" figure or two for Christmas decorations. But somehow, none of those "count" in my mind as dolls! They weren't meant for playing with. They never became little people with personalities who inhabited a little house somewhere. And when I think about it, it is one of those little oddities that my dollhouse never had any dolls that really lived in it! Why that is so is a question I have not been able to answer. Perhaps because the "right" dolls never came along. Perhaps because I could never decide what the "right" dolls were supposed to look like. Perhaps because I could not possibly make "real" the hazy figures of my dreams. For whatever reason, dolls for my doll houses are an ongoing puzzle to be solved. And I have to wonder whether it will only BE solved when I CAN make the figures that I have dreamed of!

So you can see that the subject of making dolls is not a simple one for me. I am afraid my aspirations are way beyond my current skills. I simply have not practiced making dolls enough to be confident in my methods. I know there are wonderful tutorials all over the place, but even so, you kind of have to get in there and muddle around a bit with the materials until you get a "feel" for it. At least I am old enough and wise enough to know that my first attempts are going to be funny looking little people! And so, to accommodate for that, I decided to start by making funny looking "old people" dolls for the Castle Dollhouse.

Here, I'll show you what I have managed so far.

This is the Old Crone who resides in the kitchen. I don't know her name yet.

Oh, and while we are at it,

I should show you some of the improvements I have made to the kitchen!

The pottery jars I collected many years ago at a Fair held by my son's school - I have forgotten the potter's name.

And the hearth fire has lighted flames as well as the painted ones!

And the bread oven has a glowing coal fire!

I purchased a beautiful iron trivet and some fire andirons with spit hooks on them, as well as a little iron kettle which needs to have patina added to it.

I promised I would show a picture of one of the references I have used as inspiration for the Castle kitchen. This is an illumination from the one of the tales of Boccacio's "Decameron" painted around 1430, showing birds being roasted on a spit before the fire - complete with a tray for catching the juices!

Here you can see the doll in her early stages..... but because this is NOT a tutorial, I have not included pictures of all the steps to get to this point!

You can also see the lantern that hangs from the kitchen ceiling.

A close-up of her un-wigged head and partly sewn body.........

But you can see that her "character" is already showing!

Here she has her hair added - I used natural sheep wool.

Sorry the next picture is so dark, (Castle kitchens ARE dark after all) but here she has gained her under-skirt which I have made from a very fine woven wool - a material they commonly used for all ranks of society. And she has a shawl draped over her shoulders.

And standing back, you can see a larger shot of the Castle with the Great Hall starting to have some details worked on.

Oh, and another Doll-in-the-making has come into the kitchen to keep warm by the fire until they find him some clothes. I am not sure whether he is the Baker or the Butler, or someone else altogether.

Oh, dear, the fires are not lit at the moment!

And is there NO privacy for the poor half-made fellow?

That's better! She has the fire going now.

And you can see she has her gown on now, and it too, is made from very fine wool!

She's very proud of her kitchen fires!

Ah, and now he has found a wool blanket to wrap up in while he waits for the seamstresses to sew his clothes!

He just might need a haircut too, before he's ready to take up his duties!

Whatever they turn out to be!

Or maybe he will grow a beard - to look more like the reference picture.

I think he looks kind of cute for an old guy!

I think I'm making progress making Dolls!
Or are they really little people?


  1. You did a great job! your little people look very much at home in the castle!

  2. Betsy dear, you should be really proud of yourself! These are your 1st 1:12 dolls? They are ADORABLE! And they really bring the kitchen to life with their banter! No bantering yet? Not for long :).

    You did a fab job with the lights and yes the flames and sparkles . I can feel the heat :). Almost magical. Your kitchen has all the right accessories now . This project will be your pride and joy :).

  3. Thank you too for sharing the reference illumination. I really enjoyed that :).

  4. Has hecho una buena ambientación, me ha encantado tus personajes, muy populares. Para mi hacer personajes es imposible, para ti posible con más práctica.
    Besos Clara

  5. They are really wonderful. You should make more and more!

  6. I love your dolls and I love how the castle's coming along! Everything looks and feels wonderful!

  7. Thank you Margot! I am hoping my skills will improve so I can make some "pretty" dolls as well!

  8. Hi Sans! Thank you for your words of praise about my little people... they have "character" and will probably (as you have surmised) start to banter with each other very soon! No telling WHAT they will come up with... so stay tuned!
    I'm glad you liked the illustration.... I am hoping to get organized enough about my blogging so I can find and include more of them! I LOVE the history they impart to my story and I love doing the research part too..... it is amazing the little details you see in the paintings once you really start looking for them..... as I'm sure you know.
    And thank you for being such a faithful visitor to my blog! :)

  9. Hi Clara, and welcome to my blog! I WISH I spoke Spanish, but I don't.... and I haven't figured out how to translate comments! :( Please forgive me while I learn these things.... and be assured that I appreciate your comments! Thank you for visiting my blog.

  10. Hi Heather! Thank you for your vote of confidence! I have a feeling I am going to be making many more.... albeit slowly as there are so many things that need doing! But now that I have started to populate the Castle, I know there will have to be many "characters" involved!I am looking forward to meeting... er... making every one of them!

  11. Hi Nina! It's nice to have you back in blogland again! As you can see, I have been dividing my time between the various projects.... but that just means that I AM making progress on ALL of them! It's the Posts to blogland that I am way behind on...... might never get "caught up"! I'm glad you like the little people.... and just WAIT 'til you see what I've been doing to the Chapel!

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