Since we’re talking about woodsy characters, I thought now would be a good time to introduce Dawn Schiller. Her work encompasses sea hermits, odd fae and mythological beasts, each with its own charming character. Her shell- and pod-dwelling hermits (seaseidh and seedseidh) are just adorable and, like Kevin Buntin, they have great little back stories.
Schiller’s larger works are freestanding, which is an admirable feat of engineering in itself, but their costumes and props only add to their character. Check out her green man, below, with the canework leaves. I admire people who can do canework, because I’m terrible at it myself!
As if all this weren’t enough, Schiller gives back to the dollmaking community by running a YahooGroup called FairlyOddFae, which focuses on fairies that don’t look like happy, chubby children or naked supermodels with wings. Her work is living proof that odd faes can be every bit as appealing.
One of my favorite websites is DeviantArt.com (warning, there is occasionally adult content at this link). I haven’t figured out yet what kind of voodoo it is that makes all the art on there so good. My best guess is that the art isn’t really all that good (after all, they let me post my scribbles there) but that the software makes it easier to find the good stuff.
Doll art, unfortunately, is rather sparse on DA, although I’m finding more of it all the time. One recent discovery (for me, at least) is Kevin Buntin. Buntin does the kind of work I want to do: he invents woodsy, folksy characters with tons of personality, detailed costumes and long, involved backstories. His website is designed to look like a storybook, which is an apt metaphor for his work, but the real treasure trove is his DeviantArt page, which contains more than 230 pictures of his work. That’s why there are so many in this blog entry; I just couldn’t resist them all!
But just in case you didn’t admire his talent enough already, there’s more. Many of us who have the dollmaking bug enjoy the multi-disciplinary aspect of it. In other words, we make dolls because we don’t just want to sculpt, we also want to make wigs and shoes and, in Buntin’s case, little books and furniture and crazy tassels. His tiny, handmade blank book is amazingly detailed, and check out the acorn chalice made for his “oak man.” His surreal “faery tassels” are a hoot, too.
Kevin Buntin is associated with Duirwaigh Gallery and I certainly hope to hear more about him as time goes on. What a great talent.
In honor of Pirates of the Carribbean III (and in an unrepentant attempt to capture search engine traffic), I’ve decided to show you some pirate dolls today.
This first one is an homage to Johnny Depp as the inimitable Cap’n Jack Sparrow, by Wendy Rinehart. Like all her work, Cap’n Jack is amusing, well-posed and well-costumed. He won an award from Jack Johnston, the creator of ProSculpt polymer clay.
My second offering is from a website called Spookbot. I haven’t found the artist’s name yet, but her adorable vintage-inspired dolls reveal a well-developed sense of style bordering on the modern spooky-primitive dolls I’ve blogged about before, but with a broader color palette. All her work is for sale, and at reasonable prices.
Finally, my favorite of today’s offerings comes from a relative newbie to the doll scene. Coming from the world of 2-d fantasy art, Patrick Keith is a real Renaissance artist, producing digital paintings as well as gaming miniatures and larger poymer-clay figures. Megan the Buccaneer is possibly his best work in its genre to date, but check out his gallery on DeviantArt.com to judge for yourself.
I’ve previously discussed the question of what, exactly, is a doll, and I’ve shown you an artist who is definitely making dolls, and an artist who is definitely making figurines. So today I’m going to showcase an artist who blurs the lines. Forest Rogers’ work is made entirely of hard media (generally polymer clay, although some of the larger pieces seem to be in air dry clay) and would definitely qualify as figurines, except for the judicious application of natural-fiber hair and occasional fabric clothing. The artist herself seems to have a fine art background, but she calls her work dolls and is a member of NIADA.
Whatever you call them, you can’t deny that her pieces are art. One thing that divides amateur artists from professionals, in my opinion, is the expressiveness of the pose. Really successful doll artists either understand that intuitively or learn it somewhere in their education. Rogers’ work is a prime example of the beauty that derives from the pose of the figure’s body.
This is a hard entry to write. A good friend of mine passed away recently, and I would like to share her work with you. Elizabeth Jenkins had a background in theater costume and an amazing talent for drawing and sculpting portraiture. The pictures I’m sharing with you don’t reveal her amazing ability to sculpt dolls of movie characters and historical figures, and you probably won’t be able to see the stunning precision of the costuming and the attention to details like the scale of the hair fibers. But what those of us who knew her will always remember is how generous she was with every technique and how much time and effort she devoted to our local doll club. Our club almost dissolved when she was no longer able to keep us together, but we have managed to persevere, partly in honor of her memory.
So take a look at her beautiful dolls and read her biography on her ODACA membership page. She was someone special, and she’ll never be forgotten.
Argh, I meant to do this yesterday, but I was crazy busy all day. Here’s today’s artist.
There are two ways to approach cloth doll construction. One is to shape the doll as much as possible by the arrangement of seams in the flat pattern, while the other is to use a basic pattern and do your sculpting after the doll is sewn together and stuffed. I’m very interested in the second kind of construction, and I’m even developing my own techniques along those lines.
Robin Foley is an artist whose work follows the second mode of construction. Her work is fabulously detailed, and I know at least some of you will look at it and say, “That’s cloth??” A couple of her pieces even made me look closer for seam lines. Her web page says she studied with Jo Ellen Trilling, and I believe Trilling’s practice is to sew a very basic figure out of very stretchy material and then to needle sculpt extensively.
I find her work to be further characterized by, well, character. Each of her figures has a personality and an expression all its own. She doesn’t limit herself to humans or elves, either, but explores a wide variety of animal forms both realistic and fantasized. There’s something for everyone in her work, so check it out.
Okay, I know this is cheating, but today’s artist is: Me! I just got some pictures taken of some pins I made (I hate the term “wearable doll art,” but I guess it applies) and I wanted to share them with you. I’m not sure how it happened, but these came about after I read Christie Friesen’s Welcome to the Jungle, so I owe her a big thanks for the inspiration.
I had a rough day today, but tomorrow I’ll post on a real doll artist, I promise!
The exact definition of a “doll” is a topic of continuing interest to me, and one that will probably crop up in this blog from time to time. Today’s artist can be found both on Flickr and on her own web page, and on the Flickr site her significant other, Chad Isley, responds to a surprised comment about the fact that the dolls can move with this: “That’s why it’s called a DOLL. She doesn’t make figurines.”
But oh, if only all dolls looked like these. Bychkova’s pieces are made of porcelain and remind me of those gorgeous ball-jointed dolls coming out of Asia these days. The difference is that each of Bychkova’s dolls is completely handmade, including the fabulous beadwork on the costumes. I’ve done enough of this kind of work myself to be completely in awe of Bychkova’s skill and artistic vision. Porcelain is not an easy medium to work with.
Part of me agrees with Ilsey; despite the trend in the doll world to describe our art as “figurative sculpture” in order to gain more acceptance in highbrow art circles, there’s something different about dolls. Sculpture is just for looking at, but dolls are for touching. I think that’s the paradox many of us struggle with. I gave up the fight a while ago and started making fixed sculptures, but perhaps Bychkova will inspire more of us to experiment with the tactile, interactive side of doll art.
If you’ve been inspired, too, here’s a tutorial on sculpting ball-jointed dolls.
P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but you’ll just have to follow the links to see more!
I found these guys on the Web years ago and really enjoyed their lively window characters. I bookmarked the site and didn’t think much more about it. Well, imagine my surprise last week when I visited the Brookside Art Annual here in Kansas City and found the Buonaiutos exhibiting there. I’m glad I still had the bookmark.
Shelley and Michael Buonaiuto work in stoneware and porcelain, as well as earthenware and bronze. I suppose you could argue that their work doesn’t qualify as “doll,” but I take a pretty broad view of the category myself. At any rate, my purpose here is to inspire, and I definitely think their work fits the bill.
Kathleen Davis is an artist and teacher who needs a better Web presence than a PictureTrail account. Every one of her darling creations just drips personality, whether it’s an adorable baby elf, an elegant mermaid, or an irritable goblin. I’ve been trying to bring this angle to my own work, which makes me appreciate it when I see it. Davis also brings her quirky style to her work in precious metal clay. Apparently, she teaches dollmaking classes, but I haven’t discovered where, when or how to contact her yet. If I do, I’ll report back here. In the meantime, check out the pictures below and visit her gallery.