Du Buh Du Designs — Christine Alvarado

June 28, 2008 at 12:40 am (Uncategorized)

Today’s featured doll artist is proof that you don’t need genius technical skills or phenomenal attention to detail to be successful. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that Christine Alvarado doesn’t have those qualities — but the charm of her dolls is their sketchlike simplicity. I would call them folksy or primitive, except for their luscious, urban-styled costumes. I want to pick them up and play with them.

I haven’t discovered yet what they’re made of, but Alvarado’s dolls are simply sculpted (or maybe cast from molds) and heavily painted with dreamy, cartoon-like faces. They have simple shoulder joints, and some have bent arms. The legs seem to be jointed too, although the leg joints are firm enough to stand, at least when propped against something. The dolls have costumes that range from simple print dresses to luxurious velvet coats.

The costumes are half of the charm of these pieces. I love how Alvarado uses graphical prints, just the right amount of texture, and unexpected trimmings. Some of the pieces have crocheted lace for scarves or fancy braid for necklaces. Many of them come with extras, like little cats to hold in their laps, masks that actually fit them, or painted portraits of themselves. And then there are her equally lovely mermaids, which have less costume but more embellishment.

You can see Alvarado’s work on her blog, her Flickr site, or her Etsy store. Her pieces are very reasonably priced, for art dolls.

By the way, I’m not exactly sure (and I’m too lazy to look it up) but this blog is about a year old now, and I want to thank everybody who reads regularly. Please leave me a comment — I love your feedback!

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Update — call for doll category on Etsy

June 25, 2008 at 4:13 am (Uncategorized)

Go here to sign a petition asking Etsy to create a high-level category for dolls and miniatures.

Anyone feel like we need the same thing on DeviantArt?

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Sleetwealth Studios — Beauty with an edge

June 20, 2008 at 6:39 pm (Halloween/creepy or goth) (, , )

Forgive me, but before I start this review, I just have to say that today’s featured artist, Anita R. Collins, has a fabulous website. Not only does she post skillfully made photos of her work (as as I have often state, I admire good photographers because I’m not one), but she also includes commentary on many of her art dolls, which is always my favorite part of any website. Besides that, she has a great “bio” section which is really more like an artist statement, and a dark, moody theme to the whole site that complements her work perfectly.

But on to her work. Collins isn’t just another eBay fairy sculptor. Her work is certainly above average in its realism, beauty and detail, but beyond that, shes creates a sense of mood in her work that is really something special. Her pieces have a distinctly adult edge, displaying their anatomical correctness and sometimes showing evidence of violence, tattoos or scarification, but there is still a haunting beauty that shows through in each piece.

One thing I love about her work is her unflinching use of media. Many artists are wedded to either sewn costumes or sculpted ones (and I have long maintained that the popularity of fairies as subjects is partly because sculptors who don’t like to sew can wind a little cheesecloth around them and call it costume), but Collins’ figures wear either medium equally well, depending on what the artist is trying to accomplish. Their costumes, hair and accessories often display a careful attention to details and their effect on the work as a whole.

Everything about Collins’ work is fresh and reexamined. Her mermaids don’t have scaly tails. She makes crowns out of polymer clay and microbeads. Her angels have wings instead of arms. She makes animal-human hybrids that go beyond the usual centaurs and fauns to include seals, octopi, cats and — I swear to you — coral. Really. See the picture at the top of this entry?

Visit Collins’ website for a great viewing experience (and I haven’t even mentioned her cool dragon-head beads or her adorable netsuke sculptures) or her DeviantArt account for a few more pictures and commentary.

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Yikes — Sharmanka Automata

June 14, 2008 at 6:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

What’s the difference between kinetic sculpture and automata? I’m not sure where the line is. Either way, though, this studio’s work is creepy and amazing at the same time. Visit the first, second and third YouTube videos from Sharmanka to get a better idea of her pieces’ kinetic action. How do you build something so huge? Goodness.

Sharmanka is actually a collaboration between sculptor/engineer Eduard Bersudsky and theater director Tatyana Jakovskaya and based in Glasgow, Scotland. Apparently their work is exhibited as theater, which makes sense, I suppose, given how large and complex it is. Check out their website for more pictures. Sorry, I’m not going to copy any here; it’s too late at night.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Update– Scott Radke and UTEE

June 12, 2008 at 4:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Scott Radke

Susan Lomuto blogs about previously-featured artist Scott Radke on her Polymer Clay Notes blog. I like her observation that the widely-spaced eyes of his creatures make them seem vulnerable despite their creepiness.

So that’s what UTEE is for!

Here’s a neat uTube video showing how to cast pirate skull jewelry in UTEE, in case anyone (like me) has been trying to figure out what that stuff was for.

Happy Birthday to mee….

I’ll give you a real post tomorrow, which is my birthday. Well, I don’t actually celebrate my birthday anymore. Actually, I celebrate the anniversary of my 25th birthday. Makes me feel much better.

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Kat Soto — elegance and awkwardness

June 6, 2008 at 9:12 pm (Uncategorized)

It seems like a contradiction in terms, but Kat Soto’s beautiful dolls are somehow elegant and awkward at the same time. They have dreamy, long-nosed faces reminiscent of Dutch Renaissance paintings, but at the same time, their overlarge feet and stiff fingers give them an endearing awkwardness, like a teenager just growing into her beauty. Add to that delicate costumes and accessories and complicated settings, and you have dolls who are beautiful but also full of personality.

So far, I have been unable to discover a biography on this artist. What I do know about her is that she works in the U.S. and she seems to work as a sculptor and moldmaker in her day job. Her dolls are poseable, at least in the arms and knees, and probably in the necks as well. They may be cast from resin. I love the way the fingers are posed — check out the hand holding the cigarette in the doll above. I’d love to know how she makes her fairy wings; they’re shiny and highly textured, with gold edges, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any done like these before.


My eyes were bigger than my blog post, apparently, and I snagged more pictures than I should have. Here’s the link to her website, where there are even more gorgeous pictures, not to mention a really cool interface. Go take a peek, it’s totally worth it.


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My new hero — Mimi Kirchner

May 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

As much as I aspire to maintain an attitude like Maddy Nupp McDonald’s, I want my work to be like Mimi Kirchner’s.

I’ve been hearing Kirchner’s name around the doll scene for years now, but mainly for her gourd dolls and historical reproductions. Even though neither of these genres really interest me, I love the round, stylized faces on all of her work. You can see lots of these in her Cozy.org gallery.

But what’s really gotten me excited is her newer work. She’s been making fabric sculptures for sale on Etsy and other places that really knock my socks off. Her pink robot, one of a whole family of soft-sculpted robots, was a finalist in the Softie Awards this spring. Who ever thought of a soft-sculpted robot? They’re round and sharp at the same time, slightly reminiscent of vintage tin robot toys, but with all the warmth of fabric.

But even more charming are her “Church Ladies” and “Tattooed Gentlemen.” What I think sets her apart from so many other fiber artists is her original use of trims, prints and embroidery to create the parts of her robots and dolls. I really want to learn to make felt flowers like the ones that adorn her Church Ladies’ dresses, and I love the use of toile to represent tattoos on her Gentlemen.

It’s almost like she’s camouflaging her embellishments as something they’re not. Check out the bugs in this picture. At first glance, they just look like they’re made of crazy fabric prints, but as you look closer, you start to see that they’re made of perfectly ordinary sewing notions, like ric rac trim, beads, and dress hooks.

I really hope my work can be this creative someday. Be sure to check out Kirchner’s blog, Doll, and her Flickr Account. Also, browse her Etsy shop to see if your favorite is for sale. Have a great weekend!

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Experimental Dollmaking Update

May 17, 2008 at 4:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Here’s a quick update on my cloth ball-jointed doll. Several people pointed out that Judi Ward has a class for a cloth ball-jointed doll available on DollNet. This is being offered for a very reasonable price and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest — and any cash, which I don’t, so I won’t be able to take the class for a while.

One of the secrets of Ward’s construction, I am told, is using plastic grapes, cut in half, for sockets to cover the ball joints. (There has to be more to it than that; I’m also told the doll is strung like an Asian BJD, which means there must be a hard infrastructure underneath, but you’ll have to take the class to find that out.) i’m not sure the grapes will work unless I find them in exactly the right size, and I think the joints in my piece are a lot smaller than Ward’s Bluette. Then again, Bluette is only 11 inches and my Experiment is around 12. However, I still think Bluette’s toddler-proportioned joints are larger than mine.

Meanwhile, I went to the craft store for more round beads to make Experimental Version #2 (I really must name them), and discovered something interesting. They have miniature wooden spools which I think will work better than round beads for the hinge joints in my doll. I got some in two sizes to play with, and I’m seriously considering attempting double-jointed elbows and knees, like many BJDs and Marina Bychkova‘s new work.

Finally, I discovered a serious error in the leg construction. Remember how pleased I was with the hip movement? Well, I made a mistake with the way I attached the legs. In its neutral position, my doll has the legs attached on the outside of the hip joint, when they should be in the front. I realized this when the doll was sitting with its legs stretched out to the side. The result is that the knees bend the wrong way. I will take some pictures so I can show you more clearly. I may actually take the knees off and reattach them correctly, just to see how much better that works, but I want to take pictures first.

Here’s a preview of something else I’m working on:

I hadn’t decided to use this head with it when I chose the felt, so the hair doesn’t match her dress, and I haven’t decided how to do the arms and legs yet (although I’m thinking polymer clay and stripey socks…). This is intended as a prototype for something I can sell in my Etsy shop, which has been empty since February. What do y’all think?

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Friedericy Dolls

May 16, 2008 at 6:35 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Today’s featured artist is actually a team of artists. Lucia Friedericy, an award-winning costume artist, used to paint, dress and style the dolls sculpted by her brother, John. After his untimely death in 1990, the artists’ mother, Judith, took over the sculpting duties to continue the family tradition.

Together they produce dolls with dreamy, naive faces and lucious costumes. I especially love the tableaus and shadow boxes that create “stages” for the dolls to stand in or step out of. Like a children’s book illustration come to life.

Neither their site nor the site of their photographer, Rob Greer, indicates how big these pieces are, but these photos taken by Cynthia Malbon at Magnum Opus 2007 indicate that they’re much larger than they look. The dolls are wax over porcelain. I wonder what you paint wax with? Does it sink in, or just sit on top, like with polymer clay? If anyone knows, can you leave a comment?

I’m going to post again about my experimental ball jointed doll later–several people offered suggestions and I’ve just realized a major error in the leg construction, which I want to photograph so I can show you.

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Experimental Dollmaking

May 9, 2008 at 10:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Okay, as I may have mentioned before, I’m becoming obsessed with the idea of jointed dolls. After looking at what a lot of other artists are doing, I concluded that it was going to be extremely difficult to figure out how to do Asian-style ball-jointed dolls without actually buying one to examine for myself. Since that’s out of the question in terms of budget, I had to figure something else out. You know what they say about necessity and invention…

So I went looking through my trusty Susannah Oroyan books, and discovered that one of them (Anatomy of a Doll) had a whole page about ball jointed cloth dolls. I had already been thinking about poseable cloth dolls, and the photos of Shelley Thornton’s work in the Oroyan book really inspired me.

So pictured above and throughout this post is my first attempt at a soft doll with ball joints. I know, it’s ugly. I chose to make it from felt because I like the way felt is firm, but slightly stretchy when you stuff it. There are a lot of things I like about the way this turned out, and some things I want to improve on.

Things I like:

1. The hip joints have a very natural movement to them. I don’t know if you can tell in any of the pictures, but the thighs actually angle inwards, just like in a real skeleton. The movement is a result of the bead being attached as a ball joint on one side and a hinge joint on the other. I would present this as evidence of my apparent genius, but it happened completely on accident.

2. The beads can be ball joints or hinge joints, depending on how you sew them in. I don’t think you can read my inspiring diagram above, (dang WordPress!) but suffice it to say that you make a ball joint by anchoring the thread as close to the center of the joint as possible, while you make a hinge joint by anchoring the thread on either side. The hinge joints are very firm, firm enough to hold their positions, especially in the arms.

3. The wooden beads add so much weight that I don’t think I would need to weight the butt of this doll to make it sit. It won’t sit unassisted, but that’s because the hip joints are too loose.

4. There are three movements to the head (turning left-to-right, tilting left-to-right, and tipping up or down). My first attempt at the neck resulted in a hinge joint with only up-and-down movement. I removed it and tried again, and now it moves in any direction but is too floppy to hold its position.

Some things I want to work on:

1. I’m pleased with how the hinge joints set into the soft parts of the doll, but the way I sewed the ball joints prevents them from sitting in that tight. There must be some way to develop sockets, so the ball joints would be firmer. I had hoped the doll might sit and stand on its own, but the hip joints are too floppy.

2. My husband laughed at me because I was fretting about the doll not having a bottom to speak of, but it’s actually an engineering concern. I wonder if a sculpted behind would allow the doll to sit after all, or if it would interfere with standing movements too much. I think future versions will have more sculptural torsos.

3. I’d really like to develop a skin I could slide over the construction to hide the joints. I thought about adding two skins so I could do some needlesculpting in between, but I don’t think I’ll bother for this doll. I’m tempted to add one skin layer, though, because I really want to see how this doll will look with clothing.

4. The arms are obviously way too long. It was hard to judge the proper length for the pieces while taking the length of the beads into account. When I get this thing perfected, I may need to use (horrors!) a pattern instead of just eyeballing the sizes I need every time.

5. I wonder how the size of the bead impacts the performance of the joint. Can I get away with smaller, less conspicuous beads, or will that limit movement? I can almost imagine a ball-and-rod setup for the hip joint, similar to the way actual femurs are shaped, but that’s probably more complicated than it needs to be for my purposes.

6. And finally, I’m already picturing how I can transfer what I’ve learned to a hard-medium doll. Woo hoo!

Here’s where I want some feedback from you, dear reader. Have you ever tried this before? If not, are you interested in trying it now? I’d really like to see what some collage-type doll artists could do with this — imagine decorative beads tied into the doll with ribbons — there’s a lot you could do with it. Leave a comment and a link to some pictures of your work.

Another doll artist, Maggie Iacono, makes felt dolls with ball joints for collectors. Her site says the fingers on her dolls are “poseable” but not that they’re jointed, so I wonder if they’re just wired. I have an idea for a jointing system for fingers, but it would be impossible in this tiny scale. Can anyone think of a use for a life-sized, fully poseable hand?

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