The dollmakers list home
More About the Dollmakers List
The Suppliers Page
The Shows Page
Archives (members only)
Join the List or change membership options
Show and Tell
Class Listing
Support the List


 Here are some posts from the first few months of the list. New are posts from Marie-Claude Dupont, my first doll correspondent, and a very charming idea about making molds from appleheads from Dian Crayne.

I just looked over the list and it looks like we're starting to get some
people signed up. I'm glad to see it getting started. I don't know
anyone in my area who makes dolls, and I've been starving for some peer

So far, I make original polymer clay dolls, mostly with a fantasy theme,
although my most recently completed doll is a portrait of my daughter as
a karate girl. I'm hoping to have a doll that I'm happy enough with to
make a mold from and start doing a few porcelain dolls by the end of the
year, but so far I don't like any of my faces enough to want more than
one of them. I'm very new at this. I got started last winter and I've
finished five dolls so far, and two partially completed dolls that need
to be costumed. Now, I'm working on a Harlequin and a New Age pseudo-indian doll (I'm hoping she'll be really funny when she's
finished.) These two current dolls are projects to use up all the heads
that I made that didn't look remotely like my daughter when I was trying
to do the portrait of her!

I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone else is working on.

Dawn Albright

Hi everyone!

It is been almost three days now since the mailing list started (thank you
Dawn!) and we already got some interesting questions to think about. I am
sure we will find great new ideas that will help us creating our dolls.

Let me introduce myself. First of all, as a French speaking woman ( I live
in Montreal, QuÈbec), I hope you will all forgive me for making mistakes in
English. Sometimes it is hard for me to translate what I mean. Anyway, I am
glad to join the list and share some tips or information with you!

I am quite new in the dollmaking field. I started making dolls in January
1995, after I read a book that pictured E. J. Taylor's dolls. Anybody knows
him? It was a smashing discovery and since then, I have not stopped
thinking about contemporary dolls. That led me to create three dolls (a
fourth one is about to be finished). There heads, arms and legs are made of
Creative Paperclay, and the body is fabric over a wire armature.

Following Dawn's question, I guess there is no simple way to create a bikini
beauty without showing all the imperfection you can find in a normally
dressed doll. Lisa Lichtenfels (correct spelling Catharine!) has been very
successful with her personal technique, but I do not know her secrets. She
has made some very nice nude bodies (very difficult) that are absolutely
amazing. The most famous one I guess depicts Demi Moore while she was
pregnant ( it is replica of a famous photograph published a few years ago in
an american magazine). To my knowledge ( I saw most of them in past issues
of CDM), she also created a few other soft sculptures (one with a bikini,
another with two wings, etc.) that are quite realistic. But when you look at
her dolls in a close-up, you can see that everything is illusion of perfection.

It seems easier for me to work with cloth, for that kind of project, than
with clay. I think of Lenore Davis's dolls (she is also a painter) who are
very simple, made of fabric over a wire armature. Each of them is very
expressive. She paints her dolls to suggest a pair of socks, or a typical
acrobat's suit. But before being painted, each doll is in a way all nude,
with all those strategic stitches that help to create the nice and realistic

movement she is looking for. Finally, each doll is the expression of the
human body in its most natural way. She could let them white, unpainted, and
I would be as interested by her sculptures than by the achieved ones.

I am not sure we have to be ashamed of leaving what we call imperfections
when we create a doll. What do you think? I think we usually tend to be over
realistic, but sometimes a little default gets very interesting. For
example, in a doll duet called Delicious (a lady pig dancing with a wolf),
Jo-Ellen Trilling left lots of stiches for the pig's legs and face. It is,
amazingly, very nice, because it simply gives personnality to the pig lady.
She did the same thing in another beautiful duet depicting Cinderella as a
rhinoceros. I like her way to make us FEEL the body instead of admiring it
for its perfection.

So, that was my first message to the list, hope it did not bore you too much!

Marie-Claude Dupont

I was idly wondering, the other night, whether it would be possible to
make a press mold from an applehead, so I tried it.

The answer is "yes," provided the apple is bone dry and solid. I picked a
head that had minimum undercuts and a rather short nose, and pressed it
into a very soft conditioned slab of Sculpy, about 1" thick. After baking
it, I dusted the mold with talcum powder and took an impression with more

I pressed two small seed beads into slits in the eye sockets, and deepened
the nasal-labio lines a bit with an Xacto knife, then baked and painted
it. I mounted it on a chenille stick* armature (by drilling a small hole
up through the bottom of the chin, with a hand-held drill bit), and
dressed it as a little old lady in a long skirt. I glued on a scrap of
rolled up quilt batting to fill out the back of the head, and added
another scrap around the face to look like hair, finishing off with a
bandana tied under the chin. It came out quite nice, and retains that nice
wrinkly dried-apple look. Total time (including making the mold and
impression): about 90 minutes.

This is a good alternative for those of you who like the look of the apple
heads, but worry about them deteriorating over time. The molds are also
nice to have when apples are in short supply. I think I'll make a couple
more molds, so that I'll have a variety, and I'm going to try taking the
impressions with Fimo and Cernit.

-- Dian Crayne

* I don't care what the craft supply people claim, *I* say they're pipe

Hi everybody,
It is so wonderful to see the mailing list is having so much success!

As some of you may already know, I was lucky enough last week to attend the
Niada Annual Conference for the first time. (there is no privilege in this,
I paid for!;-) ) The conference was held in Dallas, Texas (very warm out
there!) and there were around 200 hundred dollmakers attending it and
sharing, with lots of energy, their incredible passion for dollmaking.

All dollmaking techniques were represented, polymer clay as well as
porcelaine, paperclay and cloth dolls. The whole conference was well
organized; the patrons and the artists (especially Nancy Walters, Susanna
Oroyan, and Bill Nelson) were all very kind to me and very welcoming.

The conference included lots of programs with artists, master classes on
specific subjects, a gallery show with the newest Niada member's dolls and a
doll show on the last day. There were also critics session: dollmakers could
bring a doll or two and have them judged by Niada members.

I can't tell you how great and inspiring it is for a novice dollmaker as I
am to see, very closely, the dolls made by the best artists in the world!
Most of the time, the photographs we see in the doll magazines don't do
justice to the dolls, to their craftmanship, their beauty, and, most of all,
to the personal rendering of one's work. Seeing so close the dolls of E.J.
Taylor, Shelley Thornton, Akira Blount, Bill Nelson, Connie Smith, Charlene
Wrestling, Antonette Cely, Scott Gray, Lisa Lichtenfels, etc. and some made
by a new elite of Japanese artists (they make stunning contemporary cloth
dolls!) is a real emotional experience! I must say though that it is also
depressing at a certain moment because I felt I had a lot of work to do
before reaching my personal artistic goals. But anyway, it was worth it!
For those who might be interested by this organization, it is important to
know that it is not easy to enter it. There are three differents steps to
go through before beeing accepted as a formal member. First of all, you must
submit slides of your work. Then, if you pass this step, you will have to
submit a porfolio of your work, describing your method and showing how you
make your dolls at every step (in order to evaluate the quality of the whole
process). This portfolio will be examined and judged by a group of Niada
artists. Then, if I remember well, the applicant will have to bring a few
dolls to the next Niada Conference and have them judged. If everything goes
well, you can become a member of Niada.

It seems that most people who apply or are asked to apply as a member, have
been making dolls for many years, they are not hobbyists anymore. They are
professional dollmakers or have such talent they get attention by the whole
community of dollmakers.
I suggest that, if you want to see how it goes, to attend a conference one
day. You can see how your favorite artists sculpt and make their dolls; they
can also give you THE tip you are looking for or help you solve a particular
problem you have with the anatomy, the wigging or with sculpting hands for
instance. Having your dolls in a critic can be a great and inspiring moment
(you learn a lot about your own work) but also a painful experience,
especially if you bring your first dolls. Being so close to the others'
perfection and getting bad comments about a doll you have taken weeks or
months to finish are not easy to accept. But, it is, in the end, certainly
worth it if you plan to get higher in this milieu.

Some of you, who have heard about Niada, may have other questions about what
I experienced last week, so feel free to ask me more questions. I don't know
where to start.

I told my new friends we had this mailing list going on, so that many of
them might suscribe to our list shortly. I also discovered (June Goodnow
told me about it) there was a doll forum on Compuserve. But you must be a
Compuserve subscriber to get into it (around 10$ a month). Members can meet
on-line and chat in real time. They also hold regular conferences with guest
celebrities and have a library where you can view photographs of some of
your favorite artist's work. If you want to have more information about this
forum, please contact June Goodnow at

But my preference goes to our new list and all of you!



Does anyone have any ideas on how to make a doll that succeeds both as an art doll, something that an intelligent adult might like, and a child's
toy? My daughter loves the dolls I make, but it's difficult for her to
play with them at all. I usually use promat for the heads, which IS
strong enough to deal with gentle supervised play, but the wire armature
in the cloth bodies makes the bodies unfriendly to little hands. My best
bet so far was a doll with a soft cloth body and limbs, sculpted head,
and no armature, but she is so top heavy that she slumps over in her
stand and doesn't look very interesting without a lot of support. I make
the dolls mostly for me, but I don't like the idea of a doll that has to
sit on a shelf and never be touched or played with. To me, the whole joy
of a doll rather than sculpture is the compromise between art and toy,
and I'd like to find ways to make that compromise more successful.

Dawn Albright

It's been so quiet lately. I hope that you're all lucky enough to have
been working on dolls or going to classes, and that's why you're busy.
In my case, I've sadly just been busy with work and other things and
haven't touched a doll in weeks. I must get twenty different ideas for
dolls for every one that I get to make.

My favorite source of ideas for dolls is children's books. I like
fantasy dolls, and children's books are usually so richly illustrated.
One of my daughter's fairy tale books had a great picture for the
Emperor's Nightingale of Death sitting on the Emperor's chest. I'm not
sure if it is an authentic Chinese vision of Death, but it is very
different from the western man with a scythe, and I hope to find time to
sculpt one sometime. He is a nasty little goblin with a gold face and long knobby grey limbs wearing rags. It would be fun to try sculpting
the whole body and then trying to make jointed limbs. He's about ten or
twenty dolls down on my list.

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I've also been getting ideas from
watching Legends of Hercules and Xena the Warrior Princess (*really*
cheesy american adventure shows, for those of you out of the country or
who haven't heard of them yet.) The shows are about as campy as campy can get, but whoever does their costuming is very talented and
understands fun.

I am writing this a) to make sure the list is still functioning properly,
b) to express some frustration in being too cerebral and not
physical/creative lately and c) to see if anyone will throw out some fun
places to get new doll ideas. Not that I need ideas because if I never
get another idea it will still take me ten years to finish dolls that
I've sketched out, but just because I think it is fun to talk about.

Dawn Albright


 The Dollmakers List Home More About the Dollmakers List The Suppliers Page The Shows Page Archives (members only) Join the List or Change Membership Options Show And Tell Tips Thanks Class Listing Support the List


 copyright 2003

maintained by Dawn Albright