My Doll Making Journey

My doll making journey began three years ago.  It started at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.  An inner desire to create dolls had been quietly bubbling away for several years.  Prior to this time I attempted to make a handful of plushie style animal characters.  However, I was completely dissatisfied with the outcomes.  Mainly because I felt I lacked the technical skills I needed to create the more complex dolls I had in mind.  A couple of years passed and the urge to make dolls was still there.  So around Christmas 2014, I treated myself to a couple of doll making books.  You can read more about this here.

So it is now 2018, three years since I embarked on this mission.  Therefore, I wanted to take an opportunity to look back upon the dolls I have created and to track how they have developed during this time.

Before and After: Embracing the Colours of the Circus

Black, red and white have been a reoccurring colour combination in my dolls.  This colour scheme comes from my love of vintage circus, where these colours play a huge role in creating that iconic circus aesthetic.  It is, therefore, interesting to see that I have a doll in these colours at key points of my development.

interpretation of a Jan horror pattern

So, the doll I made in 2014 was very much based on the Jan Horrocks pattern, from the book “Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls“.  I simply changed the colours of the outfit, to suit my interest in vintage circus, and used a colour palette of black, red and white.

Cloth Doll

In comparison, I explored a more personal approach to my Day of the Dead Fairy doll. Whilst researching into the circus/carnival theme I became interested in the Day of the Dead festival and so naturally wanted to incorporate this into my doll making.  Even though I still used an existing body pattern, the design of her face comes from a very different source of inspiration.

 

Zombie Doll

Heidi the Zombie Hoop Dancer, from 2017, and my most recent doll, carries some the visual language I have been developing over the last year.  Although I still have still borrowed some aspects of existing patterns, many of the features I have designed myself.  Most notably, the design of face.

Doll Face Close Up

Designing the Faces of My Art Dolls

Doll Makers' Sketchbook

Masquerade masks completely fascinate me. Masks offer the possibility of intrigue and disguise.   Particularly Venetian masks, that appear so intricate and beautiful in terms of shape, colour and details.  

Tuxedo Cat Doll

Coincidently, my tuxedo cat Jack has a mask like marking on his face – a black eye mask upon a white face. Therefore, I found myself drawing the shape of Jack’s facial markings onto my human dolls faces when I was exploring ways to create my own style.

A Turning Point for my Doll Making

Since starting my dolls, I harnessed and ambition to create a doll that was inspired by Autumn.  This was wholeheartedly due to my weekly walk through Bournemouth Upper Gardens, which is a beautiful greenbelt running through the town.  Bournemouth Gardens’ autumnal show really captured my imagination, which enabled me to create my first Autumn Goddess doll.

Art doll by Vaudeville Manor

She was a turning point because, for the first time, I included the painted masquerade detail onto the face.  To complement this, I hand embroidered the facial features instead of drawing them. In addition, textiles were deployed to offer a tactile quality by using felt making and embroidery to embellish the autumn leaves.  Beads and a more carefully thought out colour scheme helped to finish the look.

After creating this doll, I realised that this was the style direction I wanted to explore and develop further.

Future Developments of my Dolls

What does 2018 hold for my dolls?  Well, I feel like have gone full circle.  Since my autumn dolls, I have also explored Winter and Spring/Summer themed figures.  As an aside, I took a little detour from the seasons to create two circus collections; the vintage cat circus and the zombie apocalypse circus.

However, after some deep searching within, I have come to realise that I feel most drawn to creating dolls inspired by nature, so for now, this is where my doll making is headed.

I do hope you join me to share this process as I will be regularly blogging about my projects.  Alternatively, you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

This post was originally written in 2018.

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