A Halloween Blog Party

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Hanger-on is a polymer clay sculpt by Debbie Williams.

It’s time for the first ever Needle and Clay Halloween Party! My friend Debbie Williams and I got together to join the Blog party over at A Fanciful Twist. Take a look at what happened and then go see the other partygoers by clicking on the picture at the bottom!

While they were over, the Steins had us take their annual Halloween card photo for them. Here you see Mr. and Mrs. Stein, and their kids, Frankie and Frankie. They’re big crusaders for Gothic American civil rights, so we were glad to help them out.

Mr. and Mrs. Stein are two of Debbie’s earliest dolls! The kids are plastic toys from her collection. The pumpkins and gargoyle are props from my collection.

Dr. Bones had just gotten up the courage to talk to Ooma when Godzilla Jr. and Miss Esmerelda came over to show them their Halloween costumes. When will Dr. Bones stop carrying the torch for Ooma?

Ooma the Trollwife is by me, and she won Best in Show at Costumecon last year. Dr. Bones is a purchased toy with a hat and collar by me. Godzilla Jr. and Miss Esmerelda were made by Deb.

The party was so much fun. Even the Fury got into the spirit with that silly hat. And it was good to see Godzilla Sr. really cut loose. It’s been hard on him, being a single dad.

The Fury is a plaster sculpture from my college days. Godzilla Sr. is a toy from Deb’s collection. Godzilla Jr. was sculpted by Deb.

Nosferatu: Thot’s a nice casket. Is it a ’67?

Dead Groom: Thanks! But no, it’s an 1869. I know it has less leg room, but it’s all original and only had one owner, so I just couldn’t pass it up.

Nos: Sveet. Did you get the leather interior?

Bitty Bones: ::rolls eyes:: They’ll be at this all night.

Nosferatu and the Dead Groom are by Deb. Bitty Bones is a plastic toy from her collection.

Here’s a shot of the kids before they went out trick-or-treating. Miss Esmerelda’s parents were thrilled that she wanted to wear a traditional Gothic American outfit for her costume. Godzilla Jr. wanted to go as a frightened Japanese person, but his dad didn’t think that would be politically correct. The Stein kids are in their “serial-killers-look-just-like-the-rest-of-us” stage. Ozzie the Toad is not wearing a costume; he always dresses like that.

Dr. Bones: I don’t know, I just don’t think a girl like her would go for a skinny guy like me.

Sock Monster: Not all chicks are all about the looks, man. You’ve got a lot going for you — your career, your sense of humor —

Sock Monster and the Bust of a Woman are by Deb.

Unfortunately, after the kids left, Godzilla Sr. got a little drunk. The Steins ended up taking him and Junior home in their minivan. No one wanted a repeat of the Tokyo incident.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures from our party! Click on the poster above to see who else was partying last night!

Halloween must be getting close

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Last year, my doll club and I exhibited at a great Halloween show in St. Joseph, Missouri. We had a lot of fun, but, alas, they don’t seem to be having it again this year. it’s time to start thinking about Halloween anyway, so today I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of giving you some links to dollmaking tutorials, I’m going to give you some links to instructions for Halloween props. One of the great things about dollmaking is how many skills you can employ in one project, so you never know when you’re going to learn something useful.

Ghoul Friday is not a dollmaker, exactly, but more like a Halloween enthusiast. Check out her page of prop-making tutorials. Visit her photo galleries, too, for pictures of her awesome themed parties.

Scaryguys.com offers tutorials and articles about making faux candelabras, mannequins that move with hydraulics, and lightweight “stone” walls. If you’ve ever thought about making something really big or animated, here’s the place to start.

Finally, HauntProject.com has a gazillion links to Halloween projects of every variety. Ever wondered how to make fake flames for your doll project? They have a section for that.

Happy Halloween!

Elena Loukianova

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I’m so jealous of today’s artist. Elena Loukianova’s work is alternately adorable and elegant, exhibiting an eye for composition as well as a delicate handling of the human form. She has a background as a two-dimensional artist, which shows in the sophisticated color palette of her dolls’ costumes.

I love a well-executed doll costume, and Loukianova’s work doesn’t disappoint. Take a look at the beaded bodice on the doll pictured below; the scale-like texture of the pearls is really surprising and fresh. All of her pieces are expressively posed, too, which is one of the most important qualities in a professional doll.

So why am I so jealous? Because Loukianova’s only been sculpting since 2006! I’m reminded of my late friend, Elizabeth Jenkins, who was invited to the New York Toy Fair to exhibit the first doll she ever sculpted. Some people are just born with the talent, I guess.

My only complaint is that there aren’t enough pictures of her work on the internet, but then, if she’s only been sculpting since 2006, these may represent her entire body of work. I expect we’ll see more from her as her career continues, and I can’t wait to see how it matures.

Loukianova is originally from Belarus, in Eastern Europe, but seems to live in Canada now. You can see more of her work at her elegant website and at the Professional Doll Makers Art Guild.

Programming note:

At the far right of this page is a new list of dollmaking groups and associations. If you belong to a club or a professional association and you’d like to have your website listed here, please post a comment.

Sleetwealth Studios — Beauty with an edge

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Today’s featured artist, Anita R. 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 DeviantArt account for more of her work — I haven’t even mentioned her cool dragon-head beads or her adorable netsuke sculptures.

Yikes — Sharmanka Automata

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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!

Update– Scott Radke and UTEE

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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.

Kat Soto — elegance and awkwardness

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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.

My new hero — Mimi Kirchner

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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!

Experimental Dollmaking Update

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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?