Meanwhile, back at the ranch

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Here’s what I’ve been doing this spring.


My best friend, Sariah’s birthday is at the end of March, and I forget it EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. So this year I started thinking about what to get her at Christmas. I found this fabulous little merboy pendant from Green Girl Studios. Sariah loves mermaids and babies and I knew she’d love it. The only thing was, it was too big for her style of jewelry. So I decided to put it on a leather cord and add some seashells, and she could hang it on her wall in her bathroom, where she has a seashell theme.

Somehow, that spiraled out of control. I ended up making a beaded, seashell-encrusted environment for the merboy. It has two layers of felt for backing and fits in a six by four shadowbox frame. It was a lot of fun, and it looks a lot prettier in person than in this awful picture.

Besides, Sariah loved it, and that’s all that matters.


I know it’s weird, but I really love the back of this piece. I kind of have a thing for freeform needlework, though I don’t actually do any of it, and I love the rhythm of the stitches back here.

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Then I realized my niece’s third birthday was coming up, and I needed to make something for her. When I asked her what she wanted, she said, “Tinkerbell.” So I made her a pixie. I haven’t made a cloth doll in a really long time, and this one I made from scratch, so I’m very pleased with how well it came out. I angsted over the wings for a while but eventually went with felt for them, too. I used cable ties to stiffen the wings, and I inserted one in her neck because she wouldn’t hold her head up. The face is embroidered — which came out surprisingly well. From now on, I’m doing all my embroidery at 4am the night before — and the hair is sort-of embroidered and sort of… what would you call it? Appliqued? Anyway, the braids were made separately and sewn on.

I thought it was pretty cute but it kind of got lost among the other four thousand gifts she got that day. That kid has more friends at age three than I’ve had in my entire life.

I hope you’re having a productive summer. Thanks for reading.

Jessica Acosta’s Ingenuity

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Here’s what my life is like these days: I’m looking at pictures of Asian ball-jointed dolls on Flickr, and I find this artist who’s making cute little costumes for her tiny bjds. Then I look at her other gallery and start thinking “this looks familiar…” So I look up her profile, and guess what? I’ve already seen her work on her own website. In fact, I think I’ve collected some of my featured artists from her old links page. Dollmaking is becoming a small world, at least on the Internet.

Now, where to start with Jessica Acosta. Her work kind of gives me the impression of a very talented person who has been allowed to develop her work without much contact with the rest of us. As a result, her work incorporates some influences from very popular doll artists, but then it also takes a variety of new approaches that I’ve never seen from anyone else.

Take her pin dolls, for example. They’re really hip, with their big-eyed, bjd-like faces and modern costumes, and their expressive hands and props are really charming. But the first time I saw them, I thought, those don’t look flat enough to be on pins. Then I looked closer and realized that her “pin dolls” aren’t pins as in brooches, but clothespins! Look at their legs! I never would have expected such a modern-looking doll to use a construction technique that was so traditional. I could wax on about the metaphorical angle of this — you know, how we’re all modern and sophisticated on the outside, but inside we’re the same kind of people as our great-grandmothers– but I won’t. You can thank me later.

The rest of Acosta’s work is equally edgy. Many of her pieces feel kind of deconstructed, like her pillow dolls wih felt appliques reminiscent of Mimi Kirchner’s work, which have hook-and-eye joints in the elbows. Or her steampunk doll bust with no arms or legs. Or her collage dolls, which have surface treatments like Marilyn Radzat’s fabulous mosaics but Acosta’s big-eyed faces. She makes fairies and mermaids that are gorgeous or adorable without reference to the usual pin-up styles you see on eBay. I’m telling you, she’s either a savant or a genius.

As you might have suspected from my introduction to this post, Acosta is a web-savvy artist and there are many ways to find her on the Inter-tubes. Definitely check out Her Flickr and her site, and if you have time, visit her blog and her Etsy.

P.S. I have a question for you. Yes, you, the one who reads this blog every week but never comments. I know you’re out there; Google Analytics can see you. I need your advice. If I were to interview these artists when I post about them, what kind of questions do you want me to ask? Do you want to know about their studios? Their work habits? Their education? Come on, this is your chance to let me ask them the stuff you’ve never had the nerve to. Post a comment with your suggestions.

Claudine Roelens — the height of doll art in Europe

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As far as I can tell, Belgium-based artist Claudine Roelens is one of the most talented art doll makers working in Europe right now. Although she designs lush costumes out of silk and lace, her real strength lies in the delicate proportions and realistic gestures of her work. Maybe it’s Hollywood’s influence, or maybe it’s because I learned how to draw the human form from my dad’s comic books, but I’ve always struggled against the habit of exaggerrating one feature or another, and I notice other artists have the same problem. But if you look at Roelen’s pieces before they’re dressed, you’ll be struck by how subtle and realistic their curves are.

In her biography, Roelens claims a background filled by romance novels and fairy tales, which shows in the romantic subjects and poses she chooses, and in their long, flowing hair. She says when she first learned to sculpt, she was unprepared for the fact that “… Dollmaking is a virus, there’s no antidote, no cure, it gets in your blood, and it never leaves you.” I think many of us can relate to that!

Finally, you have to applaud an artist who keeps learning. Roelens has recently joined the ranks of original dollmaker sculpting ball-jointed dolls (pictured below). She reports that although the doll is sculpted in air-dry clay, many people mistake it for porcelain. You can see more pictures of it on her website. The other thing she has done recently that has everybody talking about it is the mermaid pictured at the top of this blog entry. Take a look at the ocean spray surrounding the mermaid’s joyful leap out of the water. I suspect she has borrowed this technique from dollhouse miniaturists, but I have rarely seen it employed to such great effect.

The leaping mermaid was exhibited at this year’s Ahoy International Doll Show, where Roelens took first place in 2007 with her Ballet Dancers (pictured above, next to the centaur). Her site says the Ballet Dancers also won the Dutch Doll Ring Award last year. Like I said, there are few who compare with her skills.

Check out Roelens’ website for more pictures of her work, including work-in-progress photos of most pieces. If you happen to live in or near Belgium, you might also check out her doll supply shop and her class schedule.

Have a great weekend!

Kathleen Davis

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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.

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