Saturday, September 10, 2016

Designing an Art Doll

Some artists will sketch out their ideas as part of the process of designing an art doll.  They will explore and develop a theme for the doll, a color scheme, decide on the materials and techniques they will use all before they begin.  This method works very well for many artists.
I never was able to work that way.  My art dolls almost happen by themselves.  I put a lot of time into practicing, developing, and refining techniques but when it comes to the actual design it feels like it just happens as I engage in the process of creating the art doll.  I thought I would share with you the process of how I design an art doll during the creation of the Goddess.  
She started with a new eye technique that I wanted to experiment with.  After I used the new needle-sculpting technique I wanted to see how she looked painted so I used watercolors for skin tone and facial coloration.  I was pretty pleased with how she looked but couldn’t figure out “who she wanted to be.”  So I let her sit for a few days.
While she was sitting I engaged in one of my most time zapping past-times,  surfing the internet to explore what other artists are up to.  Art often inspires more art. I have always been fascinated with watercolors which is why I use watercolors for skin tone and facial coloration.  I am also fascinated by jewelry and all that is shiny.  So it is no surprise while surfing the internet that I would be fascinated by the beautiful watercolor jewelry that Ross Barbera creates.  I had found his website and free tutorials quite some time ago with the plan that someday I would follow his tutorials and create some watercolor jewelry of my own. You can see his tutorials by clicking on the link to his site here:

Since I was working on my art doll I decided to follow one of Ross Barbera’s free tutorials on how to make rice paper earrings and use the techniques he shared to create a waterlily headdress for her.  Since I am not new to wire jewelry fabrication I designed the waterlily headdress to attach the rice paper to.  I love the translucent nature of the watercolor painted rice paper coated with varnish.  I experimented with a few sizes of the waterlily headdresses along with a few pairs of earrings while I was playing.  

Now what does she want to wear?  Well, with her headdress inspired by translucent waterlilies she seemed to be asking to become a Faerie Princess, Queen, or Goddess.
She needed clothing that would lend to an ethereal look so I started playing with cheesecloth.  I know some artists hand dye cheesecloth to use in costuming but I had watercolors still on my palette from the rice paper part of the headdress.  So I just painted some cheesecloth to use for her skirt. 
As I was drapping the cheesecloth on her as a skirt we had an ice storm.  The picture of the trees don’t do justice to the beauty that surrounded my home and studio but it gives you an idea.
 As a result of the ice storm I decided to use silver lined rainbow silver glass seed beads to embellish her skirt and bodice.
I usually take pictures of my progress when working on a doll and took some pictures of her seated on a pedestal.  As I looked at the pictures I noticed that the way the cheesecloth was draped it looked like the foam from the sea.  She now had an identity.  There is a Goddess, or Bodhisattva, known as Kuan Yin. She is filled with compassion, peace, and is strongly associated with water. 
 I continued embellishing her costume until she felt complete but wanted to exhibit her in a way that further conveyed the essence of water.  I also decided to give her “Henna” tattoos to further convey her peaceful nature.
After the doll was complete I asked my husband to create a turned and carved pedestal that I antiqued with blue paint to give the finishing touch to her presentation.

I hope you enjoyed following the process I used in creating the Goddess. 
If you wish to learn how to make your own Goddess in a live class I will be teaching a three day class at Artistic Figures in Cloth and Clay April 20 – 23, 2017 in Columbus Ohio.  If you would like more information on the class and how to sign up click on the following link
If you don’t want to wait that long to take an art doll class, I am teaching how to create your own Fire Goddess on AforArtistic this month.  If you would like more information on the class and how to sign up click on the following link.


  1. Your dolls are amazing and are full of artful techniques. Awesome