Jennie of A Little Vintage started making hand painted dolls about 3 years ago. The decision to make them custom made from her clients sentimental items has turned her craft into something much more meaningful. She talks about her creative process here. Pop by Jennie’s blog or Etsy shop to see the latest dolls and other new makes!
Hmmm … the creative process for me, really starts with getting a feeling for something. There is an ‘urge’ to create. Even with custom orders – where I’ve been given a certain amount of information (or even sentimental fabric) this gives me some direction. But then the rest is just what feels right – creative instinct? I’m not a doll maker who has a stack of arms and legs ready to sew on at any given moment. There isn’t a ‘production line’ of limbs. I’ve never been able to work that way – it just doesn’t feel right.
I begin by tea dyeing my fabric to different shades (apart from the much darker skin tones). Then I draw their faces — not drawn from a template — each face is individually sketched out and hand painted. They are then heat set in the oven! (only 5 minutes at a very low temperature). When I first started, the whole doll would go in, as I was painting the shoes on too. But now it’s usually just the faces that get baked.
Colour is a huge component in decision making (probably for all crafters). The eye colour, the skin tone and the shade of lip colour. I’ve been known to change the eye colour with a very fine brush once everything else is finished. I love it when I get to put pattern on pattern or put colours together that you wouldn’t normally, in your own outfit. That is very freeing and exciting — coming from a background where I was told things had to be even, matching and not to mix pattern…
Making a doll for someone from their sentimental items can make the creative process quite nerve wracking sometimes. I think my all time favourite order was for a 40th birthday present. (Before I started blogging) I made the doll from the birthday girl’s 1970’s toddler clothes. A short polyester aqua dress with cream crochet neckline and sleeves. In the photo I was given, the little girl was wearing the dress with some white knee high socks, so the crochet part became the socks on the doll too. Another doll I was particularly pleased with, was for a girl with Downs Syndrome. Her mother wanted her to know that not all dolls (or people) are the same – and that it’s okay to be different.
The face painting takes a good deal of time, but something else that is time consuming is deciding the details to add once the doll is made up. Neck wear, earrings, hair clips, collars, scarves and ponchos. These are the things that pull everything together. Sometimes it’s a matter of too much choice, and I have to be careful to not over think things (which I tend to do sometimes).
This is where having a blog has been the best thing ever. Apart from the wonderful friendships it has created for me, it is a huge part of the creative process. The opinions, feedback and support is fantastic. But it has also been a portal to new and exciting projects and challenges that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
So, that’s my creative process — ever changing, but always fun and interesting!