Exploring the more subtle side of the circus colour palette. Vintage and contemporary circus themed gift ideas.
This is probably the most original doll I have created to date and was made for my friend and illustrator Natasha Durley. This doll is definitely getting closer to the style of doll I would like to make in the future.
I created the initial idea and Steve adapted it using his illustration skills to complete the figure as a whole and to develop this into an image for screen printing.
This mysterious fairy has been positioned as close to the original as possible, even down to the fingers lace behind her back. I really enjoyed bringing this drawing to life and to see a three-dimensional version evolve using the doll making skills I have gained since starting in the new year.
Once again, I used cut strips of old T-shirt material as discovered in my Machi doll and was really pleased that I was able to recreate her two tone red and black hair.
Her face and pattern details on the wing were drawn on using pigment pens by Pilot.
I was particularly pleased that I was able to re-create the fishnet tights by doubling up the base fabric for her legs with a layer of black netting.
I love how she looks deep in thought with her day dream expression. I am hoping to create more Day of the Dead fairies and explore other colour schemes. The red, black and white has been heavily inspired by circus stripes.
I would love to see your Day of the Dead creations in the comments below.
This cloth doll was inspired by the title of my dad’s book ‘Cry of the Machi’, which is a fictional novel that weaves together a murder mystery involving Mapuche Indian shamanic rituals with the quaint English tradition of Morris Dancing.
Machis are usually female with a similar role to that of a shaman She plays a central role in traditional Mapuche culture. They perform many rituals, which include; trying to ward off disease and evil spirits and influencing the weather for a better harvest.
Other than the descriptions in my dad’s book, I did not know much about Machis before starting this doll and naturally I did a google image search and created a Pinterest board to get me started.
I based the dolls’ clothing on a combination of images that I researched with the fabrics I already had in my material collection. Many of the pictures showed the women wearing patterned dresses over long sleeved blue shirts, which became my starting point.
The look is accompanied with a tartan shawl (similar to my traditional Welsh doll) and heavily adorned jewellery, usually discs of metal. Her main piece of jewellery and bracelets were adapted from necklaces and beads I bought from a second hand store and the cloak is held together with a crescent button that I already had. This, I felt fit in nicely with the shamanic and magical element.
The Machis’ outfit is completed with an elaborate and floral headpiece. My version was created from a piece of elasticated fabric, decorated with a handmade fabric flower and additional pieces of silver discs to echo her necklace using the same piece of adapted jewellery. To create her thick black hair, I cut up strips of old T-shirt material that I stretched slightly to encourage the fabric to curl a little and to soften any harsh edges.
This has been a great opportunity to explore clothing and culture from other traditions and at some point I would like to research and make other dolls inspired by people around the world.
Meet Jeffery the jazz musician, created for Steve’s stepfather Tim who is a saxophonist which inspired this cloth doll and is complete with a fabric saxophone.
When discussing ideas with Steve, we decided to go for a Blues Brother vibe and created a very quick sketch to develop the idea from.
There are many details on this doll I love, and I was more confidant creating some of the trickier items of clothing this time around because I had gained a lot of the skills needed from my previous dolls.
For instance, when making Gwyneth I really struggled to get the shape of the hat right and to keep the lining looking tidy, so this time I used felt to avoid the possibility of fraying edges and to provide more a rigid shape. This, I feel worked really well.
I continued using felt for the shoes and this time developed something that fit around the whole foot, rather than the clog style that I used for Gwyneth. This involved three pattern pieces and the blanket stitch around the edges to hold them together and to provide aesthetic detail.
The jacket was much easier this time round since making Elizabeth. The knowledge I gained from Elizabeth’s jacket gave me a better understanding of the sequence needed to sew the fabric pieces in the correct order. Even the trouser pattern from the Zombie has been adapted to fit more closely around the waist, which was a problem the first time around.
The saxophone also started with a sketch and after a little thought as to how I would create the form and shape of the bell I realised it could be achieved quite simply by sewing a basic saxophone shape using two outer pieces and two inner pieces of black lining. The lining was inserted into the main shape wrong sides together and the raw edges were folded inside. These were stitched by hand using a blind ladder stitch.
So for Steve’s birthday doll I wanted to created something a bit more masculine. After a bit of thought I decided to base his doll on some design ideas that he developed for Vaudeville Hippie in the early days based on zombie jugglers.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Steve and I enjoy practising circus skills, which includes the art of poi spinning. Now am I not sure, but I think we were heavily into The Walking Dead at the time, which sparked the inspiration for the zombie juggler range.
To create the artwork, Steve whole heartedly threw himself into this project, posing with a range of circus props in different zombie stances and facial expressions.
These were then hand drawn and then adapted in Illustrator and Photoshop with filters so that they could be prepared for a silk screen print for T-Shirt printing.
I tried to copy the stance and facial expression of Steve’s zombie poi spinner photo and drawing as faithfully as I could, with some artistic license with the hair.
I wanted to create a sense of the hair decomposing and therefore have used a combination of cut up plastic from beer can holders and small off cuts of black netting fabric.
Now, although this is based on Steve’s work, it has allowed me to start personalising the style of the dolls and moving away from the templates I have been using so far.
The body parts are a combination of patterns from both Jan Horrox and Patti Medaris Culea to get the shape of the arms that most reflected the photo I had chosen to work from, one bent and one straight, this meant resizing the length of one of the arms to keep them a uniform length. I also extended the length of the legs and added wire inside to enable to doll to stand in his zombie pose. To create a male torso, I widen the waist.
The details have been drawn on by hand with micron pens and water colour pencils and a little bit of stitching in red for the zombie scars.
The poi are simple and small woollen pom-poms.
This fairy princess, Liliella, was created for my cousin’s youngest daughter Lily. She is based on the final, most complex pattern, ‘Titiana’ from my Jan Horrox book. This was definitely a challenge and took a lot longer to create than the previous dolls because of the moveable joints for the arms, elbows, hips and knees. However, I enjoyed the challenge and the process of making all the intricate details for the doll.
The colour scheme was developed from this original piece of textiles that I created for my degree over ten years ago. Initially I dyed the fabric pale blue, then added red dye on top of the blue to create a bleed effect and purple dye to add texture. The purple and pink stripes were created through a hand cut screen print. Finally I stitched basic linear petal shapes over the purple textured areas. It was nice revisiting an old piece of work and to give it a new lease of life. My plan is to incorporate other textiles pieces that I have into my doll making.
Fortunately, I already had a mixture of pink, purple and blue fabrics in my collection like the range of textured wools that I used for the hair, which also includes strips of off-cut fabrics from other parts of the doll. I particularly like the vintage pink and purple floral fabric that I used on the lower arms and legs.
Fortunately it was a really sunny day when I came to photograph Liliella so I made the most of this and hunted out interesting areas in my garden and had fun posing her in different areas. I was particularly pleased with this image below and the featured image because I feel these tell the most interesting story.
I chose a Welsh theme because my dad and Jenny have just moved from the Welsh village of Caersws to the Welsh town of Twywn, in the county of Gwynnedd (which gave inspiration to her name of Gwyneth) and Saint David’s Day coincided with my decision making of the type of cloth doll I would create for Jenny.
This is my modern interpretation of a Welsh doll and I had to adapt the look slightly to fit in with the fabrics and supplies that I already had. I even had the little wooden daffodil brooch holding Gwyneth’s shawl together!
Again, I based the body on a body pattern by Jan Horrox’s, ‘Anastasia’. I as make each new doll, the process becomes easier, simply because with experience, the need to constantly refer to the instructions becomes less. Therefore, I found the foundations for this doll fairly quick to put together.
Gwyneth’s top as is made from a tube of lace and her skirt has been simply gathered around the waist. I love the little felt shoes and was pleased when they worked out, as I created these from scratch without the help of a pattern. The hat, however, was the most challenging aspect. I eventually used a pattern from my Patti Medaris Culea book.
I love how the personality of each doll develops as the fabrics and details are added. This is my favourite part of the whole process!