Thursday, 17 April 2014

Printing fabrics for a circus girl

I love the simplicity of potato print, and I do it far too rarely...

Yesterday I finished another set of clothes for Stella, my circus girl.
 Stella's colour scheme is turquoise, yellow and ivory, and luckily enough I had a soft organic jersey fabric in my stash as well as textile screen print colours, a glittery aqua and a sparkling gold.
I cut out all the pieces for Stella's shirt, fixed them with washi tape on the table and started printing.

 While the colour was drying, I made Stella a delicate tulle dress with golden sequins and a pretty little fascinator - because the life of a circus girl is quite glamourous.

I hope your day is a sunny one - enjoy the start of a long Easter weekend!

Warmly,

Juliane



Additional note: Stella is a 20"/ 50cm tall doll and will be available for auction next wednesday, 23rd of April. More info coming soon.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

DIY Easter surprise in a matchbox

A wee Easter surprise in a matchbox. 
Pull the button on a string - 
and find a wee rabbit, sitting in the green green grass under a colourful bunting...

From all the pins of this blog on Pinterest, my little tutorial from 2010 on how to make these wee surprise boxes still gets a lot of traffic every day. It is a simple craft from my childhood, a matchbox with a hidden mechanism inside, and if you pull the button, the box "magically" opens:
 It is the perfect little gift for someone you want to surprise. I love to add tiny messages, fill the boxes with empty snail shells, with model train people (like these here), dried flowers, little flea market finds. Some readers wrote me that they made many of these as invitations for their wedding or as birth announcements. Others made tiny magic boxes at a children birthday party together with their small guests.

Do you need a little handmade Easter gift for someone? 
You can find the tutorial for a magic matchbox here. 

Warmly,

Juliane

P.S. "Glad Påsk" - I am sure you would have guessed right - means "Happy Easter" ;-)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Stitches for Stella

Vintage silk and harlequin-style ruffles...

Little Stella kept on begging for weeks: "A circus dress, please, make me a circus dress!"

And so I did - and spent a long night and an early morning folding many meters of delicate shiny fabric to make a skirt and a collar for my circus girl. 
It is so rarely I sew clothes by hand, stitch-by-stitch, 
and I so much enjoy the accuracy, the slow pace. 
I wish I had that much patience when I make my own dresses.

Stella is a 20"/ 50cm tall doll and will be available for auction 23rd of April.

Sending you a warm spring breeze from Skåne,


Juliane

Sunday, 13 April 2014

For the dolly picnic - miniature braided Easter bread

Are you too already preparing for Easter? We have been baking buns and braided breads today, and from the dough leftovers I made a teeny tiny Easter bread for the dolly picnic, baked in the residual oven heat. 

Almost the whole ice cube compartment of our freezer is filled with tiny buns, they are perfect whenever the little orange fox is visiting us for a tea party, for the toy shop and for the pop-up garden café. Keep in mind that if you make real toy food, you better use a dough with almost no fat to avoid stains on cloth dolls and cuddly toys. Rather than using real jam or butter, serve sugar sprinkles in cups, they are easy to vacuum up after play.

Have a lovely sunday!

Juliane

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Dolls for boys (and the little extra)

Dear reader,

A couple of weeks ago, with only one day in between, I received two emails by people who, in no uncertain terms, wanted to make their personal opinions clear on how many details a doll would need, especially if it is a (custom) doll for a boy. As a side note, the two persons who contacted me weren't any of my customers, both had seen one of my dolls somewhere else. 

I felt a bit indignant when I read those two emails, but after a few days, I decided that it might be a good idea to simply write a blog post on the question whether a doll needs to be anatomically correct or not.

I have been pondering over this little post for quite some time. It felt rather odd to take such detailed photos of my work, I usually don't share photos of undressed (or, for that matter, unfinished) dolls, but it seemed way easier to write about something that is pretty clear due to a photo than to only describe how my dolls look like below the bellybutton.

To put it bluntly - yes, my doll boys look like boys, not like girls. You can of course use a more funny or more child-appropriate name for their private parts, but plainly spoken, these doll boys have a little penis. Yep. Basically, I cover a little needle-felted woollen ball with doll tricot, do a few stitches and attach it to the doll trunk. No further details, no "loose" parts, just a very simple way to make the difference clear between boys and girls:
The doll in the photos is a 22"/ 55cm tall custom doll. Due to their size and weight, I recommend these larger dolls for children age 5 and older. 

To me it very much depends on the age and mentality and the cognitive level of a child whether I as a doll maker would add such features to a doll or not. No doll has to be anatomically correct. There are children who prefer unisex dolls, a boy can be a girl and vice versa, whatever feels appropriate at a time. 

You as a parent know the state of awareness of your child, it is you (not the doll maker) who defines your and your child's comfort zone. Just because a doll doesn't have genitals, it doesn't mean that your child won't learn about the human body. There are many educationally valuable and age-appropriate ways to teach children about the differences and similarities of boys and girls.

While for a child under the age of two, three, such characteristics may not play an important role at all,  for a five-year-old, certain differences of the human body are quite important. My advice is to keep dolls for younger children as simple as possible unless you wish for a certain learn effect (such as potty training or the arrival of a baby sibling). If you make a doll for older children, it will feel more natural to add this or that feature bit by bit.

When I began my journey as a doll maker, my first dolls already came with bellybuttons and with dimples in knees and elbows, back then quite a novelty. Those of you who have been following my work for a long time, know that after some years, I added a more elaborate neck, ears, a bum, nostrils. With every stitch I do, my hands and eyes get more skilled, and it feels natural that, over time, the look of my dolls does change. I often ponder for months over a certain detail before eventually adding it, and there has always to be a reason. Nothing happens by sheer accident.

If I'd have to weigh the importance of non-essentials such as dimples in an elbow and the importance of genitals and had to make a choice, the latter would come first. The way how my doll boys look like is not anatomically correct though - we are not talking of some kind of 'bag' filled with rice or lentils here. It is just a little woollen ball, covered with fabric, it is still only a stylized body part, stylized like any other part of the doll. It is a real doll, and I trust that my customers see the distinction between a human body and its stylisation, reduced to basic features.
 Especially boys find it easier to justify that they play with dolls if the doll clearly is a boy (sadly, in quite a few countries, people are still dividing toys into playthings for boys and playthings for girls, something that always seemed pretty much arbitrary to me). Omitting this - for boys quite important - part of their body when making a doll, would send a clear message - that in the world of dolls, being a boy is not okay. The aparent omission would make genitals also more special than they need to be, it is simply a part of the human body.

I do put a lot of thought in how my dolls look like, every detail is well-considered. That is why usually ask for feedback from my customers, also on this matter, and it seems that children in general find it simply natural that a boy doll has a little extra. This is what a customer recently wrote: 

 (...) [Name] definately noticed the extra bump and giggled. She then pulled his pants back up and also told me, her dad and siblings about it. She was amused. We just acted like it was natural, and of course it would be there. Without too much hoopla, she just accepted it as part of who he was. (...)

What, if not conveying that a child is accepted as the person it is, being a boy or a girl, playing with dolls or not, should be of utmost importance for as as doll makers? I am sure that there are many ways to teach acceptance, adding such a detail is just one of them.

Warmly,

Juliane

P.S. Would you like to add a few pieces to your dolly wardrobe this spring? Check out my free tutorial to sew your own doll panties.


Additional note: Three years ago I decided to disable the comment function on this blog to keep focus on writing only, not on writing-for-comments. If you would like to leave a comment on this subject, please visit my Facebook page instead. Thank you.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Painting with light, painting with shadow

I love making doll faces. I love how, from a woollen ball, a little being slowly emerges. I love how the character of each doll is getting more and more distinct, how each single stitch changes the expression, how different a face can look like in the soft morning light from how it looked like the evening before, when I enter the studio after having worked into the wee hours. It is not wool and fabric that are my most important materials, it is light and shadow.

I remember a theatre performance with puppets that I did a couple of years ago. We were touring and it was a guest performance at a theatre where they invited the families with their children to come backstage and to take a look at all the puppets and scenography (something I usually dislike because it can easily destroy the illusion, the magic moment). 

However, a child was staring with wide eyes at a puppet - the main character - with a very simple wooden head with eyes and only a hint of a nose and no mouth. Quite stunned, the little girl asked "But how on earth could this doll talk without a mouth?".

It was, of course, the interplay of light and shadow, that had done the magic. The puppet's face was frozen and lifeless in the neon light behind the stage, after the performance. But with the spotlights on, the face started to change its expression, from sad to astonished to curious to happy. A puppeteer knows how to create a wondrous richness of expressions, how to create magic moments. It is a very simple secret:  You paint with light and you paint with shadow. 

 Warmly,

Juliane


Additional note: Stella, the little girl above, will be available for auction the 23rd of April. Me and her have quite a bit of work to do until then, and she is curiously watching me putting together tulle and golden ribbons, shiny beads and delicate lace.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cozy Company

April weather and cozy company...

This Little Mi hot-water bottle & doll set was a custom order. Raspberry red and whipped-cream white, summer colours for a Norwegian girl. 

My plan for today was to take you on an inspiring morning walk, sharing spring photos and a few ideas for Easter, but it is pouring with rain and stormy outside. Perfect weather for a hot-water bottle and a cup of tea though (and for doing lots of paper work).

Warmly,

Juliane

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Waiting list for Kiki dolls (and about helpful little fairies)

It often happens that I wish I had a few tiny fairies visiting my studio while I am asleep. When I'd wake up in the morning, they would have rolled doll heads, stuffed limbs, sewn pretty tulle skirts and sorted all those buttons. If they'd wanted to be exceedingly helpful, they'd have typed all the invoices during the night, labelled packages, ordered supplies and made a cup of tea (for me, not for themselves, fairies usually abhor tea, they prefer nectar, served in teeny tiny jars). 

I am not the only one who wishes she had a few helpful winged visitors, a lot of my colleagues would wish for a few fairies, too. Even with as much as we work, we cannot satisfy the demand on handmade cloth dolls.

I have been trying different ways of selling my Kiki dolls, I took custom orders, I put them in my webshop on Dawanda with and without announcing the time for the upload - and however I did it, people were complaining. Far too few dolls, far too many people who'd want one...

In December, I started to try a new way of finding a new home for my dolls. People who asked for a Kiki doll could sign up for a special mailing list. Once, twice a month I am now sending out an introduction letter with a detailed description and photos of each of the dolls that are looking for a new family. Those who are interested in purchasing one of the dolls that are being shown in the introduction letter, send a short note to a special email address within a certain time frame. Of all those names, I let a number generator choose the new homes for each Kiki. So far, this new way of selling these dolls has been working greatly.

People do still need a good portion of luck because though, because - as before - I am only making about three, four Kiki dolls a month, not more. But using a mailing list minimises the stress for (potential) customers. No panic purchases, no sweat attacks while trying to hit the right buttons to be quicker than someone else. It does also minimise the amount of extra work for me - which means that I have more time for making dolls and spend less time on conversations.

If you too would like to be added to our mailing list (one, two introduction letters a month), you can sign up here. Please note that - unless I have a few fairies helping out in the studio - I am not able to reply to the growing amount of emails regarding Kiki customs. In order to work, my daily online time is very limited. Currently, I prefer to sell Kiki dolls as ready to go, and I try to do my best to offer three, four dolls a month in different styles and clothes to cater for all tastes and preferences.


Sending you sunny greetings from Skåne,

Juliane




Additional note: I am currently not able to take more orders for new custom dolls (my classic dolls, 55cm/ 23" with mohair wigs and embroidered eyes). A classic-style auction doll will be available next week. 
There might be a few more Little Mi hot-water bottle sets for sale in a few weeks, stay tuned.