Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Hi All,
I've been busy with lots of projects -- none of which are done right now! But, I did finish a project that I started about 5 years ago.

This is my "Lucifer Shrine" I started when I signed up for a Michael de Meng (a great assemblage artist!) class long ago. The class was called "Angels", and we were to assemble a shrine or altar after choosing an angel to do. I did a lot of research before the class and spent a lot of time gathering as much "raw material" to make my piece in class. -- Well, my car broke down the day before the class, and I wasn't able to make it. But, I kept everything I'd gathered in a box. Every so often, I pull out that box and work a little bit on this piece -- adding more and more to the "Lucifer" story.

And, now it's finished!
This is Lucifer, guarding the gates of Hell. In researching Angels, I discovered that Lucifer was first an Angel in Heaven. In fact, he was a very powerful and strong Arch Angel. His angel name was "Samael" (I put his angel name at the bottom of the plaque).

The figure of Lucifer is made from a WWF wrestling action figure, with a rodent skull for a head (I forget what animal the skull was -- maybe a squirrel or mole?) I sculpted the horns from 2-part Apoxie.

Lucifer was known to wear a breastplate of shiny gold metal. It was so bright, it was like a mirror. He could radiate light from within himself and blind his enemies with his breastplate. When he became the guardian of Hell, he lost his angel status and he lost his power to control light. But, he still wears his breastplate, which has become burnt and scorched over the years.

One power Lucifer still has, is the power to control fire. That is why he is holding a flame in his hand and is surrounded by flames.

In his other hand, Lucifer is holding the key to the gates of Hell. He is also wrapped in chains, from when he was captured by Arch Angel Michael when Samael went to war against God. Michael captured Samael and delivered him to hell (as the story goes, according to Bible philosophers.)

The flames are round paint brushes with the handles cut off.

I made the skull at the top from a plastic Halloween skull. I filled in the eye holes with Apoxie, and glued a glass doll eye in the center and sculpted a lid over that. The horns are the tails of some plastic sea horses I got at the Dollar Store. (LOVE the Dollar Store!)

The urns holding flames are also from the Dollar Store -- they were little gold trophies that I cut the handles off of. Those things holding the urns of fire up are drawer handles from the hardware store. (I re-bent them.)

Lucifer's wings are made of a lot of little pieces of wood dowels, sharpened with a pencil sharpener and glued to a backing of cardboard I cut out in a basic wing shape. On top of the wooden dowels, I  added some nails and screws. I wanted his wings to look like weapons that could hurt you.

The actual gate Lucifer is standing in front of may look odd. That's because it's made of tiny little  people. They were those toy plastic army men (again - Dollar Store!). I cut off the base they were standing on and zapped them with a heat gun. Then, I just started hot-gluing them together until I had a gate. ---So, the Gates of Hell are made of the bodies of damned souls.

I hope you liked my little project. Every now and then I take a break from doll-making and do something else. It brushes off the cobwebs, right??

Have fun!

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Hi All
Halloween is fast approaching! Are you ready? I just finished 2 more Zombie dolls, made from thrift store porcelain dolls.

This little lovely was at the Goodwill store with a price of about $6. I notice it had a small crack on the back of the neck, but that didn't matter to me. When I took it up to the register to pay, the manager looked at the crack and said she couldn't charge me the full price and said I could have it for 50 cents! What a deal!

When I got it home and pulled off  her wig, I saw the crack extended to the side of the head and around the ear, and was splintered into several pieces. -- No problem! I'll just glue it back together. These dolls have a hole in the top of their heads to glue the eyes in, so I could get into the inside of the head, no problem. 

I pulled the pieces apart and laid them out on the table. I used super glue and started gluing each piece and putting them back in place. But, the pieces didn't want to stay in place long enough for the glue to dry. So, I tried taping the pieces in place to hold them, but that didn't work. Next, I used hot glue inside the head to support the cracks while the glue dried. But, the hole at the top of the head wasn't big enough to get the glue gun inside the head!

My solution: Use the hot glue on the outside of the head. And, now I had a new texture for my doll, and was able to glue the cracked pieces back together again!

I continued to drizzled the hot glue all over the head, hands, and feet. I liked the effect so much, I decided I didn't want her to have a wig, so I put the little styofoam form that was covering the hole at the top of the head back on and cover it with more hot glue. (I had to add a little wall patch to even out the gap). I even added some blobs of glue here and there -- sort of like sores.

I sprayed a few coats gray primer over all the pieces (hot glue is very hard to cover with acrylic paint). I taped over the eyes with masking tape.

Then I started rubbing white, yellow, and green acrylics over the top edges to highlight the texture. I also added a touch of red and orange here and there.

To make her look even more creepy, I painted out her eyes with white acrylic.

I cut up her dress, leaving all the edges raw, and dyed it red. Her dress was mostly cotton, so it took the dye pretty well, and the process roughed up the edges, so I didn't have to do much else to it. 

And, just for a touch of sweetness, I glued a bow to her head.

This is another Zombie I made real quickly. She was a bride.

 I didn't want to spend a lot of time on her. so I just painted her green and shaded around her eyes. 

I dyed her dress black, but because it was 100% polyester, it came out a pale gray color. So, I dripped fabric ink all over ("Dye-n-flo" by Jaquard) in black, blue, and purple and spritzed it with water. I distressed her wig and glued it back on.

 Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 3, 2019


Hi All,
Here's the last doll I made for Roger's Gardens Halloween event, titled "Malice in Wonderland". (See their site HERE.)

The "ALICE" doll was pretty straight forward, as everyone knows what Alice is supposed to look like. I didn't want to stray too far from the original concept.

To fit with the theme, I did make Alice a bit more creepy than what people expect. I gave her dark eyes with a blank expression -- like she is in a daze. All of her trim is black, to keep the "dark" theme.

The "Alice in Wonderland" story has lots of props to go with each of the characters, and I tried to include as many as I could. So, I gave Alice the little magic potion bottle that shrinks her. And the key to the little door hangs around her neck. And, I gave her a toy rabbit to hold. I had to "break down" and distress the stuffed rabbit to make it look old and worn (I even removed one of it's button eyes).

I "dirty-ed" her white apron a bit with some beige stamping ink, and frayed the edges here and there.

I didn't take many WIP photos, as she was made just like the other two characters. Her hair is an acrylic wig I bought from a doll store.

Here are all three -- Alice, the Hatter, and the Red Queen:

Have fun!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Hi All,
Okay, today I'll show you another doll from "Malice in Wonderland" for Roger's Garden Halloween show. It's my "Queen of Hearts":

She is about 3 feet tall, and all cloth.

The people at Roger's Gardens wanted an original design,-- with no reference to Tim Burton's "Alice" movie (played wonderfully by Helena Bonham Carter.) Here's the original design I submitted:
It was decided to not use so much gold, and focus on the colors red, black, and white.

They did ask for one thing that proved challenging to me in the building of the piece: Instead of a red heat on her chest, they wanted a heart-shaped hole in her chest (as if her heart was removed -- she was truly heartless!)

To put a hole in the chest of a stuffed doll is like putting a hole in a pillow. The edges had to be sharp and clean. My solution was to insert a heart-shaped tube, made of buckram and strengthened with wire sewn all around. Thankfully, I thought to line the tube with black felt before putting it into the chest.

So, after I stitched the torso, I put the heart-shaped tube inside the chest (I had to leave the side seams open to do this), and stitched the ends to the front and back of the torso, while carefully cutting away the fabric from the torso after every few stitches.

After the "hole" was in place, the next challenge was to put a wire armature "spine" in the torso, (without going through the hole). I made the spine by bending a wire in half, so I would have two wires making the spine. By careful measuring, I formed a circle in the middle of the spine by bending each side into a half circle so it could go around the hole in the chest. (A lot of the bending of the wire had to be done while the "spine" was inside the torso, because once it circled around the "hole", it couldn't come out of the torso.)

After the heart-shaped hole and the wire "spine" were in place inside the torso, I stuffed the torso and stitched up both sides to finish it.

The legs were made just like the Mad Hatter (from 2 posts ago). Heavy wire armatures were put in both legs that went into the wooden base. Because the Queen would wear a long dress, her shoes wouldn't be seen. So, to make it easy on myself, I gave her flat shoes so I could glue the whole foot onto the wood base.

(She is wearing black underwear in the photo, so you can't see where the legs are sewn to the torso.-- I have learned that anytime you make a doll in a skirt, you must add underwear, because people always look!)

Here are the arms, all dressed with her heavily embellished sleeves, before sewing them on.

Instead of an elaborate hairstyle, I went for an elaborate heart-shaped headdress. I gave her black hair pulled up in a small bun.  (--Sorry, I don't know what happened with the color when I photographed this.....)


I build the costume on the doll in layers.
And, I add as much embellishment as I can......

Have fun!

Monday, September 2, 2019


Hi All,
Just a brief post letting you know I've finally converted my "LA MODE ORIENTALE" costume pattern into a digital PDF pattern. So now, it's available for purchase as a PDF that is emailed directly to you for you to print yourself.

Years ago, my computer crashed and I lost everything on it, including some of my earlier patterns. Some of them I've been able to scan the paper copy and get it back into the computer. But, some of them looked terrible when I tried to scan them (including this one).

So, I've been slowly re-typing all the instructions, re-coloring and scanning all the illustrations, and putting it all back together again. I also had to re-do the patterns themselves and put them on 8.5 x 11 computer paper (instead of the old 11 x 17 paper) so it would be down-load-able.

The new costume pattern is on my Etsy site (www.etsy.com/shop/ArleyDollDesigns) for $10.
This pattern is a COSTUME ONLY for my "La Femme" doll. (doll pattern is NOT included with this pattern).

Have Fun!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Hi All,
I have been making dolls to sell at a home & garden store in California, called Roger's Garden. They do "special boutique events" 3 times a year for Christmas, Halloween,  & Easter/Spring, where they sell one-of-a-kind art along side their seasonal merchandise.

They asked me to make dolls for the Halloween event last year, and this year asked if I would make 3 specific dolls to help advertise their Halloween event, titled "Malice in Wonderland" (An "Alice" theme with a darker look to it). I was to make the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and Alice. I started working on this project in February.

So, I thought I'd share with you one of the character dolls I made, the "Mad Hatter".

First off, I started with a sketch of my ideas so everyone involved can see if I'm on the right track with their thinking.

They liked the sketch, but asked to make the colors darker (black, brown, & gray) and to make him a bit more shabby and raggedy.

The store also asked that the doll be about 3 feet tall. Making a 3-foot tall doll out of cloth, with legs, wearing a large top hat would be tricky to keep upright and balanced. I knew I had to have a strong armature inside, especially the legs. My plan was to use a thick wire armature that went through the legs, out of the bottom of the feet, and into a strong wooden base. I used a 9-gauge wire that I had to cut with bolt cutters and bend with pliers and a vice.

The next thing to do was to make the pattern. After several tests, I came up with a pattern with the height and proportions I thought would work. I stitched and stuffed all of the body parts and pinned the whole thing together, to see what it would look like. (I sent the store's art director a picture of me standing behind the doll to show the scale and height.--- I'm never happy when I have my picture taken.....)

After unpinning all the limbs, I started dressing the arms and legs as much as I could before putting them together. Each of the limbs had wire inside, with the ends poking out of the top of the legs and arms. I punched holes in the torso where the arms and legs attached and fed the wire from the limbs into the torso before stitching them together. (The torso also had a wire "spine" armature.)

Dressing a doll with a strong wire armature NOT made to bend, is tricky. Most of the clothing had to be made with seams open in the back that was hand-stitch together after it was on the body. To make it look ragged, I ripped most of the edges and did not finish them. I stitched patches on the pants and jacket and aged the fabric using stampers ink. On some of the clothing, I stitched yarn or chenille trim on the edges to make it look worn.

The jacket was made of several layers of different fabric and black gauze, all stitched together with free motion embroidery. To get it on the body after the arms were attached, I left the back seam open and put each side of the jacket on the doll separately. I hand stitched the back seam, then hand stitched the collar on. (Sorry, I forgot to take close-up photos of the jacket)

I gave the Hatter some props: a tape measure around his neck, and a tea cup in his hand. The tea cup is cobbled together using a small plastic bowl and the handle from a child's plastic tea pot (a child's size tea cup was too small.) The tea spoon is in his hat brim.

After sewing the Hatter's head together, I needle-sculpted the features. I even made ears! (I don't usually make ears, but the Hatter is always rendered with large ears). The face was colored with acrylic paint, colored pencils, and chalk. The hair is fake fur. His hair was going to be a pale gray, but was changed to black with gray streaks. (Without his hat, I think he looks like Jonny Depp as Sweeny Todd!)

I made the top hat base out of wired buckram, covered in an embossed velvet. Because the hat is so big, I wanted it to weigh as little as possible (but still be strong enough to withstand shipping and handling). A request from the art director was that the top of the hat be hinged so it can open. I decided to put a backward clock-face on the inside of the top of the hat with the dormouse curled up, sleeping (or dead) inside the hat.
Roger's Garden is in Corona Del Mar, Calif. The Halloween event runs from Aug 30 to Oct 31.

 I'll post more about this project, making Alice and the Queen of Hearts. Stayed tuned!