Friday, January 4, 2019


Hi All,
Happy New Year!
Boy, things got real busy for me -- I haven't posted since November!

Well, here she is: "Morning Promenade"

She is for sale on my ETSY site (www.etsy.com/shop/ArleyDollDesigns) for $300. (sold)

She is wearing a bustle-style dress from the 1880's (I hardly ever do bustle dresses because they are so complicated, but this one was fun!) This style was called a "promenade dress", and was made for walking down a street (notice -- there's no train to drag on the ground). Women would wear these dresses to promenade down the main street to meet and be seen. (Sort of like "cruising the boulevard".)

She is an all-cloth art doll, about 20 inches tall. She's a stump doll glued to a wooden base.

I love  how the skirt turned out. It's rows of pleated tulle -- that's how the fabric came! (from JoAnns Fabric). When I saw it, I new immediately that was going to be the skirt.

I beaded the front piece over some venice lace. I had some antique jet beaded trim in a "pointed" pattern I used on the front drape, along with some black beaded fringe. The bustle has some more trim I beaded plus some beaded tassels here and there.

I cheated on the bustle and didn't do "authentic" foundation under-garments (that would be crazy!) Because her body is cloth, I simple patterned an extra large rear end for her and added a "bum pad" stitched to her bottom to hold out the skirt. Then, a ruffled petticoat over that.

I made the parasol (removable for shipping and storing) from a wire base glued to a wooden dowel. It's covered in chiffon and lace.

As I am a "costume historian" nerd, I want to show you what women really wore under their skirts for this look. This was called a "bustle cage". It tied around the waist and hung off the back.

At first, it was small and short:

As with most fashions, as the fad progress, the bustle got bigger and longer:

When it was in-cased in cloth, sometime it was referred to as a "lobster tail":

Notice on the long cages, there's a fabric panel holding the hoops together on the inside? That hung down and rested on the back of your legs. So, every time you walked, this cage would hit and bounce on the back of your calves!

It looks like a hooped petticoat cut in half. Plus, they wore several ruffled petticoats over that before putting on the skirt!

My question is: How did they sit down?? I see in period movies the women with bustles sit sideways on the edge of the chair, leaning slightly forward. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that must have been! Plus, all that weight hanging off your butt!!

I am constantly amazed at fashion trends and what women (and men) will do for style......

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Halloween witch

Hi All,
Well, better late than never! Here's my last Halloween witch for this year:

I named her Lady Eugenia Copperbottom.

She is the last of my "Victorian Witch" series.

I used an antique beaded applique done in beautiful bronze and black beads. (This is a rare piece, as most Victorian beadwork was done in all black beads.)

Also, here is another "Day of the Dead" bust:
Have fun!

Sunday, September 30, 2018


Hi All,
It's October, so time to start on my Halloween yard! Every year I try to make one or two items to add to my front yard for Halloween. This year, I've made 2 Mandrake Root babies!

This project was fairly simple, and only took me less than a week of man hours (spread out over 2 weeks). I looked at a lot of images from the Harry Potter movie, and ones that people had made themselves. (There are some good tutorials on the Internet. Try googling "Mandrake diy")

Here are close-ups of the two faces:
(This one turned out more "grumpy" than "crying".)

To start with, I got 2 life-size baby dolls (I tried to find some at the thrift store, but they were all too small. I found these, sold together, at Walmart for about $16.) They are about 13 inches tall. --Aren't they cute??

I re-sculpted the face to look like they were crying/screaming. I used 2-part Apoxie clay, as I had that on hand, and it was the only thing I could find that stuck to the rubber heads. I studied my research, and when babies cry, they scrunch up their eyes & open their mouth in a horrible frown.

Later, I added some hot-glue lines to accent the wrinkles in the face.

I also added wire to the top of the head for the limbs of the plant. Since I knew it would be very hard to attach a single wire to the top of the rubber head, I punched two small holes in the top of the head, opposite of each other, and threaded one long wire threw both holes and bent them up, making two limbs. I did that twice on each head, so they both ended up with 4 limbs each. I added more Apoxie to the base of each wire to keep it in it's bent position.

Next, I added expanding insulation foam from a can ("Great Stuff" from Home Depot for $7). This is a tricky product to use, as the foam expands and grows after you spray it on. You never know how much it will expand and what it will look like. (I did carve away some of the foam that got too big in the end.)

I also added some unraveled twine to the arms.

Here's a trick if you use this insulation product: After using, clean the spout and removable tube with acetone (nail polish remover) to dissolve any foam product. Otherwise, the next time you use the can, nothing will come out because the foam at the top has harden. (I threw away several cans of this  before I figured that out....)

Next, I sprayed on several layers of primer and a coat of "sand" spray. Aerosol spray paint does not affect the harden insulation foam (not at all like using spray paint on plain Styrofoam -- the paint will melt the foam away!)
(I cut off the legs at this point, as these are going to be displayed in a pot and never removed.)

There were many textures in the piece at this point (mostly smooth). I wanted to go over the whole thing with more texture to tie it all together. I used "stone" spray paint (it comes in several colors - I used a tan color), which has both a mix of color and texture to it.

Here I'm starting to glue on leaf branches (got several stalks of leaves at Michael's).

After texturing, I went over it all with a wash of brown acrylic (thinned), then added some black for shadow and yellow ocher highlights, with a bit of olive green here and there. I even added just a drop of red in the eyes to make them look creepy.

Lastly, I hot-glued some brown moss for more color and texture.

I'll probably go in and add some paint to the pots to distress & age them a bit.

I also did some research on actual Mandrake roots (they are a real thing). There's a lot of information about them. The roots really do look like limbs of a person (if you sort of squint at them....)

In ancient times, people believed these roots had magical powers. They were believed to be used by witches in their rituals. (So, J.K. Rowling wasn't straying too far from the myth when she wrote this part.)

It's officially Halloween season!  -- Have fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Hello All,
I've finished another witch for Halloween, but this time I made a "hag" witch. Most of my dolls tend to be glamorous or funny, (or characters that THINK they are glamorous). But, this witch has NO delusions about what she looks like.

She's about 17 inches tall, and is bent over with a hump on her back. (This pose proved tricky to photograph, as she is bent down, but looking up).

I've been experimenting with aging cloth faces. I've been trying to add wrinkles, bags, and sagging skin. Also, I've tried to add some texture to the cloth face. These things are easy to do with a sculpted clay face, but very hard to do in cloth.

I picture her living alone in the forest. I don't think she's necessarily EVIL, but she's no lollipop either.

I had fun adding all sorts of do-dads to her belt -- tools she needs to make potions and casts spells. She is magical, and to show that, I added a bit of sparkly black fabric under her cape (made of gray lace and black netting).

I also tried to do fingernails (which I've only ever done once before). I felt she needed thick, dirty fingernails to accent her bone-y hands. I made the fingernails from plastic drinking straws, cut to shape and pained with acrylic paint.

I think her name shall be "Agatha".

Okay, back to making more Halloween dolls for October.
Have fun!

Monday, August 6, 2018


Hi All,
As promised, here are some more of the dolls I'm showing at Roger's Garden Halloween show opening Aug. 31. (Roger's Halloween show here.) They don't have the 2018 show on their website as of this writing, but it should be up by Sept. Make sure to check it out.

Here is "Lady Agatha Verdigris": (green is her favorite color)

She is about 20" tall and is a stump doll.

She's a very old teacher at Hogwarts School of Wizardry.
Amidst the feathers and bows in her hat, she wears a cameo on her hat of a beautiful green skeleton witch.

This is her sister, "Lady Salome Aubergine": (she favors shades of purple)
She loves her bejeweled spider in her hat.

No one knows which witch is the eldest, as both claim they are the youngest of the two!

Since both their husbands (the "Lord High Wizards") have passed, neither sister does much teaching at Hogwarts anymore, but both can be found in the tea room, reminiscing about their "glory days" as head teachers and witches.

Both costumes sport antique Victorian jet beaded appliques among the many embellishments.

And, here is a cloth witch bust. Her name is "Andromeda Heliotrope":

She is 17" tall to the top of her hat.

So, that's all for Roger's Garden Halloween show. I hope some of you living in Southern California get a chance to see the show in person!

Okay, now I have to work on some dolls for the Houston Quilt show.

Have fun!