Friday, July 5, 2019

Been Busy

Hi All,
Sorry about not posting last month, but I've been busy! I just got back from Santa Fe, where I have been working in the millinery (hats) department for the S.F Opera. (Photos of the hats are at the end of the post.)

Also, I have been gearing up for the Halloween season at Roger's Garden:

I'm still putting together some glamourous ghosts. I have all the components and am working on putting them together.

And, I finished a funny little witch. Don't know what her name will be, but she looks like a "Gladys" to me. (Don't know why.) But, I want to try to come up with a more "witchy" name for her.

Here are some of the lovely bonnets I worked on  for the opera, "La Boheme", which is playing now in Santa Fe. (These are just a few of the 98 hats needed for this opera!)
This opera was designed by Camellia Koo.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Hi All,
I belong to a mixed media art club, and we recently had a challenge to find a thrift store item and turn it into an art piece. So, I went to my local Goodwill's and saw an old jewelry box for $7. I knew would be perfect. It looked exactly like a miniature wardrobe for a doll (at least to me, it did). It's about 15 inches tall and has glass panels on the doors with a mirror on the inside.

I painted it red with gold trim, added some wood filigrees to the top, and painted the glass panels with mirror spray. I took out the mirror in the back and covered the inside with black felt.

Now, I had to create the doll and the wardrobe to go with it.

I remember seeing a doll by Friedercy on Pinterest that inspired this idea. I made a simple rag doll and dressed it like an old-fashion clown. I wanted the colors to be neutral, so I created the costume all in grey with black trim.

That was the easy part. The next part was more of a challenge for me. Instead of clothes for my doll wardrobe, I wanted to make MASKS! This would be very theatrical. I researched 18th century "comedia del arte" figures and masks (this art form came from Italy, and was the origin of our modern theater company).

I created masks of polymer clay (I used "Super Sculpey"). I made a second cloth head so I could use that as a form to hold the clay shape while it baked (you can put cloth and stuffing in the oven, as long as it's on low temperature).

I decided to first make a thin shell of clay that would be the base of the mask. I rolled out a thin piece of clay, cut it in an oval shape, and draped it over the cloth head. I baked this shell for just a few minutes, as it was very thin and I didn't want it to burn. When the piece was cooled, I sculpted the mask face over the shell. I baked the finished mask again. I colored the mask using acrylic paint and chalk.

I had originally intended to tie the masks on to the head with ribbon -- that's why my clown has ears (to stop the ribbon from sliding down the head). But, I decided the masks needed some hair or a hat to finish the character of the mask. I decided to make simple hats out of felt. I made the hats in the style of the "comedia del arte" period to complete the look.

The final mask is a skeleton mask. --Sort of a "death mask".

This is Friedercy's doll art, titled "The Wardrobe". As you can see, hers is far more detailed and elaborate than mine.

She is such a talented artist. I hope she doesn't mind my piece being inspired by her great art. To see more of her work, click here.

Friday, April 12, 2019


Hi All,
I haven't posted for a while. It isn't because I haven't been busy -- I have. But, I can't share what I'm working on until fall. But, I have started on my Halloween dolls. I've been working on some more "Dearly Departed" Ghost dolls.

So, for my ghosts ladies, I start with a wooden candlestick and glue a large base to the bottom for stability. I've patterned the torso in a way that makes it lean forward slightly. (Just to make it easy for me, I glue on pom-poms to make the breasts.)

I make a tight "slip" of some stretchy silver fabric that helps hold the torso to the candlestick, and helps hide the base. Then comes a tulle petticoat to help hold out the skirt.

Over that, I start to build the dress. I am building the skirts with multiple layers. The first, and longest layer is gray. Next is a silver or iridescent color. These photos are all of various phases.

Over that is a white sparkly layer, and finally a sheer layer of the finished dress.

I love using lots of textures, mixing sheers with opaque fabrics. I want my ghost ladies to be "sparkly iridescent visions" floating about, looking for their final home. I'm looking for an "incandescent" quality to my fabric choices.

More later.
Have fun!

Monday, February 25, 2019


Hi All,
I've got a new pattern -- I call her "PENNY DREADFUL".

She is an 18 inch tall cloth "stump" doll with a bustle dress. PENNY DREADFUL is perfect for a "gothic", "vampire", or "steampunk" look. Or, she can be a pretty Victorian lady out for a stroll in the park. -- It's all up to you and your fabric choices.
The doll body is simple to make. With no legs, the body is all-in-one (with added head and arms). She wears a "bum pad" to help hold up her bustle.
Her hair is made of a yarn fringe you make. The dress is designed in many layers, so you can eliminate some elements, or do them all.

Here she is in a "gothic" look:
Pale skin and dark eye make-up. A black velvet and red satin print dress with lots of lace. A saucy top hat completes her look, giving her an air of sophistication.

Or, if you prefer, a "steampunk" version, all in browns and rust.
Her hat has gears and watch hands on it.
A key hole and tiny buckles decorate her bodice. And, keys, chains, gears, and a watch hang from her waist.

I go the idea for this doll after watching the Netflix show of the same name "Penny Dreadful" (which was originally on Showtime). It's about a group of Victorian characters who become involved with Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, Dorian Gray, and other witches and demons. This doll is inspired by the lead character, Vanessa Ives (played by Eva Green).

The name, Penny Dreadful, is not the name of a character, but was the name of a popular magazine in England during the Victorian era (late 1800's) that cost only a penny. There were several publications besides "Penny Dreadful"-- with names like "Penny Horrible" and "Penny Blood", but eventually, they were all given the generic name of Penny Dreadful. These cheap magazines were sold in weekly installments and published crime dramas (both real and fiction), and "sensational" horror stories involving witches, monsters, and demons -- which became a writing style known as "Gothic Horror" (defined as a combination of horror, tragic death, and romance).

To purchase my new pattern, go to my ETSY site:

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!