Sunday, November 29, 2020


 Hi All,

Sorry about not posting for a while. I was taking a break after Halloween.

I've finished a new (non-witch) doll, "Carmen". She is the lead character in the opera of the same name. She is all cloth, with a clay sculpted face mask. I haven't done this style of doll in a very long time, so it took me over a month to complete.

She's a much larger doll than I usually do -- about 28 inches tall. "Carmen" is a Spanish gypsy in the opera. She flirts with all the men and causes a solder to fall in love with her (much to his demise). In the opera, Carmen goes to a bullfight, then meets (and flirts with) the matador in a bar after the fight. It's traditional that Carmen dresses in the style of a matador's outfit for this scene.

I made the face by first sewing and stuffing a basic cloth head without details. I had to create a hole in the front of the cloth head for the open mouth with some needle-sculpting. I then covered the cloth head with plastic wrap and draped an 1/8 inch layer of paper-clay over the face area for the base of the mask. Once the clay had dried, I was able to remove the clay and now had a base for the face details. I continued sculpting the face off the cloth head.

As you can see, I used lots of reference photos to help me sculpt a face that looks like it's singing. I inserted glass doll eyes from the back of the mask. (You can hardly see the eyes, as I glued several false eyelashes on the eyelids.) 

Once the mask was finished, I glued it to the cloth head. I added more clay to the edges to blend into the cloth head. I used acrylic paint (matching the base color to the fabric) and pastel chalk to color the face.

I sculped the teeth separately out of polymer clay. I did this so I could paint the inside of the mouth first, before gluing in the teeth.

Meanwhile, I started working on the body. It's  a "stump" doll, with no legs (why bother making legs, feet & shoes if a long skirt covers it all?) I wanted her to lean to the side & back slightly, while cocking her head to the side. I felt she needed to have at least one hand on her hip. I stitched a body that started out symmetrical, but was able to changed the pose by hand-stitching darts at the knees, waist, & neck to achieve the pose I wanted. There's a thick armature wire running down the center of her body (like a "spine") that helps hold the pose and supports the head.

When designing the costume, I purposely made an outfit that was way "over the top" and as glitzy as possible, as I wanted it to look like an "Opera Costume" (not something a real gypsy peasant girl would wear). This woman is a very famous opera DIVA, and she insists on looking glamourous in every role she performs.

She wears a full skirt with ruffles with a small train. She has a black sequin corset with gold embroidery on the front (two appliques stacked together stitched to the front). Tied over the skirt is a velvet and lame' shawl with several rows of beaded fringe. On top, she wears a red velvet bolero jacket with black lace jeweled appliques. The shoulders are adorned with epaulets made from two half-circle be-jeweled appliques trimmed with black beaded "dingle-ball" fringe.

The hair is a doll wig I re-styled. Getting those spit curls was a real challenge. I finally cut the locks off the wig and styled them separately (using LOTS of hairspray) and glued them directly to the face to keep them in place. That's a real Spanish-style comb in her hair, covered with a lace and sequin veil/mantilla.

And, as a final flair, I made a black lace fan she flourishes by her head while trying to hit the high note.

Have fun, be safe, and wear a mask! (It won't be forever.)


Wednesday, October 7, 2020


Hi All!

I've been making some "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) dolls. 

This is a piece I call "Teatro de los Muertos" (Theater of the Dead):

It's a re-make of a doll I made many years ago. This was a commission piece a client requested.

This piece is all cloth, except for the skeleton figures, which are sculpted from paper clay. The sign on her dress reads, "La Guerra entre el Bien y el Mal" ("The War between Good and Evil"), which is the name of the puppet play she is presenting.

The clay skeleton puppets are attached to the base and to the skirt (by a rod) -- the strings are just decorative.

Here's a work-in-progress shot.

And, here are 2 Dia de los Muertos cloth busts. 

I like making these busts -they are so colorful!

As you can see, I liked the floral cloth I used for the dress of the "Theater" piece so much that I used it again for these busts.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated November 1 & 2. It's a holiday that started in Mexico, but now is celebrated in Central & South America, and some parts of the U.S. It's a 2-day festival celebrating loved ones who have passed on. Privately, people make "offrendas" (a shrine of offerings) to their family members who have died. Publicly, people gather in cemeteries, parks and march in parades to celebrate.  

Because it's comes the day after Halloween, many Americans confuse the holiday, thinking it's a Mexican version of Halloween, and (because of all the skeletons) supposed to be scary. 

Dia de los Muertos is not scary or spooky. Instead of mourning the loss of loved ones, it's a time celebrate their lives. 

Friday, September 18, 2020


 Hi all!

This is a DANCING witch! I call her "HARVEST HOE-DOWN.

She is for sale on my Etsy site (here)  SOLD

She's about 22 inches tall. She's balanced on one leg and glued to a wooden base.

She's decked out in fall colors (I even stitched fall maple leaves to her dress) with a green petticoat and bloomers.

The face is cloth and is needle-sculpted. I used acrylic paint for the eyes and lips, with colored pencils and chalk for shading. Her eyes have eye lashes.

The hat is full of fall foliage, including some small pumpkins!

Making the body was a challenge, as she has to stand on one leg. There's a heavy wire armature inside that goes from the neck down through the standing leg and into the base.

I like how her boots turned out. I patterned the cloth feet in the shape of the shoe, and then covered it in cotton, leather, and spandex.

I'm also listing the VOODOO QUEEN, which I wrote about in a previous post.

Have Fun, and wear a mask -- it won't be forever!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Swamp Witch

Hi All

Here's another Halloween doll,-- a Swamp Witch.  


This doll is about 20 inches tall. She is all cloth, with a stump body. 

(I've made a swamp witch years ago, but that one had a sculpted head made of polymer clay.)

This is my basic "hag" pattern -- a hunch-backed older woman with arthritic hands. I'm working on a published pattern to purchase. It should be ready by the fall. (I'll make an announcement when it's ready.)

The coat is made of many layers of different fibers and fabrics. I used an eyelet fabric as the base, in olive green. Over that is a heavy lace that looks like spider webs (dyed in shades of olive green). Then, a layer of green heavy netting (it's called "Spook Cloth"-- popular at Halloween season). Over that, I layered strips of different gauzes in shades of gray & olive. Plus, I added some textured yarns and "leaf" trim to look like sea weed.

She has an under-dress of metallic green lace and more gauze. I wanted to add a little "sparkle" to her to show that she has magical power.

She wears a shell pendant strung with red coral.

I aged the face with mostly colored pencils and chalk, and a little needle-sculpting.

She holds a staff, made of wire, wrapped with paper and cording. I glued sea shells on it and added some "sea-weed" fiber yarn. The top of her staff holds a small cage that I ended up putting a candle inside (candle not pictured).

Hope you enjoy!

Be safe and wear a mask (it's only for a little while).


Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Hi All,
Here's another "Gypsy Fortune Teller" for Halloween.

She is 18 inches tall, all cloth, and a "stump" doll (no legs).
I used "deer suede" fabric for the head and hands.

When making the costume for these Gypsy dolls, finding the right fabrics (in scale) can be a challenge. I find my local "Goodwill" thrift store has a lot of possibilities for unusual fabrics. There is only one fabric store (JoAnns), and a handful of quilt shops in my town, which is fine for the basics, but not great for finding everything I need. On this doll, the orange print skirt was a woman's jacket, and the magenta & black print chiffon turban was a lady's shirt -- both found at the thrift store.

The face is needle-sculpted, then colored with pastel chalks, colored pencils, acrylic paint, and marking pens.

The fingernails are made of drinking straws. I cut them down to size, paint them, and glue them on the fingers. After they are glued on, I give them a few coats of clear gel medium (both on top and underneath) to seal the paint and get all the edges glued down.

The "crystal ball" is an iridescent plastic Christmas ornament I sprayed with some silver glitter.

She might get a shawl to wear around her shoulders. I have an old red crochet sweater with fringe on the ends (thrift store!) that might work.

Here are some works-in-progress photos, showing how I put the doll together. (Sorry, not a lot of photos.)

Whenever I am working on one of these "old-lady gypsy" dolls, I always think of Maria Ouspenskaya. 

Maria Ouspenskaya (what a great name!) was a Russian character actress in the 1940's. She played the "old gypsy woman" in all the "Wolfman" movies. She was always saying to Lon Chaney, "beware the sign of the were wolf". --She always had lots of jewelry, but she never wore as much make-up as my gypsy dolls do!

Have Fun! -AB