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

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


Avast ye, me hearties! All hands on deck. Heave ho, weigh anchor, and hoist the mizzen! Any scallywag not pullin' with all ye might will be hanged from the yardarm and keelhauled in the briny deep to meet Davy Jones' locker!

Okay, that's all the "Pirate Speak" I know.

But, really -- when WAS the last time your "timbers" were "shivered"?

Okay, I'll quit.

I made 3 Pirate Captain Busts for my clients at Roger's Garden.

They are all cloth and about 17 inches tall (they have very tall hats!).

I don't usually do male dolls, as I don't have a lot of practice at it. But, I think these turned out pretty good. I really tried to focus on the differences between a female head and a male head -- (rugged) men have a stronger and lower brow bone, a longer nose, a square and stronger jaw, heavy eyebrows, and slightly smaller eyes.

I used "doe suede" fabric for the "skin". I did a more ruddy complexion on these, as I figure Pirates are outside on a ship, in the sun, all day. I even gave them freckles, age spots, and wrinkles. I also did facial hair.

For the hair, I used a fake fur on two of them, and a fur pelt for the dark one (I don't know if it's lamb or goat fur). For eyebrows, I needle-felted mohair onto the face.

I worked as a milliner (hat maker) for many years in costume shops, so making the pirate's felt hats was a lot of fun. (I LOVE putting feathers in all the hats!)

I designed these 3 following what most people believe pirates look like -- a basic "fantasy" pirate from the 18th century. I looked at lots of artwork, and of course, all those Disney "Pirates" movies.

There is not a lot of "body" on the busts - just shoulders and chest (about 3 inches tall), so there isn't a lot of costuming on these. In research, I found that Pirate Captain's wore close to the same as the navel military did in the same period. (I assume they stole their outfits from navy ships they captured, and added whatever they could find in the ports they stopped at.)

I "dirty down" all of the gold and silver braid, trim, and buttons with acrylic paint, alcohol ink, and matte gel. --I don't think of pirates as the "bright and shiny" types.

I hope you are all getting used to this "new normal" life we have right now. Be nice --Wear a mask! (it won't be forever.)

Have fun -- AB