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So You Want To Be A Dollmaker!
Part I:  Porcelain Reproduction Dollmaking

Porcelain dollmaking is a unique art.  Watching a jug of $20 liquid clay turn into a valuable porcelain doll through the craft of a dollmaker is fascinating, and uses multiple skills of the dollmaker--painting, wigging, costuming, and more .  Porcelain dollmaking is also a hobby that has grown exponentially in the last decade, thanks not only to the wonderful creative process, but also to innovative greenware cleaning techniques and painting products that have made the hobby safer for the home hobbyists.

What is Reproduction Dollmaking?

dollgwre.jpg (14119 bytes)All porcelain reproduction dollmaking shares one thing in common:   Dolls are made from molds that are sculpted (for modern dolls) or made from existing antique dolls (for antique reproduction dolls).   From here, porcelain reproduction dollmaking can be divided into two specialty areas:

Modern Dolls: Reproductions of the dolls made by modern artists such as Donna Rubert and Bunny Morris.   Dolls are usually (but not always!) costumed in modern, contemporary costumes.   Synthetic wigs and fabrics are appropriate.

Antique Reproduction Dolls: Reproductions of the antique dolls of the past--everything from Jumeaus to rare, small all-bisques.  Emphasis is on recreating the antique painting and look of the dolls.  Dolls are costumed in natural fibers (cottons, silk) and trims appropriate to the time period.  Dolls usually have mohair or human hair wigs.   ALL reproduction artists must clearly mark their dolls so that there is no question that they are reproductions and not original, antique dolls.

How Do I Get Started In Reproduction Dollmaking?

Although porcelain dollmaking can be learned through books by individuals who have a kiln (kilns are used to fire the clay dollheads.jpg (14603 bytes)heads at high temperatures--this turns them into porcelain) or access to a kiln plus determination, the best way to learn is to take classes from a porcelain dollmaker. Seeleys alone lists over 700 dollmaking workshops worldwide.   Most porcelain dollmakers learn through 2 or 3 hour weekly classes (cost of the classes:  anywhere from $4 to about $10 per session).  At weekly classes, dollmaking students work alongside on various dolls of their choosing, under the tutelage of the dollmaking teacher. 

After basic skills are learned through weekly dollmaking classes, students will often expand into more intense specialty seminars.  The seminars are usually 1 to 3 days long, and are taught by highly trained teachers.  At a seminar, a student can focus on a particular type of doll--say, French bebes, or China and Parian dolls, or all-bisques. Seminars are also taught focusing on costuming, wigging, shoemaking, and other dollmaking arts.   Seminars can be very expensive $100 to $400 is not uncommon, but for the very expensive seminars, students leave with a completed doll (or dolls!).

There are also several popular dollmaking magazines with how-to articles monthly, including DollCrafter, Doll Artisan, Dollmaking, and Gildebrief, as well as shows and convention which specialize in dollmaking.

Dollmaking can open up a whole new, creative world for doll collectors, crafters, and costumers. If you haven't tried it yet,  is the perfect time, as the dollmaking industry has never before offered as many resources!

dollmolds.jpg (26304 bytes)MORE ON THIS SERIES
Part II will explore how to get started in sculpting original dolls.  Part III will explore getting started in cloth dollmaking. Part IV will explore Barbie and Gene Customizing.  Coming articles on this site will explore how-tos in the various dollmaking arts.

Links to various resources on Porcelain Reproduction Dollmaking:

--Dollmaking Supplies: From About.com.

--Dollmaking How Tos: From About.com.

--Costuming Supplies: From About.com.

--Costuming How-Tos: From About.com.

Do you have further questions about Porcelain Reproduction Dollmaking?  Or, are you a dollmaker who want so share her experiences?  Share your thoughts in the  Dolls Forum!


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Denise Van Patten--your Guide to Dolls
Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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Photos:  Doll Greenware, Doll heads and Doll Molds. © by Denise Van Patten--all rights reserved.

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