Saturday
Oct052013

Walk in Our Shoes Project

Recently I had the opportunity to create two tiny pairs of shoes for a television commercial. The challenge behind the project was that the shoes were to be worn on human fingers. Here is the commercial that resulted and the techniques I followed to create the shoes.

This video shows both of the ad spots that aired on children’s networks in the US:

The commercial is for “Walk in Our Shoes,” an organization that teaches youth tolerance and awareness for those with mental health challenges. You can read more at their website here: http://walkinourshoes.org/

Most of the shoes featured in the spots are factory made doll shoes that were readily available through online purchase. There were two special pairs of shoes however, that could not be found. The creators needed a pair of roller skates and a pair of ballet pointe slippers. With my background in designing doll shoes, this is where I came in :).

The challenge behind the roller skates was that the creators could only find plastic skates in the right scale. Because all the other shoes featured were fabric, the plastic would have looked out of place. But we also had a bit of a time crunch—I had just a few days to complete the shoes and then ship them overnight to California.

To create the roller skates, I began with an existing pair of plastic doll skates. This is where I got the wheels and base, so I didn’t need to create them. I used a sharp blade to cut most of the plastic upper away from the wheeled portion. I then used the same lace up boot pattern featured in my tiny doll shoes tutorial to create the upper, making only slight adjustments. I laced the skates with elastic so the upper would easily stretch over the model’s fingers.

Before

After

The ballet slippers were a bit more of a challenge. There were no existing shoes or patterns that could be modified for a human finger. So, I created one. I began by sculpting a finger out of polymer clay. I included the average space and height of a fingernail so the nail would be mostly covered by the slipper. I then sculpted on a heel and toe box shapes that extended beyond the finger base. Now I had a last form to build the slippers over.

But there was a slight problem. The sharp curve of the slipper meant that the opening was much smaller than the shape of the fabric upper, so once I wrapped and glued the fabric around the sculpted last, I would not be able to slide the slipper back off. To remedy this issue, I cut the heel section off the last, and taped it back into place giving me a break away heel that would help shape the slipper as needed, but then separate to allow the slipper to slide off.

The Ballet Shoe Last with Break-Away Heel

The Ballet Slipper

If time would have allowed, I definitely would have created more finger shoes for the project, but I am glad I was able to complete the two pairs in time! And now I can add television prop maker to my doll making history :).

Saturday
Aug032013

PDF Tutorial Troubleshooting

Note: This mini guide is for subscribers of the dollproject.com email newsletter, where I send out a free doll-related tutorial every first Friday of the month. I am posting it here in the blog so that I can easily link readers to it!

Are you unable to download my latest free enewsletter tutorial?

Have you tried clicking the orange "download" button and it just doesn’t work?

Before you contact me, here are some things you can try!


1. Does a menu appear when you right-click on the button? If YES, try either or both of the following.

Right click on the button and select “Save Link As…” command and save the file to your desktop (or wherever you normally save files).

Another thing to try: right click on the button and select “Copy Link Address.” Then go to a new browser window and paste the address into your url bar. Start with the browser you normally use and if that doesn’t work, try another. I use Chrome, Firefox and Explorer in that order.

 

2. Is there no menu when you right-click on the orange button? Or is it still not working?

Try opening your email in another browser if you are able. If you use Outlook or another email software, try logging in directly through the email provider website. For example, if your address is a Yahoo or Hotmail address, try logging in directly through the Yahoo or Hotmail email services by going to their websites.

Make sure your email isn’t trying to block portions of the newsletter—if it is in your spam mail, move the email to your inbox. If the message isn’t allowing graphics, click the button that allows graphics. Add Jessica@dollproject.com to your safe email list so that your service doesn’t get confused and try to block the emails.

 

3. Still not working for either method?

Every month when a new newsletter comes out, I post the downloadable PDF file into the private Doll Project community group on Face Book. Anyone with a Face Book account can join the group and access the current month's file through there. To join go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dollproject/

The files on Face Book use a completely different storage system, so if you are unable to access the PDF from both my site and Face Book, it is likely a problem with your computer/software.  

Make sure you have an updated version of Adobe acrobat or a similar PDF reader installed on your computer so you can open the files :). It is a free program: http://get.adobe.com/reader/

I often find simply restarting my computer solves a lot of problems as well. I hope this helps!

Friday
Mar012013

Cotton Lawn: A Perfect Material for Doll Scale Clothes

Cotton lawn has a very fine weave and can often be found with beautiful tiny prints perfect for doll scale. My favorite cotton lawn is made by Liberty of London, but if the best doesn't fit into your budget, then there are some comparable fabrics to be found for a fraction of the price. Here are a few of the fabrics I have in my collection: 

Here are some resource links if you'd like to add some cotton lawn to your collection. 

London Calling Cotton Lawn

London Calling Cotton Lawn

Liberty of London, One of my Favorite prints, Kayoto Olive

More Liberty of London

And even Hello Kitty Liberty of London!

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for some of the products I recommend on this blog and your resulting purchase(s) may contribute to my income. That said, I only recommend products I love. :)

 

Friday
Mar012013

An Interview with Abi Monroe: Doll Artist and Fine Doll Clothier

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Abi Monroe about her doll work. Abi fasincates me because she is also a cross-over doll artist--she creates art dolls in additional to creating products for collectible dolls. Read on to discover what inspires Abi's work and which resources she recommends for aspiring doll artists.

Q: What links or information would you like to share with readers?

A: Thank you for this opportunity!  my shop - my blog 

Above: an Art doll hand sculpted by Abi.

Q: How have art dolls made you a better clothier?

A: I don't know that art dolls have made me a better clothier per se; it’s been more about practice and perseverance, and I still have a long way to go. Creating art dolls gave me a wonderful foundation for expressing my creativity and desired uniqueness.  It allowed me to be involved with some amazing artists, who have encouraged and supported my development. It also gave me opportunity to work with a variety of mediums.   I love to combine clay, and wood, and fabrics and paint and so on.

 

Q: How has making fashion and collector doll products affected your doll making?

A: It has affected my doll making to the point I have no time or creative energy to make a doll! I am not a proficient multi-tasker.  I also find I get bored quickly - art dolls take a long time to produce, whereas clothes and furniture are less time intense; I can do much more in a shorter space of time, and feel I have done my best.  My art dolls never felt quite 'good enough.'  I create to pay bills, so it has become a necessity to be both creative and productive. It is no longer a hobby for me.

 

Q: What are your thoughts about combining the two?

A: If I could spend time working on my skills as an art doll maker, I would love to be able to make an entire wardrobe (clothes and furniture) designed specifically for a handcrafted art doll.

 

A tiny closet full of handmade clothes.

Q: Your dolls and clothing items have a very consistent look in style and coloring--is this deliberate?

A: It is totally not deliberate - I can't do it any other way, however hard I try; the creativity from within takes precedence. It's a bit annoying at times!

 

Q: Are any of your customers patrons of both your dolls and your doll fashions?

A: Yes! I have several lovely customers who bought my art dolls and buy my clothes for their other dolls.

 

Q: Talk a bit about your relationship with the two terms arts and crafts. Do you feel you do both?

A: I feel both require dexterity, imagination and practice.  I find it impossible to differentiate... art and craft go hand-in-hand.

 

Blythe collector doll costumed by Abi.

Q: Your photography is gorgeous. Tell us about what a shoot involves.

A: Being in the right mood, whatever that is.  Sometimes I can take OK photos that capture the correct colours and focus, other times I just have to give up and try another day.  I like natural lighting, but not too bright and not too dark.   I like to take a variety of images with the piece on its own, or on a model, or in a 'room setting' to show how the piece 'works' be it an item of clothing, or piece of furniture.  I love a micro shot to show detail.  I like to keep things as simple as possible and try to maintain a visual similarity of images for my Etsy shop.  A consistent 'look' helps define my style.  I think.

 

Q: Where do you see the future of your designs going?

A: I strive to remain unique; I'd like to continue in this vein whilst improving my skills, and learning new ones.

 

Q: If you had unlimited funding, what would your business look like?

A: An Animal Sanctuary.

 

Q: Lastly, do you have any books you recommend to aspiring doll artists?

Books by Patti Medaris Culea and Hannie Sarris.

 

Here are some books I found by Patti Medaris Culea:

Creative Cloth Doll Making: New Approaches for Using Fibers, Beads, Dyes, and Other Exciting Techniques

 

Thank you Abi!  :)

 

Monday
Feb112013

How to Create a Play Room Box Scene for Your Dolls

 

Every spoiled doll needs a playroom, and this one was great fun to make! Normally I would not use gold paint as an accent, but this gilding was inspired by Downton Abbey ;). 

This Grand roombox kit from Houseworks is the perfect scale for tiny BJDs, dollhouse miniature dolls and other small dolls. The room is giant! And assembly is a piece of cake. 

Here is what you will need:

 

 

When you open the roombox kit, it will look something like this:

 

Fit the pieces into the slots so you understand how the box is constructed, but don't use glue yet. This (below) is how thick the walls are! This is a very sturdy box.  

 

As you can see below, the assembly instructions are just a single page and are quite simple. I did not do all the business with the taping of the walls when I assembled mine because by that point, the walls and I were good old friends and I couldn't forget what went where if I wanted to. Also, with the exception of the two smaller walls, all other walls are shaped differently and can only fit in the floor grooves they are meant for. 

 

Most of the construction and prep work should be done before the box is assembled. This way you can use the walls and floors to take measurements and cut wood/paper/fabrics to size. Let's begin with the floor. I chose a brocade fabric to resemble a finely detailed rug. You could also use plush fabrics like velour to give a carpeted look, or you can use paint/paper/vinyl to create a hard floor. 

 

To cut the fabric to size, first I laid the piece out on my floor. I then wrapped the fabric ends around the edges of the floor so I could center my design. Once the design is in place, use sharp scissors to cut the fabric out using the inner floor grooves as a guide. If cutting into the fabric is scary, you can first make a floor pattern by taping sheets of paper together.

Brocade type fabrics tend to unravel rather profusely around the edges, so I used a hefty amount of Fray Check on the edges to keep them in line. Notice how with the front of the carpet, I left it folded around the front of the floor--this fold will provide your box with a cleaner front edge. 


 

Okay, don't glue that carpet in place quite yet, we've got more prep work to do! For the walls I used some clip art I bought online as well as some free clipart from Dover publications. I edited these images in Photoshop and then saved them to a jumpdrive.

I then took the wallpaper image files to OfficeMax's copy shop and had them printed full color onto 11 by 17" paper. I had them print three of each design, dark and light, but in the end I only need 3 sheets total, so I've got extras to use for wrapping paper or whatever. :)


 Now you could also just use scrapbook paper, art paper, paint or fabric for your wall coverings.

These below are the wood trims I used to create the shelving. These are 1 yard lengths purchased in the wood craft section of a Michael's craft store. I used 1 yard scalloped edge (top trim), 3 yards small floral (shelf braces), 5-6 yards of the slat board trim (shelves) and 2 yards of the loopy U's trim (baseboard). I have no idea what the real names are, but hopefully you can see the differences as we move along. 

 

 

First, I decide how many shelves the room should have. I gauge the scale using the types of toys I intend to put on the shelves. in this case, 4 seems like a good number. Below: the slatboard trims turned on their sides. 


Okay, to cut the shelving, you will need to saw at an angle. I have a small mitre box, but the angles in the box did not match the angles I needed. So, instead I used the roombox floor to measure out the shelf lengths and angles.

Below: See how the pencil line is the same angle as the corner floor line? You want to measure out all of the pieces this way. You want to get these measurements as close as you can, but don't worry too much if they are slightly off. You can correct edges with sandpaper and/or use putty to fill in gaps later.

 

Here is my progress as I cut each shelf piece using the floor as my measurement and angle guide. To have four shelves, I have actually cut 20 pieces of wood with my itty bitty saw. 

 

If you are cutting a lot of pieces, you can build a little guide for yourself to hold the wood steady. The pieces you see below are the braces for between the shelves. To find the brace length, I took the wall height, subtracted the height of all four shelves, floor groove height and the baseboard and then divided the total by 4. There are 32 brace pieces total. (Remember that the wall sits in a grooved channel, so subtract that height as well.) I use mm to make these measurements as they make precision easier.  

By the way, the little vinyl bricks here are just part of an old project--I am using this large board as a scrap board to saw/paint over. I also found the houseworks kit box quite handy as a work surface.

 Cut the baseboard trim and scalloped pieces as well before you move on. You will have about 60 little pieces of wood.

Now I paint each one--I only paint the sides that will be visible--if you leave the backside bare, it will help the wood make a stronger glue bond when you assemble the shelves. I only use one coat of the gold paint as it is fairly thick. 

 

Now it is time for some wallpapering! (Note: In the image below, the carpet is not glued down--it is just set in place for planning purposes.) To paper the walls I used Acrylic Matte Gel Medium on the backsides of the papers and Acrylic varnish for the front. You could probably also use something like ModPodge at a lower cost, but I like that the Acrylic mediums are designed to provide your art with longevity, so will help protect against fading over time. 

Okay, if we look at the walls from right to left, with left being number 1 and far right being number 5, I apply paper to walls 1, 3, and 5 only. Walls 2 and 4 (the shorter walls) will be covered later to help blend all the paper seams together so that the papers can overlap slightly. As you probably guessed, I used the walls to measure the paper cuts. 

 

Use Crafter's Pick The Ultimate white tacky glue to glue the walls in place. Make sure to coat all connecting walls with glue, including the floor grooves. Allow the box walls to dry thoroughly and check them periodically for any slumping or crookedness. I painted the outside of the box while waiting for the wall glue to dry. 

Finish papering the walls and make sure they are coated with protective mediums inside and out. The mediums like acrylic gel medium or ModPodge act as both glue and coating. Okay, now that the walls are in place, we can glue the carpet down! For the carpet, I used Fabri-tac glue. Set your floor in place and lift the area furthest from you--apply glue along the back walls and lay the carpet in place. 

Next, lift the carpet from the front side and finish coating the floor with glue, pushing the carpet down toward you as you work back and fourth (think typewriter). Once you reach the front end, you can apply more glue to the edge of the carpet and then fold it around the bottom of the box for a nice, clean edge. 

 

Okay, on to baseboard! The baseboard is a triangular piece of trim that helps cover the connecting seams between the walls and carpet. I use Crafter's Pick "The Ultimate" to glue the trim in place.

 

Once the trims are in place, I use the same glue to set the adhere the shelf supports. If you look at the pictures, you will see I have used 8 support pieces per row. These pieces will help the shelves stay even and will make gluing the shelves much easier as it provides support in between dry times. 

 

Once the first row of supports are in place, glue the first row of shelves to the wall and supports. Make sure all surfaces that touch are coated with glue for a strong bond. I did not wait for the glue to dry in between layers--I didn't have to as the shelves and supports held together nicely.  

 

Below is a close-up so you can see that my cuts are not perfect. Some of the wood pieces had gaps and some required sanding for proper fit. If the gaps bother you, simply fill them in with wood putty or apoxie sculpt once the shelf glue has dried. Then you can go back over the filled areas with a bit of matching paint. 

 

Once I reach the top shelf, I add my scalloped trim along the bottom of the back three walls for some extra zing. 

Now this giant room is ready for toys and spoiled dolls! Over the next few months, I will share what I decide to fill this room with ;). 

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