Advancing the Art of Miniature Doll Making
Ezine owned by
I was born in Jackson Mississippi in 1962 during a
highly rare occurrence for the deep south, a snowstorm!
Thanks to the highly appreciated intervention of my aunt,
I was christianed Stacy Ann instead of Cassandra Lee
Crossno. Moved many times as a child and spent my
formative years, in Jackson, Mississippi;Houston and
Dallas in Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and the towns
of Harrison, Greer's Ferry, and Marianna Arkansas.
I have always been interested in art. My introduction to
dolls came when my Mother failed to inherit the antique
doll she had been promised and thus she took courses
in making reproduction doll making. I was 12 at the time and would help with the pouring of the molds. By the time I was 13 my mother taught me to make dolls in self defense so she would have time to make her own! By this time her dolls had become a thriving cottage industry and at the height of the doll boom she was hiring three seamstresses as well as utilizing her children's help with pouring , assembling and dressing the dolls. Chuckle distinctly remember trailing behind Mom in a Dallas airport with a life size baby doll and the dirty looks I got when I turned the doll upside down to put the booties on! LOl at that time the cry boxes were all the rage for baby dolls and this one's voice was particularly loud! Late that same summer I was experimenting while china painting and painted my first clown and sold it to a shop the next week! These clowns became my pocket money all through Jr high and high school. From my mother I learned to design and draft patterns and the fine art of French heirloom sewing.
At one time I thought I would pursue a career in the fashion industry but laugh was way too conscious of my less than svelte form to comfortably travel with that crowd! Chuckle somewhere in my aunt's attic is a file full of pen and ink fashion drawings delicately tinted with watercolors.
When I graduated from High school I moved to the French Quarter of New Orleans. There I continued to make dolls while taking lessons in oil painting. Around this time a new movement in porcelain doll making began to take hold, suddenly everyone was trying to produce original dolls. First I had to learn to sculpt and then after many attempts that ended up in the trash can, came the new challenge of plaster mold making! Nothing quite as daunting as realizing that no amount of strength was going to be adequate to pry apart the sections of a freshly made plaster mold when your separating agent has failed! It took several years before I was even reasonably satisfied with my sculpting and mold making skills. By this time I was married and had moved up to the great Northwest and was enjoying a renewed love affair with the horse and wildly experimented with the cuisines of many nations. Unfortunately having moved away from my base, I was finding it difficult to market my doll work. LOL it did not help that at this time infants and toddler dolls where the collector's darlings and simply not my sculpting forte..
While helping my Mom man her booth at a large California doll show, I stumbled across miniature doll molds by Beverly Parker. My goodness they were adults and the dressing was historical much much more to my taste than giggling little girls dressed in shifts! Being a little leary of sculpting that small, I bought 5 of the young lady molds and started to master this new scale when I arrived home. Smile fortunately I had almost 20 years of experience with porcelain at the time! I was feeling rather good about this new adventure until...............I tried to dress one! Aaaarrrgggghhhh! I quickly discovered that these beastly little things did not respond well to the dressing skills I had been using for years! Fortunately Small Wonders, a delightful miniature store was in drivable distance......grin a mere 160 miles away! The delightful owner Elizabeth Senske, showed me all the dolls she had in stock; lectured me tactfully on the importance of scale. Then startled me with the revelation that most of the miniature doll's clothing did not come off! Furthermore most of the costumes were glued not sewn! My eyes must have gotten very round for she bustled into the back of the shop and emerged with several Susan Sirkis's books. Before long I had added glue, a glue applicator, a marvelous thing called bunka, to the stack of books and felt much better able to tackle the task of dressing these minute creatures. Three weeks later I returned with two finished dolls which Elizabeth bought, LOL I think I got $35 each and was very pleased to have made the sale! With Mrs. Senske's help I learned about miniature shows, which ones were good and so forth and ended up doing the Seattle Miniature Show. This came very close to being my first and only show! I sold well and was very pleased with the results when I finally found the time to walk around the show. I saw something that stopped me in my tracks Galia Bazilco (sp?) had a booth, one lonely exquisite older doll in mourning dress and a large picture album filled with truly remarkable one of a kind dolls. Chastened I continued my way around the room and found myself at Doreen Sinnet's table. Suddenly I was no longer satisfied with my own work and vowed however long it took I would learn to sculpt in this scale....................................
Well after much trial and error I arrived at the Tam Show in California to introduce my brand new porcelain originals sigh the same weekend George Bush started the Gulf War ( grin some things are just beyonds one's control!). I quickly found out that the perfectly historically accurate Victorian women that I had brought were considered at 5" and 1/4" tall just too delicate and too true to history. Chuckle with war having been declared needless to say sales were rather flat so took the opportunity to network with my fellow artists. Then I found that scale was also a matter of perception and frequently what looked right sold better than what was technically correct. And since the furniture of the Victorian era was rather heavy, my dolls needed to be more substantial in order to look correct in a dollhouse setting. At this time I also was selling my dolls wholesale and quite frankly the buyers wanted to spend their money on the costuming and not on the sculpture. So it was actually a couple of more years before I once again had original dolls available. It was hard going especially with my wholesale buyers; but slowly show by show I became known for my sculpting abilities as well as the costuming.
Eventually I decided to offer my sculptures as molds to other doll makers and yet another path was explored consisting of advanced mold making and how to make rubber case molds. Now with teaching online I have reached the last leg of this journey. I am very grateful to have found a method of passing on all this hard earned knowledge, I know in a few years I will be sculpting horses instead of dolls and found the thought of letting all the techniques just disappearing unacceptable. I am second in a family of doll makers and my son does not show any interest in doll making, so am greatly hoping to inspire a new generation of doll makers.........
Interesting information about a few of Stacy's dolls and a couple of great tips:
Charity as an 1880's bride she is in off white .Actually brides are almost always custom orders and the choice of doll is not mine.....interestingly over half have chosen Charity! Most of the dress of the skirt is actually sewn, bodices, sleeves, necklines etc are almost always glued....the lace around the veil was glued on after the edges were fray checked and the veil was draped with starch water, after the lace is applied the veil is sewn on to the wigging and then flowers bows etc are glued on top The base of the veil is crinkled silk chiffon. I have never found an actual netting to scale.
The next is Joy in a day dress just for once was a 100% happy with the colors and the painting of the face, literally would not change a thing! LOL I hardly ever think that! I grew up sewing and do it when ever I can; only resort to glue with trims sewing would flatten. Joy's skirt is held out by the use of bustle pillows under the slip, picture 2 pillows one longer than the other sewn directly to the back of the pantaloons and yes the Yorkie was taught in the dog class!third Julia with her Yorkie getting ready to take a walk always brings up great memories of life with my beloved Maltese Idget , time period Edwardian
All time favorite color combination, the doll is Lily and she is my favorite of my older sculptures...........of the newer pieces Josey wins hands down even though I find her a challenge to dress! Like most teenage girls she is very picky about her clothes!
As to how I do my pictures the background is Thomas Kincaid wall paper border Phyllis of Lady Melissa's Miniatures taught me that trick!
And for even more on how Stacy does some of her dolls be sure to go to her site and look at her tutorials that she has up.
Hofman Doll Works Molds