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Member Spotlight: Michelle Grant from Dottie Dollie

Welcome to Art Dolls Only's Member SPOTLIGHT! ADO shares an article focusing on it's members on the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th of each month! (February's 30th installment will share on the 28th)

Today's member spotlight is Michelle Grant from Dottie Dollie. Michelle is from Colchester in Essex, England.

What kind of Art Dolls do you create? What is your primary medium?

My one of a kind dolls are made from Paperclay and cloth, and are around 11"- 13" tall.


How long have you been a doll maker?

I started making porcelain reproduction dolls in 1990, and began sculpting my own dolls, in around 1993.

Jenny Dianna Effner Reproduction 18" porcelain

How did you get your start in doll making?

As a child my 2 favourite toys were dolls and plasticine, so when I discovered I could combine these 2 things to make my own dolls I was hooked!

Where did you learn to make dolls?

In the early 1990's there were lots of books and magazines about dollmaking. I read everything I could find, and literally just bought a kiln and got stuck in. The kiln was installed in the spare room, and the shelves filled with moulds and porcelain slip.

My doll painting began to really improve when I took some weekend classes through the Global Doll Society with Sonia Turner who was the leader of the Global Doll Society teacher's scheme. Sonia was very supportive, and I met some great long term friends in those weekend courses.
Jane Davies ran a couple of sculpting courses at Sonia's house, and so I began to make my own Original dolls. Sculpting the original parts in plastiline, and then making plaster moulds to cast the porcelain from. Again I read everything I could find about anatomy and mould making and so Millie was born in 1996.

Millie 1996 -  Edition of 10 dolls wax over porcelain 19"

Hand smocked and embroidered dress, hand made leather boots.

I think that you never stop learning, and I have also taken online courses with Marlaine Verhelst and Kathryn Walmsley, but it is Dixie Redmond's online Izannah Walker course which has had the biggest impact on me in recent times.

I was working full time, and although I was working on sculpting plastiline masters, I had not completed a doll in many years. Life had really got in the way of dollmaking, and I needed to get focused, and back on track. Following Dixie's Instructions I completed Victoria, I was inspired to make more one of a kind dolls.

 Victoria 2012 - Paperclay and cloth 11", based on Dixie Redmond's Izannah Walker Pattern

How has your practice changed over time?

My early dolls were produced in small limited editions of 10 dolls, each being dressed in one of a kind costumes. The dolls were 19"-20" inches tall, with wired and weighted cloth bodies and wax over porcelain limbs and human hair wigs. I made all of their boots and shoes from lightweight leather, and made unique accessories for each doll. Underwear was always light on colour, and featured lots of lace and hand embroidery.

Fleur 1997 - Edition of 10 dolls wax over porcelain 20"
 Hand dyed and smocked dress, hand dyed silk hair ribbon. Hand bound leather book, hand made leather boots.

I was keen to create smaller dolls, and I wanted to introduce a "play" element to my dolls so I spent a long time sculpting clay masters for a hard bodied jointed doll, but this project has yet to yield a complete doll......I am so easily distracted and have struggled to find the time to complete the mould making........

My short attention span needed a medium which would give me a complete doll with less steps, so  Paperclay over cloth is really ideal for me. I love the fact that Paperclay is strong, and like porcelain won't fade or change over time.

My recent dolls are quite simple with painted hairstyles and bright coloured "tights", created with decoupage or paint. These dolls have simple coloured undergarments, and costumes based on antique and vintage period patterns.

Lucy 2013 - 13" one of a kind Paperclay and cloth. 1920's style bathing outfit

I like to "distress" my work, to give the whole thing an aged look, and a lot of depth. I like it far more than the pristine look. I add several coats of burnt umber, very diluted, then buff most of it off. The colour is left to build up in the nooks and crannies of the sculpting, similar to how dirt might accumulate on a very old doll, or how shadows would appear on a real face. I also sand parts of the doll, to show right through to the original base colour.

The whole thing is then sealed with several coats of Super Matt Ceramic sealer to give a tough finish. I then add a coat of wax too, which  give s them a soft sheen, and helps to protect the paintwork. Most of my fabrics are vintage, and I like to dye over any prints, to age and alter them.

What are your favorite materials to create with?

I am still very attracted to porcelain, and wax over porcelain. I love the translucent quality that you can achieve with china paints, and wax adds an amazing warmth to bisque, making the dolls both beautiful to look at and to touch. I love that porcelain doesn't rot, fade or deteriorate.....but there are 2 downsides for me. Obviously porcelain does have a fragility about it, so the dolls must be handled very carefully. But the major flaw for me is the actual time that it takes to complete a doll. There are so many processes that it would take me around 6 months to complete a doll from the initial idea and sculpting, through mould making, casting, firing and painting.

What is your favorite technique?

I have always painted the eyes on my dolls. I love to acheive a depth of colour and shine with lots and lots of layers of paint. Light washes, multiple colours and lots of shading create what I hope is a realistic effect.

Do have any doll artists that inspire you?

I'm not only a dollmaker, I also collect dolls, I am a doll lover.....

I found it quite hard to pick just a few artists, as so many have inspired me over the years, but here goes..... Jane Davies, Lynne and Michael Roche, Lucia Fridericy, Yvonne Flipse. Kamila Mlynarczyk and Ana Salvador.

I'm inspired by the amazingly realistic dolls of Jeanne Gross, and also the cheerful and colourful cloth dolls of Bea's Beastlies. I love that everyday there are new dolls to discover (and covet!) thanks to the my list of inspiring doll artists will continue to expand!

What are you currently working on?

I've been very busy for the last few weeks making dollie brooches for Christmas, but I'm also working on a "Beastie" Girl. I'm looking forward to finishing off her painting, and having fun making a wild costume for her!

I'm also planning to get back to work on my hard bodied doll........but with my ability to concentrate on one thing at a time who knows if that will happen!!

Where can our fans find you online?

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