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Creating New Small Dolls

Over the past week, I’ve begun work on a new group of Little Lady Dolls. One of the big reasons for this is that I just wanted something small to work on. Designing and building the large paper mâché Play Set Dolls, like Audrey, Kiddo or Crystal is incredibly satisfying to me as an artist. But they can also take such a very long time to create. My mind constructs the finished piece at a speed that the physical world just cannot compete with.

While I am still thoroughly enjoying the creative process, there’s a portion of my mind inhabited by the ever-impatient toddler who wants everything done right now. I can usually keep her relatively quiet. Mostly because the Play Set Dolls have so many individual moving components to them. With each completed part, my inner inpatient creative toddler is pacified a little bit. For me, this makes imagination and creativity flow a bit better.

Larger Little Lady Dolls:

A few months ago, I created what felt like gargantuan sized 12 cm tall dolls, based on the much smaller 6 cm Little Lady Doll pattern. I made three test dolls with the 12 cm pattern. Only one of them I considered a success. Two of the dolls were a full 12 cm tall and the third is 10 cm. For two of the dolls, the clothing I made just bothered me. It just didn’t look right. Putting my finger on precisely what was wrong with the dolls proved difficult, so I placed them aside and started work on Shirley and her doll house. I could always come back to the 12 cm dolls at some point in the future if I wanted to.

The yellow top on the light green doll just looks wrong to me. The colors are okay. I think it has something to do with the scale of the doll and the clothing style. This type of swingy, a-line top or dress looks great on dolls that are 5 cm tall and under. On a 12 cm doll it just looks so wrong to me. The 12 cm doll wearing overalls looks fine to me. In fact, she’s the one doll of the three test dolls that I consider a success.

The 10 cm doll is the worst of the three dolls. Her proportions are all off. The pant legs and arms need to be either longer or shorter. I thought that making the doll a little shorter would make the a-line top work. Nope. It somehow made the proportion problems even worse. The hairstyles are the only elements that I like for the above two dolls. The rest of them, especially their clothing is just…yuck. That seems so mean, doesn’t it?

Practice Makes Better:

These three dolls were practice. No one hits a home-run their first time at bat. The same is true for artists. I call my practice dolls ‘The Alpha Versions’. They are more or less, a proof of concept for me. I’m not looking for them to be perfect. And anyway, there’s no perfect in the practice of art making. It’s all a series of educated attempts. Sometimes the attempts are successful to a degree. There are times in which the attempt is just an abject failure, not even worthy of a picture as reference. Practice is practice. I learn what works, and what doesn’t work. The failures are where most of the learning takes place in my opinion.

Failure is not a bad thing. If you learn from it, and then make changes when making a second, third or fourth attempt, you are amassing quite a bit of knowledge and practice for the fifth, sixth and seventh attempts. Failure isn’t a bad thing until it prevents you from that eighth attempt at success. You may not realize it at the time, but you get a little better each time you try and (maybe) fail.

This was always a difficult concept to teach to the students in my art classes. It was therefore part of my job as an art teacher to give these students a safe place in which to fail. This made failure just part of the overall art-creating experience. And in the long run, it taught students to be okay with not being terrific at something the first time they tried it. Failure taught them to pick themselves up. Dust themselves off. Look at what they did. Make a new plan. Decide on a new course of action. Then to implement it.

Open Mouth, Insert Money:

I’m practicing what I’m preaching by giving the 12 cm dolls another try. There are some ideas that I’ve been wanting to try out on this size of doll. Smaller dolls would not necessarily work for them I think. “I think“, because I do not know. The 12 cm dolls may be an abject failure within the confines of this new idea that I have. Who knows? No one will, not unless I make the attempt.

Making shoes is one of the worst parts of doll making, in my opinion. There is just something about it that I cannot seem to get my brain around in concrete way. I’ve made the above kinds of boots for dolls previously. They’re fairly easy to create. Yes. They look like Ugg boots. Having the dolls wear them isn’t so much a fashion statement, but a means to have them stand on their own. As much as I dislike making doll shoes, I still work hard to create dolls that can stand on their own. Two legs or six, I want them to be free-standing.

These boots aren’t perfect. I will need to tweak the pattern here and there. Hopefully, I will get closer to what I want after making a few more pairs. As you can see, the boots are removable, at least for now. I’m not sure if I will attach them permanently or not. What I do know is that at this point, just after making the boots, these two 12 cm dolls look better proportioned to me than my previous attempts.

I’ve planned their outfits out a little bit. Colors have been chosen as well. I know that I will not be creating any swingy, a-line tops or skirts for them. See?! I’m learning!


Practice is great. It won’t all look good. Some of it will look bad. In my experience, a lot of this practice will kind of look ‘okay’. The point is not to despair! Keep working, even when you’re not quite sure what’s not right, or where you might be going. Plant one creative foot in front of the other and do the work.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday,


Nukkekoti Väinölä: Maria Malmstrom has an amazing doll house site! Her miniatures are fabulous! Her designs just blow me away! She’s got all kinds of kits to purchase! Check out her online shop here!

Gepetto: I have a few pieces of Gepetto furniture. It’s super-cute and very easy to put together. They have multiple scales available and they’re kid-friendly. One of the pictures earlier in this post has my dolls sitting in Gepetto chairs.

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