Sunday, March 01, 2015

Robert McKinley's Book

Robert McKinley's amazing book- DOLLMAKING- One Artist's Approach is the best book I have ever seen on Polymer Clay doll making.
I have been reading it and I must say, I have not seen anyone construct a body pattern the way he does.
He uses cardboard!
I hope to try his technique.  How about you?
 Happy dollmaking! 

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stuffing, Anyone?

I propose a stuffing challenge.

I would like to do some "scientific" and "hands-on" research/experimentation on the various stuffings that are available.  I'd like to make pictures of all the stuffings to get a comparison, and then compare the different texture/lift/lump and other qualities that different stuffing has in order to come up with a "top 3."

Would anyone like to help me in this experiment?
First I would need help compiling a list of "contenders." Once the list is complete, then I will look for "stuffing reps" to mail me a small amount (handful) of said  stuffing in a ziploc bag. 

Any takers?  (givers, I mean?)
Please leave a comment below with the name of your favorite stuffing.  If you would like to donate a small from your stash in the name of dolly science, please email me and I will send you my address. rivkah[at]dollmakersmuse[dot]com.

May the best stuff win!
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Push-up Doll

Sadly, I have been neglecting the gym.
There's only so much time in the day, and I have two choices with precious spare time:

•Shlep to the gym in the freezing cold
•Sew a new doll (which is extremely overdue)

Here is my solution:

Push up doll.
It's NOT cheating! :-)
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Boo Boo Dolls

Ever sewed and stuffed what you thought was a great cloth doll pattern  - only to come up with a blob of weirdness?

I'm onto a new project - fixing what I call a "boo boo doll."  

Boo boo dolls are dolls that didn't quite turn out the way you wanted, but still have potential to become very "happy accidents."  It takes a bit of extra patience, skill and risk tolerance, but the effort can be very rewarding.

Meet Salvage Sally, my new friend in the making.  

We're off to a great friendship because I'm not giving up on her despite fact that she's quite "challenged."  And besides, I've spent waaay too much time on this doll already.... sound familiar?

This poor doll is the product of a vintage pattern with many unusual darts. For those of us who enjoy making our own doll patterns ir improvising on what's already familiar, it's always nice to learn something new. Vintage cloth doll patterns are so different than most of what's trending today in the cloth doll world.  They are full of the most intriguing darts, folds and cut-outs.   It's fascinating to see how they can "sculpt" the shape of a cloth doll's body.

Naturally, I thought it would be a great learning exercise to try one of these old patterns.  I've dabbled in old patterns before, and although I find that it can be necessary to "doctor up" the pattern a bit in order to improve the finished doll, it's worth the effort.  I've done this for Betty Boop with success, and I had another itch to try something "new" and see what I can learn.

I chose a vintage pattern with tiny little feet, and a flat face whose head is already attached to the body. Generally speaking, most "mainstream" modern cloth doll patterns require the doll's head to be sewn onto the body separately, so this seemed like an interesting twist.  The legs are also pre-attached to the body, and I thought that would be fun as well.  What kind of "seat" would this doll have?  This isn't a baby doll, it's a woman. The pattern itself is so "different," like nothing I'd ever seen before, and I just had to see how it comes out!

What came out is a poor soul in dire need of salvation.

Side View

Back View
She looks like a turtle with a tushie. 
Her chest and shoulders are broad, and her thighs look too skinny for the rest of her legs.  A real boo boo doll!

One redeeming quality that I really do like on this pattern is the teeny little pointy feet.  They're so dainty.   I'll have to figure out how to *not* put shoes on her!

The head is kind of interesting, too - but I'm not sure yet just how I'm going to deal with that giant tree trunk of a neck.  I'll probably try narrowing it a bit, but may end up leaving it alone and hiding it with a high - collared neckline on her dress (or whatever she decides to wear).  I'm not sure yet, but I'll figure it out as I go.

Side View of Head, Looking Left

Again, this doll is the product of a bizarre set of darts.  I'm pretty confident it's not me, but nevertheless, now comes the real challenge - modifying the existing doll and creating a suitable foundation for a work of art.

To repair this doll , I plan to use the following  techniques:
  • Ladder stitching to manipulate excessive areas
  • Adding a wire armatureto correct posture and curvature of body and limbs
  • Adding more"skin" and stuffing underneath to add to areas lacking substance 
  • Sculpting pliable clay over cloth to hide "surgery"
  • Painting to make her look beautiful and bring out her best

Stay tuned to see how Salvage Sally evolves!

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Friday, November 15, 2013

The "Art" of Taxes

Are you one of those lucky people who create art and make a living from your passion?  
Lucky you!

Aside from being passionate about art doll making, I am a tax accountant.  I think that makes me a geek who plays with dolls.

I'm gearing up for the coming tax season and I've been thinking about art a lot.  Dolls... tax.... how to merge that together?  Seems like pickles and ice cream or something. 

Anyway, I remember myself years ago when I first got started with Doll Makers Muse.  I didn't know the first thing about bridging business and playing with dolls!  Do you know how to account for your art business properly? Are you just starting to make money and not sure what to do next?  Do you know how to get all the tax deductions artists can get?  I mean, who wants to deal with all that stuff anyway?  I'd rather work on a doll head than take my head off trying to figure all that stuff out.  Wouldn't you?

So I know I'm an oddball of sorts.  I'm into dolls and accounting.  Must have something to do with our ability to sit, stay focused and pay excruciationg attention to detail as artists.  I don't know what it is, but it is what it is LOL!

 My website

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Happy dolls and happy taxing!
No, that doesn't sound right.
Happy dolling!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Art Doll Quarterly by Stampington & Co. has been around for years, but I haven't read it for some time. That's why I decided to challenge myself and write a review. I hope you find it interesting!

I must start out by going back in time, when I first began my love with doll making and my first impressions of ADQ "way back then." Then I'll fast forward to what I find now, after not having seen it for some time. I think it will be interesting, so please bear with me!

**TIME WARP** Seattle, WA 2003
Bought an EXPENSIVE (how could I afford justify???) Husqvarna Designer 1 with a FLOPPY DISK lol! for the most amazing embroidery possible to mankind. The shop where I had just purchased this sewing machine car was unusually large and spacious, with groups of tables scattered around. This allowed for many different classes to take place at once, and was quite comfortable. One evening during a class where I was learning to use the thing, I noticed a group of women sitting around their cluster of tables, passing dolls around.
I could not help but stare at them.
How utterly shocking and intriguing- perhaps the most shocking and intriguing thing I had ever seen- grown women having a show and tell of dolls!?  I had to find out what was going on over there. I walked right up to the group. My mouth must have been gaping or something. I must have had the 'spellbound' look on my face because I left my machine parked on a table on the other side of the room and was quickly ushered into a vacant seat. Everyone was friendly, and they let me get a closer look at their dolls.
The ladies were passing around this "brand new magazine called Art Doll Quarterly." I could not believe my eyes. What, a doll making magazine for adults? Who ever heard of such a thing? Is it even allowed? Needless to say, I fell in love with the art of doll making instantly, and have been in a trance ever since!

The first issue of ADQ

 I was impressed because of the audacity of it- grown people reading about dolls. The pages were not cheap and flimsy. It felt good in my hands. There were all kinds of dolls in it from all kinds of artists. And the thing that impressed me the most is that the artists were ordinary people from all around the country and all around the world. Ordinary people like ME who can't necessarily explain why they love dolls. And don't HAVE to. Bravo!
By the way, the artist profile in this premiere ADQ is Akira Blount, who the doll making world just lost very recently, may she rest in peace.

 **Fast forward**  Some of my work was published in ADQ: Fuscia 

and a mischeivous theft-prone goblin who can only be pacified with Turkish coffee-

PAGAZ - Found Object Aficionado of the Sky

PAGAZ appeared in this 2006 edition

Nothing was more delightful than to see my "babies" printed in ADQ.

I can remember many rainy weekends picking up random issues and re-reading them for the 10th or 11th time. I drew much inspiration from this particular magazine, just knowing that there were others out there who shared my same passion. It made me feel very special.  I collected ADQ until eventually I moved to Brooklyn, NY to get married to my dear husband, David.  NYC hasn't been an inspiring place for me because of the stress of the city, and because it's so expensive to live here that I don't afford myself the time to relax and be an artist much these days.  So it was a real pleasure to pick ADQ up once again. 

 **Fast forward even more** Winter, 2013 edition of ADQ
 It's mid-November, and I'm bracing myself  (grumble) for the holiday shopping season.  I'm Jewish, and oftentimes I get very aggravated by all the advertising, consumerism and alienation that I feel during the end of the year.  "Winter wonderland" ends in December... there's no January or February!  Just kidding.  Anyway you understand.  I'm sure that my being Jewish has very little to do with it... I know people feel this way too.  It's all about selling and selling and selling, and I don't like it. It's overkill.   I just want to enjoy the season for what it is, the way it was created, in all its beauty and splendor.

So............. I open my mailbox, and there it is, in my hands once again.  ADQ.  Winter.  2013.  I get into the elevator and all these thoughts come rushing through my mind....what's in this magazine?  Am I going to like it?  How is it going to make me feel?  In a quick one-and-a-half-minute elevator ride, I was whirling around in my own mind, bracing myself and basically expecting to find a doll magazine filled to the rim with everything that I'm not interested in.  But I was wrong!

What I did find was page after page of interesting techniques, inspiring projects and the same high-quality paper and fabulously inspirational photography that took my breath away 10 years ago when I saw that first issue.  There were familiar, artists whom I have "known" for years, like Shelley Thornton, Marlene Verhelst, Annie Wahl and Adele Sciortino.  I'm particularly fond of Adele because she and I exchanged fabrics and notions across the ocean when I was overseas in Israel for a short time.  I loved Marlaine's article about creating facial expressions. 

I was mesmerized by Connie Smith, whose work is 100% new to me.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about (and seeing!) her anthropormorphic dolls.  WOW.

I was touched by Julie Branch when she talked about a woman who "flabbergasted" her by asking [about her dolls on display, perched all around her] "So why do you make them?"  This is a question we all must ask ourselves.  She beckoned me to read further into the magazine.

I found myself unraveling, going back into my expressive, curious artist self.  It felt so comfortable.  Turning the pages, I was delighted to see the "song dolls."  What a perfect idea! Rod Steward "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" made me CRACK UP.  This was not something I was expecting to find in a winter wonderland!

 I did see some elves, but these were cute LOL!  In the Show and Tell section, there are these funny winter frogs named Ralph and Justin, by Cheryl Riello. Winter frogs?  What a sense of humor!

Would you believe there was a Hawaiian Santa?   I think he's brilliant.  Despite my original apprehensions, he really appealed to me because I got a very positive message.  It was like saying, "I'm not like everyone else, but I still belong here and I have a great time and I'm beautiful!"  He hit the nail right on the head.   Thank you, Becky Supon for creating him (and the seahorse!) and thank you, ADQ for choosing such a brilliant Santa inclusion. 

There were many other interesting artists, dolls and ideas in this issue of Art Doll Quarterly.  If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you pick it up.  You might be in for a nice surprise!

Happy dolling,

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

My Visit to Etsy

Have you ever wondered where Etsy is?
So have I!
My husband and I were cycling around DUMBO, Brooklyn today, and so I decided to find Etsy and have a look.

Etsy is located in a relatively new-ish neighborhood in Brooklyn called DUMBO.  DUMBO stands for 'Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.'  I say 'new-ish' because for years, this place was seedy, scary and pretty much abandoned.  But recently it's been on the up and up, with stunning NYC waterfront views, cobblestone, old trolley tracks, and charm.  It's truly emerging as part of the "Brooklyn Tech Triangle"- the 'silicone valley' and arts hub of NYC.

I looked up ETSY on my GPS, and followed the directions to 55 Washington Street.

Here is the street.   You can see the Manhattan Bridge in the background.

mom and girl with balloon

me on my bike

I was going up and down the street, looking for Etsy. 
55 Washington Street....
I was expecting to find an amazing old remodeled industrial building.  But I found that ETSY is housed in a large glass office building.  There are no logos outside at all!

I didn't go inside the building, but I did continue wandering around the streets for a while.  It's such an interesting place!
Plymouth street, around the corner from Etsy.  Brooklyn Bridge in the background

Here I am directly under the Manhattan Bridge.  Someone made some fun graffitti on old (abandoned?) buildings. 

Continuing up the road I come to the waterfront promenade.  See the Brooklyn Bridge in the background?

Just look at this view!

I had such a wonderful time looking around this beautiful place.  This time I got to see the outside of Etsy.  But I can't wait to find out what it looks like inside!

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Upcoming Virtual Course in Dollmaking

 I am pleased to announce my first online course in a looooonnnng time!
I'll be teaching the art of cloth dollmaking, with a focus on some complex but not-hard-to-master techniques that you will want to practice and use again in many of your upcoming projects.

To learn more, please follow this link

Class begins this Monday, June 3.
I hope you can make it!
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Friday, May 17, 2013


Please meet Cassie, a sweet 20" doll that I created several years ago in Seattle, WA.

Cassie has been lovingly stored in a box for a while, and I recently started to really miss her.  She definitely does not belong in a box.
Cassie is what I like to call my "pivot doll."  Deanna Hogan came up to WA State to teach a course using her pattern, "Verity."  It was during this class that I was first introduced to the gel medium/modeling paste overlay technique that I'm so partial to.  In fact, each time I create a new art piece, I can't stop myself from using it again.  This doll was truly the turning point in my doll making endeavors.  I really admire Deanna Hogan.  She's a wonderful artist and a great teacher.

If you are interested in reading more about Deanna Hogan, visit her website at

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Monday, April 22, 2013


Please meet Avigayil, sweet doll with timeless charm. 


 Avigayil is a 25"cloth doll, lovingly and carefully "done up" with a variety of mediums,  paints and varnishes to achieve a mock porcelain look.

Her dress is Victorian / Edwardian-ish, maybe slightly "steampunk" but more "Rivkah inspired" if you know what I mean.  I just started playing with fabric and ideas, and this is how she evolved.  She's a modge podge of stuff I like, and I'm pleased with the way she turned out.

Here she is in all her glory:

One of my favorite parts of Avigayil's outfit is her boots.
 The "buttons" are made of Swarovski crystal beads and pins.

This doll is the culmination of five years in waiting.   She was sewn up in 2008 and remained unfinished until now.   As my mother always says,  "good things come to those who wait!"   I'm sorry I neglected this beautiful girl for so long,  but I'm so glad she's finally complete.
I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

Thank you for looking, and happy dolling!
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Old hose, new hose

This is probably completely uninspiring BUT....

I have these great fishnet stockings with mini holes - great until they got runs and became unwearable.   Well... unwearable for me, that is.  I think they will be just the perfect touch for a doll, don't you?

These hose been in my drawer since last summer because I just like them and can't get rid of them.  You know how it is.

Here's a closeup showing how the hose looks in action.  Oooh la la!

I'll fiddle with it a little, and add some details to these boots.   Stay posted and I'll show you how it turns out.   Her hair will be next!
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Monday, March 04, 2013

Repurposed and Rejuvinated!

I wanted to share the progress of my new "done-over doll" :

After- painted face
Before - cloth face with colored pencils

I'm completely amazed at the results so far.  I can barely believe that this is the same doll!  It's amazing what a little TLC can do.

I still haven't decided what to do with her hair, but I don't' think she wants be a black-haired girl again.    I haven't given her eyebrows or lashes yet because I'm still thinking... No false eyelashes this time! And, she might lose the hat.  I don't know.  I'm a slow thinker and that is okay. 

This is what I am using (not these colors, just showing you the brand and type of paint):

I like it because it's got unsurpassed pigment and quality, and it's not too expensive.
My list of paints are as follows:
  • titanium white
  • titan buff
  • quinacridone violet
  • quinacridone red
  • carbon black
  • burnt umber light
  • yellow ochre
  • primary cyan
  • green gold

I always tend to gravitate toward these colors.

These paints are not too hard to come by.  If you need to get them online, you can find them here, among other places.  

The skin color is a paint that is sold on The Clay Alley website.
I really like it and I just keep a nice sized bottle around, so I don't have to keep mixing colors to get a good skin tone.  It lasts a long time and doesn't dry up over time.

One last thing that I have to say about acrylic paint is that it dries pretty quickly.  It's nice to be able to work relatively fast and not have to wait long for your layers to dry.  That is a definite advantage.  I think for the next doll, I would love to try oil paint.  I used to be kind of impatient, if you  know what I mean- waiting for the layers to dry and all - but I think my tastes have changed.  I like the idea of taking my time.  :-)

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