Oh how I love to paint dolls on warm, spring evenings in my glassy studio! There is a majestically serene vibrancy to downtown Vancouver during warm seasons. They call Vancouver A City of Glass, because our highrises tend to be all windows and no walls, to allow maximum views of nature. Hanging artwork inside residential Vancouver towers can be quite a challenge because of that. But I digress.
On such warm, spring evenings, I pour myself a cup of Pomegranate tea, put it on my desk next to the china brushes and watch its steam rise up to the wide-open windows as I work. The intoxicating scent of leaves wafts through them, as golden dusk fades into the towering skyline around me. Scores of sun-kissed dog walkers return home from seaside parks with their happy dogs in tow, passing under my windows as they chat and sip on ice frappuchinos, couples stroll leisurely hand in hand, while dozens of dressed up groups hurry down manicured sidewalks to the bustling restaurant district, while there’s still room on patios.
The sounds of traffic quiet down into a pleasantly distant hum, allowing evening songbirds to be heard. Dwellers of residential glass towers grill meat on their balconies and patios green with plants, leafy trees and twinkling garden lights. I smell dinners being prepared and hear an occasional chink of a wine glass along with faint joyous laughter as fellow Vancouverites take pleasure in each other’s company at the end of the day. In the growing dusk and quiet, the city pulses with life and contentment and I feel like all my senses are tingling with wonder and anticipation of the next day as I paint porcelain body parts.
Around this time I begin to hear Chad making preparations for dinner in the kitchen, two doors down from my studio. My thoughts turn to a delicious meal and His company. I tidy up my desk, turn off all the lights and close the glass door behind me. I will pour us some white wine and we will cook dinner together while sipping it and discussing our daily accomplishments, challenges, frustrations, triumphs and plans for tomorrow. And our voices and laughter will carry through the open window to join with thousands of other Vancouverites at the end of a warm, spring day, in a quiet cacophony of joy.
Although it’s not quite finished yet, I believe it is now safe for me to tell you about my secret doll project that kept me largely absent from the internet for the last 6 months. This is it – the first porcelain prototype of a large Enchanted Doll. She is a 1 meter tall ( 3 feet) scaled up replica of my original sculpt. You can see the sets side by side for size comparison. Both of them are getting painted this week and assembled into dolls.
Needless to say, the last few months have been rather challenging and nerve-wrecking, as I’ve had to learn a bunch of new skills and acquire new equipment to be able to create large scale ceramic sculpture. To make matters even more interesting, during the whole process I had no idea if the project was even structurally possible or viable. The will-it-or-won’t-it aspect of it has definitely added some nervous excitement into my life, but I’m really happy that the uncertainty is almost at an end.
Although who knows, more problems will probably crop up as they tend to do with new territory. Stringing might prove to be an insurmountable disaster yet, and render all my efforts pointless. I’m testing new springs tomorrow, so keep a ALL your fingers and toes crossed for me, will ya?
And of course now that the cat is out of the bag, stay tuned for the picture updates on the painting and stringing this new doll of mine.
To soothe those of you who are wondering, I have absolutely no plans to abandon my original scale. From now on, I will be working small and large. The new, glorious era of Enchanted Doll is here!
And this doll shall be called, Gloriana!
I’ve been waiting to show you this piece until I had better photographs of it, as I hate to create a false first impression based on bad photography, but I’ve had it for 3 months now and that’s quite long enough. Enjoy!
This Brocade corset is cast in Bronze, plated with 18k gold and set with 4 Amethyst cabochons. There is also one in sterling silver. This corset is still in the testing stage, but I’m hoping to clear it for pre orders as early as next month. Price will be announced along with official photos in the middle of May. If you’re interested in it, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and get on the wait list! Let me know if you have any questions.
I don’t know about you, but my last week was dedicated almost entirely to making sterling silver jewelry and doll accessories for orders. And by making, I mean ‘finishing’ it. And by finishing, I mean clipping, cutting, grinding and polishing raw silver castings to the point where they actually look silver. They start out looking nothing like the precious little things they become. Check it out.
Ultrasonic clean: Metals are dirty after casting and need a very good cleaning. After a short walk home from the local artisan foundry with my heavy bag of dirty silver, I throw a batch of it into my ultrasonic machine before the work can begin.
Clipping and cutting off injection sprues: Once the parts are dirt-free, I begin using a combination of cutters and high speed disks to de-sprue all my pieces. Every little bit of silver sprues is saved for future castings. Silver is pretty expensive.
Keeping an orderly work surface: For some reason artists are portrayed and perceived as messy individuals. It never made sense to me, because creative pursuits requires a good deal of strategic planning, prioritizing and execution. I maintain order as I work, so as not to become overwhelmed and discouraged by the accumulation of production debris.
Grinding: Ok, now it’s time to get my hands really dirty. I use safety equipment such as solid particle extraction to protect myself from respiratory damage; an eye/body barrier to keep high velocity metal shards away from me, and finger armor to safeguard my hands from friction burns and savage skin gouging by spinning burs and abrasive wheels. Brrrrr…..they are sharp, fast and nasty.
Acid bath: Now my freshly de-sprued and ground pieces go for a little dip in some relatively mild acid, which still burns human skin on contact. I use precautionary measures, but accidents still happen. Usually, this is when I discover all the little cuts on my hands from hours of grinding because they sting double when acid gets splashed on them.
Post-acid dip: This particular type of acid, turns silver black. I love black patina because it increases contrast between recessed and raised areas by making intricate details stand out more against the background. Sometimes, instead of dipping pieces, I apply acid with a tiny brush to selected areas. Almost all of my metal works feature black patina. It brings out the depth of each piece.
Tumbling: Now that my parts are black as pitch, it’s time to burnish them to a satin shine inside a tumbler full of stainless steel shot. While a variety of finishes can be achieved, I prefer satin finish on my jewelry, which is shiny, but not brilliantly so. During the course of several hours, the tumbler shot removes black patina from raised surfaces, while leaving it inside finer details, thus making it stand out against the smooth, bright areas.
Ready for assembly: When my parts are shiny, I sort them, dry them and bag them in order of priority. Gradually, shoes get laces and buckles attached, pendants get bails and chains, while doll’s ‘clothes’, such as that Crow Helmet for example, get put together from multiple parts and embellished with additional accents.
And that’s the gist of my metalworks. I hope that it was both entertaining and informative to you. I think I’ll go stick my hands in some ice now.
Eeeee! I just got the final proofs of the 3rd english-language edition of Enchanted Doll book from the publisher (BabyTattoo Books) and approved them for publication!
The colour reproduction is really impressive. All the photos are so juicy and saturated with rich, velvety tones! I love it. It’s getting Fedexed to the presses in Hong Kong today! All that remains for me to do now, is sign off on the new cover proofs and two months from now I will have a crisp, luscious new book for you. Can’t wait. It’s going to be so beautiful!
Mould making is like building three dimensional puzzle pieces. I hhhhhhate making moulds. I hhhhhate it with all my heart! Oh mould-making, how I hate thee, let me count the ways:
You are dirty. You are messy. You’re repetitive. You’re mind bogglingly tedious. You’re physically strenuous. You’re mentally exhausting. You’re logistically challenging. You’re harmful to the the human respiratory system. You make my studio into a white, sticky, gooey, clingy mess of dry and wet plaster crumbs for days on end. You leave a white trail of yourself where ever I go. You make me clean up after you ever 5 minutes to contain the mess you make, aaaaaand you make me use a bucket of cold, dirty water to do that because you will clog up my plumbing if I flush you.
You hurt my neck and back. You make my hands feel like two dry, scaly reptiles from being coated in plaster and clay from dawn to dusk for two weeks straight, and from washing them hundreds of times each day. You splash on all my clothes and my face and make me involuntarily swallow and inhale you. You feel gross on my skin. You hurt my fingers to the point of bruising and you scratch and cut my dehydrated skin until it bleeds.
I hate you because I really hate messes, and you mould-making, are the biggest mess-making process I can think of! You are so inconvenient! And yet, without you I can’t make dolls. You are a necessary evil. Your complexity annoys me, but it also challenges my technical abilities, stimulates my curiosity and improves my problem-solving skills. You are a problem, and I choose to solve you, over and over and over again, because you are a gateway to my creative freedom and happiness.
You are the opposite of fun and I count down every second to the finish line, but you give me a strange sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And glee! You make me sweat and cry and bleed right into plaster. You make me laugh maniacally when I succeed and thrust each finished puzzle piece up above me like the Lion King cub. You make me cuddle each completed mold in my arms proudly and coo at it like it’s a precious newborn baby. You make me feel so exhausted at the end of each day, that I can barely stand, but you also make me exhilarated and joyous in anticipation of all the dolls I will make from you.
I really hate you, mould-making, but I also love you. You facilitate beauty. You are the start of many wonderful journeys. You are the beginning of dolls. You are so inconvenient, mold-making, and I can’t live without you!
This lady is from the Byzantine Empire. Her, I’m going to show you the moment she is finished! My completion target date is end of March. Stay tuned.
Some of you guys knew it right away! Boom, spot on – first try! Pretty impressive. I suppose that my work aesthetic and thought processes are familiar enough by now to anticipate the direction I’m going to take. I guess I’ll have to surprise you more in the future.
And speaking of surprises, Phyrne, although competed, will stay hidden for now. She is for my eyes only for the next little while, but you can glimpse her pretty legs. And read my artist statement about this project. Thanks everyone for playing my guessing game!
Phyrne the Courtesan.
A Courtesan is a high-class Prostitute. Courtesans were well-educated, cultured and independent career women of loose morals, who traded sex and companionship to the wealthy and powerful men in exchange for money, luxuries and social status. They were often skilled conversationalists and entertainers, adept at using their wit, femininity and sexuality to achieve wealth, success and sometimes real political power. Some were gifted entrepreneurs and negotiators who became so influential, that history still remembers them.
One such woman was Mnesarete, otherwise known as Phryne. She was a famous Greek courtesan in 4th century BC, who became a model for Praxiteles’s statue of Cnidian Aphrodite, one of the most extraordinary sculptures of antiquity.
She was not only a beautiful woman, but seemingly a clever, persuasive one too, because when she was put on trial for impiety, which in 4th century Athens was a capital offense, she was able to convince the jury of her innocence and avoid the death penalty. Although it is rumored that she bared her lovely breasts in court to elicit sympathy and mercy from the judges, I believe that her wealth, status and a network of powerful lovers probably had more to do with her acquittal.
Ultimately, it was her social prowess and an ability to manipulate people and situations to her advantage that gave her personality a winning edge, while her beauty became immortalized in stone as Aphrodite – the Goddess of love.
Materials: Crown: 18k gold-plating, sterling silver, bronze, 21 Garnets, 18 Fresh water pearls, carved Water Buffalo bone, lost wax casting, construction. Gown: Gold applique embroidery on fine tulle, 24k gold bead embroidery, 300 Swarovski crystals, 63 Fresh water pearls, sterling silver, bronze, 10k gold-plating, Czech glass beads, 1 Garnet, 1 Rhine stone. Doll: Ball-jointed, bisque porcelain, china-paint, steel springs, magnetic mohair wig, leather lining, 24k gold fired-on applique jewelry on arms and legs.
There are five new and ongoing metal accessory projects visible in this picture, some completed and some nearly there. You will see them very soon. And I think you will like them. Very much.