The Birth of Ruby – Casting

9 years, 10 months ago 28
Posted in: Work in Progress


This isn’t a tutorial, just a loose documentation of the process that every porcelain Enchanted Doll undergoes to become truly enchanted. And porcelain. Through a stream of consciousness I’ll try to explain the way the process makes me feel when I’m engaged in it, in hopes that it will convey the mental state behind the work.

Casting is pretty technical, but still the easiest part of the process. Most of the session is executed through pure muscle memory: my motions are rehearsed, mechanical, fluid and efficient. It’s like meditation: all problems and mental anxieties are deliberately moved aside, my mind is almost at rest, calm, collected, relaxed, yet acutely self aware, while my hands are executing a delicate dance of the molds and the scalpel.

I hardly even think about what my movements are any more; I know exactly what I’m doing and my hands lead they way. Focusing on my work causes a simultaneous detachment from it. The trance. Knowing how to cast porcelain slip is a small achievement in life, but knowing it gives me the ability to manipulate this medium into the forms of my desire. I feel in control, in my element. Everything goes according to plan, my plan.

By now I’m so attuned to the process, that any irregularity which may signal trouble is felt instinctively through subtle changes in its mechanics, such as small fluctuations in the weight of the molds, the handling of the slip, the particular way in which the scalpel slices through wet porcelain. All of these little things talk to me and I understand the language of the medium and respond to its needs accordingly, almost entirely on autopilot. When I feel myself curiously detached from what I’m doing, I know I’ve gone into the Flow-and the Flow is the nirvana of work, a higher state of being.


Taking out the parts is just as automated as casting, but the head, and more so the hands, require I switch off the autopilot and put my mind back in manual. Separating the fingers is a delicate and tricky work that produces different results every time. The face requires post casting touch ups as well and demands full concentration.

Cleaning up is a ritual that puts a physical and symbolic closure to each casting session. The clean up is as rehearsed and automatic as the casting, but as I methodically wash my desk and my tools and my hands, my mind is refreshed and my thought process is restructured as I emerge out of the casting-induced trance.

The last thing I do is rub some lotion on my hands to counter the dehydrating effects of porcelain slip, and as I do that, I can feel my constant companions, the daily anxieties of an artist return to me.

28 Responses

  1. Amal says:

    Thanks for letting us into your head and allowing us to watch. Have you ever walked in on someone praying? Reading this blog entry is a bit like that — not wanting to invade your privacy, but being curious to watch.

  2. Jayne says:

    Thank you Marina and Chad. It is just wonderful watching how you work.
    The Zen of Creation us something I will be following with curiosity and joy.
    Again, thank you.

  3. shane says:

    Great writing. If/when you get around to culling your blog posts for book content, this – and I assume the future entries in this “series” as well – should definitely be considered for that purpose.

  4. Hazel says:

    Thanks for sharing this! What a joy it must be to be able to enter your own nirvana, and be able to see the beautiful results afterwars!

  5. Kamila says:

    Beautifully put. Working when you can focus on something you know so well you don’t even need to think much about it is probably the thing that makes a lot of people happy. Especially when the results are so incredibly rewarding.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maria and Marina Bychkova, nataschaartworx. nataschaartworx said: amazing ! RT @Enchanted_Doll: A look into my casting process – The Birth of Ruby […]

  7. Manü says:

    Wow that’s very amazing to see the process of the casting, it’s a lot of work for you.
    Of course work that you take a lot of pleasure to do,this thread will learn everyone(specially me) to know how each doll are unique and need a lot of concentration, you are one of those artist who always need the perfection in her work and merice full of respect.Bon courage

  8. Annina says:

    ooh thank you for sharing so in-depth about the state you go into while you work, this state of creating and being in the flow, that’s what i want to do too, and i recall how it felt when i was completely “in it” when drawing.

  9. Annina says:

    gah for not being able to edit hence creating a double post, but:
    i agree with shane, this would go very well in your book when the time comes!

  10. Chris says:

    Fascinating process. It’s interesting to see the steps that it takes to make your amazing art. To try to feel what you do as you meditatively go through the process. Thank you for sharing! I love your work!

  11. Amarilli says:

    Very interesting Marina ! especially the non-technical, invisible part.

  12. kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing, Marina. I’m glad porcelain casting has become easy and automatic for you. For me it still involves a lot of muttering under my breath and occasional outbursts of cursing!

  13. terri says:

    Very poetic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts during the casting. It’s one of my favorite parts as well.

    I’m always amazed during the casting process because when you begin all you have are empty molds. When it’s finished it’s as if it just happened, as if it were there all along.

    Like you explained it “a meditation” that results in a beautiful object.

  14. Annina says:

    do you sing or hum when you are in these “flowing” states?

  15. Marina says:

    I don’t usually sing or hum, because I have an awful singing voice and no ear for music whatsoever. I’m like a peacock.

  16. Cjoy says:

    Thank you! Thank you! What a wonderful lunch time surprise!

  17. Maura says:

    Everybody already told you how great this blog entry is. It’s the answer to the questions we all ask ourselves when we look at your creations…it’s so interesting and personal: it tells us something unique about you as an artist and as a person. Thank you! :)

  18. Maura says:

    oh, and following up to Annina’s question…since you’d rather not sing, do you listen to music? If so, what kind helps you to reach the “in the zone” state better?

  19. Marina says:

    Sometimes I listen to music on headphones and sometimes I have it blasting out of the speakers, but most often I play documentary films on my laptop for extra entertainment while my hands are busy.
    This usually means that it keeps my mind partially occupied and prevents the Flow, but I like to learn new things. Sometimes finding out exactly how they built Rome is more exciting than Flow.

  20. Suok69 says:

    I thik that you just have to write a book about EDs. I have never read anything so wonderfully put about doll making. I am always fascinated with your perception on different matters and enjoy your blog very much (beside your dolls).

  21. Leah says:

    The same thing happens to me when I’m sculpting or doing something that’s very routine based. Although sanding is my least favorite part of making a doll, I also find it reassuring because I can feel my mind drifting off to somewhere else. However, my attention is still subconsciously aware of everything I’m doing, and if something doesn’t feel right, my mind switches off “auto pilot” in order to fix the problem. Its pretty cool to hear another artist describe the same feelings that I get while creating art as well :3

  22. Crystal says:

    Thanks, that was written so well and the pictures were not only very interesting but very helpful!

  23. shane says:

    > Sometimes finding out exactly how they built Rome is more exciting

    ***SPOILER ALERT ***

    …It took more than a day.

  24. MissLK says:

    I love the ending paragraph!

    I’m not only enchanted by your beautiful creations in porcelain… your amazingly vivid and eloquent writing about this inner passage is touching.

    It just seems that no matter what you put your heart into, you are able to master it with talents and hardwork!

  25. katie kirby says:

    What an incredible process!

  26. rupertvalero says:

    thank you for this site. as an engineer, i am awed at the process you take in making such masterpieces. as a 6″ super-articulated toy collector, i am floored with the sculpt, painting and articulation. outstanding! thank you again.

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