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Dressing a Doll with Gesso and Ink

an unexpected way to use mixed media

Dressing a Doll with Gesso and Ink

Last week I was designing a new pattern, and today I am in the mood for an experiment of sorts.  I only finished the torso (I always begin with that!) and spent so much time on it. When it was done, well – I decided to play with it. I spent so many hours tweaking the pattern.  It was the perfect release of bottled up frustration and energy.

I painted the darned thing with gesso. Just slapped it on!  Gesso is the stuff you use to prep a canvas with. It was almost as if I was embalming it or some weird thing! I still don’t know why I did this, but it felt good!

When the gesso was dry, I wandered back in the studio to look at my new “creation.” Honestly, I thought it would be thrown away. I didn’t plan to make any use of it at all. But something about it called for me to do more.

I took my “mummy” and painted it with Tsukineiko ink. This is the type of ink they use for ink stamp pads, in liquid form. It’s fabulous stuff. I colored it with red and then while still wet, I added silver gray. Then I let my fingers “print” all over it. I really went to town! It felt good.

As I applied the ink, I discovered that the gesso left beautiful brush strokes because it it so thick. The ink being very thin, was soaked right into the crevices of the brushstrokes, creating the most dreamy effect. It was soooo cool! The two colors together combined with the brush strokes, and my fingerprints created such a beautiful, soft look to the surface. Almost like roses or something. It was very calming, almost fragrant!  My senses were very stimulated when I saw that.  I could also see some threads that I neglected to trim off, and they were now painted over and added interest.

Now the torso looks PERFECT! As if it were meant for this.  

I am going to finish this doll. I’ll “dress” her with gesso and ink. When I make her arms and legs, I will use the same technique.  Since this is fabric, I can still bead the doll, do some needle sculpting, and all kinds of other things I normally do. I’ll probably use some light organza or silk to dress her up a bit, as well.  I have a good feeling about this new doll now. I’ve discovered something new.

Thanks for looking!

P.S.  This doll evolved into a Faery named Firefly.  Sadly, she was lost in Washington State.


  • August 23, 2006

    Hi Rivkah,
    Love your blog. Isn’t it great how things turn out especially when one thinks that the process may not work.
    Keep up the good work

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