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Transforming a Cloth Doll to “Porcelain”

Transforming a Cloth Doll to “Porcelain”

I’m starting a new doll.
Well, not exactly…  I’ve decided to work on an old doll that I never felt was quite finished.  She’ll be getting a complete makeover!

Have you ever made a doll and felt she just isn’t her true self?  I think that’s what happened with this doll. She’s pretty, but I always felt she could be beautiful.  Really beautiful.  I just know that something is missing.  So now, it’s time to give her a chance to reach her full potential. She has waited patiently for almost 4 years.
This Monday afternoon, I got on the subway and went straight into Manhattan – to Pearl Paint, the biggest and oldest and best art store in NYC. I’ve never been there before, but I felt it was the best thing I could possibly do!  I bought paint, brushes and various “compulsive” art supplies, so I can get straight to work.   I gave away a lot of art supplies when I moved to NYC from Seattle so “the cupboard was bare.” I almost “went shopping” online, but I decided not to.  I’m glad I took the trouble to make the trip.  It was absolutely invigorating to be in this old established art store, and it felt so good to just be there, in the midst of so many art supplies and materials.   I felt like I was sitting on a giant palette that was flying like a magic carpet.
This is going to be a big project with a complete transformation.  She is a fabric doll, but that’s about to change.  When we are through, she’ll look more like porcelain.  It will get a little tricky since she’s already got clothing, and I can’t remove it.  And sorry honey, but off with your hair!
Here she is, sleeves rolled up and sporting a beautiful body bag.  A special “mixed media” mixture has been applied to her head and neck, and it’s currently drying.  I’ll need to apply two more layers before I can go ahead and paint.  Each layer must be carefully sanded so it is nice and smooth.
 The mixture is important because it prevents the paint from cracking on the soft fabric over time.
Here is the recipe:
  1. Mix 1 part of gel medium and 1 part modeling paste.
  2. Brush the mixture on 3 times, allowing it to dry for a few hours in between coats.
  3. Sand each coat with fine sandpaper.
  4. When done, paint with skin colored paint and then apply a glossy glaze.
The technique was developed by Helen Pringle and taught to me by Deanna Hogan.  I love this technique.  It allows us fabric doll lovers to achieve a certain look for our artwork that is usually found in porcelain dolls.  I also love painting, and now I’m not afraid that the soft fabric will cause the paint to crack or peel over time.

Before laying down the protective undercoating, I actually added some Paperclay to improve her needle sculpted nose.  I also built up the area where her lips will be, and a little on the brow above her eyes. In addition, I “smeared” Paperclay over the seams so they would disappear under the paint.  I used a bit of water to get the Paperclay to the consistency that I need.  After the Paperclay was dry, the undercoating mixture was ready to be applied.

By the way, here is a little tip when using this method:  Dab a bit of fabric glue onto the fabric before putting the Paperclay down.  This really works.  If you don’t use the glue, the clay could just fall off when it dries.  It also makes it easier to get it on there in the first place.

I think I can see her smiling underneath the undercoating.  Can you?


Next, I’d like to work on her hands.  I think I can improve them.

This is the original hand with seams running down to create the fingers.  I love the unusual shape of the [sewn] hand, but they are all the same length.  I feel like I can improve them a bit with the Paperclay by adding to the tips.

I added some Paperclay to the tips of the fingers.   I found it a bit difficult to control the clay because the area is so small, but it worked.  The pointer finger is a little on the fat side.  I’ll just have to deal with it… nobody’s perfect.

To suggest fingernails, I cut a drinking straw on an angle.  By pressing down into the clay, I made indentations.  When it dried, I painted the hands and nails, and applied a final layer of gloss varnish  I’m happy with the result.


I painted the rest of the doll carefully.  My next step will be painting her face and changing her hair.

This post has been edited and posted with original photos intact. The doll evolved into Avigayil.  Pearl Paint went out of business.  I’m lucky I went!
Thanks for reading and have a dollightful day!

Thread bearer, clay musher, paint brusher, seam ripper. Turning whimsy into reality, one doll at a time.


  • March 4, 2013

    You used to be a member of my web community Liberated Muse before I transitioned to a traditional web site this year. Good to see you are still making dolls.

    Cheers, Khadijah

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