Dec 13, 2011

On Humility, Mr. Miyagi, and New Izzies.


I'm trying out a revised version of Dixie Redmond's Izannah Walker doll pattern, the one I got when I took her class last summer.  I made the following four dolls from her original pattern, (although one of them had a styrofoam head, so only her body was from the pattern) and learned a lot.  Here are those dolls (last two sold on Etsy, first two did not.) 

So those are Izzies #1 thru 4.  I waited a while to make more...not on purpose (I don't think), and then the bug got me and I had to try again.  Of course, initially, I did what I tend to do--which is get all excited and think I'm finished after the first attempt, which is "pretty good".  But the sad showing one of my dolls is making on an Ebay auction prompted me to get over myself and really take stock.  Nothing throws cold water on an ego like Zero Bids and this being my first time to put anything on Ebay...well, you get the picture.

So I looked at the dolls at that stage, and realized I had done what my art teachers warned about...I drew my version of a tree rather than a real tree.

Ah so, it is time to
Go back.
Look closely.
And this time...SEE. 

My muse, instead of the floaty-fairy kind my writer friends all seem to have, is a stunted, grouchy, Mr. Miyagi sort of fellow.  He basically made me understand that the reason my doll isn't selling on Ebay was that she was one of my first two dolls.  But Mr. other two sold for over $200 each!  Doesn't that prove I did great?  His answer: Tell that to the Watchers on Ebay. 

Hard on the ego, but true, none the less.  Then he asked me (please don't send for the guys w/ white coats...I promise I'm okay): Do you want an army of these little dolls, unsold, sitting around the house?  My answer of course was no, to which he replied "THEN STOP PHONING IT IN."  A most un-Miyagi construct, isn't it?  But I knew exactly what he meant.

So I spent another several hours, adding, subtracting...reshaping the already thrice reshaped. (I never get to use the word thrice...isn't it cool?)  Then another several hours, from breakfast to lunch yesterday. 

The revision I made to Dixie's pattern is in the head shape--a thinner neck, which I will later re-thicken, along with some basic changes in the shape of the head/face pieces.  The Revised Revision of the sewing pattern will need still more changes, but I have these four to a place that satisfies me.

They're not "there" yet.  But I'm closer.  
I didn't phone it in: I really looked this time.  
So Mr. Miyagi...back off a while. 

Besides, an army of little Almost Izzies sitting around might be kinda fun.


  1. I have a lot more to say in a blog post on my own blog but want to say GOOD JOB. Also, I want to say that you've got some really elegant lines going on there. You're right about the necks needing to be thicker. The challenge is to make the under clay cloth head shape the right size for allowing sculpting without too much clay.

  2. Blog post will be later. :-) Off to school and errands then sculpting and blogging.

  3. Cool. I thought you were directing me to an old post... I look forward to it.

  4. I love them so far... Can't wait to see them finished.

  5. I think they are all wonderful-from the first ones to these last ones! But I totally get what you are saying. I have been down the crushing road of ebay many times, just remember there are lots of factors to why something might not sell. One being that you are new to ebay. I really applaud your willingness to look harder and really try to see. I think that is hard for a lot of us artists, we can get addicted to the jubilant feel of everything coming together magically~that wonderful "zone" that just seems to happen. Tell ourselves, oh its all about the freedom to create! Then we get to market and find out-wow! I'm all alone here in my joy! LOL! Yes, been there many times! Thanks for such a thoughtful and honest post!

  6. I know exactly how you feel! I've had to go back and reshape, redo and pretty much completely recreate most of my dolls. I sent two into Prim's magazine which were not only NOT my best work, but were rushed. And it showed, particularly when it got into print, which I'm surprised it did. I really saw where I went wrong when it was approached through another 'lens'.

    I don't get the chance to do dolls often anymore, and am always surprised that they sell at all. One poor doll was sold 3 times, twice the purchasers backed out and it's still not paid for, so the poor thing's still not sure if she's actually got a new home.

    I've had older doll attempts sit in a drawer for years before I figured, I might as well try to finish this up and get her out of here, or just throw her away. I can't stand the thought of tossing lots of work out the window, so I do finish eventually and NOT to my surprise, they don't sell well at all. I think most of them received "pity" bids. Because they were very early attempts.

    I look at the chain of my work and see a definite change with each doll. There's an obvious thread connecting them from one to the other, but they certainly evolve and my early Izzy's look nothing like what I'm doing now!

    It's wonderful that you are 'seeing' your dolls in a different way, because it's so natural to fall in love with them and not understand why everyone else isn't in love with them too.

  7. Thanks guys. Sometimes I wonder where it ends, but I'm pretty sure I need the discipline. (Just spent another hour out on the porch sanding. :~)

  8. Wow! Don't know if I am impressed more with your sculpts or your writing! How well you express the feelings that all of us have at times!

  9. One of my most important lessons in painting was " To paint what you see that is right in front of your eyes ". This applies to doll making too. I wanted a IW doll that looks like IW made it, and not like I made it. It's hard to remove yourself from the process, but in order to get the true look of IW, I think that is what you have to do. There is a book in the library called " The forgers handbook" It talks about re-creating famous paintings. It takes alot of dicipline and no deviation from the original work to get a true realistic copy. It goes a little against the grain of wanting to add our two cents in, but it is what it takes to get a good, true likeness to the real IW doll. So far, I haven't done that, but there is hope I will finally leave my self out and just do what IW did. Only then will I get real success. I will say Jan,. that I loved your little blond doll. I am surprised she did not sell, because she was sweet and a beautiful doll.

  10. Great post! And I loved reading all of the comments too. Everyone is inspiring me to make another doll. What I want to know is WHO is anonymous??? No fair!

  11. Anonymous: This is the one thing that gets me the most. I'm fair enough sculptor that I can make a cute doll. I can create silly faces, cute faces, scary, homely, or plain faces. But to try and make mine look like THAT one, oh boy. This is like sculpting boot camp. :~P

  12. Jan, I find the harshest critic can be yourself. All beginning doll artists look for validation of their creativity from other doll makers as well as the thrill of selling. It is very easy to get caught up in comparing your work with those of other artists who have years of experience in the craft. What I finally realized personnaly is that I never actually wanted a IW copy cat as there are some things that to me are down right ugly in a really IW doll such as the ears. I do not try to make a look-a-like IW but a doll that gives the same nostalgic feeling that the old dolls have. Keep on what you are doing and don't second guess your work negatively, it is simply the normal evolution of your creativeness. I love your work and look forward to seeing your dolls in the future. ♥Judi

  13. Judi, I completely agree that IW dolls are homely. But there's something about them that just gets me. And for the most part, I don't want to make a living with copies. But I think the training I'm getting in TRYING to make an exact copy has been process is cloth and paperclay instead of pasted cloth and a press like the originals, so I'll never get exactly "there". But I'm having a helluva time aiming for it. :~p The exercise has been fulfilling and exhausting.

  14. Wax on, wax off...I'd be happy to be able to sculpt the heads. Everytime we sculpt one, we get better with the learning of it.

    I loved this post.



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