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Sculpting the Eyes

Eyes are, as they are for human beings, the most important part of the doll. The look reveals the soul, or it doesn’t. Eyes can also be so remarkably evocative that we can associate them to a certain style . Take a look, for instance, at the eyes of Mr. Bill Nelson’s dolls which always emanate such tenderness.

Personally, I don’t use manufactured eyes for my dolls, I prefer to paint them myself. It is a real challenge for me to be able to reveal, by a few tiny details, the emotion of the doll.

Several doll artists such as Nancy Wiley, Helen Kish, E.J. Taylor, Van Craig, Antonette Cely have chosen to paint their dolls’ eyes. Whatever technique they use, their eyes invite you to look deeper.

When your doll is completed, watch its eyes and ask yourself: Are they talking to me?

1. You know how difficult it is sometimes to sculpt the eyes and the eyebrow and get the right shape of the eyeball.

2. To make it easier, you can model small balls with the product you use (paperclay, papier maché or polymer clays). Bake them separately in the oven (beware not to use your regular oven to avoid toxic fumes, especially for polymers*). Let dry.

3. Place the balls into the head of your doll and start modeling the eyebrow around them and then sculpt the rest of the face. You are ready now to bake the head and start painting the eyes.

* If you are concerned with the possible toxicity of the new clays and want to know how to bake them, you will get accurate information on this subject in New Clays for Dollmaking, by Mimi and Jim Winer (Mimi’s Books and Patterns) and in Fantastic Figures, by NIADA member, the late doll artist Susanna Oroyan (C & T Publishing).


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