Sunday, September 13, 2020

Robin Broke the Doll

       A long time ago, Sometime in the summer of 2008, Robin Briscoe asked me if I could make a youth doll for the cover of JAH. Robin did a lot of (all of?) the cover photos back then. I was a little concerned because I was super poor back then and the idea of donating a whole doll seemed terrifying. Robin assured me it was a loan. She would do the photos and send the doll back and then I could do whatever I wanted with it. That was a lot less scary. Then Robin broke the doll. 

      This might have seemed like a bad thing but it was the start of something really great. Out of the box a Breyer youth doll is basically worthless. They lack the articulation of even the regular Breyer dolls and those are not all that great to start out with. So really, when Robin broke that youth doll it lead to a lot of improvements in youth dolls. At least when I make them. I know Joan Yount also extensively fixes any Breyer dolls before they leave her studio. 

Photo from Google

     While Robin was trying to get the little doll I sent her to behave and to sit and hold the reins properly, without her arms sticking out in weird ways, she snapped the tiny joint the in the shoulder. Which was fantastic. All of a sudden she could get the arms down. So I figured I would fix the doll (everything is fixable) and make her more useful than ever before.
     Fast forward to 2020 and making youth dolls has become incredibly involved. I am not a big fan of making youth dolls. They are far from easy to do. First you had to chop them up and then you have to put them back together. What you end up with is a very flexible, very good doll. Who is also a little bit fragile. 
     Remember how I said the dolls lack the articular of the adult dolls? They sure do. So I chop off their ankles and pin them so they can be moved. I used to literally pin them (with pins) but I decided to try out sculpting wire. Seemed like the right thing to do. Out came my tiny rotary tool with the tiny drill bit. And the super glue. For youth dolls that are supposed to be younger kids I cut a chunk out of the weirdly long torso and cut off some of the legs. There is a lot of cutting, pinning, gluing... it's very involved. 
     When I glue the 2 piece of the torso together I wrap a piece of medical tape around to keep the super glue in and the keep the pieces together while the glue dries. Fun fact: when I remake the legs like this I have forgotten to put them through the pelvis before gluing the second end of the wire into the second leg. Which means I have to take something apart to keep going. Youth dolls make me grind my teeth a little bit at times. 
Making the upper arms out of sculpting wire allows them to be pushed in really close to the body after the doll is dressed. So I attach sculpting wire to the lower part of the youth arm and run it through the shoulders on the doll. Then they get wrapped with gauze and tape. 
       For this little doll I felt her lower arms were too long so I trimmed them down. Then they were too short. So I just cut the hands off and put them on wire. I should have replaced those gorilla mitts with smaller hands. Breyer youth dolls really are terrible dolls!
        I have an order for a shortish, slightly overweight doll. So I am remaking this youth doll to be a bit chubby and she will get a Gracie head. At this point this doll is sort of made of gauze and tape. But when she is dressed she will be OK. Not perfect, because a padded doll is still a padded doll, but I do what I can with what I have. I have limited options for base dolls after all. 
     Sometimes I find when the legs are all together and wrapped that they are just too long and look weird. That happened this time around. I have the really young youth doll, the youth doll that will be an adult and another youth doll which was not specified to be super young (and the reference did not look super young) so I was attempting to make this doll to be a young, but not too young, skinny kid. This one needed to be adjusted so I ripped off all of the layers of everything (which was much harder than usual for some reason) yanked her leg shorter on the other side, pulled the wire out of the naked leg, trimmed the wire, reglued... Hopefully when the glue is dry and I rewrap that leg it will look better. 
      So here is my comparison photo. The doll on the left is going to be a younger doll, the doll in the middle is an unaltered Breyer youth doll and the doll on the right is my modified youth doll to be a shortish, slightly chubby adult. 
     Youth dolls are not easy to make but they can be sort of versatile, even though they are a bit delicate. And it all started because Robin broke a doll. 


Lynn Isenbarger said...

What a fascinating look into what you do!

timaru star ii said...

Would that all of our mistakes result in such improvements.

Wendy Coady said...

This is fascinating especially as I’ve got my doll going on your operating table soon. Now I can see why your dolls are more bendy. Can’t wait to se my girl!

Field of Dolls Studio said...

Wendy, the doll that needed her legs shortened IS going to be your doll!