Posing Angie

How many ball jointed doll owners reading this pose/re-pose their doll(s) once a week?  How about every day?  Ahhhhh…. another junkie after my own heart.  It is addictive.  Of course proximity helps a lot.   I have a  “cubbie” in my staircase in which I place recently finished furniture pieces along with my doll Angie, providing the perfect opportunity to mess with her.  Occasionally, she gets into such a charming pose it simply must be retained for some time, but it’s a fun exercise in her best trait…..that would be being more limber than I am.

Ball Jointed DollsHere’s some new furniture, not yet ready for posting to my Etsy shop, but perfect for highlighting Angie “the poser” and some other new accessories which might interest the DIY’er in you.

BJD FurnituireShe looks a bit lost on this settee for 24″-26″ dolls, but finds it extremely comfortable.  She loves to relax in style.  I confess, playing with her and all the accessories, and then the big photo shoot, is more fun than I can say.  If you’ve followed me for a while you might notice the new end table and lamp. (Click on any image to enlarge.)

Exquisite doll furnitureI’m working on a post to show how I made it and will also provide information to DIY’ers, who might not have my workshop of tools, to create end tables that perfectly fit their dolls.  The lamp is one of two new ones and I’ll bet no one can guess what the base is.  Come on.  Give me your best guess!  It’s very heavy and about 50 years old.  I found it at a local antique shop and with a pre-made shade, it’s just about perfect for dolls.

Of course, end tables and lamps, backdrops and carpets are only rivaled by fashionable seating like nothing else you can find in the known Universe (well that’s what I heard).  Everyone knows that when Voyager sent back a message from deep Space after finding highly intelligent life deep in the galaxy, the message read “Send more Chuck Berry and Little Big Chairs!!!”.  What more can I say?  Photography and dolls are popular everywhere and accessories make it more fun!

Here are a few of the poses Angie came up with this time.

Doll ChairsBJD Furniture     Tufted Doll Chair

Posing1Best Doll FurnitureFine Doll Furniture




SD Doll FurnitureDoll Furniture






Red is the new blond…….for dolls.

I could have worked on Angie (re-worked to be exact) for a long time.  My appreciation of doll makers is huge and I thank them for all the new elements and ideas I was able to add to this new version of her……TA DA!!!   Here she is.  Red is the new blond.
Angie, ball jointed doll
Red hair has always been a passion of mine.  Only 2%-6% of the population are natural red heads.  When I was a kid the “Breck” shampoo magazine ads always had three models and the one with auburn hair was always my favorite.  In my 3rd grade photo, my hair was surprisingly red…..sort of a strawberry blond, which turned to brown all too quickly for my taste.  In my 30’s, I spent a decade as a red head and loved it. Click on all photos to enlarge.
Redheaded doll
As I worked on my doll, giving her some new joints among other things, I really wanted her to go red.   Ever since I made Tracie’s hair out of Ultrasuede, I’ve been fascinated with this look, reminiscent of anime and manga.  It finally dawned on me to cut the pieces on a curve and then position them going in the direction I wanted.  This created a softer look.
And here she is sitting in her favorite settee wearing one of the new outfits I created.
 Redheaded dolls
My respect for all makers of dolls is immense.  I could have spent a few months tinkering with all the bits that make a bjd work.  Time constraints being what they are, it simply wasn’t possible, but I’m happy with what I accomplished and her new abilities.
One of the joys of bjd’s is versatility, so a blond bob seemed essential.  I think she still looks very much like herself (see Angie here if you didn’t know her before).
ball jointed dolls
She’s wearing her new negligee. I confess, I’m a little confused….kind of a mind split…. relating to them as separate dolls.  They’re so different!  And here she is channeling Marilyn Monroe wearing her new blue silk dragon top (with green silk pants).  She loves Marilyn.
marilyn monroe doll
doll in chaise longue
Seeing her in both personas makes you realize what a good wig can do if you ever find yourself on the lam after a bank robbery…… or simply in need of anonymity.   Have fun!

My Photography…..so far, Pt. 2

My photography improved as I began to create more illusion with intentionally created walls and floors.  I consider them props just like the rugs, furniture and plants.  It’s important to create them so they lay flat when not in use and can be mixed and matched.  I would recommend creating a “base wall”.  This is like the “bones” of your set.  It keeps the wall standing up straight and not falling over on the dolls, and allows you to shift the whole set as needed to get optimal light.

I frequently use my bookcases as a base wall because they’re so sturdy, but you can easily make one with common tools.  For the purposes of this demo, it took about less than ten minutes to make this since I had the materials on hand.  It’s simply a piece of foam board to which I attached small feet, also created from foam board.  The feet are removable (so it will lie flat), since they’re only attached with straight pins, which easily slide into the foam (below).  You can see one pin at the top and one at the bottom.  If you’re not worried about space, you could also hot glue them permanently into place.  This base wall measures 29 inches wide and 25 inches tall.  My cutting table is 57 inches wide and by turning it at an angle to my window, or letting the bookshelves hang off a little on each side, I can get up to 60 inch wide shots.  My bookcase is 29.5 inches tall, but can extend it upward with little wall extensions if I want to.

Now, you can start to place any one of the several beautiful floors you’ve created up next to it. Then lay one of your wall textures against it vertically (temporarily held in place with pins or tape, see second photo close up, below).  Voila!  You have the basic set ready to adorn with accessories.  A small piece of moulding (not shown) spray painted gives the appearance of a base board, adding realism.  Setting the stage is much like getting dressed in the morning.  You want lots of options that you can mix and match and accessories to make it pop.

My architectural prints wall was first covered in fabric and the prints permanently applied.  Fixing them permanently is a good idea if you have a collection……I love collections.  But, if you’ve worked hard creating a beautiful wall, or it’s a beautiful color of poster board and you don’t want to make a permanent hole in it or risk pulling the color off with tape, here’s what I do.  Rather than metal wire or twine, use clear wire commonly used for beading and jewelry making, or fishing line.   For the purposes of this demonstration, I’ve used a black twine.  Otherwise you couldn’t see it and would think I was bonkers!

The twine was looped through the little metal attachment on the back (I purchased this frame at a hobby craft store on sale). Several knots can be tied in it to allow you to hang it at various levels and it’s simply secured with a pin stuck down into the foam board  at the top of your base wall.  The clear jewelry thread doesn’t show at all in the photos.  I’m using 1/8 inch foam board which seemed sturdy enough.  If your picture frame is not too heavy, a pair of magnets works wonders without marring the wall surface.  Super glue one magnet to the top back of the frame and then position the other directly across from it on the back side of the base wall.  It stays up like magic and is easy to move up and down.

So here’s the base wall with the floor and the picture.  A really realistic scene coming together and haven’t even thrown in accessories!  Let’s add a rug and plant next. The rug is a nice piece of upholstery fabric…..very nice.

Now put in all the other little items that make you and your doll happy and we have the un-cropped finished look, followed by the cropped version.

In hindsight, probably should have lowered the painting to a lower knot on the chain, but……..I’d already broken down the set (takes about 30 seconds) and couldn’t reshoot it…….but this is how I’m currently creating realistic scenes for my stuff.   I like the way the small size of this set cuts off the floor, the pot, the chair & the painting.  It looks like we’re looking in on a private moment.  Shooting from an even lower level might have been interesting….and this is the problem….you can never get it quite right….so you never get it done….and you never stop having fun and being creative!  What luck!

Developing my vision of the scene in my mind and doing a little sketch on paper is a time saving practice.  Drawing it helps more idea flow to you.  You don’t have to be a great artist…..just a sketch is helpful.  I hope this has sparked your imagination or convinced you that great idea you had two months ago just might work.  Thank you so much for reading.

My Photography…..so far, Pt.1

A friend and patron from Etsy, Mustangridergirl, asked a great question:

First of all, I’m only a professional upholsterer.  I am definitely not a professional photographer and do not have professional photographic equipment, nor studied theater in school or learn about set design.  This all got started because I had to photograph my furniture for the Etsy shop.  Check out “sales” at my shop and you can see my progression, not only in my furniture, but in my photography.  (click on any photo to enlarge)

So, this post is a behind the scenes look at my current photographic technique.  Should I study lighting?  Of course.  Do I currently have the time or inclination….not really.  Am I interested in spending tons of money on professional lighting and then having to find a place to store it when not in use?…..yeah, right.  Sound familiar?  Does this describe you?  I think I’m very much like any doll owner/enthusiast, making the most of what I have or can create.  I’m a DIY kind of girl and can’t even remember the name brand of the camera I’m using.

I don’t think it’s about the camera.  Most people now acknowledge that camera phones are on par with many available cameras.  I don’t use my phone for the dolls and furniture, but you get the idea…. just trying to make the most of what you have. Thankfully, my camera has a rechargeable battery.   I never never ever ever use a flash.   Holding my finger on the flash as I start the camera keeps it from popping up, and I ignore all prompts and flashing messages telling me I need more light.  The lights in my shop are fluorescent….yes!….fluorescent lights!  It’s been a workshop long before it became a posh environment for dolls. ;o)

The cutting table is directly behind the chair sitting on the upholstery horses…..waiting for me to quit playing with dolls and re-upholsterer it.

Floors and walls stacked neatly out of the way under the currently cluttered cutting table.

My shop is a 10 ft x 18 ft space.  The cutting table sits next to one of two west facing windows, although the huge Burr Oak tree just outside, shades most of the direct light.  My fully lit photos, like this fun take on the board game Clue (below), are photographed using only those two overhead lights, and I almost never adjust it later in Photoshop.   The only extra work done on this shot was to crop it.  In hindsight, I would have liked a little more atmosphere in this shot, but hey!, “me and the girls was just havin’ a little fun, ya know”, and crime should be exposed.  I amuse myself.

Miss Scarlett….in the library…..with…..the copper pipe?

Lately, I’ve started using a large white piece of foam board to deflect the light up to the ceiling and get a more subtle atmosphere, and have been known to drape fabric over the fluorescent closest to the table in order to affect the quality of the light.   Shifting  the whole scene to angle it towards the window, gives me a little less angled more direct natural light.    And if it’s atmosphere you’re looking for, I can’t say enough about making your own lamps.  It’s fun, easy and does double duty as a light source and a decorative prop.

This photo (above) was taken with the overhead lights turned off, only the two windows letting in a little bit of indirect natural light, and my doll lamp creating added  effect.  Strong late afternoon light gave it the feeling of dusk.  I left the scene lined up with the table (instead of angling toward the window) which gives the illusion that my dolls house indeed has a large grand window on the wall not shown in the photo.

The next one has only the light from the window.  I love that moment when the day is getting to dusk and you know if you don’t turn on a light now….if you wait any longer…. it will be very harsh when you finally do.  I always use “Auto Focus” on my camera, letting it do what it does best.  It’s a Canon Power Shot 5×210 IS.

Realize that the bulb color of artificial light, will affect the color of your sets, dolls and clothing.  That’s probably why my fluorescent lights work OK, because they’re white light…..not yellow or bluish.  I am using a yellow light in the lamp, which has a warming effect in the “night” shots.

The angle of the shot is also important.  I like to get low enough with my camera to be on the dolls eye level.  There are plenty of artistic exceptions to this, but for my purposes, shooting from the dolls point of view will look most natural.

Speaking of cropping, I’m still learning not to judge too quickly the merits of a photo before I crop it.  Cropping is a very creative process.  I occasionally find myself dragging photo’s out of the trash and finding interesting compositions within a shot I previously thought was trash worthy.  This paragraph is more important than some might think at first. Trying to take a completely finished shot with the camera is not as much fun or effective as cropping.   Play with cropping!  Most photo processing software (whether on your computer or the free ones on line) will let you “duplicate” your photo, which allows you to play to your hearts content.  It’s one of the most creative and fun parts of photography.

I work hard at the photos.  Sometimes I’ll take a dozen shots only to realize I’ve failed to notice a blunder.  Here’s an example:  The table skirt just didn’t look real enough until I stopped and forced it into a shape that seemed right.  I must have taken a dozen shots of it crumpled, but once I saw the photos on the computer, I ran back to the shop, adjusted the table skirt and it only took one more shot to get it.

Uncropped version with funky table skirt.

That’s much better!

My next goal is to develop mid-tone lighting.  Perhaps bring in a table lamp from the house, setting it up across the room, turn out the fluorescence, and shooting late in the day when the sun is lower and coming strongly in the widow….but not creating shadows.  Atmosphere is good!  Have fun!!

I’ll try to post Part 2 tomorrow.  It’s about scene construction and should be fun.  Thanks for reading, and Thank YOU again Mustangridergirl!  You’re a doll!

Steampunkify My Doll

Steampunk Angie

I’ve been attracted to Steampunk since I first heard about it a few years ago on the web.  I fell in love with science fiction in junior high school, about the same time I was sure not to miss an episode of The Wild Wild West on TV.  In 1990 when I purchased a copy of “The Difference Engine“, on the advice of a friend who also worked at the library, I had no idea that this genre had a name.  Apparently this work, co-authored by Austin writer Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, was instrumental in bringing the concept into the public’s greater awareness.  (All photos are flickable to enlarge.)

I will also happily confess that two of my favorite shows have been “The Adventures of Brisco County Junior” (Brisco and Bowler were just too damn glamorous) and, more recently, WareHouse 13.  So, I like to think of myself as sort of mildly keepin’ up with “the comin’ thing”, as Brisco would say…..except for sewing clothes.  Have not sewn clothes much since I was a kid.  Mom was an excellent seamstress and taught me, but I’m kind of a slob who just hangs out in her workshop, messes with furniture & dolls, and digs in the yard…… so who freakin’ cares?  I do on occasion clean up quite nicely, and living in a casual town like Austin has its benefits.  To say I was surprised by the finished product would be an understatement.  With so many amazing doll clothiers out there, intimidation was my biggest problem, but Angie’s jacket turned out quit well and I’m sure I’ll try again.

I used the edges of a piece of vintage ribbon to get the teeny tiny pink ruffle at the cuffs and up the front and collar.   Those pieces are also lined with the pink silk of the skirt.  No, the skirt is not real.  I didn’t have enough fabric to make a real skirt, so I faked it for the camera.  The little striped cummerbund is silk and taken from a sample book of silk plaids.

I’m quite pleased with myself, but will again express my undying respect and appreciation for all those who work on a very small scale.  Angie’s 22 inches tall, which feels pretty tiny when you’re trying to set those sleeves.  I’m consistently blown away by doll makers, doll clothes makers and miniaturists of all kinds.  I don’t really know how they do it.

Besides the Victorian-esque outfit, the top hat and goggles are quintessential Steampunk.  The leather is from a tiny sample of Ralph Lauren leathers, very thin and supple (only the best for my Angie).  Polymer clay lens holders, plastic lenses tinted with permanent marker (rose colored, of course), and tiny watch gears complete her sweet but punked up image.  So much fun!  Thanks for visiting and please feel free to comment!