Sculpting directly into Porcelain by Marlaine Verhelst

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Porcelain for hand sculpting has been used for centuries by ceramicists in sculpting their “objets d’arts”. It is a material for experienced sculptors. I use the German brand “Hutschenreuter” or the French brand “Limoges” and fire it only once on 1220 or 1240 degrees Celsius. After firing I paint the porcelain with watercolour and I cover this with a varnish as a protection.

The reason that I have made the choice to work in porcelain is that I like the surface and it is a funny thought that my porcelain dolls will still be there long after I am gone.

I learned the basics of sculpting into porcelain from a ceramicist. She told me to start from a ball of clay, pushing your thumbs into it until you get a hollow form. Because I seemed to give more pressure with my right thumb, all the skulls I made were a-symmetrical. I decided to start sculpting solid and then hollow the piece. I got quite frustrated because it was more work to hollow the piece than sculpting it.Then I developed my own method that I still use and that I will show you here.

To start with the head I take a styrofoam egg and put a pin in the pointed side (so I can recognize it once it has been covered). I grease the egg with salad oil and cover it with two flat slices of porcelain

Then I start modelling the chin – the side with the pin (that can be removed now). You can model the face including the ears as you are used to, keeping the head in your hands.

My order in sculpting is:
– The chin
– The forehead

Before going on now give your head a critical look from every side. Especially make sure that the skull has a good shape and that it is symmetrical

My further sculpting order is:
– The nose
– The mouth
– The eyes
– The cheeks/jawbones
– The ears

If you are working very slowly or if you do have dry and warm hands I would advise you to put a piece of plastic wrap between your hands and the head. If you don’t, the back of the head will dry, shrink and crack. If you keep the head wet then you can work on it for about two weeks. When you have finished the sculpting of the head you let it dry for one to three hours. It has to reach a certain stage between wet and dry. Then you will be able to open it to remove the egg. The egg cannot be left inside because the porcelain will shrink while drying.

To give the head a neck and shoulderplate I have developed a special stand. On top I can put plastic tubes of different lengths to fit in with the size of the head and the length of the neck. Cover the stand with plastic wrap and prepare the shoulderplate.

Now we can operate on the head. First we will make a hole for the neck by removing a round piece of material with a little knife. Then remove the top of the head – the brain pan- as you do with a boiled egg. Don’t forget to place a mark so you will know how to put it back You can push out the egg now with your thumb. Remove some of the material of the thickest parts of the head, for instance the forehead and the chin. You can use the tool shown in this article.

To replace the top of the head you have to make scratches -using a little knife- in the two parts that have to close. After scratching you will have to wet these parts with a (wet) brush and without removing the scratches. Press the top of the head on the right place (where you have marked) now. Smooth away the seam.

Put the head on the stand in the position that you prefer. Model the neck out of a slice of porcelain and smooth away the seams. Cover the head now with plastic without closing it entirely. Leave it this way for a few hours so the moisture can spread evenly.

If the entire piece feels like chocolate (as the head before operating) you can remove it from the stand and work on the inside of the head if necessary.

Let it dry slowly before firing. The material will shrink twice: the first time during the drying process and the second time during firing. In the picture you can see a freshly sculpted head together with a fired head.

Good luck!!
~Marlaine Verhelst

This method of sculpting directly in porcelain has been developed by myself and described in my earlier books and on my CD (in english) “Handsculpting directly into Porcelain” with text, illustrations, pictures and a complete video demonstration of sculpting into porcelain with further details on this subject, how to paint on porcelain with watercolour and a gallery of Marlaine Verhelst dolls. I have conducted workshops on this subject all over the world.


1. The Tools


2. the egg, covered and with chin & forehead added


3. now to start sculpting the head


4. ready sculpted head


5. prepared stand for breastplate


6. cut off the brain pan


7. push out the egg


8. hollowing the thicker parts


9. place the brain cap back, line up marks


10. the head on the stand


11. unfired and fired head; same size

Mold Making Reviews on two products by Leslie Molen

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Speedy service –easy on-line ordering.

Use for me: I have found that my old faithful plaster and pour able resin-paper maché are not quite mass-produced viable. I need to find a product that requires less finish time! The cost will be more on the front end but hopefully less time will be used to finish.

“Knead-a-Mold® is our exclusive, two-part, platinum cured silicone mold making system that is safe and so easy to use.  It works beautifully with resins, low temperature melt metal alloys, paper and air dry clays, polymer clay, wood putty, chocolate and more!  Excellent for replicating vertical, small or hard-to-reach areas.  Non-toxic and food safe, Knead-a-Mold can be baked at up to 300 F constant temperature or 600 F intermittently.  No special equipment, tools or release agents are needed.  Can be used with our exclusive Brush-a-Mold™. “

I am using this product in some cases for my mold for limited re-producing my face forms. With this Knead-a-mold, I have had to find a compatible product to shape my face forms. For the face forms I have changed from the Liquache, an Activa-product that requires a plaster mold to Clay-Shay (see below).

~It is extremely easy to use.
~I have found the molds take very good detail.
~ The molds are sturdy and flexible.
~You can mold just about anything!

~Have not priced out the difference between this and the plaster molds I have been using.
~Since I am making a face form that is a hollow shell, I must also make a positive form to fit into my mold.
My heads are about 1⁄2 inch thick

Great help on the phone finding the right product!
Orders Only: 800-261-2837

Use to me: I am trying this product out for my face forms in lieu of Activa’s “Liquache” with plaster molds.

“Clay and maché. Clay and maché. Aves® ClayShay™ is the best of both. It feels like clay and sets like maché. ClayShay™ is for universal applications as a clay or a maché. It is a dry powder ready for use with the addition of water and has about a one hour set time. It offers 0% shrinkage. It has a light brown body, is light weight, non-toxic, strong and very versatile. Aves® ClayShay™ is a new, innovative product!”

This product I am using for some of my face forms with the Knead-a-Mold. It is a powder to water ratio. I did find that the thinner consistency worked better for me 1 water: 1 1⁄2 powder ratio. When I made it thicker I ended up with bubbles or holes in my face form. Which is opposite than plaster!

~ Very easy to use and easy clean up with water.
~I like the control over how thick you want it to be.
~Dries fairly quickly, but not as quickly as stated in the directions of 1 hour. It would take a couple of hours until I could pop it from the mold and over night to dry thoroughly.
~When thoroughly dry- it is hard and sturdy.
~Fairly easy to correct bubbles with same product.
~Reproduces with almost no touch-up. This could also be attributed to a finer mold.

~Face forms are sand-color and color will show through if using tissue-thin fabrics (i.e. silk) as overlays. But still have found it nice with cottons and other silks.

Note: As you know, to stay in business, every little penny does count! So I do need to price out these different products. Because the ClayShay face forms come out so nicely, I have saved precious time in the finishing of the face forms, this will be considered in the final assessment of the cost.

UPDATE: I now have been using these products for months and love them! My finish time has been greatly reduced and that has in the end saved me money! I have found a solution to the “grey” of the Clay Shay and have used their Aves® Paper Mache. Slightly more delicate but produces a nice finished product.

You may view Leslie’s work or write to her on line at

Creating Patterns for Shoes to Fit Any Doll by Heather Maciak

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RobinThis method of making a pattern is a simple one- you wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the foot of a shoeless doll, draw the shoe of your dreams with a marking pen, remove the foil and flatten it out. Voilà- you have a shoe pattern, or at least the beginnings of one!

Step 1- Make sure that the piece of foil is large enough to go around the foot, covering the toes and the heel. If the doll will be wearing a sock, you can create the pattern with a sock on the doll’s foot. Cut the foil with a curved edge where it wraps across the top of the foot, so that you get a smoother fit. Now shape the foil firmly onto the foot, smoothing and flattening the wrinkles as much as possible. Press the foil together at the centre back of the foot, so that the two sides meet at the heel. (photo #1)

Step 2- With a permanent marking pen, draw the shape of the shoe you wish to create, being careful not to get marker on the doll’s foot. First, draw along the bottom edge of the foot where the upper of a shoe would meet the sole. Continue up the centre back of the foot, where the foil pieces are butted together- this is where the seam will be. Then draw along the top of the foot where the line of the shoe would fall. The photograph (photo #2) shows the beginnings of a lace-up shoe.

The beauty of this method is that you don’t have to be a pattern maker to create something wonderful. You simply have to picture where the shoe would be on the foot, and draw it there.


Photo 1.

Step 3- Carefully remove the foil from the foot, flatten it out, distorting it as little as possible, and cut it out with a pair of scissors. Now place it on a piece of paper and trace around it, adding 1/8” around the bottom where the upper will be folded over the cardboard sole, and at the heel where the seam will be. Fold the pattern in half, hold it up to the light, and trim it so it is symmetrical around the bottom edge (the bottom edge of the upper is always symmetrical, with the sole being the determining factor for whether the shoe is a left or a right shoe).


Photo 2.

In the case of the lace-up shoe, the pattern will also be symmetrical along the top, but many shoes, such as shoes with a side strap, are not. Now, stand the doll’s foot on a piece of stiff card so you can trace around it for the sole. Set the foot aside and neaten the tracing, adding a scant 1/16” around the edge and rounding the toe area so it looks shoe-like.

A good way to adjust the pattern before making it up in Ultrasuede or leather is to cut it out in paper towel, which has some flexibility and will not tear easily. Make a cardboard copy of the sole pattern and try it on the doll’s foot with the paper towel. If you are making a lace-up shoe, don’t forget to make a pattern for the tongue as well. Study the fit and make any necessary adjustments. When you are pleased with it, go to step 4 and make it up in Ultrasuede or leather. You will never know how the pattern is really going to fit until you make an actual shoe. The photograph (photo #3) shows the stages of making a pattern.


Photo 3.

Step 4- Once you are happy with your patterns, trace them onto cardboard or mylar, so they will be sturdier when you use them. Cut them out inside the tracing lines, so your new patterns are the same size as the originals. Number each pattern with a ‘1’ on one side and a ‘2’ on the other- this will remind you to always flip your patterns when you are tracing them for a left and a right shoe. Trace the pattern for the sole onto cardboard or Mylar, and then make a second tracing of the sole, trimming this one by 1/8” all the way around. This will give you the pattern for the spacer- a smaller piece of cardboard that levels out the concave space on the sole, which is created by the folded-over Ultrasuede or leather upper.

Step 5- Now you are ready to make your shoes. Trace the pattern for the uppers with a fine marker onto the back of a piece of Ultrasuede or leather, and cut just inside the tracing line. Clip small triangles out around the curves on the lower edge of the upper- this will allow you to ease the toe and heel in, without bulk, as you glue them. Trace the sole and spacer patterns onto the cardboard you will use for the inner sole and the spacer- it should be about the same thickness as the Ultrasuede or leather you are using for the shoes. Using the same pattern as for the cardboard, trace the sole in heavier leather than what you used for the upper. If you would like to add a heel, especially for larger dolls, draw a line across the sole pattern where the heel would be, and line it up along a straight edge of the sole leather to trace the heel. Cut out all sole and spacer pieces. If you like, glue fabric onto the cardboard sole and trim it flush with the edge of the cardboard, thereby lining the shoe to match the costume.


Photo 4.

Now, stitch or overlap and glue the seam allowance at the centre back of the upper- it’s starting to take shape! If you glue the seam, take a small stitch at the top to reinforce the glue. If you stitch it, open up and glue the seam flat. Position the upper over the cardboard sole (lining side up) and fold the 1/8” allowance over the cardboard, gluing it and easing it in around the curves. Glue the spacer in place, then glue the leather sole over the cardboard spacer, hiding the overlapped upper.

The photograph (photo #2) shows the cut out shoe pieces as well as a shoe with the upper glued to the cardboard, with the spacer in place. That’s it in a very small nutshell — I hope this will give you a jumping-off point. Don’t be afraid to try this — it’s easier than you think! The photo (photo #4) shows the finished lace-up shoes, which were created for 7” Robin.
~ Heather Maciak

2017 European Professional Doll Art Festival in Riga

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In September 2017 there will be a European Professional Doll Art Festival in Riga, Latvia for the fourth time. The Show is organized by Inara Liepa with help of her husband and her daughter Santa. The show is set up in a rail road Museum.

There are a few things that make this show so special: the personal choices that Inara put in this show, the special theme that allows Inara to add other art forms to the show, the beautiful displays on pedestals with plain backgrounds. NIADA is invited to present our organization in a special booth. The theme for the 2017 show is “On the wings of the wind”. A number of NIADA artists will be attending who will be announced shortly.

In 2016 the NIADA artists present there were EJ Taylor (Guest of honour), Marlaine Verhelst, Anna Zueva,  Tamara Pivnyuk and Natalja Pobedina.

The Riga Professional Art Doll Festival dates are – 14 September to 17 September, 2017
Latvian Railway History Museum, Uzvaras bulv. 2a

2017 Prague Doll Festival

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In November 2017 there will be a Doll Prague Show for the fifth time. The very first one was more of a quilt show with only one doll and teddybear booth. The Show is organized by Bohdana Klatilova who also has an art doll gallery in Prague, Czech Republic. Part of the show is a well attended doll and teddy bear competition. The 2017 competition theme is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart “My Praguers understand me”.

There will be European NIADA artists present at this Show. In former years you could meet EJ Taylor, Ankie Daanen, Anna Zueva, Ana Salvador, Tamara Pivnyuk and Marlaine Verhelst. New NIADA artist Eva Hodinkova is local and a regular participant. In 2015 NIADA was offered a free booth by the Doll Prague organization. The city Prague is a kind of fairytale city, well worth visiting.

The Festival dates are November 24th – November 26th 2017
Click here for more information –

NIADA 2019 Conference in Kansas City Missouri!

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Seeking a location to host the 2019 Conference and Dollmaking School, NIADA artist Cindee Moyer traveled to Kansas City to discover an iconic hotel with an illustrious past.  Originally established in 1931, the Hotel Phillips was once the tallest building in town, standing 20 stories high and boasting 400 guest rooms.  Today, it offers 216 elegant guest rooms and is on the national Register of Historic Places, yet it maintains much of the historic charm and original Art Deco features which make it a true gem in the heart of downtown.

An art lover’s paradise, Hotel Phillips offers beauty around every corner. Original Art Deco features include elaborate bronze and nickle metalwork, lustrous walnut paneling, stylish light fixtures and their symbol of light and hospitality, Dawn, the statue in the lobby.

NIADA 2019 runs from Monday July 15th through Wednesday July 17th for the dollmaking school and Thursday July 18th through Sunday July 21st for the conference.

Rooms are $179 for a single or double.  Registration begins on January 1, 2019.

Kansas City’s Power and Light District hosts dozens of shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.  In the heart of the city, it also houses the Hotel Phillips.

The Kansas City Streetcar offers a free ride around the District.  It runs primarily on Main Street from the River Market to Union Station, with a multitude of shops and restaurants along the way.

River Market is nestled just south of the Missouri River and hosts a weekend City Market with over 140 vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods and other local fare.

Union Station is home to the Kansas City Ballet as well the Gottlieb Planetarium,  the KC Railroad Experience, a permanent rail exhibit; Science City, theaters, a 5 1/2 story 3-D screen, shops, restaurants and much more.