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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pouring molds!!


Happy Easter everyone! What an absolutley georgeous weekend we are having! With the weather being so nice, I decided to do a little pouring yesterday afternoon. This is the one aspect of dollmaking that I continue to have problems with. Most people don't realize that humidity in the air and the temperature affects the way pouring goes. When it is really dry, molds set up a lot faster...but when it is really damp, molds set up a lot slower. It has been good a dry the past weeks or so here so I thought my pouring would go nice and smooth. Unfortunately, it was too dry so not only did my molds set up very quickly...they set up too quickly which caused the casing to crack while still in the molds. After I realized the molds were to dry, I began spritzing them with distilled water to allow them to set up a little more slowly so I could get some good casings. The process of pouring the molds begins with the slip. You need to prepare the slip for pouring. I use Ultra Chic Porcelain Slip. When I receive a new gallon, I have to stir it up really good and add a little water to it until it is the right consistency. Once I get it thin enough, I then strain the slip to get all the air bubbles out and to strain out any chunks of slip that did not stir up well. There are many different Porcelain Slips in the Market, but I prefer the Ultra Chic. It pours beautifully and is very easy to clean in the sfgw stage.

Once you have your slip all prepared, it is time to pour! I normally will allow the slip to sit for a few hours before I start pouring. This is the time I use to get set up. Here is a picture of my table all set up. Some of the supplies I will be using can be seen. I have my slip and molds, mold dusting brush, fettling knife, small paint brush, distilled water, strainer, measuring cup that I use only for pouring (once I use any of my old kitchen utensils to pour with, I never ever use them for food again!). I also have a old wood spoon, extra mold bands, a bowl of clean water, small straws to help blow out molds, and lots of paper towels!

I always start with the head molds. Since I paint my dolls eyes, I lightly wet the eye area with some distilled water and then paint in the eye with white slip. Once the eye is painted in white slip, I band the molds and then pour the head in flesh colored slip. Here is a picture of a head mold that is ready to pour out. I check the thickness of my casing using my fettling knife. Once the casing is about a 1/4" thick, I will pour out all the extra slip back into my slip container.

And here is a picture of the leg mold poured. I just finished pouring this mold and took the picture and you can already start to see the little divets in the tops. Right after I put the camera back down, I had to top off the molds again with more slip.

Once the molds have been poured out and allowed to sit for a while, I will use my fettling knife to clean off the spares. This is the pour hole are of the molds. I reconstitute these spares. This is a process of filling a empty slip jug about 3/4 of the way full of all these pieces and then adding distilled water (just enough to cover the spares) and mixing it really good to make usable slip. Since I mainly make dolls as a hobby, this is acceptable. However, for dolls that I am going to sell or for Antique dolls, this is not recommended. There is a slight difference in quality when some reconstitued slips are used. I have not seen any difference with the Ultra Chic but would rather not take the chance.

I now have 3 complete dolls ready to work on. The next step in the process is to either brush clean the greenware, or soft fire the ware and clean it that way. With these smaller dolls and the Ultra Chic, I prefer to soft fire the ware then clean.

For a warning for anyone who wants to try making dolls: Porcelain Greenware Dust is very harmful to your health if you breath it in because it is made of up of tiny glass particles. Soft firing the ware before you wet clean it eliminates the dust. While in the liquid state, slip is not harmful at all..but when allowed to dry, care must to taken to avoid breathing in the dust at all costs. I wear gloves and a mask whenever I handle dry greenware or any dried up porcelain. I always clean my work surfaces down very good with clean water and paper towels and I never ever re-use anything I use for pouring to cook with. Warning labels are on all brands of slip and care must be given to follow the important health precautions. I even go a step further by re-cleaning all my surfaces with a small bit of bleach water to make sure I get is all cleaned up. Since I normally pour in my home, I don't want to take any chances with my or my family's health.

I hope you all are enjoying my blog. Please ask any questions you may have and I will try my very best to answer them. Dollmaking can be a very fun and rewarding craft and I just want to share with you all the process of making them. Again I hope you are all having a wonderful Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another "New" Technique I want to try

APRIL 1, 2010

Good Morning all my dollmaking friends! The Daffodils are blooming here in Wheeling WV, along with those pesky Dandelions, which marks the arrival of Spring! Easter Dresses hang on racks at all the local department stores, while candy isles fill with Easter supplies. The local weather for this weekend is calling for highs in the 80's with lots of sunshine! What a great way to start April! Another good way to start a new month, is discovering a new Technique for making porcelain dolls! Last month I attended a webinar about Spanish Oils. I had never heard of them before so I thought is was just a different kind of china paint..boy was I wrong. Spanish Oils is actually more like a stain you use on greenware. The greenware absorbs the color and stains the porcelain when you bisque fire. It reminds me of how you would paint a earthenware greenware ceramic. Years ago, this was what I used to paint all the time. I would go to my local ceramic shop, buy a piece of greenware, paint 2 to 3 coats of "colored clay" on the piece and then have the ceramic shop bisque fire the piece. Once it was bisque fired, I would then glaze it and return it for another firing which would cause the piece to become glossy. What makes the Spanish Oils different is that it is not a surface paint but a stain. The greenware absorbs the stain which actually changes the colors of the slip. There is also the detail colors which are surface colors that you apply after you apply the stains. Once you have your piece painted, you then bisque fire the piece...and if you want, you can then glaze the piece and have a glossy porcelain figure. This is the method they used to make Lladro figures years ago. After attending the webinar, I knew I just had to try this technique to make some figures. Here is a picture of Bernadette. I have ordered this mold with a starter kit of the oils from and hope to receive it soon so that I can try these amazing oils!

These Webinars are a great way to learn about all sorts of ceramics. So far I have taken 3 of them and have learned so much about porcelain. Here is a link to some information about the webinars for anyone that is interested.
I will try to post pictures and keep you all posted once I receive my supplies and being trying this technique. Have a great weekend my friends!

Monday, February 22, 2010

10" Dolls Ready to Assemble; New Kiln; Carousel


What a better way to start off a new month than to add my pictures of my latest two dolls all dressed up! I still need to make the shoes for my Portrait Head 10, but I just didn't want to wait any longer to share them with without further ado, I give you Portrait Head 10 and Vanessa!

I am not sure what I want to name her yet...with her pretty blue-green eyes and dark blond hair, I am just at a loss. I found this lovely cotton lawn fabric on-line and knew the colors would be perfect for her. I used the pattern book "Fashions For Small Dolls" by Rosemarie Ionker. I just love how the blues and greens in the fabric really accentuate her eyes.

Little Vanessa was a challenge. I began learning how to make shoes from Hearty Clay and so I followed the instructions to a T with mixing my colors...but once I finished the shoes, I discovered that there are not many fabrics out there with these same colors. While playing around on e-bay, I ran across this vintage cotton voile fabric that looked very close to the same colors....after winning the auction and receiving the fabric, I was amazed at how close the colors matched. The pattern for this outfit includes a little hat, but I ran out of the trim I used on the hem of the dress that is called for to use as a hat band, so I have been desperately searching for more so I can make it. I am also looking for some tiny silk ribbon in orange and raspberry so that I can make some roses for a nosgay for her to hold. For now, she will just have to snuggle with her little dolly. This little dolly was also hand made by me using hearty clay and press molds.

With these two dolls almost completed, I have began working on three more dolls. Two of them are larger dolls with cloth bodies, and the other is another 10" full porcelain body doll. I am getting a lot better with pouring the molds and cleaning the greenware, which makes a huge difference in the quality of the finished doll. I know that the weather here is supposed to be absolutely georgeous this weekend so I hope to be able to pour some more. With the addition of my small kiln and new molds, I am all set!


It has been yet another productive week for me. I was able to get my two 10" dolls assembled. They are now ready to dress but I am looking for the right fabrics. I have an idea of how I want them dressed...but finding the right colors of fabrics to accentuate the eyes is the trick. I have learned in the past that no matter how much work you do to a doll, if you choose the wrong colors of fabrics, it takes away from the beauty of the doll. So, without furhter ado...I would like to present Vanessa (Red Head) and Chelsie (Blonde)!


Hello everyone! Here is 10" Portrait Head 10 and Vanessa all painted and ready to assemble. I have the stands ready but have decided to try to make my very first pair of Hearty Clay Shoes for one of these dolls. I will use the dolls leg as a form to make the shoes so it will be a lot easier to do this before I assemble the doll. So, here they are...what do you all think?

My new Kiln has also arrived! It is the small Fire-Fly Kiln by Paragon. This kiln is going to come in handy when I am china painting these little heads. I was able to china fire them in under 40 min. and was able to take them back out of the kiln in a couple hours. Here is a couple of pictures. The first picture is one of my new Fire-Fly, and the second is a picture of both my kilns side by side. The larger kiln is a Skutt and it is perfect for the larger dolls I do make from time to time.

I have also been working away on china painting the Carousel Horse. This piece has been fun so far but has also proved troublesome. Since China Paint doesn't dry until fired, trying to not touch the piece while painting it is impossible...and if you touch wet china paint and don't catch it, it will leave prints in the paint when fired that you cannot fix. I decided to paint the horse in stages. Since most horses are not all the same color anyway, I feel the different tones of brown will only make the horse look better. I am going to work on this little guy later tonight while I wait for the Heary Clay on the dolls shoes to dry. I know that for sure, I have to get the first coat of paint on the horses eyes before it goes in the kiln again. So, here he is so far.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Here are the Heads with the 3rd Coat of China Paint....Having some Pupil Issues


I worked on these heads Wednesday evening. I struggled with the black pupil part on both of these heads so I have not yet china fired this coat of paint on. No matter how much I moved the paint around and manipulated it, I still see that one pupil seems to be a tad bigger than the other one on each head. Most people would ask, then why don't you just add some more paint and make them bigger...well, when I tried this, not only were they extreamly off balance, but they also looked even more cockeyed. So these heads are waiting for me to decide weather I want to china fire them as is, or try again to even the pupils out. I will more than likely try again and see what happens. Once china paint has been fired on, there is no taking it back off...and since it is translucent, trying to add to or fix a mistake with the next coat does not work. Here are the Pictures. I am not sure if you can really see what I am seeing....

I am also working on a Porcelain Carousel Horse that my friend Tamara gave me while we were at Controlled Excentrics last weekend. I am trying to paint this Horse in stages because china paint also never dries until it is china fired...and there isn't much for me to hold on to as I paint it. So I am working on it in stages. Gary is going to try to find me a long threaded pole that will fit through the holes so that I can anchor it on a base while I work on it. This will allow me to get the paint on evenly.

What I would like to do is find a doll the right size to make for this little horse. I can see her in my mind sitting atop the saddle with a huge smile on her face and excitement in her eyes. The hardest part of this will be finding the right sized sitting doll for it.

I also have been pouring dolls and cleaning the soft fired greenware. I sat at my little work station almost all day yesterday working on cleaning. I used to just buy my bisque but a few years ago when gas was almost five dollars a gallon, shipping went through the roof so I decided it was time to learn how to pour and clean. I set out to learn this part of dollmaking thinking it was going to be easy...boy was I wrong! Until recently, I have been having loads of issues with my is either way to thick or way to thin. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a Webinar hosted by Tony Tanner of The Porcelain Place where he taught us the History of Slip, the differences between slip, and the proper way to thin and pour Ultra Chic Porcelain Slip. After this Webinar, I used his method on some Seeley's slip I have been having problems with and Voila!!!! Problems solved!!!! Of the three dolls I casted the other day, all of them have soft fired and cleaned beautifully. The parts I casted before taking the webinar, are all giving me problems during the cleaning. Hoepfully this means I have finally learned this stage of porcelain dollmaking and will now be able to pour with confidence. Next week I am taking another webinar on again pouring, but also cleaning the dolls so I am really looking forward to it. Happy Dollmaking!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2nd Coat of China Paint on the Eyes!!!

Here is a good picture showing what the doll heads look like after 2 coats of china paint being applied and fired on. These heads will require 2 to 3 more coats before they are completed. I am really happy with the way they look so far. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Express Yourself Arts Studio and Controlled Excentrics


What a great weekend I had! I found a new store on-line a few weeks ago and decided to contact to owner. Controlled Excentrics is a HUGE Arts and Crafts Studio located in quiet, beautiful Sutton, WV (which is about a 3 hour trip for me). After a couple phone conversations with Tamara, the owner, a visit for me was planned. The news starting calling for a snow storm over the weekend so we made arrangements for early Friday. It was well worth the trip. Tamara has it all from mosiac pieces, glass fusing, ceramic bisque and of course dollmaking supplies! Here is just one picture of the doll area:

I am so happy I finally found a shop that is within driving distance where I can go and buy the supplies I need. Once we got to the shop, the weather took a drastic change for the worse! The temperature started falling, as did the snow. Knowing the roads were going to start getting bad, we cut the visit short so we could head back home. Tamara and I did have time to very quickly pour a couple head molds with Laguna Porcelain Slip. I had never used this slip before and she wanted to show me how easy it was to pour. She broke out a jug of mocha brown slip, stirred it a few times, and we poured them. Within 10 to 15 minutes, the excess slip around the pourholes started to pop off all by itself and the molds released very nicely! I also noticed that the color of the slip did not transfer into the mold at all. It was just a white as it was before we poured it. I am going to order some of this slip and try pouring my 10" doll molds with it. I can't wait to see the results I get when I have more time to really concentrate on pouring. Tamara and I are discussing setting up a weekend this Spring or Summer for me to go back down to the Studio to teach an eye painting class! Now that I have visited the Studio, I am really looking forward to going back down when I have more time.

The trip home was a whole different ball game than the trip going down. By the time we hit the Morgantown area, the roads were snow and ice covered. We seen many vehicles wrecked into the medium and off the sides of the road. Traffic was creeping along at 20 mph but we were still sliding all over the road. Luckily we made it home safe and sound and the next morning, it was still snowing! We ended up with total accumulations in our area of 24" of snow. Here is a picture of Gary's truck in the driveway:

With more snow predicted for this evening, I plan to stay home and work on dolls! I have been painting on my bisque and will have to take some pics to post.

Have a great day!!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kiln Maintenance and Dolls in the Works!


I had a successful Bisque Fire the other night! Here is a picture of my witness cones.

And here is the picture of the load all fired to bisque!

Once I was able to remove the parts, I had to sand them smooth. When you take porcelain bisque out of your kiln, it has a rough feel to it and you need to make it as smooth as silk. I have these 220 grit sanders that I use to smooth away all this rough stuff. Once I feel that I have it smooth enough, I will rinse the pieces under running water, let them dry, then take a piece of silk fabric and lightly run it over the pieces. If there are any rough spots on the piece, the silk will snag on it. These pieces have all been sanded and are now ready for the china painting process. China paint goes on your piece in layers. Each layer of paint also has to be fired onto the piece using a kiln and each head will have at least 4 coats of china paint on it since I paint the eyes. I have been after Gary for years to buy me a smaller kiln that I can use just for China Firing and next weekend, I am going to order one! At the present time I am still weighing out my options to see which kiln is going to be the most useful for what I need it for. The one I am leaning towards is a Cress Kiln. It is small enough that I will be able to china fire my heads and take them out of the kiln in less than 3 hours, but big enough that if I need to bisque fire a replacement part for a small doll, I can. I was looking at some other kilns that would not reach the appropriate temperature to bisque fire, but knowing that I am good at breaking those tiny little fingers off during my cleaning stage, I thought that a kiln that will fire at a higher temperature would be best. Once I recieve my new kiln I will post pictures.

Wednesday January 27, 2010

Making Porcelain Dolls is a fun, exciting, fulfilling and expensive craft. When you start making dolls, you learn very quickly that a kiln is the most important and essential tool you will need. While working on Molly's new Smocked Dress, I decided it was time for a little Kiln Maintenance. Anyone who owns a kiln knows what I am talking about when I say "Kiln Wash". This is protective coating for your kiln shelves and floor that you need to paint on your shelves. It comes in a powder form that you need to mix with water to a thin cream consistency. After a few bisque firings, the wash begins to crack and peel off the shelves, so new wash has to be applied...however, before the new wash goes on, all the old has to be removed. This can be a grueling process and luckily, Gary was here to save the day and scrape the old wash off for me ;) Last night I applied the first layer of wash and today, I applied a second coat. The wash gets put on in layers and dried completely between layers...and you paint each coat on in different directions (eg. up and down 1st coat, side to side 2nd coat). I have been given many different instructions on how many coats to use, but I have found that for my kiln, 2 coats are sufficient. Here is a picture of my shelves with the new wash on. You can see the dark spots where the wash is not completely dry yet. As soon as this coat is completely dry, I will be able to set them back in my kiln and set it up for Bisque Firing!

Here is a picture of some soft fired greenware that I have ready to bisque fire.

This ware will go into the kiln where it will undergo a process called vetrification. When I set up my kiln, I will place cones, known as Witness Cones on the shelves and a smaller cone on the kiln sitter. This small cone (cone 6) will melt and bend at a certain temperature and will automatically shut the kiln down. The witness cones are used to make sure the kiln fired at the correct temperature. I will put a cone 5, 6 and 7 on the shelves and when I open the kiln, I will inspect these cones. The cone 5 should be bent all the way over, the cone 6 will be bent half way over and cone 7 should only be slightly bent. Here is a good picture of what the Witness Cones will look like if my kiln fires to the correct temp.

I will also place a thin layer of silica sand on the shelves so that when vetrification is occuring, the pieces can move around on the sand. This is a very fine sand that allows the pieces to move and shift without pitting the porcelain. You see, during vetrification, the porcelain turns to like a thin taffy and If I were to just place the ware directly on the shelves, even though they are washed, the porcelain would still fuse itself to the shelf ruining not only the piece, but the shelf as well. During this firing, the inside temperature of the kiln will reach approx. 2230 degrees that is HOT HOT HOT!!! It will take about 8 1/2 to 9 hours for my kiln to reach this temperature and I will have to leave the kiln to cool naturally before I can open it to inspect my ware. When I fire this greenware, I will set my kiln to low for 1 hour with the lid propped open and the peep holes open. After an hour, I will bump the kiln up to medium and close 2 of the peepholes and close the lid. After another hour, the kiln goes to high and I will close up the last peephole. From there on, the kiln does all the work. About 6 to 7 hours later, the cone on the shelf sitter will bend and the kiln will shut down. I never leave my kiln unattended when bisque firing. If the kiln has fired over the time it normally takes, I will only let it fire for about another half hour and I will manually shut it down.

If all goes well during the bisque firing process, by this time tomorrow, I will be able to post pics of the fired bisque!
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