A few years ago I was introduced to two materials that have become real keys in my process. Through Steiner playgroup with my son Jasper, I became acquainted with the ancient art of felting . And through my friends who have really embraced a back to wholesome basics approach to life, I discovered the wonders of beeswax. I love these incredible, versatile, natural materials.
I've been exploring beeswax as a means to create a rich textural
finish on my digital images, and had been experimenting extensively.
Doll making is something I’ve always been drawn to. Over the years I have
made many, from life-size paper-macher kids to small pegs (wish I could find
those...I know they’re in a box somewhere). However it seems something is different this
time. Everything seems to be coming together in a really magic way, and is an
incredible joy to be a part of.
Originally I had made some faces for the dolls out of air-dry clay, but I was not 100% happy with that material. I decided to see what I could do with beeswax. I was not really expecting great results. Not having a mould I tried pouring the wax onto a plate and building it up. As you can imagine this proved a very messy and, even with the edges tidied up, produced a rough primitive looking face, which with some gold leaf and black ink applied looked interesting, but not really what I was going for.
Then as I worked away, thinking this likely wouldn’t pan out; my eyes were drawn to a ceramic Chinese soup spoon that held some flakes of shellac. The shape was perfect! The spoon created an ideal mould for the base of the doll faces. Once I had the base I could paint on layers of wax, and build-up the necessary areas. At first I tried to use the heat gun to create a smooth facial surface, but, of course, the gun would always melt the raised areas, and I seemed to kind of be going in circles.
I did produce a few faces that I felt were passable. That night sitting by the fire I began to use my thumbnail to refine the features and smooth the face. After being in my hand for a while the piece began to soften and really become a pleasure to work with. I realized that the wax application stage could be quite rough, as it is just one step beyond the base. The fingers draw out the real magic as they connect with the wax and gently manipulate the facial plane.
Here are some faces I've done so far. The ones lying at the front (that you can't se very well) are the first two I made free-form.
Here is the face that will be attached. I have a fluffy feather that will sit behind and around the wax face. I think that I will attach the gold face so that it hangs from his belt, like a spare mask. This doll's element is fire and he will also have some burnt twigs and a few other tools hanging around his belt.
Here is another one that is nearly finnished. One of my favorite parts of the dollmaking process is collecting the details for decoration. Pouring through old cookie tins in thrift shops filled with odds and ends, I find tiny discarded treasures, a single earing, a mysterious metal piece, or a beautiful button. The piece in the center of the dolls torso is made from a brass piece of an old chandelier I had taken apart recently (more on that later), a turquise bead I bought in Thailand, and some fine brass wire.