The Ugly Truth of Porcelain Dollmaking

My beginner dolls were made with polymer clay.  I started working with porcelain in ’91.  I looooove porcelain!  It can be smoothed to a lovely perfection and I can carve in the most intricate details.  Even when my doll will ultimately be cast in resin, I make the original all in porcelain so she comes out of her mold with that same gorgeous soft finish.  Porcelain is time consuming and labor intensive.  But, I don’t mind, I just let my OCD take over and get lost in time... and dust.


This page is for anyone who can appreciate that creativity breeds chaos!  Honest, I try to keep my work area in some sort of order, but I do so many different processes and they all take dedicated equipment and supplies.  Sometimes its practically standing room only in my workshop.  Can you just imagine how much worse it would be if I made large dolls!!??

I try to keep my sense of humor about it...

The porcelain process, condensed version:

original sculpt for Cypher, creepie!

preparing for the plaster

my production molds, not pretty, but they work fine

there’s a whole lot of finish work  to be done here!  I do it all while the parts are dry.  It may not be the healthiest method, but I get the best results.  The little head is Cypher’s.

almost done...the faces are refined on the outside and the eye sockets are beveled on the inside, to accommodate her little eyeballs

After final fire, the heads and all body parts get some china paint, then its back in the kiln.  The china paint firings can be as many as 6-8.

My handmade eyes, the best news is, I can make them any color I want!

oops!  I forgot your clothes!  Sorry about that Cypher!   I’ll get right on it!!  She looks annoyed!  uh oh...


Porcelain shrinks about 12% after final firing.

these are my teensiest glass beads, I have billions of  ‘em...they would all fit in one tablespoon...

Each headdress gets a unique twist.

I aim for equality but not sameness.

Sameness is boring!!

Startin’ my wiggin’.  I make a polymer wigcap and then embed bits of mohair a little at a time.  I custom dye the mo to get the color I want for my girls.  Rit usually works, but I also use other brands, or even things like... onion skins, tea, coffee, mushrooms...

For Cypher, I made a two parter.  I made the back with the long braid and the front with the bangs and sides.  It custom fits her head like a jigsaw puzzle.  Same thing for Jubilee...that’s the blond wigs you see there. I can get some nice fancy hairdos that way.

I’m ready for my closeup!  That little face is smaller than the last joint of my thumb.  I aspire to miniaturize without compromising any details

Ready to get cooking.

  ©  2012 Joanne Callander

a sisterhood of Cyphers