Posted in diorama, Dollhouse, Fashion dolls, Photography

Building Lily’s world

Lily is the first of the dolls to have two permanent diorama spaces – one outdoor diorama space (in her secret garden) and one indoor diorama space (in her room).

The indoor space was simple to put together – it only has a few elements.

Lily's indoor diorama

  • Three walls (two taken from Daisy’s room, and one new). I used real wallpaper on one of the walls, and a roll of decorative paper on the other two.
  • One window (also used to be Daisy’s) covered in a clear acrylic sheet to mimic glass
  • Two 12×12 wood laminate tiles (as from Daisy’s room)
  • A printout of a rug. I just happened to find one that almost perfectly fit an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.
  • One Barbie bed, covered in contact paper (because the original bed is a pink monstrosity)
  • Two scarves – one as her bed cover, and the other as curtains
  • A beautiful dresser (probably a jewelry box) that I picked up at Goodwill

A note on putting acrylic in doll house windows: I put a sheet of acrylic on the window, thinking it would make it more realistic. In fact, it ended up doing the opposite – reflecting me and my dining room in the background of Lily’s room.

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Here I am – looming in Lily’s room

Lesson learned – in the future I’ll leave my windows empty (as I did in Rosie’s room). The only time the reflection might be nice would be when the doll is sitting right by the window and you can see the reflection. But, that seems like the unusual case. The usual case is where you can see my camera’s reflection in the doll’s room.

Her outside space is more elaborate, and still a work in progress. It’s made up of:

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  • A few great hauls from Goodwill, including the moss like ground cover, the picture frame door, the folding wall, and the amazing wooden creche (or whatever it is) that really makes the space.
  • It’s surrounded by a corner of “real” wall (made with individual bricks) and a corner of fake wall (drawn on foamboard). I feel like the wall is too short for the space, so I’ll probably be casting bricks over the holidays 🙂
  • Twigs and sticks with fake flowers (from the Dollar Store) hot glued onto them.

It’s missing its normal enclosure picture – that’s just the wall covering in my garage workspace behind the diorama. In Lily’s earlier episode previous shot, I hung a print behind the space. In this most recent episode, I hung a flowered scarf behind it. What I really want is to be able to see part of a town around it, but I’ll need to make more space in my garage for that to work.


A note on Lily’s paintings. Someone asked me about the paintings in Lily’s episode of the lost doll. They’re not really paintings – they’re just a Photoshop Elements trick. I take a picture, then I go into Elements and paste the picture over Lily’s canvas in the photo. I turn it from a picture into a painting by using the “oil painting” effect on a brush and brushing across the panel, giving an effect like this:

the-lost-doll

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Posted in doll adventure, Fashion dolls

Episode 12 – Lily and the case of the lost doll, part 2

Lily continues her search for the lost doll

Scene 1: In the garden

lily-holds-picture-of-lost-doll
Lily holds picture of lost doll
lily-paints-the-lost-doll
Lily paints
the-lost-doll
and sees the lost doll
lily-finds-the-lost-doll
Lily finds the lost doll
lily-returns-the-lost-doll
Lily returns the lost doll

Scene 2: At home

Lily sits up in bed
Lily sits up in bed
revealing old photos and letters
Lily opens a drawer of old photos and letters
Lily looks through old photos
Lily looks through old photos
lily-holds-old-photo
Lily holds an old photo
lily-paints-the-sea
. . . and paints the sea

So, the opposite of Rosie (who has dreams and brings back objects). Lily can hold an object and paint a dream. And Lily is dreaming (painting) of the sea.


That’s my mom again in the old photos, along with (I believe) my sister Claudia.

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The letters scattered in the old chest are correspondence between my mother and father when my dad was in the Merchant Marines.

Here’s a snippet from one of the letters, Mom to Dad, January 6, 1945.

“And I’ll tell you about us [that’s she and my oldest sibling, Kim] and what a wonderful, luxurious sterile life I’m leading here and what a gull [seems to mean stupid] I was trying to manage alone there at 43 [I think this is a reference to their apartment in the city – she’s moved in with her mom and dad in New Jersey while my father is away]. This place may kill whatever is creative in you, but at least it doesn’t kill you and if my writing seems a little different, chalk it up to the fact that I’m a little hesitant about typing since I pulled a faint the last time and I keep waiting to pass out now [not sure what the issue was – maybe she was already pregnant with my sister Claudia?], but I feel much better and I’ve gone to see another doctor in the McGraw Hill building, that beautiful green shiny building on 42nd street [New York]. Brother [her older brother, Vincent] recommended him, and he’s most intelligent, has a full time professorship at Columbia Med and all sorts of things . . . I like him muchly cause he’s got all the latest issues of the New Yorker and his patients are an intelligent bunch . . met some reporters from the Herald-Tribune the first visit . . long lanky black horn-rimmed glasses . . . and I put my urine in a jar labelled DEMAND THIS BRAND CHILLING IMPROVES so he’s pretty fond of me too. I think we bought some pickled herring in it. ”


I’m always struck by how thoroughly modern my mother’s writing always sounds. If I didn’t know the time frame, I’d never be able to place when she was writing.

My mom died in 2012, at the age of 93. But, when I saw Lily’s garden, I knew she’s want to be there. I’ve left her on the bench, for now, as an older woman reading a book. But I suspect the warm sea air in Lily’s town will work its magic on her.

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Posted in Daisy, Dolls, Fashion dolls

The soul of a doll

I spend a lot of time staring into the eyes of dolls, looking for someone to stare back.

For a doll to star in these stories, you have to be able to imagine what she what’s going on her head. I talked about it the start to Rosie’s adventure – when Rosie looks in the mirror, what does she see?

Rosie in the mirror
Rosie in the mirror

You can almost imagine, right? That’s how a doll passes the test. Either there’s something like a soul glimmering through, or there isn’t. 99% of the time (based on my rough calculations), there isn’t.

I can’t really put my finger on what makes the difference, but look at these two 14″ dolls

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BB Girl and China dolls

The China doll is emoting like mad, but the BB girl is largely silent. In fact, the China doll is emoting so strongly that I’ve left her with the little Pullip doll who she seems so protective of. The BB girl would not notice if I took her stuffed animals away.

Even with exactly the same face, some dolls pass the test better than others.

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Collection of little Pullip dolls

In my opinion, the doll with the brown hair has lots of character, but the two other dolls with exactly the same face, do not.

I’m actually a little puzzled why putting character into a doll’s face is so hard. I’d think it would be the other way around – stripping character out of a human-like face ought to be difficult.


Which is all a long way of saying that it took some time to find the right doll to play Daisy’s mysterious stranger. I didn’t want a friendly-looking doll, but I also didn’t want a doll who seemed incapable of warmth. You’ll see why towards the end of the story when we go back in time to see how the stranger entered the tale.

I ended up using a Cate Blanchett sculpt from Cinderella

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Cate in the diner

She’s edgy enough to pull off the wrist-grab scene, but not so edgy that she seems one-dimensional. She’ll be back later in the story (or, earlier, since it’s a flashback). Next week, we return to Lily’s adventure with the lost doll.

Posted in Daisy, Fashion dolls, Writing

Plotting the central mystery

I’ve ripped out and completely redone the central mystery at least 20 times. Maybe more.

Here’s the problem. Daisy is a young woman who knows that there is some mystery in her background. The premise of the story is that an event, a meeting, kicks her out of her life and around the world to solve the mystery.

For that to work, she can’t start out the story with so little information that it doesn’t hold some interest for her, but she can’t have so much information that she could solve it on her own.

So, she has to have something that points strongly to her past. Then the adventure starts when she comes across a matching piece of info she can use to figure out where to go and what to do. Sounds simple, right? And it would be, if I didn’t have to find tiny objects to illustrate the plot.

I knew that I wanted a meeting with a stranger as the call to adventure, but the shape of that meeting and the knowledge they transfer had always been murky.

At first I thought that she’d have some unique necklace that identified her to someone else. I spent some time trying to find a tiny-yet-unique necklace. No real luck – apparently, there isn’t alot of great art in the doll jewelry world.

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The fine art of doll necklaces

Then, I thought she could have a necklace with some kind of family crest or amulet. Apparently, Twilight beat me to that idea, so that wouldn’t work.

I have these tiny clay bluebirds.

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I had some crazy idea that her mom gave her one of these bluebirds, then someone else saw it and recognized her. But, jeez, really, under what circumstances would someone suddenly discover that you had an clay bluebird? And I’d already decided the scene would take place at a diner, so what was she doing taking a clay bluebird to work? I actually tried to the force the thing into her tiny apron. Poor Daisy – she’s been very patient through all this.

Finally, I threw away the idea of someone-identifying-Daisy-through-a-unique object. So, if they didn’t just stumble across her and recognize her through some identifiable object, then how do they meet? It has to be that the person meeting her has known where Daisy is all along. And that person has to have a piece of information which is also mysterious but which, by itself, does not clearly lead anywhere. Hence, the two halves of the torn photo.

while the stranger drops a torn photo
while the stranger drops a torn photo

You’ll see, when we put the two pieces of the photograph together next month, how that works out.

Posted in Daisy, doll adventure, Dollhouse, Fashion dolls

Episode 11 – Daisy and the mysterious stranger

Daisy’s story continues with a meeting with a mysterious stranger.

The stranger
The stranger
Daisy takes an order
Daisy takes an order
Stranger grabs Daisy's wrist . . .
Stranger grabs Daisy’s wrist . . .
. . . and Daisy pulls away
. . . and Daisy pulls away
Daisy talks with her friend
Daisy talks with her friend
while the sranger drops a torn photo
while the stranger drops a torn photo
Daisy retrieves the photo
Daisy retrieves the photo
Daisy looks at the torn photo
Daisy looks at the torn photo

. . . second shoe dropped.

You can probably tell that this is the other half of the torn photo we saw in Daisy’s previous episode. We’ll have a chance to examine it in more detail in her next episode in December.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk a bit about trying to pull the pieces of the plot together, and Friday I’ll talk a little about finding dolls to play the other parts.


In the meantime, poor Daisy is still suffering from a severe lack of attention to the details of her story. I did manage to build part of a dinette set (mainly because I couldn’t find a good picture of a diner to photoshop her into), but that’s about it. The wall with the window is from Daisy’s room, and the other two walls are just unimproved pieces of of foamboard.

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Daisy and friend with a room defined by a single, unadorned, wall

The photos (with maybe the exception of the close-up of the stranger and the shot where Daisy talks to her friend) are purely utilitarian. They’re a way of taking the plot from one point to the next. In the meantime, I’ve been carefully and elaborately building up the other sets, some I won’t need for weeks.

Fortunately, Daisy has a sunny disposition and makes do with whatever she has. Which is a good thing, because I had to use her walls for Lily’s room, so she and her friends are currently hanging out in a room with no walls at all.

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Posted in Fashion dolls, Rosie

The secret lives of dolls

Rosie has a secret. And even she doesn’t know it.

Her dreams are so substantial that they leave bits of themselves behind. This week’s dream dropped one of Van Gogh’s flowers in her room, which Buddy (the small, felted dog) hid away in the cupboard. Other dreams will leave other treasures.

You’ll see some echos of this in Lily’s “Case of the missing doll,” that wraps up in two weeks, although her sight is a mirror image of Rosie’s – from object to dream.

Camellia? Well, we don’t really know yet what happens with Camellia. From what we’ve seen, she has less sight and more gravity – drawing things (like Ravens) to her.

Daisy sees the things that are there. That doesn’t qualify as a power, but it’s certainly a rarity.

In some ways, writing a story about dolls makes it clearer why people write fairy tales for children. The world of a doll, or a child, is so fragile. They’re so small and so completely unable to protect themselves. It just feels natural to invest them with something larger than themselves that they can hold onto

Posted in Fashion dolls, Rosie

Rosie enters an alternate reality

Rosie’s adventures are the stuff of dreams – they creep in while she’s sleeping and leave bits of pieces of that dream world behind. But, how to create a world of dreams that a doll can move around in?

For my other dolls, I mostly choose between placing them in the real world, or fashioning something their size. But, for Rosie’s dreams, there was no real world, and I struggled with how to fashion 1/6 scale dream-like objects.

I really just happened onto the idea of placing her dreams within paintings. I had her open casement window in a bunch of shots, and I needed to put in some kind of image to represent the night world outside. Flipping through images, Van Gogh’s Starry Night popped up, in the midst of all the photographs of the night sky. And I thought, why not? It made more sense then sending her on a dream journey in a naturalistic setting.

The rest is straight photoshop. The one change I made to the dolls in photoshop was to add a “oil painting” filter to their images, so that they fit into the painting more seamlessly. That worked well for my China and Blythe dolls, but the Rosemary doll’s features are so fine that she seemed to melt with that filter, so I left it off her. If you look at the images, she’s not distorted while the other two dolls are.

I’m thinking of keeping the “dream journey through a painted world” in Rosie’s upcoming adventures – it adds a richness of the images that I can’t otherwise create. Now, I have to find an artist’s world for her “Fairy Adventure” in December.