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Susan Lippl, German Doll Artist

Making Commissioned Art Work From Your Personal Pictures

 

From Susan Lippl:

I must admit that, up until the time I started to make dolls myself, I never considered a doll as anything more than a child's toy. Maybe from China or Taiwan and nothing of value. If someone talked of paintings or sculptures, that was a work of art and therefore entitled to be expensive. I definitely understand the shocked reaction of most people who never had anything to do with doll production when the price of an artist doll goes into the hundreds or even thousands. I spent a few years painting in oils and I've even made a few sculptures before I made dolls. What most people don't realize is that dolls start where sculpting ends. Maybe this short story will explain it better. A couple of weeks ago one of my sons brought home a new girl friend. I have a few finished dolls in my living room which she thought were very nice. A short time later she came down to my work room in the basement , saw the clay sculpts for the doll heads and said "These are terrific, they should be in an Art Gallery". So, in order to make a doll, one has to be able to sculpt like a professional artist. But that is just the beginning.

The next step is building the plaster of Paris moulds. This is also a profession which normally takes several years to learn.. It's not only difficult to do, it's also extremely hard work . If the sculpted parts are large, then the moulds weigh maybe 50 or 60 lbs. It takes a full day to build a mould for one part of a doll and most dolls have six parts. Each mould consists of several pieces which come apart in different directions to enable the poured piece to be removed.

Assuming that the moulds are built, the next step is pouring the doll parts in porcelain. This is not particularly difficult but can be very heavy work. A large mould weighing 50 lbs empty must be filled with liquid porcelain and left to set. The plaster absorbs water from the porcelain which causes it to build a film on the inside of the mould. When the film is thick enough the mould must be lifted up and slowly emptied. The pouring holes are kept as small as possible, one doesn't want a head with a large hole in it, and emptying too quickly will cause a vacuum so the piece would collapse. Since porcelain is very expensive and the work very heavy, this is to be avoided. After several hours drying time the pieces can then be carefully removed from the moulds.

In order to build the moulds, the undercuts in the sculpted pieces had to be removed. They now have to be worked back in to the extremely breakable porcelain pieces. At this stage the pieces are nothing more than pressed together porcelain powder. They have to be handled with more care than raw eggs. To make life a little easier, and healthier, the pieces are then pre-fired to about 800C so they're not quite so breakable and can be wet cleaned to avoid breathing in too much porcelain dust. Details have to be reworked, fingernails, toenails, teeth, etc. and all pieces polished until perfectly smooth. This procedure can take up to two days. Then they are high fired at 1230C

With a bit of luck nothing breaks during the firing. That's not always the case. Porcelain loves to deform and get hair line cracks. There's also the problem with small air bubbles which weren't visible before firing.. Any one of these problems means that the part has to be discarded and the whole procedure has to be started again from scratch. That is, from pouring.

The next step is painting. The parts undergo color washes for shading and then two or three detail painting sessions. They must be fired between each painting session so as not to smudge the colors. This takes two or three days.

The most difficult part of making the doll is now finished and the porcelain pieces are ready. The cloth body has to be designed and made to measure. The doll has to be assembled together with a sturdy armature so it can be posed. For small dolls one can use wire since armature is very expensive. The glass eyes have to be fitted in and fixed with plaster. Eyelashes glued on and the wig made , fitted and dressed.. When all this is ready one can start sewing the clothes. That usually takes me several days.

All in all I need between two and three hundred hours to design and sculpt a doll, build the moulds, pour and work the pieces and complete the project.. A portrait takes longer to sculpt. It's much easier to paint a picture of someone sitting in front of you because you have three dimensions to reduce into two. To make a portrait doll from a photo one has two dimensions and has to imagine the third.. This takes years of practice and it's never easy.

I hope that you understand now a little better why these Artists and Portrait dolls cost more than normal dolls. One thing I almost forgot. The term "Artist Signature Edition" means that the Artist who designed the doll also made it from start to finish and no one else was involved at any stage. These dolls are not to be confused with the cloned versions from China which are to an Artist doll what a print is to an original painting.

 

How To Order Your Portrait Doll:

Call Ann and discuss what you are thinking about. We need the picture from you of the subject and will forward it to Susan. From there Susan will research to project and then tell us all the details, including the price. Your deposit to begin the work is 50%. After the work is completed the remaining 50% is due. From there we ship your art doll to you. 

 

Cancellations: 

If for any reason you decide to cancel your contract with us, your deposit is forfeited. Anything Susan Lippl has completed to that point will remain the property of Susan Lippl. 

 

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