Days are turning into weeks and while my hands are busy, I rarely find time to sit and edit photos and write blog posts. I blame the summer for the quiet, but be assured of that the sewing machine isn’t quiet here. To have been tied up in knots does not refer to any kind of sewing thread here though. Last week I spent a very tensed night with a dremel and a hot air gun in my hands, not sure what the outcome would be:
Some time ago, I got asked to make a doll for a little differently-abled girl with glasses. Me and her mother talked quite a bit about what would be most important for her four-year-old. Easy to slip-on clothes with soft elastic trimmings, very large buttons for little hands to encourage the development of fine motor abilities, bright colours and soft fabrics, a doll with a multi-sensory appeal…
A very important detail were a pair of glasses for the doll – a detail that I hadn’t worked with so far since I started making dolls for children eight years ago. I pretended that this special request was no problem whatsoever, but the moment I had sent away the email to my customer, the nervousness kicked in. Me and my big mouth!
With the help of a few other dollmakers, I eventually found a set of plastic glasses for an 18″/ 45cm doll and a loyal customer of mine sent them to me from the U.S. as the company wouldn’t ship them to Sweden. And then I sat there, with four glasses that were anything else than what I had expected. They had the typical toy store look, made for American Girl dolls and they didn’t fit. I had already sculptured the little face but had to start over again, adjusting the position of the nose and eyes to fit the glasses, but whatever I did, it looked terribly wrong on the doll I had made.
The date of delivery was getting closer and closer, and then one night, I decided to do something more drastic than torturing a poor doll face with felting needles to make those glasses fit: I armed myself with a dremel (a rotary tool/ grinder) and grinded off the nose pads. With a few small dentist tools that I had used before for modelling theatre puppets and a nail buffer block, I smoothed down all the small irregularities, had another very strong coffee and changed the work lights because the scariest part hadn’t even begun: Reshaping the temple stems of the glasses so that they would fit little Milla.
I had four glasses to work on, which meant four attempts to try out different techniques. I saw myself sculpturing yet another doll head just to make those glasses sit properly on that little button nose, but then I grabbed the hot air gun and started. It didn’t went smoothly at all, to the contrary, it went very bubbly (hot air and plastic in combination can have that effect, surprise). One pair of glasses wasted, three attempts left. Oh my!
When I hit rock bottom, past midnight, after slightly too much caffeine and with what once had been a rather ugly yet functioning pair of doll glasses in my hands, F. entered the kitchen. My knight in shining armour! A sound engineer and a dollmaker might sound like an interesting combination, but in that case it turned out to be the most brilliant constellation to remedy the situation. With his very skilled hands, used to these kind of tools, he then turned the melted plastic from bubbly into smooth and one hour later, involving also tweezers, canola oil and wooden cooking spoons (as well as more coffee and a brighter light bulb), Milla finally had a pair of glasses on her little button nose as well as three spare ones on the table, including sun glasses for her upcoming holiday.
I really could get used to introducing a few more tools to my workshop (working with both dremel and hot air gun was fun), but as a dollmaker, my advice is that if you want to add a pair of glasses to a doll, and if these glasses should be more than just for decoration – in my case for a four-year-old and rather rough play – you might want to ask a pro for help to adjust the shape and size of plastic toy glasses.
I found it to be a great yet challenging task and was happy to have some professional assistance, despite me having worked with these tools earlier. Luckily, everything turned out fine in the end and the glasses fit Milla perfectly which was important for my customer, too. As a mother, you are already busy enough to find all those lost dolly socks and scarfs in the black holes that hungrily gape on playgrounds, child’s rooms and under the back seat of the car. Doll glasses that don’t slip or slide down and can’t get lost must feel like a safe card when you are on the constant look-out for your child’s belongings…
Quite a few photos of my recent work are waiting to be edited and shared (and I haven’t forgotten little Flo) – and if you keep your fingers crossed for less rain here in Skåne it will mean that I will get more time working at my desk and will spend less time emptying rain barrels…