Monday, August 9, 2010

Constructing a doll

After creating Herbita, the herb detective, out of a base of a vetiver (khus) broom, it was time to work on another character out of the remaining vetiver broom.

Herbita, the herb detective

It's funny how the other character literally grew in my hands.

Working with an initial armature of newsprint and papier mache paste, I used my absolute favourite rice paper to add the last few layers. Arms  were more graceful this time, and reaching out towards the viewer instead of stiffly extended to the side like in Herbita. The hair was undyed sisal, a natural fibre like jute. This was some sisal from our years in Africa. The face started out as light flesh tones, to which I kept adding colour to cover up the initial attempts to paint the eyes. As other beginners might attest, the eyes are not easy. Finally, I resorted to a cover-up....painted the eyes and the lips on rice paper, and cut them out and stuck them. The advantage is that on un-sanded (and often bumpy) papier mache sculptures, it's possible to figure out the best spot to stick them on, experiment with positions of the eyes and mouth until you are satisfied, and then use a stronger glue.

Working on the accoutrements was a lot of fun --I went with a tiara and a handbag. Both were papier mache again, embellished with cutouts from some old embossed handmade paper I had. The bag's detailing was very satisfying indeed, and I again used some strands of sisal toughened with PVA as a handle for the bag. A strap was attached, and three scrolls containing poems were put into the bag. Two of the poems were authored by the recipient, and the other was a favourite inspirational poem of hers. To personalise the doll, I added a bit of an old necklace owned by the recipient -- but just enough to make it look like a choker.

The doll also had a loop attached during the initial newsprint stage, as the recipient wanted to hang it in front of her desk.

The bag was made of papier mache, with a handle made of sisal. Inside it are three scrolls with poems written on them.

A view of the torso with its bead choker.

The Poetry Doll was ready!
 Papier mache sculpture. Namitha (August 2010).

And she was hooked onto a bit of cardboard with tags painted on rice paper. Not a single bit of metal was used anywhere, and a plastic bag was only added to make it dust-proof in transit. She was a pleasure to make, especially since I had no pre-conceived notion about how I wanted it to look. What fun to have a blank canvas to work on... only it was 3D.

Note: It's not I'm A Handmade Poetry doll, but IMA Handmade -- IMA is a name that Anant uses for me sometimes. He started calling me Ima after he heard a little girl calling "Ima Ima" and running around in a bookstore in Bangalore. We didn't really know what she meant by this word because we did not see the rest of her folks. It was only a couple of years later, that I met a Jewish guy on  a plane while returning from Johannesburg. He was talking so much about his mother that I asked him what he called his mother -- to my surprise and delight, he said the Hebrew word for mother is Ima and even wrote it for me in his language! So that's the origin of this label!

What would I do differently the next time?
Well, perhaps work a little more on the head and neck...and on the painting of the face. Ah well, but she does have a character of its own.


  1. Dear Namby,
    Thank you for the doll which 'has a character of her own.' True.
    And what an excellent blog. Worth a visit from 'crafty' writers like me.

  2. Thanks Abes, for asking me to make was fun.


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