Polymer clay is an ideal medium for doll making. The smooth finish and ease of working means you can create lifelike dolls of all kinds - from baby dolls and full size dolls to fairies and miniature dolls. Beginners find polymer clay easy to use because it does not dry out as you work so you can take your time to develop your skills. Polymer clay is used all over the world by professional doll makers and is ideal for one-of-a-kind dolls (OOAK) art dolls or for creating a prototype to mould and duplicate.
Skin Tone Polymer Clays for Doll Making
There are a number of clays formulated specifically for making dolls which come is a choice of skin tone colours. These include FIMO Puppen, FIMO Puppen Miniature, Cernit Doll Collection and Sculpey Living Doll. The 1:12 doll house dolls pictured here were made by Sue Heaser using one of these doll making clays.
For larger dolls that are 12 inches (30cm) tall or more, it is best to make just the head, forearms and lower legs out of polymer clay and create a soft body from fabric and polyester stuffing. If the head is more than about 25mm thick, you should use an armature (internal core or support) to prevent the clay cracking. This can be a rolled ball of foil or a ball of baked Sculpey Ultra Light clay.
These images (below) from Maureen Carlson’s book “Fairies, Gnomes and Trolls” show just one technique on how to build a dolls face with polymer clay. ©North Light Books
Miniature dolls for a dolls house are great fun to make and can be made entirely in polymer clay or with soft bodies. When dolls house doll making it can be fun to dress and style your dolls in a specific time period. Use the internet to research costume and hair styles, as well as ideas for decorating and furnishing the house.
Painting the Clay
After baking, you will need to paint the dolls’ faces - use good quality acrylic paints and a fine paintbrush. Paint the face with a coat of matt varnish first as a barrier to prevent the paint bleeding into the clay over time. Allow to dry, then brush with methylated spirits to de-grease before painting the features. A second coat of varnish when the paint is completely dry will protect the paint.
The fine viscose dolls hair is remarkably life-like and can be easily styled. To curl the hair, dampen a narrow length and wrap tightly around a thin knitting needle. Place in a cool oven (100°C/210°F) for about 30 minutes until dry. This technique gives excellent ringlets that can be cut to length as required, or teased out to make curls. The hair can then be attached to the dolls head with Tacky glue.
The Body & Clothes
The body of a miniature 1:12 scale doll can be made either in polymer clay or using pipe cleaners wrapped in quilt wadding. To make the clothes and ensure a realistic drape, choose finely woven fabrics, knits and delicate lace.