How Dolls Are Made
Leigh's Reproduction Dolls.
The following text will explain as briefly as possible the complete process to make a reproduction porcelain doll. Starting with pouring the slip and finishing with dressing.
First the porcelain parts need to be made, these are produced from the pre-prepared slip.
Pouring the slip is quite simple when you've practiced a few times. The moulds are non-absorbent plaster. The slip is poured in and left to set for 3-10 minutes, depending on the parts. Then the excess is poured out and the mould is left for approximately 1 hour before turning out.
The appearance is then chalk like, again it can crack easily so gentle handling is necessary while smoothing away seams and cutting eyes and holes. The next stage is firing; this takes about 3 hours. The porcelain is now bisque. When cool the pieces are polished till smooth and the head is painted. Some people do this in 2-3 stages, firing each stage for 1 hour.
The limbs are sewn and/or glued into the cloth body and the body is stuffed.
The next step, when the heads are ready, is to fix the eyes. They are held in place with wax and then dental plaster poured over to fix them.
The doll is now ready to be dressed. There are patterns for authentic antique costumes or you can design your own clothes in the style of the period the doll originated from. It's better to use antique materials but they are very difficult to obtain and today's fabrics are very good and I think if a doll is reproduced now it should wear materials of this age.
The head is now ready to be attached to the shoulder plate held by a neck bolt and the shoulder plate is sewn on to the body. The opening in the head is closed by a pate and the wig glued on.
The first picture seen on the left shows all of the parts needed to make the doll and the picture on the right a completed dolls body.
The porcelain, at this stage, is called greenware. It is quite soft when taken out of the mould so has to be handled carefully. Shoulder plates sides have to be cut at this stage but the other pieces are left to harden for 3 days.