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As part of the Dolls, Plushies & Toys Week I am posting interviews and features, there will also be contributions from other galleries as part of this week, check them out here.

Today's Special is all about Soft Body Dolls.


What is a Soft Body Doll?
Soft body dolls are constructed from fabrics and enhanced with details made from clay, polymer clay, resin or other more solid materials. Some of these creations have sculpted faces and hands/paws or other such details.
Here is an example of fantastic soft body dolls to be found in the Dolls, Plushies & Toys gallery:

Bazyliszek - The cockatrice by Cloven-Hooves Katie - No 2 by JitterBugBark Coins please by IHeartPlushies Beasties by Longhair Fall unicorn by Shalladdrin Fuzzy Wuzzy Wormy alt view by Darmael

Today I would like to introduce six of the best soft body doll makers here on dA! If you check out the Dolls, Plushies & Toys gallery, you will find an abundance of stunning works from a variety of great artisans.


Hello! Could you please introduce yourself?
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:iconremjie-malham:
Remjie-Malham : Hello! Friends call me Remjie, and thats the name Im using on the internet, I am 22 years old. I was born in Urkaine but now live in Moscow, Russia and hopefully moving to Norway soon. I had my first big sculpting experience at my art school, when I was 14, I made a big relief of a salted dough as one of my art projects. After that I was sculpting rarely, only at sculpting classes in university. But it never was something big. And I can't say I was trying it professionally ever.
As for making dolls - I was making a lot of stuffed animals when I was a kid, and that helped a lot - now I know how to sew by a hand, use sewing machine and create my own patterns. The only thing I was using as a manual was an old "plushie makers" book. So I think I can say that I am a self thought artist, at least in this type of arts.

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:iconsantani:
Santani : Hello! I am Santani. i am 20 and live in Russia, Moscow. I started working with clay 5 years ago. I have no prof art education, so i learned sculpting myself. Now it is my hobby and professional career. Here is my online shop: boontart.ru/

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:iconhelenhighwater:
HelenHighwater : Hi, My name is Helen. Helen Highwater. Honest.
I’ve only recently joined DA and I’m afraid I’ve only got a few things in my gallery so far.
I believe I first delved into the enthralling world of clay at the tender age of four.  We lived in my Grandma’s house in England and her garden vegetable patch was full of clay, which wasn’t great for growing things in but it was great to make blobs of mud with, squish your fingers through and bury things in.
One day I thought it would be a great idea to bury a treasure in the old veggie patch and make a treasure map for my Mum. Like a present.
Conveniently, my Mum’s wedding ring was on the kitchen counter, which I thought made a smashing treasure. It was real Gold and everything.  
Strangely, despite having my excellent map consisting of some smudged clay, a worm, some purple crayon lines and a piece of tape, my Mother was unable to locate her ring. She was never very good at map reading.
Thus ended my brief foray into the world of clay. It would be many more years until I picked it up again.

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:icontroublenight:
TroubleNight : Hi! My full name is Margarita Gurova, yet somehow people often call me just “Ree”. I’m 22 years old and I live in the capital of Russia – Moscow, where all bears march after drinking some vodka.
The first one of my dolls appeared when I was about 17 years old, since then I’ve been making monsters, cuties and cute monsters. I’ve never attended any kind of art schools or lessons, that’s why I might call myself a “self-taught artist”, but I do realize I’ve learned a lot from my mother and my creative friends.
Currently I’m planning to become a full-time artist and make dolls to pay my living, though I worked primarily as an editor and cinema reviewer before and making dolls was my hobby.
I already have an Etsy shop: limeinmoloko.etsy.com which is currently empty, but very soon will be filled with new dolls and sculptures.

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:iconkimrhodes:
kimrhodes : I'm 27, from NW Washington State. I started taking art lessons at an early age and carried on through high school and college. I completed my BA in art with a concentration in design in 2006 and have been working full time as a graphic designer. My work on DA is my personal stuff i do in my spare time, I love painting and sculpture. I recently started an etsy shop for some of my work. www.etsy.com/shop/KimAlisse

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:iconmagweno:
Magweno : Hey, my name is Maddy, I'm a 20-year-old art student studying Illustration in Scotland. I was inspired by Santani's work and the challenge making a working armature and pose able doll without its head falling off or legs breaking. It's kept me going for a year so far and I've used my dolls as outcomes for projects at uni and from that have been inspired to work with foam latex (which has evolved into a yearning to work for Jim Henson!) I am entirely self taught in the sewing/sculpting respect but thanks to the hundreds of helpful tutorials all over the net I've managed to make my dolls moderately presentable. Here comes the shameless plug: please support your friendly starving art student by visiting www.etsy.com/shop/MaddingtonBe…!

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Archibald the Longest II by TroubleNight Frederick by HelenHighwater Critter-01 by kimrhodes Kiwi by Santani Dikdik Stretch by Magweno Noise_shaksie_lizard_commish by Remjie-Malham
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When you create a soft body toy, how do you go about it?
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:icontroublenight:
TroubleNight : To be fair, I find it harder and harder to understand what exactly inspires me. An old legend or a short phrase heard somewhere, a dream or a moment in reality, a random match of colours or fabrics – each can become a source of inspiration. Once it’s found, I know this is “IT” as it captures my mind entirely and all I have to do is to wait until it turns out into exact image, which I just copy into reality. Because of it all of my dolls are unique and not available for recreation; they are entirely handmade and have a personal character with a story to tell.
Sketches help to think out the details, but I don’t use them very often and prefer to think of decorative elements once the “blank body” is made. I always start with sculpting and painting the head, which is the main part of the character and the leading part for the whole doll.

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:iconmagweno:
Magweno : A weird desire to create the perfect creature seems to keep reoccurring throughout my life and I suppose this is another way of satiating that bizarre ambition. (Fun fact: I started with dragons made from toilet-roll tubes and paper when I was young.) I have an amazing book full of old, royalty-free etchings of animals which I use for reference and just sketch from that until I build up a rough idea of which parts of an animal I'd quite like to splice. Swan-neck, deer legs and horns usually feature quite a lot. Then I wing it, building up the armature and sculpting until I'm happy with what I've created. It's usually after I've wrapped it with stuffing that I decide it isn't the perfect creature and start a new one. This weird disjointed process means that every creature is unique, although one day I'd like to finally achieve my dream and make some sort of mould for vinyl casts, like wereRemjiff. More recently I have begun work on a project focusing on Scottish fairy tales, so that theme is currently feeding my creative juices when it comes to designing creatures. The process of building a creature - from a pile of wire to a finished, painted and named being - usually takes around three days on and off.

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:iconhelenhighwater:
HelenHighwater : I’ve never really had any kind of process.  An idea will pop into my head, sometimes inspired by nature, sometimes by another artists inspiring work, sometimes by a sad and ugly bit of fabric I find in the “ends” bin at the fabric store.  You know the ones I mean. The drab, lonely, rough and scratchy kind. The kind of fabric that never aspired to be more than a mismatched elbow patch on a rough and scratchy jacket of a drab and lonely old man.  These fabrics give my teddies a forlorn kind of sadness that tugs at ones heart and makes you want to pick them up for a bit of a cuddle.

..............................................................................................................................................

:iconremjie-malham:
Remjie-Malham : I am very much inspired by Asian beasts and other legendary creatures. Thats what made me try myself in dollmaking after all this years.
I create my first plastic face/paw doll in 2008. I made it just for fun, and after that I started making commissions. I was making that every day for the last 2 years, so thats what Im living off for . I learned a lot since that time. Sometimes I am making a sketch if I wanna see how the colors will match together. Sometimes Im working by a sketch the commissioner gives me, and sometimes the commissioner requests me to make a sketch to see how his or her doll will look like. Not that long ago I tried molding. I have a few dolls I started molding plastic parts for Shademons   and Shaksie lizards . Both of them was really successfull and people liked them, so Im gonna keep on making them in the future. Also Im planning to make more molded dolls in a different sizes. But as for my sculpted dolls like doros or commissioned pieces - all of them are being one of a kind and will never be reproduced.

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:iconkimrhodes:
kimrhodes : I havn't been making soft bodied dolls for long so I am still figuring some things out as i go. My pattern making skills are limited and my main skills are in sculpting so the body part of my work is a modified existing pattern. I start by sewing the body together so i know how big the head needs to be. I like each piece to be unique but to speed things up a little I have a basic head shape mold i use. This gets me the basic head size and shape quickly which then goes onto a ball of foil and then i add all the features to the face. I sculpt the feet out of sculpey as well, bake in the oven, paint and then glue on the clay parts.

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:iconsantani:
Santani : At first a toy comes to my head as an idea. i do sketches rarely, so i usually start making the doll "from my head". I find inspiration in books, films and animal world. Sometimes i duplicate my work, but some of my dolls are unique.

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Lammergeier by Magweno masala_doro__commission by Remjie-Malham Blue Griffin by kimrhodes Big and small by Santani Manfred+Manfred Co by TroubleNight
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Where do you work and what materials do you use?
..............................................................................................................................................

:iconhelenhighwater:
HelenHighwater : Anywhere I feel like, with whatever I feel like. Sadly this method hasn’t been kind to my clothing and Furniture upholstery. I’m trying to be a bit more disciplined, I actually have a workshop now.

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:iconsantani:
Santani : I work in my room (i live with parents), but i dream of my own studio=). I use fimo plastic, cernit plastic and fabric fur. I buy my tools and materials in Moscow doll-master shop "Russkiy kukolniy dom".

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:iconkimrhodes:
kimrhodes : I have a work room in my house, but it is hard to confine to one area and ends up everywhere else too. I use original Sculpey, faux fur, poly-fil, felt, wire, acrylic paint and clear enamel to make shiny eyes or claws. :) To sculpt i have the wooden sculpting tool set, but I have found that there is only one in particular I ever really use. Occasionally I can find fur to use at Joannes but I mainly like to buy it at Mendels Far Out Fabrics www.mendels.com. I like getting the remnant packs, you don't get to pick the fur but i like the surprise and it encourages me to be a little more creative. Everything else I need i get at Michaels.

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:iconmagweno:
Magweno : Because I'm a student and I get overexcited about getting my hands dirty, I have to keep all my materials for making things in my studio at uni or else I'd never go in! The tables at uni are tiny and we're all squished together, but it's nice to have my friends all around (even if they get annoyed with my constant mess). You can see a photo of it here: carn-dearg.deviantart.com/art/…
One very frustrating problem I have with wonderful tutorials is that they're American and materials listed can sometimes be hard to get ahold of in the UK. Thankfully my uni art shop stocks Fimo and can usually order in anything they don't have in stock, so for now I'm pretty lucky when it comes to materials. When it comes to sculpting, I use my fingers, a toothpick and a tiny palette knife. I have a HUGE problem trying to get quality faux fur though, so I'm afraid to say I do occasionally shop at Primark, solely to rip apart the clothes and recycle them into far more interesting objects. They usually have some sort of sale on with some nice faux fur or at least fabric that can be used for making patterns. Winter is the best season for finding the furs and I'll be stocking up when it comes to sale time!

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:icontroublenight:
TroubleNight : My work area is in my flat and it consists of a comfortable armchair and a table. I don’t use any special tools except my fingers, a needle and an emery board to grind the sculpted parts of a doll. All the fabrics I currently use are vintage and were found at my grandmother’s house.
For sculpting I prefer Efaplast Light and Fimo Soft; for colouring – acrylics and watercolour paints, - all of these materials can be found at local shops.

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:iconremjie-malham:
Remjie-Malham : My current residence is a nice and light flat, so I am living there and Im working there as well.
:bulletgreen:Fabrics: buying it in the fabric stores, on the fabric factory and sometimes online. I have a lots of bags stuffed with faux fur and fleece in the corner of my room.
:bulletgreen:Polymer clay: if you want to start working with polymer clay, Id recommend Super Sculpey and Super Sculpey Firm. Those clays are perfect for me. But if you cant reach those, you may use Fimo (I dont like it that much but its still wotking well), also have some epoxy putty somwhere near just in case if your baked piece will loose a nail or horn (Bondo, Miniput etc.).
:bulletgreen:Painting and stuff: I am using Games Workshop Citadel paints and washes, I am using their brushes as well-its really high quality painting stuff (and sadly really pricey) so I wouldnt recommend you to start with it, especially if you never tried to paint the sculpture. Better get some water based acryllics from the hobby store and try that first. For protecting finished piece Im using Darwi glossy and matt gloss. It is alcohol based glosses made for doll crafting. Also Im using Army paint primer, Sculpey clay softener and some dentist/medical tools for sculpting and sandpaper.
:bulletgreen:Molding: for molding I am using Smooth-on resin and Oomoo silicone. Also Vacuum pump and vacuum chamber. (all about that you can read on their official webpage smooth-on.com/ )
Most of that stuff I am buying in the stores in my city, or on Ebay, so I dont think I can give you any useful links.
All this you can search in Google for more information. But you should try different types of media and find the one that you`ll be comfortable to work with.

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Albino_shademon by Remjie-Malham Couple by Santani The First by Magweno vera by TroubleNight Juniper by HelenHighwater Flame Dragon by kimrhodes
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Do you have any tips for beginners?
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:iconkimrhodes:
kimrhodes : I'm sort of a beginner myself but the best thing for me was to just learn by doing, trial and error and such.  

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:iconremjie-malham:
Remjie-Malham : Umm.. I am not making tutorials but sometimes Im livestreaming (when the commissioner ask me), I am usually not explain how I attach details to the fur. I think everyone should find their own way how to create dolls. Give it personality and charisma. There is no wrong or right way to do it. You may choose by yourself how you want to your future doll to look like, how their face/pattern/hands will be attached to the body and how you will paint it. Its like with sculpting or drawing. Once you start, you can always choose your own way.
As for the molding, you can just use a random molding tutorial from smooth-on.com/
They have a lot!

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:iconhelenhighwater:
HelenHighwater : Have fun and experiment a lot. Research and try new processes and materials. Sometimes, if you are stuck for ideas, the materials will inspire you. Shapelock is great to work with and has unique qualities. Magic Sculpt is AWESOME! (no need to bake, sticks to anything!)

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:iconsantani:
Santani : I am beginner myself, so i don't run any master-classes, make tutorials or smth. I started with fimo and work with it for 5 years. I did not read any books. The best lessons for me are my own mistakes =).

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:icontroublenight:
TroubleNight : Remember: creativity begins with the lack of tools and materials. You don’t have to buy all the things listed in hobby shops to start making dolls – finding substitutes for common materials and inventing new techniques is the first step to forming your personal style and further development as an artist.

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:iconmagweno:
Magweno : I am a beginner myself so the only advice I can offer is to keep trying and don't be discouraged! To explore as many art doll books and links as you can find and to be inspired by everything. All you really need is Fimo – throw in some wire and tinfoil and you're ready to go! Don't be afraid to experiment with materials either – I use fishing wire for whiskers and dressmakers pins for eyes on my creatures. If you can't get fimo then you could use cold porcelain – an air drying clay recipe of one cup PVA, one cup cornflour, one tbsp baby oil and one tbsp lemon juice. It dries slightly translucent and can be dyed and painted, it's pretty good if you don't want to cough up for Fimo. (I do recommend Fimo: it is fab stuff; easy to work with and you can bake it in your own oven.)

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Mr and Mrs Crazy II by Santani cthulhu kitty by TroubleNight Purple and Silver Dragon by kimrhodes OOAK_werewolfbear_doll by Remjie-Malham Kelpie - Horse Form by Magweno
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Which soft body toy in your gallery are you most proud of and why?
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:iconsantani:
Santani : Well, i have some dolls, that i like for some reason. some of them are not shown here in my gallery. Maybe my favourite doll from DA gallery is Bars grypho:
Bars grypho by Santani
i don't know why actually. he was funny and soft, like a pillow or smth, and was made in summer with his 2 brothers (white and red grypho), my favourite season. Nothing complicated in making him: fimo clay and fabric "bars" fur+sintepon (i am not sure how to translate this word in English). in future i am planning to make some similar creatures in different color variations.

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:iconhelenhighwater:
HelenHighwater : The ones I’m most proud of are not the ones in my gallery. They are the ones I have made for my niece and nephew and they are now far too worn out and used up to take photos of. Other than that, I don’t really have any favourites.

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:iconremjie-malham:
Remjie-Malham : I am really proud of a few dolls im my gallery.
White Chef Maria.

white_chef_Maria by Remjie-Malham

I was using reference commissioner drew for me ( i554.photobucket.com/albums/jj… ) and I am really happy that the doll turned out like in the drawing. It was a lot of work and I tried some new tecniques while I was doing it.

Theriosh doll.

theriosh_doll by Remjie-Malham

Made for my dear friend and wonderful artist. I spent like 2 weeks working on this one.He is one of my longest art projects also the biggest doll I made that far. And I was using a sketch here as well:: s54.radikal.ru/i146/1004/07/9e…

Memento doll.  

:thumb159075068:

Also one of my biggest projects. Commissioner was giving me some helpful tips all the time and thats what made this doll look exactly how she wanted.

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:iconmagweno:
Magweno : I have to say my favourite piece is the kelpie:
Kelpie by Magweno
It was made for a project I'm working on now and turned out so well. The mane is my favourite part, it was so much fun making the dreads and the latex seaweed. I could have done a better job sculpting his face but I'm still especially proud of all the different bits and pieces made with different techniques and materials.
A close runner up is Chemosit though:
Chemosit Portrait by Magweno
He's huge (stands at about nine inches) and has real sharks teeth and resin eyes that follow you, but what makes him really special is his character. I'll never forget the reactions he got at the exhibition he featured in! I wrote a whole back-story into the project he was made for and got really into the factual superstition behind his creation. He gets a lot of compliments at craft fairs, even if he's really badly made (his feet have fallen off and he doesn't stand properly because the armature isn't strong enough). He lives on top of my bookshelf and watches over my room which can be a bit creepy at night because his eyes glow in the dark! I still love him to pieces (possibly literally).

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:icontroublenight:
TroubleNight : Every artist’s life is a perpetual search of new forms. My life as an artist is also a search for new stories, a path to forming “new mythology”. I try to make each one of my dolls not only a part of “visual art” or “crafts” category, but to give them personality. That’s why every creature I’ve made has a little story to go with. Maybe one day I will even publish a book with these stories!
The new round in forming my “mythology” are Birdmen from woods.
birdman from woods 2 by TroubleNight and birdman from woods by TroubleNight
these dolls gave a start for the first series in my “career” and became an endless source of inspiration for me. Making costumes for birdmen helps me to develop my designing and sewing skills as well, that’s why I guess I won’t get tired of this series of dolls for a long long time.

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:thumb143256318: Phineas by HelenHighwater Odette by Magweno Ice Dragon by kimrhodes Elric Tylenol by TroubleNight Shu dragon by Santani
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Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this special feature! I hope you go on creating amazing monsters for all of us to enjoy. :)

Cheers,
MyntKat
:iconfresh-bones:
fresh-bones Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
I'm a beginner and this article really inspired me. Thanks!
Reply
:icontroublenight:
TroubleNight Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2010
thank you, Bianca!
Reply
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