Where to start if you want to learn doll making on your own?


I've started to create art dolls in 2013. Even though I had a wonderful chance to study set design & puppet theatre in Vilnius art academy, art dolls were a whole different deal. Everything, from sculpting to painting, I had to learn by myself. And I'm not saying this to brag, I'm sharing this so you could do the same!

Where to start if you want to learn doll making on your own? by Adele Po.

After I've got a taste for art dolls, I couldn't stop making them, haha. At the time I still had my full-time job so every free evening and weekends were dedicated for dolls. The quality of my dolls wasn't the finest, but I was so invested in this new art form, that I didn't really notice it at the beginning. On average, I was making one doll a month. Now I understand that this mania really helped me to get to know the materials I'm using, to improve my sculpting skills and anatomy knowledge.

Learning doll making by yourself by Adele Po.

I know this will sound like the most pretentious cliche out there, but if you want to learn doll making on your own, just start sculpting! Most likely your first dolls will not turn out as you've imagined, but you'll love them nonetheless. The biggest difficulty is to keep going even if you don't see the results you want. When you have a tutor, it's their job to help you through the hard times, but when you're learning on your own patience is a key to success.

Top places to get information and inspiration

Even if you're learning on your own, you don't have to be alone in this! The internet can be a wonderful place for like-minded communities to emerge. Here I'll share my top places where I go when I need information, inspiration or simply someone to talk to.

  • Facebook groups

There are a few Facebook groups where doll makers share their knowledge, tutorials or selling their artworks. These groups are a goldmine of useful information. Here are my favourite ones:

The Creative Doll Artists Project

Art Dolls and art doll artist

Share your favourite groups with me in the comments below! 

  • Pinterest

Pinterest is a perfect place to find inspiration for your creations. I use it daily, not just to gaze at beautiful pictures but to find information as well. Pinterest works like a search engine and contains many blog posts, tutorials and articles about doll making. I've even created a group board dedicated for such tutorials. You can join it a well!

  • Blogs

I'm always searching for interesting doll blogs to read. There aren't that many out there so if you have a favourite, definitely share it in the comments! For years I've been following Marina Bychkova's blog, mainly because I was dreaming about creating my own porcelain doll. She shares a lot of behind the scenes pictures which were very helpful in my porcelain doll making journey.

Actual steps to start learning on your own

Learning doll making on your own | by Adele Po
  • decide on the doll type

This is where Pinterest comes in handy. There are so many types of dolls out there! Decide which type you like the most before gathering supplies. Is it air-dry clay doll? Will it be a standing one or a sitting one? Maybe you want to try your skills in creating a ball jointed doll? It's important to think these things through because the techniques and supplies could be very different between the various dolls.

  • gather tools

When you know which doll you'll be making it's time to select the right tools and supplies. You can read this article to find out what tools I'm using for my dolls.

  • start sculpting

Sounds easy, isn't it? Well even though it's the biggest cliché out there, but to learn something you just have to start doing it. To sculpt a doll you don't need to have expensive tools or a selection of the best clays. The one thing you'll need the most is patience. It's only natural that learning process will be longer when you're doing it on your own, but with each doll you'll get better at it.

  • don’t quit halfway

It's very tempting to procrastinate over the big projects like this. Especially when you don't have a teacher who is waiting for your sculpting homework, haha. Even if you are not very happy with how the results are looking, don't quit halfway! It's very important to finish the doll so you would be able to understand each step and what would you do differently next time. 

  • analyze mistakes

This step is crucial! Everyone knows that we learn a lot from our mistakes. But how to know if it's a mistake if there's no one to point it out? After you finish your doll, wait for a few days and take a look at it with fresh eyes. Analyze how the doll looks, think what would you do differently next time. Inspect everything, from anatomy to painting. Take notes as well, this way you'll know on what to work harder next time.

  • Repeat

In any learning process, repetition makes all the difference! The more you sculpt the better you're going to be. There is this "10,000 hours rule" by Malcolm Gladwell claiming that the key to achieving expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing for a total of around 10,000 hours. I don't know if this number is accurate or not, but I do know that practicing really is the key to succeeding at doll making!

Don't be afraid to ask for help

If you'll notice that learning on your own doesn't really work, seek out some help! Search for the doll making meetings in your area or consider joining my doll making classes online. Sometimes a tutor can really help to unveil your skills and push you to reach the goals you have in mind!


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