How to Evaluate Your Own Doll
Entering It in Competition
Before starting to china paint your reproduction, you really did research this particular type of doll thoroughly. You eliminated the photos and drawings of similar reproduction dolls that are not correct and kept the best photo to be used as a study for your special antique reproduction doll. What book did you choose to follow, or was it a Theriault calendar, or perhaps another source? Be certain to attach this information to your doll’s wrist when entering her into competition, as it helps the judge evaluate your workmanship more accurately. Sometimes there are several versions of the same doll and no judge can be expected to know all of them For instance, Mein Leibling: there are at least five versions of her in different books. Steiners are another perfect example, with very few of them being painted the same.
Check your seams, especially around the neck and head area. Close your eyes and feel with your fingers, very lightly. The seams will then become prevalent. Take off one point for each little problem.
If you have used a porcelain body, how are your seams? Is it appropriate for your doll to be on an all porcelain body, or should it be composition? Are the fingers cleaned nicely--no webs--and are the finger nails and toe nails outlined and cleaned well? Take off a point for each section that you think is not perfect.
Should the ears be pierced? Through the lobe or just straight into the head? One hole or two?
Let’s start with the color tone. Have you given an all over wash or color tone to the complete head? Is it even? Is the color spread evenly around the nose, ears and eye areas? Is all blended well? Are there cosmetic lines around the jaw area?
Look at the cheeks. Is the color blushed on evenly? Check again with your study. Does the tone compare with the original, or is it too light or too dark? Did you use the correct color of china paint--are the cheeks too red? too orange? Does your blushing come to an abrupt stop--the infamous "stop line"--where you ran out of media, but kept on applying color anyway? Does the color travel too far up the cheek; too close to the nose, mouth or eye area; too far down the chin? Examine the face closely for this feature as the judge surely will. Cheek blushing is one of the most common ways to lose points in a competition.
Did you examine the original doll’s eyelashes very carefully? Is there an inside eye line? On the top only? Around the entire eye rim? What color is on the original doll--black, gray, brown? Check the angle of the eyelashes: are they pointing straight up and down, or do they point towards the doll’s ear? Do your go in the same direction? Check your spacing. Remember that the doll you are using for a study may be larger than the doll you are painting. In that case, you would not have as many eyelashes on your doll. It is important to know the size of the doll you are using as a study in order that you can make this determination. It is better to learn to judge what your spacing requirements are than to "count" eyelashes. You can count the lashes on the original as to the number of each set. Does the original have one or two more lashes on one side than the other? Check the eye measurement and see if the original doll had one eye cut larger than the other. If your eyes are cut out perfectly and have the same distance corner to corner, you will probably end up with an even number of lashes on each eye. If you are copying the original doll, and your eyes match the uneven cut of the original, you must send an explanation of this along with your doll to the judging room otherwise the judge will think you have just made a mistake. Check the length of your lashes by measuring the original antique’s lashes and comparing them to something else on the picture that you can use as a guide on your own doll--i.e. width of nostril opening. Then you can measure the nostril opening on your own doll and compare the length of your own doll’s eyelashes to the original. Most important, do you think yours look like the study?
Just a note here to remind you about camera angles. The camera distorts lengths. Short lashes on top could be due to where the photographer placed his camera for the photo. Try to find the best picture you can to use as a study. If no other one is available and you have to use a side shot, try to adjust your visual perception by using calipers to establish relationships between what your eye sees and what is actually there.
Some dolls have eyes that are set more deeply than others, and when painting the eyelashes a skip in the lash appears--the A.Marque is a perfect example of this type of doll. Be sure to copy this skip as it is a characteristic of ALL Marque dolls.
Did you look at the original very carefully for style, color and lines? Don’t like the color, not what you had in mind? If you wish to change the color of the eyebrows on your doll to a darker or lighter tone than the original, that is fine, but be consistent--they have to be the same on both sides. Look to see if your doll requires a shadow brow. Is the color tone of the shadow brow correct for the brushstroke lines of the eyebrow that you have placed on top? Check the angle of the hair lines that you have placed on top of the shadow brow. Are they fine and wispy or heavier than the original? Are there many fine lines or are they widely spaced or moderate? Should they be straight lines; or curved? Length is important, so measure well. Don’t forget placement of the brow. Is it too high? Too low? Too close together? Too far apart? Take off two points if you have missed a shadow brow, for each other problem, deduct one point.
Be sure of your formation. Are there high arches in the center? Are the ends wide and square: No they look natural? Check carefully! Is it a solid color or pale and outlined? Is there a center line? Are there two colors used and how were they used? They may have been blended to make a solid color lip or the inside of the lip is perhaps darker than the outline. Remember highlights, half moon on top, reverse on bottom, or maybe a solid line. Again, use your study model or photo. Use a magnifier if necessary.
Eye and nose dots. Not all dolls have just a small nose dot. Is it an oval with a dot in the middle? Refer again to your original for shape and coloring. Finger nails and toe nails, half moon only.
Were they included in your overall blushing?
Are they the correct shape for the doll you are making? Oval, tear shaped, compare very carefully with the study you are using. Are they uniform? Did you clean your eyes properly? Do they fit well, without gaps? Are the eyelids properly cleaned so that they taper into the eye socket and do not have a ledge? Be sure no wax or plaster of paris is showing. Have you used the correct type of eye for the doll you are making: i.e.. French--paperweight; German--probably round, but you should research because not all German dolls had round eyes. The important thing is that they are the correct eyes for the doll you are making.
If your doll has a porcelain body, check for squeaks. Check to see if it is too tight? Too loose? If your doll has a composition body, check for the tension of the stringing as well. If you have purchased a finished body, make sure that it is properly cleaned and painted. If it need some fixing up, do so. Do not assume that just because that is the way you bought it, that is the way it should be. Commercially produced composition bodies are done to be cost effective. When you are entering a competition, you can gain extra advantage if you have improved upon the finishing of a composition body.
Is the styling suitable for the era and your doll. Is the construction of the wig suitable. You do not lose points for using a synthetic wig, but you can bet that the doll that has a mohair or human hair wig (if it is appropriate to the original) will win over a doll with a synthetic wig when it comes right down to the final choice for the top award.
Correct era. Made nicely with no raw edges. Selvedge edges should be removed and seams turned. Most antique dolls require a hat. Some simple German doll costumes require a huge bow, and this is quite authentic and acceptable. When sewing for antique dolls, we do not follow the same rule of being as authentic as possible. We instead follow the modern rule of making as good a costume as possible. You want to do as good a job as you possibly can when you are making the costume for your doll--for your own satisfaction. French seams and lining wherever possible covers most requirements for interior finishing of the costume (and don’t forget the underwear--even the drawers!). Refer to the Sewing For Competition comments above.
NOTE: THIS PARAGRAPH IS ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO REALLY WANT TO WIN THAT TOP AWARD:
If you really want to WIN a competition, you must go above and beyond what was done on the antique dolls. The standard for winning "The Millie", "The Norma", or any other TOP DOLLMAKING AWARD has been elevated by the quality of the competitors over the years. Dollmaking has advanced so much, world wide, that we are seeing dolls entering competition that are in fact, PERFECT. When you are entering a competition where you will be competing against international competition, you really have to "put your best doll forward", to coin a phrase. NO synthetic fabrics. NO synthetic laces. ALL possible accessories. Handmade mohair wig. Handmade stockings. Handmade Shoes. Handmade parasol, if applicable. Handmade purse, if applicable. Etc., etc., etc. All of this must be presented on top of a perfectly cleaned and painted doll. You need that 100 point doll to qualify for a chance to win the top awards at international competitions these days. Then it becomes judges’ choice. So that is where all the attention paid to detail is rewarded.
Handmade if possible. Certainly must be appropriate to the era and to the type of doll and costume chosen. HOWEVER....if you are not going to make a really good pair of shoes, buy a nice pair. You will lose more points for a badly made pair than you will for buying commercial shoes. However, take care to note whether or not the competition rules require you to have made all of your doll's accessories and clothing.
Accessories are not required. They are nice to have, but you must always remember the rule--an accessory must not complicate the judge’s work. If you put an accessory on your doll, make absolutely sure that it is firmly attached to your doll and won’t interfere with the judge as she is working on your doll.
When you have finished evaluating your own doll, you should have come within five points of the judge’s evaluation. If you have used the correct studies when painting your beautiful reproduction doll, and dressed her accordingly, you should be in the 90’s and earn a blue ribbon. Even if you never put your doll into a competition, completing this exercise makes you look at your doll in a completely different light. You will see your mistakes, and, hopefully, will not repeat them on the next doll.
A NOTE ON ENTERING COMPETITIONS:
Entering competitions gives you a chance to evaluate where your dollmaking skills stand at any given point in time. You must remember that you are getting the personal opinion of one or two individuals at that time. You may not agree with the judge’s opinion, or her comments, but you have put your doll in the competition to get that score sheet and its comments. You should take those comments and examine them to see what judges are looking for. The judges see many different dolls in many different competitions, so you are really seeing how your doll stacks up against all the dolls the judge has looked at, because that is what she has based her opinions on. Sometimes your doll will be judged by an inexperienced judge. That is unfortunate, but it is part of the game. Sometimes the judge may have an off day (wrong time of the month!). That, too, is unfortunate. However, it is only that one judge, on that one day, and it doesn’t mean that your doll is any less than perfect if it doesn’t win the competition. The important thing to remember at all times is that competition is part of the learning experience as we try to improve our dollmaking skills in search of the "perfect" doll. We must never lose sight of the fact that we do this art for the fun and enjoyment that we get out of seeing a finished doll in all its glory. One of the most beneficial things about competition is that it sets a deadline, and from that deadline we do, in fact, end up with a completely FINISHED doll.
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