What is 

SOFT-FIRED PORCELAIN GREENWARE?  


 It is the base for making the porcelain dolls.  The process of making the porcelain parts of the dolls is very time consuming and complicated.  It takes many years of training to become an accomplished porcelain doll artist.  

Soft Fired Greenware Head

The doll making process begins when you pour the liquid porcelain into a plaster mold.  The plaster of the mold removes the moisture from the liquid porcelain inside.  

Molds

After a certain period of time (which varies, depending on the room temperature, the humidity, the quality of the plaster in the mold, the type of porcelain being used, and the size of the piece being poured), the excess liquid porcelain is poured out of the mold, and the mold is set aside to allow the casting to "set up".  Once the piece has cured enough to allow the mold to open, the bands are removed, and the mold is opened to reveal the piece inside. 

The piece has to then sit in the open mold until it is firm enough to be removed from the mold without distortion of the shape.   It is then placed in a bed of fiberfill to set up to the "leather hard" stage, where it is then inspected for any imperfections,  spare is trimmed, and it is set aside to dry prior to soft firing.  Once dry, the piece is put in a kiln and fired to 1300 to 1400 Deg F (Cone 019 - 018) over a period of approximately 6 hours.

Once the porcelain piece has been soft-fired, the porcelain doll artist begins work.  The head is submerged in water, and then allowed to dry until the "slickness" of the water evaporates.  The eye holes are cut out of the head.  If you are interested in the FULL procedure, you can CLICK HERE to visit the page offering a detailed description of the work entailed in cutting eyes in greenware.  The artist then details the rest of the features, and cleans the entire surface of the piece so that when fired, it will be smooth and have no imperfections.

The piece is then put in the kiln, and high fired to a temperature of approximately 2200 Deg F (Cone 6).  This firing takes approximately 5 hours.  As porcelain is a vitreous substance, it shrinks somewhat during the firing process.  Different porcelains shrink to varying degrees.

Fired Piece                      Greenware

The artist then sands the porcelain piece until it is smooth and ready for painting.  The white pieces are first covered with a flesh colored paint, depending on the ethnic background of the finished doll.   It is then returned to the kiln and fired to approximately 1350 Deg F (Cone 018).  This firing takes approximately one and a half hours to complete.  The details of the features and shading of the contours begins in the next firing.  Each time the doll is painted, in order for the paint to "cure", it must be fired to a Cone 018.  Depending on the doll, this can entail up to 6 or 8 firings.   Each firing takes approximately one and a half hours.

Each time the piece is fired in the kiln, the kiln must also cool prior to the piece being in a condition for the artist to work on it again.  A usual rule of thumb for cooling a kiln is that it will take as long to cool as it did to fire.

Once the porcelain pieces are finished being painted, the doll is then assembled.  In many instances, this means making a cloth body, attaching the limbs to the body, inserting an armature and stuffing the body.  The eyes are set into the head using beeswax and plaster.  If the doll has false eyelashes, these are glued in place.  The head is then joined to the porcelain shoulder plate, which is attached to the cloth body.  If the doll has the typical hole in the top of the head for insertion of the eyes, this hole is closed with a pate, and then the wig is placed on the doll.   At this point, the doll is assembled and ready for costuming.  Most antique reproduction dolls are placed on a composition body which would be a reproduction of the original body suitable to the doll being reproduced.  Again, eyes and pate are applied as above.

It is quite time consuming, and labor intensive to make a quality reproduction doll.  If you wish to see some of the dolls that Evelyn has made that are offered for sale as finished dolls, please CLICK HERE.



This page last edited on July 21st, 2007.

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