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Information through the courtesy of " Nebraskalassie "

page added sept,1998



If you are used to pouring porcelain in molds, disregard the first page of these instructions and proceed just as you normally do for pouring porcelain in the molds. Just be sure that the slip doesn't glug from your pouring container either going into the mold or when you empty the mold!!! VERY IMPORTANT

These instructions are from my teacher JESSIE BENFELDT (if anyone happened to know Jessie) She is no longer with us, she died about 3 years ago.

Anyway here goes:

Materials needed to pour the molds:

  1. Mold of your choice, I like the 12 to 14 inch size -that's 30 to 35 centimeter size. I think the Atlantic catalog uses only the size in inches. While they do come a little larger, I found them too heavy to handle, plus the additional weight of extra fabric could make the skirt collapse in firing.
  2. Molds should be for skirt (3 types) slim, medium full and very full, torso and head (this is almost always in one mold) and arms and hands (several positions all in one mold too.)
  3. Porcelain slip-French bisque or whatever flesh color appeals to you.. They even have an Indian color as well as a chocolate color if you are interested in different ethniticities.
  4. Alcohol -either denatured or rubbing will do as well.
  5. Talcum powder
  6. Fine strainer (no rust please) or silk or nylon stocking to strain the porcelain
  7. Distilled water
  8. Straps or rubber bands to hold molds SECURELY TOGETHER
  9. PATIENCE!!!!

To prepare your molds, unpack and be sure they are dry. Molds are generally shipped as what is known as "wet" to cut down on the breakage. They will probably feel slightly clammy. Strap them together and set where they are well ventilated for several days. When they feel dry to the touch, unstrap them and clean them well with a non linty cloth dampened with alcohol.
They need to be dust free and free of all other impurities. Then powder lightly with talcum and be sure to dust it out as much as you can. I use a fine brush to do this with. Be sure the bristles won't leave marks on your mold.

Mix slip thoroughly and thin with distilled water. DON'T USE TAP WATER, IT HAS TOO MANY IMPURITIES FOR PORCELAIN WORK!

Slip should be the consistency of heavy coffee cream.
Restrap molds securely, making sure the keys fit snugly and there is no possibility of leakage around seams. Pour into molds being sure there is no glug either going into mold or coming out during draining.
Let the mold set long enough to get the needed thickness. The torso and arms should not be very heavy, but the skirt needs to be the thickness of a quarter.

Be very careful about draining the mold so that it adheres to the mold while it is setting. Let set until it is hard enough to support itself (upside down). I found this usually took about 45 minutes for the skirt.
The torso and arms can be poured at this time. After letting them attain the leather hard stage, place them in a plastic wrap (I use a plastic bag) Do the same with the skirt when it is ready to come out of the mold.

You will need the following supplies for this portion of the work on your lady doll.

  1. Needle tool
  2. Cleaning tool (small ceramic knife)
  3. Finger saws (can be had from National Artcrafts)This is a fine little file that is used to file between the fingers of the doll to separate them.
  4. Muslin (100%) can be an old sheet in fact that is what I always use. All materials if new need to be prewashed to remove any sizing in them.
  5. Cotton netting (believe it or not black netting works the best for beginners)
  6. Laces
  7. You may want some tiny roses or other flowers to add to your doll for adornment
  8. Also, wool fires well as does any other natural fiber. You can use up to 10% synthetic lace but will not have success using a higher content than that. I used hair I had brushed from my Samoyed dog for the hair on the first doll I made and it was beautiful. Cotton works well too.

Now for the fun part of making the doll.

Carefully clean the seam lines from the skirt of the doll. Working on just the skirt part of the doll. Clean and pour hole and bottom to the skirt, I usually carefully hold the skirt in one hand while using the other for this process, whatever works for you.
Pierce though the bottom of the skirt in several places with your needle tool. Might also want to scratch your name or whatever in the bottom at this time.

Place the skirt of the doll on either a half shelf for the kiln which has been thoroughly washed with kiln wash. I like to place the half shelf or piece on a plastic wheel that turns. Dust the shelf with a little extra kiln wash to assure the doll doesn't adhere to the shelf during firing.

You can also use pieces of broken shelves if they are large enough for the doll skirt. Just be sure the skirt does not extend beyond the shelf. It has to be supported during firing.

Pierce the doll skirt with the needle tool. I like to go about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) up from the bottom and pierce diagonally into the bottom to the doll to be sure the bottom is vented. I can't stress this enough . It is one improvement I made over Jessie's method. She quite often had the bottoms of the skirts on her dolls blow out and since I started this, I never have a blow out..
Also pierce randomly all over the skirt as well as the top of the skirt where it vents into the torso. These holes will be covered with the drape but are vital if you want a successful doll.

Attach the torso of the mold to the skirt mold by taking strips of muslin and dipping them into slip. Place the torso where you want it on the skirt mold being sure there is a pierced place in the top of where the skirt mold fits onto the torso (remember you have two hollow pieces and these MUST be vented.
I like to hold up on the torso part to give an elongated look to the torso, you will find you will like it better also. Wrap the strips around the torso and the skirt top, adhering it with porcelain slip. Let set for a little while while the slip solidifies on the cotton strip and it can support itself.

Now, working on the skirt alone, start the draping process. I use either white or flesh color for this. Cut a length of muslin long enough to fit around the doll when gathered so that it will give fullness to the skirt. I usually allow at least 2 1/2 times the circumference of the doll skirt it should be about 3/4 the length of the skirt mold as the draping will take up some.
I also like to make it a bit shorter and put a gathered piece of lace at the bottom of the skirt mold. Makes it look like a ruffled petticoat peeking out. Dip the lace or the muslin into your slip.

Make very sure that it is all soaked through with slip. This is important for every step of the draping process. Using the needle tool either thread the muslin onto the tool or by gathering the muslin in the opposite hand (I use my left as I am right handed, see what I mean) start at the back of the skirt and start draping the muslin in pleats or gathers about 2 1/2 in. (5 cm) down from the waist of the doll.
It helps to make the muslin adhere to the skirt mold if you first put a light coat of porcelain slip on where you want to place the muslin ie: around the doll. (I usually do this with a brush dipped in the slip.
Using the needle tool and a light touch, arrange the folds of the muslin the way you want them. If you are using the narrow skirt mold, you may not want to do the muslin as it does add a lot of fullness to the doll skirt.

Next step:

When you have the muslin arranged to suit you, carefully coat the muslin with some more slip brushed on over the entire length of the muslin. Let set a few minutes till slip loses it shininess.
Next, do the same with the cotton netting, making it the full width , cover the muslin skirt I like mine a little shorter again. This assures a little more fullness to the skirt. You should end up pretty close to as full as you want the skirt to be. Being a lot more full at the bottom than at the waist.

You can press down (carefully) with your needle tool to avoid too much fullness right at the waist. The skirt should be full at the bottom but pretty close to right size at the top. Do allow about 1/4 in. for fitting the torso on the doll.

Now you are ready to design that costume for your doll.
If you want the slim skirted doll, use only the netting under the lace and don't make it very full. If you have the full skirted doll, make it as plain or as fussy as you want. Be sure to wet the lace fully in the slip. (After cutting the lace as wide and as full as you want.)
Don't be too concerned about little threads etc. as you can easily take those off after the firing. Just be sure the lace is adhered to the mold securely with slip or it will shed in the firing.
Be sure to clear the lace of slip. Squeeze the slip our of the lace (this should be done with the net and the muslin as well) and either press into a towel laid across your lap or Jessie said lay it across the back of your hand and pat it to clear the porcelain out of where the holes are in the pattern of the lace. Be careful, this is the most critical point of making a beautiful doll! .
You have all seen dolls on the market that look clutzy due to porcelain being gobbed in the lace, well don't let that happen or you won't be happy!

Now carefully gathering the lace in your opposite hand place it on your doll after first putting some slip around the waist of the doll. Every step where you place the lace or fabric must have a little slip on the doll to hold it!
I like to start at the back of the doll and go around with the lace, gathering as I go. Be sure to allow enough lace to make it look right, don't skimp. If you think you don't have enough lace to go all around the doll, use the lace as a trim and use muslin for the main dress of the doll.
By the way , muslin draped dolls are lovely too.

When I get to where I started, I take a bit of slip on the lace and fold under the end of the lace and adhere the folded part to the lace under it. In other word, overlap the two ends so that it makes a finished looking piece.

Now, you are finished with the skirt of the doll. If you want panniers on the skirt over the hip, wait a few minutes till you finish the next step (s)..

Now for the touchy part (as if it hasn't been touchy up till now) Pierce the torso where the arms fit on. Remember hollow to hollow again. Clean seam lines from arm molds.

Attach the arms to the torso by using the same type of strips you used to attach the torso. Lots of teachers tell you to use balls of clay to attach the arms. While this is an easier method, you can end up having to prop the arms or having them sag onto the skirt of the doll-not a pretty sight. I guarantee they won't sag using this method.

Let set long enough to lose the shiny look and be able to support the weight of the arm. Now take your finger saw and VERY CAREFULLY saw the fingers up to where it looks right to you. Then clean the crumbs away by taking a very small brush ( a china liner works just great) and some distilled water.
This is touchy, but if you break a finger off, don't panic, it will attach easily with a little slip or water. Just be sure to let it set up before you try to work with it again.
I usually attach the arms and do all the work and then saw the fingers I am sometimes a clutz and find a little touch can break a finger off easily.

Now drape the bodice of the doll. If the lace is very open, you may want a little net under it. It isn't really necessary, but you may find you like it better.

Drape the front, then the back overlapping at the side seams and of course trying to keep down on the number of raw edges, I like to fold the overlapping one over that makes a more finished look.

You can make little buttons out of scraps of porcelain slip or Attach small lace or medallions made from your lace or some of the small flowers that come ready made. All of the above are lovely, used in the right way.
Add bows by making them from narrow strips on the bias from muslin and dipped in slip. This sometimes add the finishing touch for a simple gown. Now is the time to add the panniers over the hips if you want them.

Now saw the fingers and get them solid and cleaned well. Let your doll set for about 45 minutes or so. Take time here to decide if you want to do something like a hat or put curls out of other hair (dog or cat or whatever) If you want long curls, wrap your material around the handle of a brush after first dipping it in porcelain slip. Doesn't make much difference what color you use as you will china paint it later anyway.

If you want to make a hat. Use cardboard for the brim, it will fire out, just be sure you get lots of slip on it to support it while you fire. Sometime large brimmed hats tend to droop. I had one (hope to have a picture of her ) that came out just perfect and I think she is very beautiful.

I hope you choose a color porcelain other than beige or white for your doll costume. Yes, you can china paint the color on but the colored porcelain is so much prettier!

After letting the porcelain set for a bit, come back with a brush, such as a luster brush and coat with slip all over the lace. Be sure not to miss any, this is important. Remember you have been moving the lace around or touching it after you draped it and it may have lost some of it's original porcelain. This prevents burn outs.

If you have a little build up of slip, clear it with your needle too. Be sure it is cleared as I said before this is what makes a lovely doll.

Cover your doll and let set over night. Check doll and let set in an area free from drafts, you may want to put it in your kiln and let it set again. I usually let it set for a couple days.

Check to be sure all the porcelain is adhering well and if not recoat it again. First be sure your kiln area is very well vented, an exhaust fan or something to carry the fumes out is essential. No, fume exhausts only won't cut it here. The smell is awful, burning rags. You know that is what you are doing. You burn out the rag content of your doll and leave only the porcelain.

Now the fun comes. Place a cone 6 (six) cone in the sitter or whatever method you use and turn kiln on low leaving all the vent holes and top propped in it's highest position. For the first 45 mins. leave lid propped this way. Lower lid to lowest position (not closed) and let finish the next 1 hr and 15 mins.
Turn kiln to Medium for 2 hours leaving lid propped and peep holes open. Then shut lid, put plugs in peep holes and finish firing.
Should be white hot for those of you who fire with thermocouple, should be 2350 degrees. Slow firing is imperative I have found. Jessie used to push the limits on the dolls we made in class but never on ones she made of her own.

Let kiln cool (takes about a day) .

Bring doll out and inspect to burn outs, (this is where a little prayer to God helps, Please God, don't let there be any! ) If there does happen to be a small one, it can be covered with a flower or medallion and refired. Don't have to be so critical on the refire, you have most of the work done in the first fire, you can also fire to a cone 2 on this one. Push firing is okay here too. I wouldn't recommend skipping a whole setting such as going from low to high, but times can be reduced.

Now, if are sure you are satisfied, you are ready to glaze. If you want to leave it bisque, paint the hair and features on the doll and refire at 018.

I like to use luster on the dress of the doll- this is what makes it "permalux:"

Glaze with regular glaze for porcelain-I use Seeley's this will fire up to a cone 2 and is especially clear with no yellowing effect. Fire at cone 05 up to 2 whatever you want to do.
I used to always fire to cone 2 but lately I have been firing to cone 05.

When cool remove from kiln and put luster on the dress part of the doll. You can use colored lusters to help decorate the costume or just MOP luster for an all over shine.
Paint on the features and hair of the doll. Don't neglect the finger nails. She has them you know!

Now fire at 018 again.. When the kiln is cool -Eureka !you have a gorgeous heirloom to enjoy yourself and hand on to coming generations.

You most surely want to display her in a glass case or at least a glass dome. I find that she can be transported successfully and easily by making either a wheel or a square of plywood with a spindle sticking up in the middle . She will NOT tip over and is safe in this manner.
I moved one doll from Neb. to Calif. and back again in this manner. Of course you want to move her in her own box with nothing crammed in around her to protect the lace. Remember the lace is VERY fragile and will shatter if dusted. I clean her by washing carefully and never, never dust her!

(NOTE FROM MARCI) Thanks, Nebraskalassie, for a very informative article!)

This next section was added by Maggie Clark



I usually order flesh color and bone white and color my own slip.
As far as colors go - you can use Duncan's E-Z Strokes Translucent Underglaze to color your porcelain slip. E-Z strokes is not a clay but a pigment and is use for painting on greenware with a water color effect and is used a lot in the ceramic field.
Duncan has a list of what the colors will look like when high fired up to a cone 2. Some of the pastel colors will fade, but some of the blues, yellows, reds, greens are gorgeous. I did a black dress on a lace draped doll and it was beautiful, especially with mother of pearl overglaze.

I occasionally use E-Z strokes when painting on greenware. After the piece is fired, I can either leave it as bisque or apply a clear glaze.

By mixing different colors of E-Z strokes with small amounts of Porcelain slip before pouring into your molds - you can get a very attractive marbelized effect.

Give it a try - works great.

Maggie Clark

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