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A Dollmaking Glossary

For those who are new to dollmaking or collecting or perhaps just "lurk" on a dollmakers discussion list! Here are some terms that you may not be familair with.


Animal Joints
Snap-together plastic disks available at craft stores.

A skeletal structure which supports the doll. Usually wood or wire.

The ability to move head and/or limbs.

One who reproduces a doll by use of a mold or a pattern designed by an Artist.

One who transforms an idea into a three-dimensional doll form by rearranging raw materials.

Artist Doll
A doll that has been completely made by the artist, including wig and costume.

Artists Limited Edition
A limited number of dolls are reproduced primarily by the original artist with some help. Dolls may or may not be signed.

Artist's Signature Edition
A limited number of dolls are reproduced entirely by the original artist and signed.

Artist's Studio Edition
A limited number of dolls are produced by others under the supervision of the original artist.

Usually refers to original costuming on antique and/or collectible dolls.

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Ball Joints
Hip,knee, elbow, shoulder, wrist, head or head joints shaped as part of a ball. Usually found on porcelain or composition dolls.

Bent Limbed
Dolls which have arms and/or legs formed in a bent position.

Unglazed porcelain, after first firing and before china painting and second firing.

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Glazed clay fired at a lower temperature than porcelain.

Cernit (brand name)
A polyform modeling clay that has a high wax content and a translucent finish. It can be cured in a home oven. Often used as the final layer over Super Sculpey which is less expensive.

Character Dolls
Dolls that resemble real children. Usually refers to German and French antique dolls with unusual facial expressions.

China Paint
A technique for coloring porcelain. Bisque is painted with oil or water based paint and then fired in a kiln.

Church Doll
A doll made from a handkerchief and tied with ribbon or string, Originally made to keep small children quiet in church.

Cleaning Tool
A multi-purpose tool used in porcelain dollmaking.

Collector's Limited Edition
Dolls are mass produced by a commercial manufacturer in large numbers. Usually either a pre-determined number are produced, or orders are taken for a limited time period.

Commercial Reproduction
A copy of an artist doll produced in quantity.

A dollmaking material made from several materials, usually resin with glass, wood or other fillers added.

A curly, cream colored wool from Cotswold sheep. Originally used for English Barrister wigs. Used in dollmaking for Santa Claus beards and hair, and for curly hair styles. Available as cut fibers or as skins for use in stylable hair. 3 to 6 inches long.

Creative Paperclay (brand name)
A non-toxic, ready to use paper-maché modeling material made from volcanic ash, water and talc. Used for original sculptures and with press molds.

Crepe Hair
Hair made from braided roving. Not used very much with fine dolls, more for theatrical and temporary purposes.

Cultured Glass
A polyform modeling clay consisting of resin and ground glass used by many European dollmakers. Highly translucent. Not generally available in the United States.

Cutting Tool
A sharp tool used in ceramics to cut into the clay.

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The personification of material. Material is anything you can see.(elinor peace baily, 1989)

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Fimo (brand name)
A polyform modeling clay that can be cured in a home oven. Comes in a wide range of colors. Used primarily for small (under 12 inches) dolls, jewelry, and accessories.

Finger Tool
A fine tool used for detail work in ceramics.

Flange Neck
A grooved neck on a wood, porcelain or composition doll head where a cloth body can be tied.

Flirty Eyes
Eyes glancing sideways

Folk Dolls
Primitive style dolls usually made from cloth, straw, corn husk, wood and other “found” materials.

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A liquid primer (white in color) used as a base for painting on fabric. Available at art supply shops.

Porcelain after being removed from the mold, before the first firing.

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Medical tools used for stuffing dolls and pulling needles in hard to reach places.

Hinge Joint
A small portion of the limb is left unstuffed, a row of stitching is added to allow limb to move.

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Used to add mobility to doll. See Hinge Joint, Shank Button Joint, Mechanical Disk Joint, Animal Joints, Ball Joint.

Juried Doll Show and Sale
Exhibitors submit slides of their work and a jury selects the best examples in each category to be exhibited.

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Kachina Doll
Masked dolls carved from the root of the cottonwood tree. Made originally by the Hopi Tribes of Native Americans to depict messengers of their Gods.

A special oven used for firing ceramic and porcelain at very high temperatures.

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Ladder Stitch
An invisible stitch used to attach head and/or limbs to a cloth doll body.

La Doll (or La dolle)
A brand or trade name for stone clay from Japan, a mineral base, air dry clay that can be carved when dry.

Latex Composition
A casting compound.

Leather Hard
Porcelain removed from the mold not quite dry, but firm enough to work with to refine detail.

Limited Edition
Identical dolls reproduced from a mold with a limit on how many are made. See Artist's Signature Edition, Artist's Limited Edition, Artist's Studio Edition, Collector's Limited Edition, Manufacturer's Limited Edition

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Manufacturer's Limited Edition
The same doll may be used in several editions where the limit is on how many of each costume are produced. The limit may be a pre-defined number or may be based on a time period.

Mass Produced
Dolls produced in large number with no production time limit and no set edition number. Generally for the toy market.

Mechanical Disk Joint
Disks are fastened together with a cotter pin.

The material from which a doll is made. What ever the head is made from is the medium of the doll. For example, a doll with a polyform head and a cloth body and limbs is called a polyform doll.

Soft silky hair of the Australian Merino sheep.

Mint-In-Box. Keep that box and all related tags and literature. This adds to the value of a collectible doll.

Modern Collectible
Collectible dolls manufactured since 1920.

The long silky hair of the Angora goat.

A hollow, negative container made from a sculpture and used for casting a reproduction doll head or other body part. Most limited edition molds are made from plaster and have two or more pieces that separate to allow the finished piece to be removed. Molds for vinyl and for commercial production may be made of steel. Rubber molds may be one piece that is stretched to remove the finished piece.

Molded Face
A face made in a press mold or by vacuum forming. Often covered by cloth.

Mongolian (or Tibetan) Goat Skin
Goat skins with wavy hair 2 to 3 inches long. Used for stylable wigs.

A good quality woven cotton fabric used for cloth dolls and bodies for dolls of other media.

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Adding contour and holding features in place by carefully placed stitches.

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An original doll sculpted, assembled, costumed and finished by the artist and this exact doll is never made again. No "parts" of the doll are to be used for any other future doll and no "mold tweaking" is done from the mold, if any was used, to create other future dolls. One-of-a-kind should be self-explanatory using semantic reasoning.

Original Doll
The first doll made by an artist who takes a lump of clay, a piece of wood a length of fabric or other raw material and re-arranges it into a doll form which reflects a particular idea or concept. The work of the artists hands and mind, the individual nature of the artists approach to technical process and the fact the this particular portrayal has never before been seen in three dimensional reality makes the resulting work the first doll or the original. ( NIADA definition)

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An airdry clay with a paper base (See above "Creative paperclay") See also:Paperclay

Also called paper-maché. A light, strong molding material of paper pulp. glue and other additives.

A circle of buckram used to cover the open top of a porcelain head before the wig is added. (The top is left open so that eyes can be added after firing).

The general term for modeling clays made from resins (liquid) with fillers (ground up solids) that can be cured by baking in a home oven. The various brands of polyform have similar resins but different fillers that change the working properties, color, or translucence and affect the cost. see alsoPolyform Clays

A hard fine grained non-porous and translucent ceramic ware consisting of kaolin, quartz and feldspar and fired at very high temperatures.

Press Mold
A mold made from the face of a sculpture with a matching back piece so that a thin face mask or molded face can be made by pressing Creative Paperclay, Super Sculpey, Cernit or other clay materials between the two pieces.

Pressed felt
Felt molded or pressed in a press mold (or matrix) to form facial features.

Production mold
The final mold made after the waste mold and used for producing the edition.

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A straw like material used for doll hair.

Copies of an original.

A class of synthetic materials that solidify either when heated or when other chemicals are added. Used as a base for polyform clays. Usually used for reproduction of pieces as it is also available to be poured.

Cleaning and repairing antique dolls.

Unspun wool or other fiber used for doll hair. May be wool, Merino, Cotswold, mohair, flax, polypropylene, etc.

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Scale (1)
The ratio of the doll' size to a person's size. For example, a one-quarter scale doll is 15" (5-foot) to 20" (6-foot, 6-inches). {The scale changes at some point however and becomes incorrect when used for example in comparing length of hand to face, etc.)

Scale (2)
Sized appropriately to fit a doll.

Sculpey (brand name)
A white polyform modeling material not usually used for dolls.
Note: Sculpey is often said when Super Sculpey is meant. See Also:Sculpey/Super Sculpey Information

Super Sculpey (brand name)
A (relatively) inexpensive polyform modeling clay that is preferred by most dollmakers. It can be “cured” in a home oven . It can be carved, drilled, sanded, and painted when cured. Often used for the basic sculpture under a final layer of Cernit which is more expensive but more translucent. Pinky-beige in color. Often mistakenly called Sculpey. (See above HTML reference under Sculpey)

Sculpey III (brand name)
Mixing colors to use with Super Sculpey and for jewelry and accessories. Sold in small packages in over 60 colors. (See above HTML reference under Sculpey).

Shank-button Joint
Buttons sewn on with several lengths of heavy cord to allow limbs to move.

Shoulder Plate
A doll with the shoulder area made in one piece with the head.

Silicon glue
Clear bathtub caulking. Used by dollmakers for holding armatures together, applying hair,etc. Must be used in well ventilated area as fumes are obnoxious.

Soft Fired
Porcelain greenware that has been fired slightly soft so that it can be cleaned in water to avoid toxic porcelain dust.

Soft Sculpture
Building a doll from the bones out. This technique was created by NIADA artist Lisa L. Lichtenfels. She begins with a wire skeleton which is wrapped in yarn so muscles can be sewn to it then covered with “fatty tissue” made from batting and covered with several layers of skin created from nylon stocking material.
Note: Soft sculpture is the wrong word for any stitched and stuffed project. Stitched and stuffed projects are usually needle-modeled.

Stone Clay
Clay from Japan with trade name of "LaDoll". An air dry, mineral base clay.

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Tacky Glue (brand name)
A heavy-bodied craft glue. Often used for attaching wigs. (Aleene's Designer Tacky Glue is even heaver and can replace hot melted glue in most cases.)

To slightly change a mold. (be it an original or a copy).

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Vacuum Forming
A method of making a face mask where a thin piece of plastic is heated and then drawn around a positive face mold or into a negative face mold by vacuum. The resulting plastic face piece is usually covered with cloth.

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Waste Mold
The first mold made from an original sculpture. The mold is poured (usually in wax) and the reproduction piece is then refined. Finally, the production mold is made from the refined piece.

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Email to Mann Gallery:artmann@worldnet.att.net

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A Dollmaking Glossary

by Gloria J. "Mimi" Winer, adapted by Mann Gallery Copyright © Jim and Gloria Winer. You may make a copy of this article for your own personal use. Copying for commercial purposes is prohibited.

Email Mimi: mimi@mimidolls.com