Thursday, June 21, 2018

Cicada Insect Doll Process: Part Three

Hello All and Welcome,

This is a series of postings for the Cicada, I'm going to be sharing with you not only my process in technique with photos but also my philosophy behind my dollmaking- doll creating!

I feel that understanding your own personal style of creating is important. We all receive inspiration in different forms...and it is how we put that inspiration to work that is a key ingredient in our creations!

Personal Style

This has been a long discussed topic for as long as I have been creating and probably before and will continue after. 

For me the bottom line is follow what is in your heart and create that from your gut...listen. In the beginning you will mimic and probably down right "copy" another's work, but to be able to sell and to make your own way in the world you must listen and find your own voice to be authentic and to feel good about what you are creating.

Trust yourself- it's there!

I have many different doll creations but I (hope) and believe that my style is clear.

Home and Devotion

Home...I feel my love can be in more than one place. 
My heart of my home is with my husband, Sean and our funny old cat Issy. It is what makes me feel safe and loved.
My voice of my home is in my art. It is what makes me an individual and independent.

One way that I know that I have my true voice in my creations is my devotion to my art. I have worked hard at learning my craft for over 25 years and from that came my own style. I have worked equally as hard in the past five years with personal growth and still continue.

My home is my family and my art...and in my keeping my own mind, body, and soul fully nourished and in shape so I can be the best to all including myself. I find that all are connected.

The Cicada Head Process

In starting a new series, I look for visual and symbolic inspiration to be able to most importantly find my way to create what is in my style.

This Cicada head took me three+ days to sculpt, so to be able to create a series I take a mold of the original sculpt.

I will create a two piece mold so I can have a ball jointed head.

This is the molding compound I use. I find it very user friendly and it creates clear crisp reproductions that I can use most air-dry clays to alter if I wish.

Here is the head covered and you can note the very top is not yet covered. I will remove this part when cured and take a new mold for the head top. it is also labeled "Insect".

 Here is the pouring product I use for the reproduction. I find it also user friendly. Take note of the two head pieces. I need for the head to be hollow so I can work within it so there is an egg shape that fits within to create that open space.

Once the product is fully cured I removed it from the mold. This product is extremely hard and durable. Interestingly, when fully cured it "tings" like ceramic! I may need to do a bit of touch up because of slight air bubbles and sand to a smooth surface. This is also at this point where I can also alter anything I wish- like eye shape- nose shape - even basic face shape etc.

This below is just out of the mold before making refinements.

After everything is to my liking, I then cover the head with fabric. My newest favorite is a linen weave mat silk. I love the earthy texture of it!

Below is original head and head covered in silk. The top of the head (on the right) will be covered in a fabric that is the same color of the hair and then hand-sewn into place.

I find each step of creating a piece to be thoughtfully important. How am I to create without that stillness inside me to be able to "hear" where it is to go?

Cicada Body Process

As I stated, I love using this new(er) linen weave silk. For this piece I felt it important that she has a feeling of being from the ancient I tea dyed the fabric and let it sit in the tea bath where the tea could settle to create organic depth.

In designing this body, I wished for her to be very lean and long...extended (following suit with her long features of her face). She will also be kneeling so I need to create a two piece leg that I can position and create balance.

My Wish...
My wish for you, my dearest reader, is that you too will be able to incorporate not only my tools of the trade but develop your own philosophy to carry within your heart...your home...and into your work.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Cicada Insect Doll Process: Part Two

Hello again!
As I have stated this series is going to be about techniques but also about my philosophy as I create the Cicada.

I find that my art is all about the layers that I build in creating a piece. I feel that layers are so important in being able to communicate or hopefully reach others to understand what you are trying to convey.

I've prepared, know my symbolism and done my research.
At this point, I believe I have created my Step One in a solid inspirational and soulful foundation.
See Part One here if you missed it!

In building these layers, we build good purposeful art...

I find that when I am is important to let the piece drive you...not you drive the piece...
in other words, let your soul and your hands create the piece not your control or your mind. 

Art is about not overworking it. One art teacher told me "You never complete a piece, you abandon it". In this way of listening and not controlling, you will be able to clearly see what needs to be edited and what needs to be kept. What conveys in a clear "visual" meaning without having it to be explained to the viewer. 
What the piece reflects in its feeling or emotion.

You have that voice...that magic inside you!

In this posting, I will share my thoughts on my techniques and tools...
Tools of the Trade
I always like to start with sculpting the head... it sets the tone for the entire piece.
Here is what I like to work with and why...

My Inspiration photo:

It helps me greatly to have a photo to refer to. I love how each ethnic group has these...I find beautiful...nuances in proportions and I get a sense of their culture through their skin tone and hair texture.

My Tools:

I start with a styro form egg that I cover in DAS air-dry clay.
I like DAS because it has a bit of elasticity to it while stiff enough to hold a firm edge. I also live in a very dry climate and find this clay holds its moisture better than other air-dry clays.

Below is the covered egg that I then sand to a smooth finish after it is thoroughly dry (usually over night).
This covered dried clay egg serves as a good foundation so I can add clay without having the foundation distort! 

Besides my hands, here are my favorite sculpting tools...
  • A damp towel to wipe my hands and also to "hold" clay that has been prepared...which means it has been kneaded to soften and also a bit of water added in.
  • Two spatulas. One for cutting the clay the other for creating a flat plane.
  • A chenille needle. I love this for detail work and the eye end for creating the tear duct area.
  • Sculpting tools for creating arches and smoothing.
  • A tool I found in a quilting shop...not so sure what it is for but I love the small pointed end.
  • And my hands down favorite tool- a soft tipped manicure stick. I use the soft end for defining curves and the clear place stick for blending in clay.


When I first started sculpting I really needed guidance on what I was observing, so I would make several photocopies of my subject and draw out the planes of the face. This helped me understand that each face has common features but the height, width, and the shape of each section would vary slightly. These combined sections would give the effect to create what I was observing.

I find that I do enter into a zone...a mindfulness...fully focused on every detail. I do need to wait for the clay to dry in the larger sections before I can proceed with the tiny details. Time passes as I sculpt and I find that I am amazed at the end on how it all came together...where did that come from? I feel that it is truly my soul guiding and showing me each step.

For me, sculpting is a very personal intuitive process of observing and then applying the clay. After each step, I go back and look at the inspiration photo and will see the next step "shown" to me. I am not a fast sculptor taking days to refine each small detail. 

I have also taught sculpting over the years, but found that I was sculpting for ten years before I felt "ready and able" to teach it. I still struggle a bit with teaching it since it is so personal and how you see the inspiration to be sculpted. For me sculpting is about observation and how you interpret that into the clay!

Below are images of the head sculpted with a few fine clean ups needing to be done.
I did have to cut away part of the egg shape since it was too bulky in the back area were the neck would be inserted. This will be a jointed head.

As I see it now, as we are looking at it I still need to reshape and clean up the left eye as we facing it and I will re-sand to a smooth and congruent flow of a total face not as added pieces of clay! 

Please take a re-look at the inspiration photo below these sculpting photos at different angles


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cicada Insect Doll Process: Part One

Hello All,
In this series for the Cicada, I'm going to share with you not only my process in technique with photos but also my philosophy behind my dollmaking- doll creating!

I feel each piece has its own life and its own energy...therefore I try to be very mindful in the work during the creation of the one piece, thoughtfully immersed.

Getting Prepared
MIND: I want to have a clear and focused mind so I can work without (mental) interruptions. I make certain that my phone is off, my music is playing, and I have completed all personal and business tasks- as emails etc.

BODY: I want this to be a pleasant and nurturing experience and I believe one of the best ways to begin a new project is with a clean space with all my tools and supplies at hand. It can be disarming and frustrating to scramble around to find that one thing needed…yes, we have all done it! So, it is important for me be ready and prepared to allow the time it deserves to become a masterpiece!

SOUL: I find that if the two above things have been cleared that the soul will follow in peace and being able to "hear" any and all inspirational guidance as I work to speak our truth to the world.


If you know me or my work, you are aware that I am devoted to the symbolism behind my pieces and feel my work is a process of mindfulness in each step I take. I believe that in each creation, we can have many layers, not only of fabric but of the thought or inspiration behind the piece. I feel this enhances it during and after it is finished.

My goal is always to keep this symbolism and mindfulness in choosing of fabrics, during sewing, painting, dying…It creates joy within myself as I work!

Cicada  : Cicadidae

The tree cricket. The sound denotes 'elevated' poetry, immortality or life after death. A stylized cicada form represents loyalty to one's principles.

  • Rebirth
  • Past to Present
  • Illumination
  • Longevity
  • Sensuality
  • Love
  • Partnership
  • Self-Expression
  • Patience
  • Timing
As the symbolism is important, I will do extensive research on my "subject".
I always find it astonishing that the subject I have chosen has so much symbolism that connects my personal  growth with my art...Life is Art.

"They choose their own time to be born. What a cool concept. Years later I did research into why cicada’s lay dormant, sometimes only a year, other times up to 17 years. It has to do with predators. Although still a mystery to biologists, the cicada has a keen ability to sense the right time to emerge from their earthy cocoons in order to produce the most off-spring. They do this during a time in which their predators are low in numbers – insuring the chance of their brood’s survival.
Asian symbolism took note of this as a theme of resurrection. So much so, ancient Asian burial ceremonies include the making of intricate jade figures of cicadas; these were placed in the mouths of deceased ancestors. This allowed ancestors a pleasant, tranquil after-life sleep, and gave them the ability to re-emerge in spirit to help families or accomplish goals when the timing called for their aid."
Image result for asian tongue cicada
Tongue amulet in the form of a cicada (hanchan) 
206 C. Han dynasty Glass H: W: cm China

Cicada Facts:

Cicada Songs
Males produce this species-specific noise with vibrating membranes on their abdomens. The sounds vary widely and some species are more musical than others.

Life Cycle
Cicadas are also famous for their penchant for disappearing entirely for many years, only to reappear in force at a regular interval. There are some 3,000 cicada species, but only some share this behavior (the 17-year cicada is an example). Others are called annuals because, although individuals have multi-year lifecycles, some adults appear every year.
They spend several early life stages in these underground burrows before surfacing as adults.

Cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadoidea and are physically distinguished by their stout bodies, broad heads, clear-membrane wings, and large compound eyes.
The insect's amazing lifestyle has been a source of fascination since ancient times.

My Thoughts in Connection
In my mind, this Cicada's choosing of when to be born is very symbolic...not only of when I am ready but when a piece is be born.

This concept of the Cicada has been in my mind for over a year...always there but not soulfully ready, in what I term as a fully developed idea in my mind, body, soul. I know when it is ready because there is no hesitation, it is in my mind and all I have to do is "listen" and it will emerge and tell me what direction it needs to go!

I will take this symbolic meanings, the insect characteristics, and my love of Asian features and costuming and connect them together into a Cicada piece.

I have the Tibetan and Mongolian faces studied and ready to start with the sculpting the head and then design a body that will be in proportion to it.  

The Mongolian culture will lead into the costuming...(Thanks to Marco Polo series on Netflix)
电视剧 - Marco Polo  Marco Polo (TV Show) Cast 艺术 壁纸

I love the Panama Cicada's color!

I see a helmet and body armor with silk "kimono" style dress...

we will see what appears!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Something borrowed...something blue...

Hello All,
I have been fortunate to be able to create a new life...which lead to change...which lead to questioning...which lead to defining what is important within my own life.

Yes, I have put in the work and that has made everything clearer and now I am able to speak in my own own soul!

In finding my own soul's voice, I have met and married the most incredible darling Sean. You never know what will come your way when your heart and soul is open and secure within itself...
Art connects with Rugby...US connects with Ireland!

Together, we have created a beautiful life that will enables us to grow together stronger than we would be able to do individually. We are grateful.

We are so very grateful for the family and friends that now surround us...we believe these people are true to their heart and recognize our true-ness within our hearts.

So...what new doors will now open in my own art? 
I am now regenerated and have found my love of dollmaking returning to me...I have been very intrigued with insects..the breaking open from the cocoon and into flight! I am strong in my belief that I am an artist and this is the way I make my living and I will.

I will start with a cicada that will have Asian will be a woman dressed with Tibetan and Mongolian aspects...and of course wings!

Until next week, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and notes with you along my spiritual journey of dollmaking.

The new Mrs. Leslie O'Leary!

Clifden Ireland May 4th 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Queen Anne Doll CD!!

Hello All,
I wanted to make certain that you all know the 
Queen Anne Pattern/CD is now available 
exclusively through Dollmaker's Journey!!

I am thrilled that I can share her with you!

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Raven Final Touches

I find as I travel through the process of creating, I like to be thoughtful of each step.

In adding the final details to The Raven, my design change of the kimono and cape to the pants and altered shorter kimono, it gave the sleeves gave great inspiration to becoming her wings.

Most importantly was the overall balance. As the hand dying, the top-stitching, and costume design still needed their clear voice, I was careful not to overpower her with too many feathers...they needed to be present but with a lightness as the vintage kimono silk I used.

As light as a feather!

Below here is the first wing complete...
and a close up- I added linen thread "x" over each wing to connect to her heart center...

As the front was shortened to reveal her hand-dyed pants, I left the back long and even extended it to mimic a raven's tail- adding feathers along the tip.
Final "feathering" was added to her collar line and her top knot!

As most if you know, my work is not only about the thoughtfulness of how it is designed but also very important to me is the symbolism that it carries...

Raven: Balance
Raven symbolism represents the shadow self, or the dark side of the psyche. By acknowledging this dark side, we can effectively communicate with both halves of ourselves. This offers liberating balance, and facilitates tremendous wisdom.
Here are her final shots- photography by Robert Batey.
The Raven is made as a piece to hang but for photo shoot she was seated.
At this writing she is available.
30" tall from top knot to tail. 
All silk with sculpted stone clay head.
All fabrics and hair are hand-dyed.
Jointed head, shoulders and elbows.

Missed a posting??

covers creating her body and my mind,body, and soul connection
covers the physical process of dying her costume

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Raven Part Two

Recapping from last week's Part One of the here to read

My Notes on the Raven
This piece was created as my tribute to the Raven as my favorite Animal Totem. We are not just black or white we have various shades within each of is a balance.

As we go through life we have many trials and successes…each of the feathers I used in this piece is a badge of a well earned honor in the growth of life.

Mind & Soul Process
Part of my process is working things out in my head before I create a piece...and for me an incredible path to this is my morning walks...there I am able to walk and work things out in my turn things around in a three dimensional form to visualize the piece before it comes to a physical form...I realize that my walks are a very important mindfulness in my creations. 

It calms my over active mind and connects with my sou so I can hear what its voice wants to say...

Side note: On all my art, somewhere I hand sew an "X"...this is in memory of my Dad...

More Notes on the Raven
Initially, I knew that I wanted this piece to have a Japanese inspiration. I envisioned using the sheer fabric as a long kimono with a cape of wings.

As I dyed the body and made the pants, I realized how much I love that white turning to black in her body and wanted it to be shown.

I decided to change the kimono front to a pleated peplum so the pants would show. Her sleeves became her wings  and the back of the kimono her tail.

Physical Process
In this Raven piece, I decided that I wanted to use my vintage kimono linings as the linings for the kimono and the pants.
I draw out my pattern in a template form and then dye by hand the areas that I want to hold color.

Below, each area has two layers of fabric. The bottom layer is the loosely woven silk and the top layer is the vintage silk kimono with the template drawn.

The pants were sewn and then dyed to enhance the body dyed area...

The drying process takes overnight to thoroughly dry and then I heat set the dyes.

Since every part of the costume has been drawn and dyed specifically for the piece, I can start to sew the kimono...

I sew each layered section of the costume by machine.
Then turn, hand stitch the opening closed, press, and top-stitch by machine each section following the pattern piece design. 
Kimono wing...
 Interior of Kimono tail area...
 Kimono tail outer area...
Final Raven costume pieces hand sewn together...
Both lining and out shell where hand dyed then 
I did a bit of touch up with the dye to make 
a constructiveness in its entirety.
Next week:

The final touches!!

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