Friday, January 9, 2015

Xìngfú- Happiness PT 1

Over the next 3 weeks, I would like to share with you my process of the start to finish of  the creation of my Happiness piece. I will delve into detail what goes into making an original doll!


Happiness can be defined in terms of a mental state of satisfaction and contentment; positive feelings/emotions; blessed, achievement and hope.

Happiness is a harmonious state of existence, the individual is the agent of his own happiness; spiritual enrichment is emphasized more than material satisfaction; the individual maintains a positive outlook for the future.

Happiness can be achieved, provided that one has the following abilities: the wisdom of discovery; the wisdom of contentment and gratitude; the wisdom of giving; and the wisdom of self-cultivation.*
 *from Chinese Journal of Happiness Study

I was asked to create a piece for a couple in memory of his Mother. I was delighted!

I asked what colors would you like. Her first answer was yellow because his Mother looked lovely in yellow. Yellow is a happy color.

My next question was yellow- bright, antique, pastel?? Their answer was antique yellow with accents of orange, green, magenta.

So off to my stash of cherished Chinese silk brocades...hummm. Antique yellow- gold tones...hummm. I don't seem to have just the right fabric in my stash (and if you know my stash-that is unbelievable!). So, I resigned myself to purchasing a silk brocade in antique yellow.

Two days later, my studio landlord walked in with a piece of fabric. Even before he started to speak my eyes zeroed in on this lovely antique yellow skirt that he held within his hands...

Would you have any use for this? 
It is a vintage skirt from his wife's Mother from the 1950's.

Are you kidding me! It was everything I could do from grabbing it out of his hands right there on the spot!..thankful...very thankful. positive feelings/emotions; blessed, achievement and hope.

antique yellow- gold with accents of orange, green, pink!

So now off to my other stashes to find the perfect accent pieces!
I always start with my main piece and pull in fabrics- vintage, new, and imported. As I create the costume, I may change out one or more of the fabrics for reasons such as weight for stiffness or flexibility, pattern design, or I find a more suitable color in another piece of fabric.

May I present Xìngfú- Happiness...

Story Dolls©: Leslie Molen
Photography©: Mark Mortensen
Hand made Stools by Gary Leitch
Working photos by Leslie


Before we start on the costuming and colors chosen, I would like to talk a bit about the body. Below is the jointed doll I did for this Happiness piece. I do not consider her a ball-jointed doll BJD. There are very srtict guidelines to follow for BJDs.

the wisdom of discovery; the wisdom of contentment and gratitude; the wisdom of giving; and the wisdom of self-cultivation.

I have always loved the costuming part of the doll and yes...blown through as rapidly as possible making the body. The one thing I learned from applying and being accepted into NIADA was that all parts of the doll are important- all parts. So that taught me to slow myself down and really look at my doll's body.

People have asked me to give advice on their cloth dolls and what could make them better, my number one answer is the body. If you take your doll and strip it down to just the body- what makes it unique and stand out from others?

I can tell you in the cloth world you really have to stretch and push to make your body unique...something to think about.

So what about my doll- what makes her so unique?
  • ORIGIN: I specialize in Asian inspired pieces and have done over 10 years of research to first understand the true meaning of the culture and then with that knowledge am able to step out to create using my own inspiration using the heart of the culture, not replicating it.
  • FABRIC: Her body is made from silk crepe- which is hard to find. So I use a material that is out of the ordinary.
  • USE OF MATERIALS: She is mostly cloth with exception of her head which is hand sculpted stoneclay with an overlay of the cloth.
  • TECHNICAL: She is jointed- arms, legs, and head.
    • Armatured hands.
    • Some needlesculpting- toes and ankles.
    • All the pieces of the doll are hand-made so she is original.
  • EMOTIONAL: Sentimental touch- a cross over her heart in memory of my Dad.

So you can see that I took many different techniques and combined them together to make one doll.

How did all these pieces come together with the true blessing of the skirt?
To end this Part 1, I would like to share with you how to "read" your doll after she is costumed.

Most two dimensional art, such as paintings, are read clockwise with the big interest point being at about 2:30-3:00. Dolls are three dimension and read top to bottom and around...let's look at top to bottom and next week we will look at around!

Most viewers start right at the face and then will move to different locations on the doll depending on interest.

So if we start at the top- color and pattern will bring the viewers eye moving down the piece. Notice how the orange is at the top and then accented in various areas of the costuming..take each color and notice how I "moved" it down and around into areas to create balance with this piece.

Next week PART 2: The Details
Following week PART 3: Behind the Scenes!

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