A Life of Fantasy
By Pat Corbett
In recent years fantasy has grown in popularity and elves, pixies, and fairies have once again entered our lives and our hearts. It's not just children who have been drawn into magical realms but adults as well. There are few of the fairer sex who didn't fall in love with Orlando Bloom's Legolas of the Woodland Elves, and what little girl doesn't want to grow up to be the beautiful Galadriel? Tinkerbell has been part of every child's life and the beautiful images of fantasy creatures created by Brian Froud have long been loved by all. Perhaps we can't be those characters, but as reborn artists we can give birth to our fantasies. We can create our own private magical creatures and hold them in our arms and share them with the world.
Luckily for reborn artists, novice or expert, Australia's Kirsty Black of the Starlight Starbright Nursery has generously shared with me her secret for re-sculpting dolls to begin the process of turning our babies into magical creatures. Like me, Kirsty has had a life-long love affair with fantasy and fairies and they inspired her to create a doll that reflects that affection. She told me that her sister is actually called "Pharey", a nickname she has had for years, and Kirsty's children love their Aunt Pharey. And I will admit to having dogs named Gargoyle and Dragon, a cat named Merlin and a bird named Frodo. As you can see, we found that we have quite a bit in common.
Kirsty is actually from a small town called Collinsville in Central Queensland. She is married and has three small children; a condition that assures that fantasy stays in your life! She was looking for Christmas presents one day and stumbled upon some reborn dolls. That's all it took to get her hooked. She said that after having reborn several dolls she decided to see if she could create a fairy doll. It took Kirsty a little while to develop her ear sculpting techniques but she believes it was all worth the effort, and having seen some of her sweet fairies I have to agree with her.
Kirsty runs an internet site selling supplies for her fairies, Secrist Dolls and reborning supplies, and offering on-line lessons in reborning her complete fairy doll at http://www.rebornaustralia.com/. Her complete process is copyrighted, from ears to wings and she supplies her students with personal attention and support. She hopes to start holding reborn classes in person soon. Kirsty says: "Reborning is only just starting to take off in Australia so I would love to be able to eventually be a one-stop-shop for my customers and get this beautiful art form out there." Once you see Kirsty's dolls and fairies I'm sure you will want to check out her web site and help her to spread the magic.
Kirsty has been very generous in sharing her love of fantasy and fairies with me and now with you, so read on and let me tell you some of Kirsty's secrets.
Kirsty Black's Fairy Ears
List of Materials:
- Secrist Doll Kit of your choice
- Sculpey or polymer clay of your choice in flesh color
- Basic sculpting tools or "make-do" tools
- Cookie sheet and clean dishtowel or a wire cooling rack
You can use simple items you already have to take the place of formal tools. Kirsty says that a crochet hook does well to shape clay into the ears, and I have discovered that the end of a paintbrush will also do the job quite nicely. You can use a pasta machine to roll clay; I actually used an empty aspirin bottle for the small amount of clay needed here. Cutting is easily accomplished with a heavy plastic knife or a craft knife. Plastic clay tools are very inexpensive so you decide what works for you. As a rule of thumb, use whatever does the job for you but once you use something to sculpt polymer clay with put it aside and only use it for that purpose, not near food.
Before beginning your re-sculpt make sure to wash your hands to remove any oils that might interfere with your sculpting. Wash your doll's head in hot water to remove any impurities. Once head is fully dry you will be ready to sculpt your ears. Whatever you do, don't be discouraged if your first try is not successful. Nothing is permanent until it has been baked in the oven. If you don't like your first results just pull the clay away from your doll's head and start over! I managed to hold back my tears when I messed up the first pair of ears.
Take a hunk of clay a little larger then you think you will need to make your ears and soften it in your hands or with a pasta machine. Clay can be rolled on any clean non-porous surface. I used a piece of plastic that I tossed out when I was done. Roll the clay to a thickness of approximately 1/4 of an inch. Cut two triangles of equal size from your clay. These will be your ears. Make sure that the bottom of your triangle is just longer then the width of your doll's ear.
Use your fingers and your "tools" to smooth the bottom of the triangle to the top of your doll's ear. Make sure to smooth the clay into the ear and around the back of the ear near the head. With this step you are attaching your ear to the original sculpt so you want to make sure to get a smooth edge between the original and your addition so that the new ear transitions smoothly into the original ear.
Once your triangle is secured to the original begin shaping the upper point of your triangle into the pointy or frilled ear that your fairy will have. Although this is perhaps the trickiest part of the process, practice will make perfect. Use your tools to help create the nice rounded edge of the ear and any depressions that you want to highlight. You may find that working on both ears at once, switching back and forth from side to side will help you to keep the ears balanced. No two ears will ever be exactly the same, or ever have been, but we don't want our fairy to be lopsided. I had to try this a few times before I got an "acceptable" ear.
Now it's time to make your doll's new ears permanent. Kirsty puts a clean dishtowel on a cookie sheet and then places her re-sculpted head onto the towel and then into the oven. I get nervous putting anything in the oven that likes to catch fire so I used a cooling rack like I put my pies on when they come out of the oven. You might also choose to use parchment paper instead of a towel. Choose your weapon, place your doll's head onto it and place it into a cold oven. Turn your oven on and allow it to reach the manufacturer's suggested curing temperature and bake the head for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or whatever the manufacturer suggests. Once the head has been heated for the necessary time, turn the oven off and allow it to cool to room temperature. Heating or cooling the new sculpt too quickly could result in cracking so patience is very important here. Because of the high quality of the eyes used in Secrist dolls you do not need to worry about them during the process of curing the clay in the oven.
Once your doll's head is cooled you can reborn your baby just as you would with any other doll. Because you have extended the tips of your ears you might want to take care when you root your doll's hair not to put undue pressure on them. Kirsty uses hand dyed Tibetan Lamb's wool to give her fairies magically colored hair. If you can't find this wool it can be purchased from Kirsty's web site. Along with her complete Fairy lesson she sells everything you need to make a beautiful fairy of your very own.
You now have a sweet and magical creature in your arms and I can see the smile on your face from here, and I'm smiling too. With great thanks to Kirsty Black we can now put sweet little curly ears on our babies and turn them into elves, hobbits, or whatever we want. But that's not the end of our story! Soon Kirsty and I will be back to tell you how to create wonderful and colorful wings that will allow your fairy to take flight. The e-mails and photos are winging their way across the world as I type and that smile on my face gets bigger every day.