Creating my Gothic Girls and Other Zombies to Cuddle

I usually find them perched on higher shelves just out of reach of small children and above the eye level shelves usually reserved for more desirable items. Some steadied in an upright position clipped to white metal stands but many I can only see the bottom of their shoes where those less fortunate to have stands of their own lie in repose.

I'm speaking of porcelain dolls donated to one of my favorite thrift stores, Rolling Hills Ministry, where I started my collection of previously adored dollies.

Stretched out elastic, missing shoes, chipped or broken appendages, or hair in disarray have turned these once "collectible" dolls in to garage sale fodder and thrift shop wares. I grab up as many as I can!

I didn't start the Zombie/Gothic doll craze by any means, but I did just on that wagon as soon as I could get my materials together.

I started three years ago in honor of "The Walking Dead" series and the character, Michonne.

But you can find out more about her HERE!

Originally, the inexpensive plastic doll was a sweet girl with 2 ponytails whose voice box said a little prayer, but when I found her, the run down battery gave only enough energy for her to emit a creepy sound. How perfect.

I took down her ponytail and styled her hair in twists that resembled Michonne's hair. I replaced her sleepy brown eyes with clear glass marbles and added visible decay with the use of a primer for plastic, a glue gun, acrylic paint, and a sealer formulated to work on plastic.

I kept her for about a year where she hung out with me in my studio but ended up selling her on eBay.

Then came my Zombie Baby whom I enjoyed taking on an outing Halloween. S/He is great! Weighted down with reptile sand, this cutie even feels like you're holding "dead" weight!

Using a wood burning tool, I created a "Glasgow Smile" and lines around the eyes. Then I accentuated it with hot glue. Unfortunately, the hot glue only lasted three years when after being stored in a NON climate controlled storage building, the glue began separating from the vinyl.

As a result, this baby has been through a few "looks" and I'm not sure I when I will be able to settle on something permanent.

But my first attempt on porcelain/bisque was on a Dynasty Clown doll. Oh, he's worth a few bucks before his being zombiefied but I think he's so much more adorable with his new look.

Other than crafting his hat out felt and adding some remnants of faux fur for hair, his look was created with acrylic paint and a matte all purpose sealer.

I sold him on eBay shortly after I made him and I still regret letting him go.
Now, I've given you some ideas on how to create your own zombie/gothic dolls but let me take you through "a day in the life" of a zombie doll.

After admiring the work of other one of a kind zombie doll crafters and piddling around in my studio, I came up with my own version as hauntingly beautiful effigies based on the stories (true/legend/fictional) that inspired them.

I use "used" and generally mass produced dolls. Occasionally, I'll pick them up in a lot and end up with a few collectible and limited edition dolls that deserve another chance at remaining their adorable collectible selves. I put them on eBay, but it is only a matter of time before they themselves become zombies.

I start by stripping them down and because I work with several dolls at once, I toss all the clothes together so sometimes the dolls end up with different clothes.

I pull off the wigs. Some are harder than others but if you soak the top of the doll's head in hot (or boiling) water you can dissolve the glue. Even if you are going to use the wig, it is easier to paint with the wig removed. Believe me, I know...I've tried it both ways.

I've pulled a Dr. Frankenstein and swapped out broken appendages and heads with other bodies to make the dolls complete. However, some faces or limbs are unique so I patch them up the best I can but work their damage into their undead "look".

I clean the porcelain parts of the dolls with alcohol to remove oils and dirt. Then I put two coats of a multi-surface primer. I have tried a few types but I prefer the paint on versus spray. I like the rougher skin texture that the paint brush creates because it looks more like decaying skin and it holds on to the charcoal better than the smooth surface of the spray version.

I let the primer dry or "cure" for a couple of hours in the sun. Then I apply a coat of paint. I've been using "Snow White" because it is a little less stark that the regular white.

I like to the let the paint cure at least overnight if not for a few days because I'm pretty rough on the surface between using the charcoal, my fingers and/or a small stencil brush for smearing the charcoal.

I also use a wet brush with a stick of charcoal to get into some of the tighter areas that the pencil can't reach. Using water on charcoal sticks is much like the old  paint tins you used a child. Actually, I still use old paint tins for small projects and sketching.

Then I spray the pieces with an multi-surface sealer.

If I need to do any white touch ups, I do it after I spray. If I need to do any charcoal touch ups, then I use a paint called "Charcoal" because the charcoal sticks won't adhere to the sealer.

I have read the raves and reviews on "Mr. Super Clear" and purchased two cans; however, I find that the product is hard on my asthma. I use one of a couple of other matte sealers first and use the Mr. Super Clear occasionally as the final coat to flatten out the matte sealers that have a little bit of a satin sheen.

With the eyes, I dull them down. Now this is my preference and I've seen other artists keep the eyes glassy. I actually scratch the surface of the acrylic eyes to make them dull but I do add a finish that is considered gloss, but is still rather flat. I like the look of the charcoal around the inner eye and the more "dead" look in the eyes.

On some, I've added new eyelashes and I had to buy a tool in order to attach them. Check out CR Crafts if you're looking for one. On some, I kept the eyelashes that were stuck on good.

When not using the synthetic wigs, I use Tibetan Lamb Hair pelts to create their hair. I read and article on creating wigs from the pelts but I have arthritis and it is rather difficult to hand stitch. So, I prefer to glue on small pieces turning the pieces in different directions (much like they do when piecing together the rugs) to give the hair more body.  Some hair I pull up, others I let go wild, but either way, in order to blend in the seams, I use charcoal sticks. I like using bits of white in honor of the bride of Frankenstein.

I dye the clothes, bloomers, socks, slips, ribbons, and veils in black Rit dye. I have used the "Gunmetal" for synthetics but I it doesn't cover as well as I had hoped.  So I re-dyed that batch in regular black. Maybe the next batch, I'll add the dyes together.

Some fabrics take the dye well, others don't which is kind of fun seeing what colors they turn in the process.

At first I rinsed my clothes but then I decided not to because I preferred the streaked and sooty look if you don't and just lay them flat so that the color will pool and eventually soak in. I feel this makes them look more Earthy and aged. The smell a little like dye and some like vinegar and dye. Hopefully, they will air out eventually.

When I dress the dolls, I usually remove the Velcro. OH, how I HATE Velcro! Then I sew the clothes on the doll. I also sew on the socks, attache the sleeved to the body and stitch up the waists of the bloomers. Since I didn't rinse or wash the clothes after dying, I usually get a little dye residue of my fingers from handling the fabric so much.

I add embellishments when needed and have even become a millenary creating little hats and fascinators. I've also put a lot of effort into giving their bears and other props more character.

I prefer black shoes so, since most of the shoes that came with these dolls are white, I paint them with a multi-surface paint and then distress them by dry brushing them with the charcoal gray paint.

I wanted to spray paint all the white, glossy stands flat black, but it is not sticking as well as I would like and tends to scratch easily. I'm still working the kinks out of that one!