Monday, October 17, 2016

How I Create Gothic Girls & Zombie Babies from Repurposed Porcelain and Baby Dolls

I search for porcelain and baby dolls in resale shops, online, garage/yard/rummage sales, etc. On the average, I’d say I pay about $5 for a doll depending on the condition. I prefer to use dolls that are in sad condition. I have purchased broken (porcelain) dolls and have a collection of parts so the table in my studio sometimes looks like Frankenstein’s laboratory! I’ve paid as low as $1 (RARELY!) all the way to $28 ( and for a doll (including shipping). But when looking for dolls at shops, I tend to stick to $5 or less.

eBay purchase. I later sold the boy in the baseball cap w/bear on eBay to help me with my costs.

One of my favorite places to shop resale in Ruston, LA is at Rolling Hills Ministries Thrift Store. I feel like purchasing from a charitable organization is a win/win! We don’t have any Goodwill or Salvation Army stories in my town, but I do hit a few in surrounding cities when I get the chance.

I find some pretty good bulk purchases on but if you haven’t read my scathing review of’s shippingpractices, maybe you should.  I’ve received a LOT of broken dolls!

Because I purchase dolls in lots, I tend to pick up a few highly collectible ones in the lot that I sell (unaltered) on eBay or Facebook groups. It definitely helps me with my costs.

Now that I’ve told you my secret…I’ll NEVER find another good deal on eBay or! But with over 100 dolls to paint…I think I’m good.

The materials I use and links of where to find them:
Porcelain and/or Vinyl (Cloth/Vinyl) Baby Dolls
Paper Towels
Rit Dye (both regular and for synthetics
Multi-surface Paint (shoes).
Mr. Super Clear FLAT (eBay) I buy 3 cans at a time for $42 and I go through it pretty fast or a Multipurpose Primer.
Tibetan Lamb Hair/Wool Pelts (eBay) I buy remnants for $4/bag that will do 2-3 dolls.
Tiny Black Rubber Bands (Like the kind they use on bracelets)
Eyelashes (eBay China) $1.50 each 7”-8” strand. Order WAY ahead of time and in bulk! One strand will to about 6 porcelain dolls. Order extra because you WILL drop lashes and NEVER be able to find them! Occasionally I will use their original lashes but when pulling them off, they tend to get stretched out or broken).
For the baby dolls I use Wispy Lashes $3.50/pair.
GLUE (I WAS using E-6000 but it is pretty toxic and working so close to my face…not a good idea! So now I am using Eileen’s Tacky Glue and so far, so good. I also recommend Judikins Diamond Glaze. I haven’t used it yet, but I have ordered some of the glue and dimensional adhesive. (We don’t have a Michaels or Hobby Lobby in our town) Right now, I am using Mod Podge GLOSS.
Acrylic paint (I use craft paints. I have used the acrylic in tubes, but I have not seen that much of a difference.) I prefer snow white because it is not as stark as regular white. I use other colors like muted grays, antique whites, parchment, light tans, and black especially on my Zombie Babies.
Antiquing Medium (This is something I’ve just started working with.)
Pastels (Soft Chalk) I’ve purchased the Rembrandt “professional” but I actually prefer a student set. However, I recommend purchasing a few extra white pastels or white charcoal sticks in the professional grade.

Disposable Foam Brushes for paint on primer. (1” or smaller)
Paintbrushes for acrylic paints,
Stencil Brushes for blending the charcoal and pastels because they don't wear down as fast (mostly I use my fingers)
EZ Lasher (eyelash applicator tool for dolls) (CR's Crafts or eBay) There are two sizes...get both!

So, as you see, without even touching the dolls, I’ve invested a lot of money into my art.

First, I strip down the dolls wigs and all. Save the head plates. If any get damaged, you can either make your own SEE VIDEO using a similar doll's head with a intact cap or purchase some through a doll supply store.

Let me give you some pointers here that I failed to do the first time. Safety pin your socks together as well as any small pieces that go specifically with your outfit. I mix and match clothes, but you might want to photograph the dolls in their outfits if you want to redress them in their original clothing.

There is a secondary market for used wigs on eBay so if you could sell them by lots. But don’t expect much money for them.

Second, I use the Mr. Clean Eraser to get rid of any marks or stains. Then I wipe down the doll’s porcelain or vinyl parts with a paper towel soaked with alcohol.

You can do the third step one of two ways or both if you’d like. If you are spraying, you might want to mask off the body and the top part of the head where the wig/hair will be glued.
1.     Spray the Mr. Super Clear and us it as a primer. I don’t do it this way but I have read where others have.
2.     Use a spray or brush on multi-surface primer and coat all the porcelain pieces.
Give these a day or so to dry and “cure”.

Fourth, while the dolls are drying, I dye the clothes (for the Gothic Girls) by following the directions on the dye. But first, remove feathers and any parts that you do not want dyed.  I do not do a final rinse and lay the clothes flat to dry. This gives the clothes that sooty look that I want for my Gothic Girls.

Rinsing the clothes will take out a lot of dye. Most colors do not turn “black” but come out in a dark tone. Most of my whites ended up gray with a lot of blues and purples

I paint (multi-surface paint) my shoes randomly while I’m waiting on something else to dry.

Fifth, I paint my all my dolls snow white but on some porcelain and the vinyl dolls, I sponge muted colors of grays, antique white, parchment, and pale tan. I did use a brush to paint the primer and the white on my dolls but now I use the sponge because I like the texture it creates. Let the dolls dry at least overnight.

Sixth, you can do one of two ways.
1.     I use charcoal pencils to get in close to the eyes. I also use a wet paintbrush on my charcoal sticks (as if you were using cake watercolors in a tin) if I need to get into really tight places around the eyes and ears.
2.     I have just started using Black paint mixed with Antiquing Gel.
a.     Spray the painted doll with another coat of sealer. I used a MATTE multi-surface sealer for this step to prevent the gel from soaking into the paint.
b.     Wipe the gel/paint mixture over around the dolls ears, eyes, nose, and mouth then gently wipe away. This is a step-by-step process of adding and wiping off the gel until you get the look you want. Then do the hands and feet if your doll has toes and you want her to go barefoot.
c.      Let the gel dry over night.
d.     Spray with the Mr. Super Clear sealer.
3.     Now I add charcoal to smooth out around the eyes and enhance the features of the doll. I use the stencil brushes to blend but mostly I use my fingers.
4.     On some dolls I add a little color with the use of pastels. I have a rust color, a pale tan color, and a light blue that I use on some of my zombie baby dolls to give them a lifeless look. But I prefer to leave most of porcelain dolls white.
5.     Spray Mr. Super Clear between coats to add more color/charcoal.
6.     I use a multi-surface matte sealer on my last coat and to dull that down, I use more Mr. Super Clear.
Seventh, I found patterns and instructions on Pinterest on how to make a doll wig out of Tibetan Lamb Wool/Hair pelts but since I have arthritis, sewing through the suede is painful and because most of my dolls’ heads are different sizes and shapes, I prefer to glue small pieces  (1/2”-2”) of pelt straight to the dolls head using Eileen’s Tacky Glue. I also switch the directions of the small pieces of hair so that the hair will look fluffier and have the unkempt look I want for my girls.  I have no set way of doing this. Each one is unique. But…I always have fun doing this step. You can use any color you like and even mix them up! I use the black rubber bands (like they use to make bracelets) on my black haired dolls but you can use clear if you can find any.

On the Zombie Babies, I use pastels (brown & light tan mostly), charcoal, and watercolor pencils (browns and tans) to achieve the look of hair on their bald heads. I did purchase a rooting tool...but I can't find it in my crazy studio! But that is an option for adding hair to the vinyl doll heads.

Eighth, I MUST use my EZ Lasher tool for applying my eyelashes. I use the toothpicks to apply the glue and to help me position the lashes. THIS is the part I like the least! I prefer to have my eyelashes drooping downward to give my dolls a “sleepy” look. It has taken me a few dolls to master this technique!

Ninth, I sign and date the porcelain dolls because it will be impossible to do after the next step.

Tenth, I dress the dolls.

1.     Start with the socks. Since the elastic is most likely stretched out, either glue the socks on or baste them to the fabric “knees”.
2.     Bloomers. Since the elastic is probably stretched out, I do a gathered stitch to fit the doll’s legs and waistband.
3.     Some dolls have slips. If your doll does not have a slip but needs one, they are easy to make.
a.     Cut a strip of netting (not tulle) about 20-30” in length and a little shorter in width as the distance from your doll’s waistline to the hem of her skirt/dress.
b.     Baste around one side of the length of netting and gather the fabric in to the size of your doll’s waist.  Then I stitch the slip to the doll. This technique also works on stretched out waistbands, sleeves, etc.
4.     I should add here that I HATE Velcro so I remove it and sew the opening closed. This way I can adjust the fit for a better look.
5.     Add the shoes.
6.     EMBELLISH! This is where you can do your own thing to make your doll’s dress a little more “one of a kind”.
1.     I used cotton diapers with large safety pins.
2.     Most of the vintage Christening gowns I use are damaged. In some cases, I repair the damage but most of the time I leave it to keep that “ghostly” look.
3.     I stitch the clothes to fit the dolls better with easy to snip basting or whip stitches.
4.     I make a lot of my bonnets from vintage handkerchiefs and linen napkins.
5.     I collect vintage booties and I have been lucky enough to find a few crocheted doll booties…but they weren’t cheap!

I do have one last thing I need to do and that is to order black doll stands for my Gothic Girls. I really don’t like the white ones that came with the porcelain dolls. I tried coating one with cheap flat black spray paint but the paint scratches easily. So, looks like I’ll have to invest a little more money in the dolls and buy a better paint.

AND FINALLY, I made (and ordered) business cards to use as hang tags and created my own certificates of authenticity.

I add to each certificate a photo of the doll that I have enhanced with Photoshop.

See, there is a LOT of work that goes into my Gothic Girls and Zombie Babies so don’t get a case of STICKER SHOCK at my prices! I’m just a starving artist looking for a little validation but I also want other collectors to enjoy my work.


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