Thursday, August 8, 2013

Studios That Work

Let's take a look inside the Ateliers of the proprietors of 

There is no set formula for producing doll garments month after month that the public will love.  One contributing factor that would seem sensible to explore, however, would be where these artists work, and how they have their studios, workrooms, or whatever you call their work area, set up.

For the purpose of this article, we will be looking inside the studios of sixteen unique shop owners on (CDS). As we explore each studio you will realize that this is far from an exact science - what works best for one artist might easily turn off another. Their philosophies run the gamut from a “stress equals mess” type of thinking, to thoughts that favor clutter as a necessity.  Among other things, they feel a little clutter provides a visual reminder of how much work they have to do for any given project. One thing is for sure– no matter what one believes, these shop owners get it - they can't go wrong if their work space is working to help them produce; then their studio is already a success!  

We will begin with my personal studio, and as you read the descriptions and tips throughout this article, we urge you to use anything that you find you might like to adapt for your own use.   There is one thing for sure about doll people, we’re always happiest when we can share something useful with another “doller!”  Now run along and enjoy - and don't forget to click on the individual pictures to make them larger so you can see everything more clear.  And, if you'd like to see more from a particular artist, just click on their store name and the link will take you right there.

Dot Festeu, Dollenchantments

My shop is located on Main Street,  but my actual studio resides in an unused room that is only 7x8 feet. For this reason I have placed shelving from ceiling to floor, and I have incorporated a push-in-and-out feature using a cart. As you enter you’ll see a little buffet with a chest of drawers on top. Though unconventional, it gives me more storage for the space than I could get using a conventional hutch and buffet.  Next, there is my desk that holds lots of goodies and my sewing machine when needed. Above are three shelves with lots of boxes, drawers, and a “Clip-it” for holding stuff, and, of course, important documentation. I keep my patterns in file boxes under the desk.
 The counter space on the right holds a photo box ready for lighting that can be removed if I need more room. Underneath are barrister cabinets and a wood cart with two outer fold-up shelves that roll out to give me more work area.  The last wall  has a double door cabinet that holds more stuff,  another Clip-it, and a thread cabinet.

Tips: 1. Clip-Its hold many items in zip-loc bags that are clipped on the stand.  I got mine at Hobby Lobby. (See the black rotating stand in my top picture.)

2. When you are confined to a small space, you will have to store some things out of your studio. My fabric is stored in canvas-covered boxes, and then placed in 2 leather trunks that work as ottomans in my living room.  

Deanna Torigian, Babette Doll Fashions

Deanna’s shop is on Couture Court. She designs for all kinds of dolls, including contemporary and vintage dolls. She enjoys her work, and calls her studio,“My happy place.”  Her sewing room is separated into task areas: sewing on one side, computer and shipping are on the other side. Pattern cutting area and pressing are in another area. It is most functional that way.

Tip: Necessary tools and supplies should be stored in the areas they are used.

Denise Beaudin, Deni Doll Designs
Denise’s shop is on Main Street. She designs for 15 to 24 inch fashion dolls. Her sewing room is an 8 ft. x 9 ft.bedroom. The floors are hardwood; walls are an ecru color. Counter tops (6 ft. x 2 ft.) extend along two walls, and one is under a window to take advantage of the morning light.  The ironing board becomes the third arm of the U-shaped working space. Above the ironing board is a cork bulletin board for ideas, pattern instructions, etc.

Two beautiful sewing baskets that hold sewing notions, and the sewing machine and serger are positioned one next to the other so she can move between the machines with ease. Her room also includes a hutch that displays dolls and holds sewing notions. Patterns and fabric are stored in see-through plastic totes so contents are visible at a glance. The totes are in the closet of the room.

Tips: 1. Store things in see-through totes.

2. Use pins with large colored heads, as they are much easier to spot on the floor.

PetraElise resides on Main Street, and feels fortunate to have a small loft area for her studio that provides a place in which she can incorporate her computer space, sewing area, fabric storage, and photography set-up. Her simple wall boxes are easily taken down to double as photo props and sales displays at conventions.

She keeps all of her fabric sorted by color and type so that she can easily find what she needs during the design process. She also uses a combination of larger storage boxes and small photo boxes which are ideal for small bits of fabric or lightweight silk chiffons. Her yarn is kept handy in open canvas baskets; she loves the little pop of color it brings into her work environment.

Tip: PetraElise would love to have colored walls, but finds white works best because it allows her to get a more accurate color assessment. 

Frances Weir, Francesca Doll Couture

 Frances’ shop is on Designer Drive, and she thinks it would be wonderful to have a real studio for all her dolly creating.  But in a little condo, by necessity, her work space spreads from room to room of her home. The sewing area nestles in one corner of the upstairs guest bedroom where she has claimed half a closet for storing fabrics, notions, and other supplies, while pattern making, cutting and pressing take place atop the washer and dryer on the main floor laundry room.  Frances has her mother’s much-treasured 1949 Singer Featherweight sewing machine. Both she and her sisters learned to sew on this machine.  Modern computerized machines can do amazing things, but this little one does everything Frances needs, and she would not dream of replacing it. 

Knitting tends to be a nightly evening activity and her tools occupy a corner of the living room. A favorite chair is where she knits up her imaginings using Granny’s tiny sock needles, slightly curved by years of use.  

There is nothing to compare with the feel of knitting fine, soft yarns especially bamboo, silk and merino wool. A boxed rainbow of yarns and a book of over 1000 stitch patterns keep her fingers busy. Sewing two or three days a week is possible, but Frances is also forever tidying up the bits of thread and snippets of fabric which trail up and down the stairs. When guests are imminent, the Singer is tucked away and a huge magnet traps stray pins. Yes, it would be wonderful to have a real studio.... but what Frances does have works for her.

Frances’ Tip: Frances is sharing her "Recipe" for making Felt Doll Hats as her tip.

1. Haunt thrift shops or garage sales for old, real felt hats; most will be felted wool, but the ones that feel very soft are fur felt ... they are the nicest to use.

2. Deconstruct the hat and save everything. I often use the trimmings, too 

3.  Cut the hat into roughly 4-inch squares.

4. Soak one to three squares in hot water with Oxyclean. Rinse thoroughly. Pat excess water out on a paper towel. 

5. Stretch the felt in all directions.

6. Pull the square of felt firmly over a form of your choice and fix in place with elastic bands. Allow the felt to dry for a day or so. For forms, I use a cork-fishing float of the right diameter, which my husband mounted atop a heavy spring on a block of wood. However, I also use small upside down glasses or plastic bottle caps. The dry felt will keep whatever shape you make. 

7. Trim the hat forms into the desired shape and embellish with creative whimsy. 

8. Have fun!

Ina’s shop is on Couture Court.  And, should installing a kitchenette in her studio seem extravagant, Ina explained she is recently widowed and lives in a three-story colonial style house. The 10-year plan is to convert her walkout basement into a “mother-in-law suite” for her with younger family members taking over the upstairs house. 

For the past fifteen years her studio has been located in the basement room that was originally designated as a “family room.” She uses the entire room with her "stuff" spread out all over in stacks of plastic tote boxes.  She had three sewing machines, two sergers, and an unused embroidery machine. - a sewing utopia! She needed all of that when she was working full time and frequently had to prepare numerous demos for the high school and college sewing and design classes she was teaching. Now that she is retired and the fashions she designs are one-quarter the size of the clothes she used to make, all those machines were more than she needed. So she decided she needed to do a renovation, and to bite the bullet and get rid of things that were no longer needed.

This past summer, along with the kitchenette, she added a screened-in porch just outside the studio. Now she practically lives in the basement. Her first project in her studio renovation was to develop some boxes to store her “stuff” that fit her décor better, and she has included how she did this as her tip.

Ina’s Tip: Black men’s shoe boxes were found and ordered.  She then photographed vintage dress forms and/or used photos of her own creations for stickers and labels. Ina found two Kimberly Polson graphics for her cardboard boxes  (see picture). Finally, she created a template in MS Word and printed 2” X 4” Avery Ink Jet labels, Item #18163. Voilà – boxes for storage that fit her decor!

I use a room of my apartment for my “Atelier” that is complete with necessary displays for my dolls. Big closets are used for stocking fabrics as well as elements of dioramas and pictures. Some places have dual usefulness such as a table for sewing and making pictures of my creations, and a drawing board to make patterns and cut fabrics.

Plastic storage boxes are also used for different little things like elements to make jewels, hats, bags etc. but can also be used for materials needed for sewing and painting. The important thing is I set up definite areas to help me move from step to step in my design process.

Rosy's Tip: When I decide to make clothes for my doll I do it in this order. Drawings, patterns, and then choose one or two of them; sometimes combined, and sometimes not. Cut patterns. Make muslin. Then multiple fittings and alterations until everything is just right, and then I choose the final fabric to cut and make the finished product.

Pat Stoughton, Petite Moonbeams

Since I do so much, I have spaces designated for genealogy papers/records; polymer clay; scrapbooking/ card making; doll magazines; miniature-making; sewing; office supplies and odds/ ends crafts. Usually it is easy to get to any area and it is helpful if I want to ask hubby to get something for me.

Pat’s Tip: Try to organize your space according to which project you are working on.

Durelle Brown, Chic Indulgence

Chic Indulgence is located on Main Street. Durelle Brown gets double duty from her workspace. Her tropical office is appropriate for this interior designer to see clients and work on design projects as well as to “play” dolls.  When she wants to sew she then tucks away the laptop and pulls out the sewing machine atop her ample (36” x 72”) desk. The drawers of the desk house all of her sewing supplies (thread, scissors, needles, clover irons and pressing hams) and the one file drawer contain doll related drawings, patterns, project designs, and other useful items.

Since this office is a converted fourth bedroom, Durelle is lucky enough to have a very nice size walk-in closet. The door has been removed for easy access and covered with a beaded curtain for an airy and tropical feeling. The closet has been fitted with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelving that houses multiple plastic covered tubs which organize fabrics, trims and hobby tools. The top shelf stores collected boxed dolls as well as a few dolls to play with.

Tip: 1. Anyone who needs to share a sewing space with an office would be wise to buy a very large self-healing cutting mat to pull out to cover your desk. Most sport a useful 1-inch grid and are convenient when you want to push aside the sewing machine to cut out sewing projects with a rotary cutter (and it also protects the desktop).

 2. When extra storage is needed, you can roll in the hobbyist “classic” - an inexpensive plastic rolling cart that can go from the closet to the desk for convenience.

Phyllis Erlenbusch, Our Eclectic Closet

Our Eclectic Closet is on Main Street. Phyllis says she hates working in a messy environment so when the spirit moves her to sew she needs to clean up first! Her sewing/doll room is a small bedroom in her house. Phyllis removed the closet doors so she can see and access her quilting fabrics easily. Doll fabrics are sorted by type (silks, cottons, velvets, etc.) in their own drawers in the plastic units. 

She really likes being able to separate items like this - then when she needs something in particular she knows exactly where to look even when things are a bit messy. Her cutting table rests on an adjustable keyboard stand that is a little higher than average, and at a more comfortable height. Most of her doll doings involve knitting, but when Phyllis needs to sew or design,  she has adequate room. Most of her supplies are kept in plastic and wire rolling carts that make it simple to find just what is needed for both quilting and sewing.

Tip: 1. ALWAYS swatch any new yarn or thread before using since even if the label says it will knit to a particular gauge. When you are working with smaller than recommended needle size, yarns that are similar in a larger size needle may not yield the same results when working smaller. 

2. Another knitting/crochet tip - Try each yarn or thread with different sizes of needles or hooks; keep a record of how many stitches per inch and how many rows for each yarn/thread and type of needle or hook. Don’t guess, since guessing will often get you in trouble. For example, if you swatch a yarn that knits eight stitches and eight rows to the inch with size 0 needles, don’t expect that size 00 needles will give you nine stitches and rows.

George Gonzalez, Angelic Dreamz

Angelic Dreamz (AD), located on Main Street, is well known as “A Collector’s Paradise” - the premium online and brick and mortar doll store for all kinds of doll collectors. AD brought our readers the first BJD fashion doll, JAMIEshow, produced exclusively for the U.S. market and marketed directly by a U.S. dealer. Working with the factory directly, the company is able to bring you the most exquisite resin doll at factory direct pricing, thus saving the consumer as much as 50%, compared to dolls of similar size and quality. The JAMIEshow 1/4-scale fashion BJDs combine the poseable ball structure of an Asian ball-jointed dolls, with the elegant figure of a 16-inch fashion doll in just the right way. In addition, they are ideal models for the latest doll couture.

Photography is an important job for AD’s owner, George Gonzalez. Therefore, he decided
to include this shot of his studio with a doll on the photo table. Notice how backdrops and lighting are placed in order to capture the doll most photogenically.

Tips: 1. When photographing a doll, always look at the pose, try it yourself, and if a human can’t pose that way it’s probably not natural looking for a doll either.

 2. Take a good long look at what you are photographing before shooting. It will save you a mountain of time in Photoshop if the hair is out of the face before shooting, for example.

Welcome to Green Thread Design Studio on Designer Drive where Mary Watson, a semi-retired art teacher, creates fabulous clothing for 1/6-scale dolls. Recently moving from a suburban home to a city condominium, Mary’s studio is now the corner of a shared office space, a big downsizing from the full bedroom she had before.  This has meant her collection of vintage fabric, trims, flowers, and lace has had to come down in size as well.

Although difficult at first, it is a change which has led to a much more focused collection of materials. Looking back on the change, Mary has found it a positive one, releasing creativity that has been bogged down with too much stuff.

Tips: 1. Use clear containers so you can find your materials.

2. Stay singularly focused on the designs so that the materials do not slowly take over the home.

Tamara Casey, Designs By Jude

Designs by Jude is located on Couture Court. Tamara describes her workshop as her sanctuary. She feels so blessed to love what she does, and tends to spend hours in her space. It functions as an office, print shop, mail room, photo studio and sewing room.  Since her product line includes small sewing notions, buttons and eyelets, it is key to stay organized and return items back to their designated storage space.

Tip: When creating something new let ideas percolate. When I feel like I have hit a roadblock I usually walk away from the project for a bit and wait for inspiration before returning. I like to Google clothing images from different times and imagine how they were made. Some of my most popular patterns I have were suggestions from current customers.

Gayle Chavez, Oohlalaz

Oohlalaz is located on Couture Court. Pictured is some of Gayle’s sewing room which is currently a work in progress; when complete it will be her dream sewing room. As a result of the renovation thus far, she now has wonderful light from new windows, a plus when both creating and doing photography. Everything is in clear boxes so they can be found quite easily. Gayle is looking forward to the completion of her dream studio.

Tips: 1. Mac earplugs for thread condition; these are small silicone pads that I pull/drag the thread through once, and condition my needles when sewing thick fabrics.

 2.  Clear plastic baseball 
boxes for ribbons, bows, flowers etc. Bigger plushy clear plastic boxes for larger items. 

3. Old doll stands with saddle removed for small ribbon spools.

 4. Plastic spice rack/steps for displaying thread spool, shoes, etc.

5. My sewing models are always hanging around naked, no wasting time - just grab a doll and go 

6. Maintain your machines (oil/clean) for best results in sewing. 

7. Be inspired with all things around you and let your imagination flow.

John Prewitt, JC Dream Designs

JC Dream Designs is located on Main Street. John Prewitt welcomes us into his work areas where he and his wife Cindy (his muse) create 12 and 16 inch doll furniture and diorama accessories.  Today they wanted to share a little bit about their creative process and work areas.  John actually uses three different workspaces. First, there is the great outdoors. All the furniture is created from primarily solid wood, so John uses a lot of woodworking equipment including a table saw, band saw, mitre saw, and sander. All work is done outside. He also does any wood staining or painting outdoors, but one day he hopes to have his own workshop.

Templates (see picture above) are needed to make sure duplicated items can be recreated exactly the same way as the first time; so part of John’s design process is making a template for prototypes.  Once all the pieces are cut out, sanded, and ready to be put together, John moves inside to his office workspace where he applies padding and upholstery, sews pillows or other pieces, and fully assembles the final project.  

When the pieces are finished John uses the photo area in Cindy’s doll room that has a 24-inch lighting device by My Studio with a daylight fluorescent bulb and two small halogen lights with reflector cards for indirect lighting.  Getting great photos is important for displaying John’s work.

Tip: Whatever you decide to do as a business, make sure it is something you really enjoy; it will never feel like work!

Pauline Lyngard, BW Designs

BW Designs is located on Main Street. Pauline started in 2003 selling OOAK fashions for vintage dolls on eBay.  From there her creative journey led her to Mattel Silkstone Barbie dolls, then the Fashion Royalty line, until she evolved from creating 1/6-scale to stretching her creativity to design for the 1/4-scale work she does today for the popular 16-17” dolls like Tyler, Gene, Evangeline Ghastly, Sybarites, and JAMIEshow.

She was a competitor in two separate design contests; the first Project Dollway at Home and the first Couture Doll Design Competition; she started working with CDS at its inception. Pauline enjoys being surrounded by her doll collection and feels like they are all there behind her cheering her on as she designs each new fashion. Her life is very busy with her dogs and her artistic life in her tiny Victorian cottage with beautiful gardens.

Tip: A” vision board” for new ideas and designs helps Pauline visualize what she wants to accomplish.

This concludes our tour of our Artist's Ateliers.  We hope you enjoyed it and find something useful to use. We also hope you will visit the shops on CDS and become acquainted with some of its merchants.  They are some of the nicest people around
.Now before I go I would like to give you an update on one of our cornerstone shops, Angelic Dreamz, and remind you their JamieShow line now has its own webpage.  Yes, that line has grown so much, and is so busy, that it needed its own space.

 George Gonzalez, AD owner, wanted me to remind you that he still has some of the limited edition At the Opera gowns; Scarmouche, and Salome are available in limited quantities   And the big news is they fit Gene beautifully!! Check out these latest pictures.  AD is a good spot to keep in your favorites so you can visit them often to see their latest creations.  Right now my faves are the Havana Nights collection and his Revelry, but I'm always anxious to see what he has new, too! 

  That's it for the CDS news of the month, too.  Happy dolling - see you again in September when we will boldly go where few have gone before.  I look forward to seeing you again!