Monday, December 21, 2009

Back in Action!

I'm so sorry for the delay in posting! I will be posting on a weekly basis from now on with new pics, tips, techniques, and so on. I had my 1st show in October and it went really well! I sold 4 dolls, 5 "celestioscopes", and several brooms. I have also been published this month in American Miniaturist with a feature article and a tutorial for my broom making technique. What an awesome thing! I also have my new website up and running at . All of these things took a lot of work and patience on everyone's part. I'd like to especially Thank Jamie Carrington, my own personal "Merlin" for suggesting the article to Martha Puff as well as Martha herself and her brilliant son Michael. They were very helpful in getting my photos "print ready" and teaching me what to do and what to avoid. I'd also like to Thank Anne Gerdes for designing an awesome website and for teaching me how to edit website ready photos for all purposes. As I said, lots of patience on the part of these people is what it took to get me to this point. I will forever be grateful to them for maiking my dream come true.
We got 23 inches of snow on Fri/Sat! And I also got a wicked cold/sore throat/congestion. Guess what I've been doing! I got into a sort of pre-Christmas funk and just squirreled away with books and clay. Watched plenty of movies and got lots of inspiration for dolls. I'm working on a "mad scientist" for one of my celestioscopes. Sort of like the old scientists in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I will take and post photos today and put them up here tomorrow. Thanks for not giving up on me folks. I'll be here from now on... God Willing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

O.K. My 5 best pieces just went in the mail for the IGMA Artisan selection process. It's out of my hands now. Which is just as well, anytime something stays in my hands for too long, the more I tend to over think and over work it. Best to just let it go with a prayer. The sooner I do that, the sooner it works out beautifully (no matter what it is). I included the Screen Goddess as one of the pieces! Thanks for the help, everyone.

So now I'm just preparing for my first show this Sunday in Frederick, MD. It's a small show and a perfect chance to "get my feet wet" with trade shows and selling/displaying. My good friend Linda Bell is helping me with the display, Bless her heart.

On the advice of an amazing dollmaker (and new friend)named Sherry Colvin from Wilmington, N.C. I went and purchased myself a vintage (1951) Singer Featherweight sewing machine. For those of you who sew, you may know that the kickplate on the old singer featherweights has a tiny hole for the needle to go through. The newer machines have a bigger one. (I think it's beacuse they don't put as much precision into the newer machines as they did the old ones and so the needle path isn't as precise so they made the hole bigger...just my thoughts) Anyhoo, you can sew the thinnest of silks and delicate vintage fabrics without them being pulled through the kickplate and getting caught in the bobbin well. Which, it just so happens, ruins your fabric forever and breaks needles, and in general &*%^s up your whole artistic flow thing.

Y'all have to go take a look at Sherry's site... She is a real inspiration and her figures are great. Her professionalism and presentation are top-notch and a real inspiration to me. She is very talented (and pretty to boot!) Some people just get all the good stuff, thank God they're willing to share and play nice. I'll post a photo of my newest piece. He's an African American gentleman waiting for a shoe shine while he reads his paper. I'm still working on a realistic paper for him to hold. Any suggestions?

Here he is...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Here she is!!!

OK... Here she is! a 1940's era screen starlet. I'll get you some details on tomorrow's post. I just wanted to get her up so you could see her. thankns everyone who voted and gave me input. Next time we'll do a man. I'll give you guys more choices as well as taking suggestions for more options. Until tomorrow, I hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen...Diamond Sam

I haven't forgotten you all! I just started a new job(s) this week and they've got me hitting the ground running! still had more time than I did with the old job. I just finished the hands and arms for the 40's era screen actress. You're gonna love her!! Here's her body pose and the art deco chair I have her sitting in. Isn't Bespaq just the greatest? I should be finished by this weekend and I'll post her in all her glory. In the meantime, here's the Gambler...Diamond Sam!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Crunch time for artisan application and show!!!

I made another one for the show coming up in October. He started out as a traveling snake oil salesman from the "Old West". Instead, a fancy, pistol wearing, gambler strolled onto my work table. I actually made a cowboy hat from leather. No pattern, just cut and glued, shaped and stretched, threw away some bad attempts, finally nailed it! I'll have his hair and gunbelt ready in a few days and then I'll post him here. Honestly, you all should see how many efforts go into the trash for every one that comes out successful. Somehting like 3-4 to one. That's O.K., it used to be 8-10. Now that I just go with the flow of what character presents itself, I waste far less materials, time, and energy. I also am amazed at what I can do. I sometimes wish I could just make the doll I visualized, and sometimes I do, but I never know going into it when that will happen. That's why commissions take me longer than usual.
I now have my working time down to about 30 hours for a completed doll (more for commissions). Not too bad considering it used to take me a couple of months to finish one. I can make about one per week now with no trouble. It helps that I have more time to work during the day and my weekends free, too. I miss not having extra $ to go out and do fun things like travel and taking classes, but I wouldn't trade it for anything because I am finally working on making my dreams come true. One day soon it will come to me and I will have earned it myself and that is priceless to me. Thanks to all of you for helping me to realize that. You're definitely playing an important part in helping me to realize my potential as a person and an artist. By the way, you all have some really great blogs out there. I am amazed. now I have to "juice" mine up, too. Once I get my 5 pieces to the Guild (IGMA) for consideration for artisan status, I'll focus more on adding content here and to my website . I really am having a ball! Here's to feeling the fear and doing it anyway (no matter what it is)!

Update on "Group Effort" Screen Star. haired, green gowned, cigarette holder wielding screen star from the "Golden Era" of hollywood (circa late 1930's). Now, for the gown. I didn't have too many slinky, silks to choose from. Fortunately, I have a very slinky, almost satiny, delicate silk which should drape beautifully. And it's a warm green with golden tones (very retro) Sort of like mixing the old avocado green with harvest gold from the "vintage kitchens of the past few decades. Anyway, I've started playing around with drapingthe body form. I am trying to sculpt the smooth face required for the character. Smooth is tough! I am using lots of talcum and/or corn starch to smooth out all of the lines in the clay (Thank You, Jamie C., for teaching us how to do that correctly at Guild School). Here's a pic of the gown so far so you can get an idea of color and drape...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

40's Film Star it is!

O.K. Tomorrow I'll put up a few types of fabric I want you to choose from for her dress. For now, what hair color should she have? Check the answer on the new poll (I'm loving the polls, can you tell?) Also choose her activity: on the phone, powdering her nose, wiping a tear away with a hankie, or other (even a combination of things...please specify by posting a comment). I'll get to work on her face and hands once I know what she'll be doing.
Oh yeah! I finished another doll for the show in October. It's the chubby face I told you about the other day. I started her out as a village maiden at a kissing booth for the autumn fair. She turned into a snooty village maiden returning from the spring flower market with flowers in her basket (basket made by my friend Francine Coyonne from France. This woman makes the most amazing baskets and they're really affordable. I'll try and post contact info for her this week.) Anyway, she almost resembles one of the wicked stepsister's from the animated version of Cinderella. I honestly didn't mean for it to happen that way. She just came out when I wasn't paying attention. Anyhoo, let me know what you think. (Oh great, now I have to go take pictures...again LOL!) I need ideas for a name. Suggestions? I hope you like she is:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The next item up for bids is....

O.K. I've listed a few of my dolls on eBay. Just letting you know. I will NOT make sales promotions a habit. However, if you can't toot your own horn, who's gonna? Anyhoo, here's the link to the first (Madame Butterfly):
You should be able to click on the view seller's other items for the rest.

The poll results are coming along nicely and it looks unanimous so far for 40's era screen diva. Thanks for the votes so far. It's sort of scary, giving up control, huh.
Anyway, I just sculpted a "plump" female face yesterday and got her hands, feet, torso, and legs painted and ready to assemble today (took most of the day). I'll assemble it tonight and start costuming Saturday. I have massage work lined up all day tomorrow so I'll work on "big bodies" for a while and then come back to the little ones later. Have to make some money to keep myself stocked in supplies (lights and food too, but supplies first) until this gains a little more momentum and starts to be self supporting. That'll be good enough for now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Help me design and create this doll!

O.K. so I learned how to do a poll on this blog. COOL! Now it's up to you. There aren't too many followers yet, so this should be easy. You all let me know which of the choices you think I should go with...Next Monday (august 31st) I'll tally them up and post the results and start work. I'll take polls throughout the process to see which direction you all want me to go with costuming, wigging, etc. Here's your chance. Let me be your hands. Let the fun begin... If you want to share another suggestion other than those listed. Do it by leaving/posting a comment. Oh F.Y.I. I think I sculpted my first really good African American face last night. It just appeared when I was playing with the clay and I went with it. I'll post pics tomorrow once I've refined it a little and taken a casting to smooth it up. On with the poll...

Saturday, August 22, 2009 Dreamweaver........

Alright everyone, I know I was working on the mage/wizard and I'm sure you were all just bunched up waiting to see what I did with the arms as far as costuming and so forth. All will be revealed. Let's just say that not many things can get me up and even temporarily out of bed. . A cold dachshund nose attached to a bladder the size of a tic tac is one of them (Bless his little ol' heart). Dream inspiration is another. If and when I get a clear image in my sleep, I can't just wake up & write it down. That's not very "artisty", now , is it? Hey, if you're gonna talk the talk, right? When I have an image in my mind, I have to quickly grab tools and, in this case, scissors and just have at it (the figure)until it matches what is/was in my head. If I wrote brown leather or tree bark, I may not know how dark the brown or how rough the bark is/was. Anyhoo, I did just that the other night and this is what became of the mage/wizard.....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wise Elders in your art and in your life!

Well, I did it. I resigned from my last part time pilates teaching/training job in order to grow my massage practice and focus on my figures and dolls. Scary in a way, but the "pressure" is just the stimulus I need to get out of what had started to be a very deep and stagnant personal rut. today I am posting progress pics on my mage/wizard (NOTE: focus on the costuming progress, not the hair right now LOL!). I got his undergarment assembled and attached. I sewed a simple funnel type tube which fit over his body and draped down to his boots. I am also trying to come up with a sleeve material and design which will accentuate the theme and be (sculptable) moldable. Cat Wingler ( IGMA Fellow) told me a couple of years ago that costuming is just an extension of the sculpting process. She stressed the importance of treating the material as another medium like the clay to be manipulated to create effect and maximize impact". Listen to what the experienced "elders" (referring to wisdom, not necessarily age) of this art form have to tell you. Soak it up, people! It will save you SO much otherwise wasted time and effort (and resources). Get over your own ego and take what they are offering. Especially in the miniatures industry, there is so much priceless experience that people are eager to share. There is a genuine desire to see new potential artists succeed. It will be worth every moment and/or penny spent to learn what they have to offer. Give them credit every chance you get and thank them. One day, it may be your turn. Imagine how you'd like to be treated. Everyone likes to feel appreciated (especially when they deserve it). Oh YEAH! I have something really fun for you all tomorrow. A chance to help me finish and design a doll that I've gotten a basic sculpt for. she's cool!!! On with the pictures...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Persistence and 2 of my Character Doll Favorites

Whew...the last few days have been a roller coaster for me (personal stuff..yuk) Anyway, I'm back and on with the sharing, yes? I wanted to get out of my studio for a moment (it's freakin' hot up there!) It's like I don't have to bake the dolls in an oven... I just turn the ceiling fan off and they're fully baked in about 15 min. LOL! I just wanted to post some more photos of dolls I've done in the past and get your thoughts, suggestions, experiences, or just have you take a look at what soemone else is doing. For those of you out there who are working on getting better at making dolls or miniatures or whatever your passion is, don't get discouraged when things don't seem to go the way you think they should. Trust in that drive you have to keep working and when it finally does turn out well, the feeling will be even nore precious and well earned. You know when you've done well with something because you can feel that sense of ...WOW that came from me (even if no one else sees it at the time, they'll come around). I've said it before...I had never thought about or even wanted to make dolls when I stepped into Jamie's class years ago. Who would have thought I could ever care enough about it to spend a huge amount of time working on it and writing a blog. Until a month ago, I wasn't even exactly sure what a blog really was. I would just nod when people talked about this one or that one. Well here I am and so far, so good. I'm still enjoying and the amount of good and constructive feedback has been humbling. Enough with the blah blah blah... on with the pictures. The photo quality is not that good as at the time I didn't realize how important good picture taking was as valuable a skill as wigging when it comes to being a semi-professional doll maker (Even though Jamie KEPT telling me!). I know better now and have been brought into the digital age (thank you Martha). Here are Mrs. Slocombe from BBC tv's Are You Being Served? and Edward Scissorhands. You figure out which...ha! I did NOT make these for sale (copyright nazi's take note!) I would never try and make a profit off of someone else's property (intellectual or otherwise) without permission. I've had it done to me and let's just say it hurts everyone involved. But seriously, folks, don't let things knock you what you know is in your heart to do and be true to that. The rest of it is just someone else's drama.
Peace, love and sooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuulllllllllll(train).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back to the clay!

Alright... I've burned my fingers way too much, grabbing spotlights that are WAY too hot to touch! I need to start producing again. I have to send 5 figures to the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA) for consideration/application to become an Artisan in October. It's tough, but it will move me one step closer to become a working, professional artist. I have to send my best pieces. The criteria are pretty strict, but I've been studying them and refining my technique with an eye toward meeting and exceeding them. AND I want to have at least 12-15 figures ready to sell at the trade show which is 3 days before the deadline for Artisan application.

I need more dolls! I will not, however, start "cranking 'em out" just for the sake of having them. Once I start doing that, I might as well just hang it up because I won't enjoy it and it will come through in the work and they won't mean anything to anyone because they won't mean anything to me.

Moving on...O.K., so, here's a picture of the latest one in process. He'll be a sort of a winter wizard/shaman with leather overtunic and he'll have long blue/gray mohair. I am rather proud of the face I did for him. Lots of detail. As always, speak up and give me feedback, folks. It means a lot. Mike

Friday, August 14, 2009

Photo Quality!

O.K., I can make the figures, but can I take publishable pictures of them? I have put down my clay and taken up the halogen spotlights! My Mom, Sandra, gave me a really great light tent with halogen spopts for taking good pictures for eBay, Etsy and (hopefully)websites and print work (magazines, brochures, etc.) I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have help coming from experienced artists and photojournalists who are being VERY patient with me. Here are some of my latest dolls photographed using new backgrounds and new lighting and a better camera! Feedback is always
Here are 2 new photos. The first is "Butter Beans & Ear Rubs". The other is "Fresh Bread" They're recent figures I made for an upcoming show in October. I hope you like them. They're definitely more traditional dollhouse and/or miniature scene figugres. I do like to do normal stuff, too, everyone ;)
Take it easy and do something unusual and creative today. It brings the fun back to your life!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Commission Mission part 2

Hey!! Back sooner than I thought. Wanted to show you 2 more commissions I made (one quite recently). The first is a French Revolutionary period Marie Anoinette inspired figure I made for June Clinkscales. June is one of my favorite miniature artists. She makes the most fantastic, dramatic, and unbelievable furniture and accessories. Her furniture inspired me to make the figures for that period; the french nobleman pictured on my first blog page (aug 12) and this one. If you haven't seen her work, then get on over to and check it out. Even if that period is not your thing, I promise you, something will catch your eye. she does all her own woodworking and is quite the power tool afficionado as you can tell. Besides that, she is one of the SWEETEST people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. If you get to see her at the shows (Philly, Chicago, California area) tell her that Mike...her "doll maker" said "Hey!" (I'm from the southeastern part of N.C., by the way). Anyhoo, the second doll is a fairy that I mad for the same lady for whom I made the "old lady who lives with the fairies". (I'm trying real hard with the grammar here, folks! tee hee). I used real (cleaned and sterilized) cicada wings (and yes, the cicada had expired naturally when I procured said wings with surgical scalpel, forceps AND latex gloves.) I felt like a surgical asst. Because I'm a boy who grew up in the south, It was powerfully tempting to just pick it up, pluck 'em off, and slap 'em on with a dab o' glue. I am aware, however, of the hygiene and/or ethical issues involved in passing dirty bug wings on to an unsuspecting client and their loved ones. ~LOL~ Yes, Mama, I have indeed grown up. {Said the 40 yr. old man who makes dolls:-}

My Commission Mission

Hello Again! I wanted to add a few more photos so you can see the range of figures and dolls I am making as commissions. I always enjoy taking commissions as it helps me to expand my artistic reach and learn new lessons in costuming as well as sculpting technique. The doll to the right was a commission for a friend of mine who has a house full of fairies in various sizes and poses doing all sorts of things. She needed "an older lady who lives with and takes care of the fairies. " She wanted a dreamy, whimsical quality for the character while keeping her decidedly human. This was the first time I had sculpted bare feet in anything other than a flat on the floor position. I was glad she challenged me to come up with this. I think it adds a rhythm and movement to the doll that I could echo with the trailing ribbon and rolling hemline (trick I learned with a little wire in the hem!) Voila.. I didn't want to give this one up when she was done! Oh well. On to the next new thing, right. Speaking of that, later today I'll put up a couple more commission pieces I've done. Back to the studio for now.....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More photos!

This is Patsy Stone from BBC's Absolutely Fabulous. Did it for fun and to experiment with necklines and cleavage as well as hair styles. Those of you who are familiar with the character with recognize the ever present vodka and cigarette! LOL. She now resides in a private collection, too.

Patsy Stone

Wizard Greenthumbs - Fantasy character. Did it strictly for the enjoyment. This one will stay with me. I used grapevines for his staff and wand. The coat is molded leather embellished with tiny paper ivy leaves and faux fur ribbon trim at the bottom egde of his under tunic. He masures 5 inches (5 feet) tall. He's one of my favorites.

New Blog for my character figures

Welcome to my blog! My name is Mike Barbour and I'm a "doll-maker". More specifically, I hand-sculpt and dress 1/12 scale character figures. Most of my figures are used in miniature settings in standard dollhouse scale of 1"=1'. For example, a 5 foot tall person would be a 5 inch figure. I have been working with miniatures for about 6 years and dolls/figures for about 4 of those years.

Above: Guild School 2009

I Never, Ever thought I would be making and costuming dolls. The thought never occured to me. It just sort of fell into my lap and events conspired to take me in this direction. Once I made my first one, though, under the expert guidance of master doll maker Jamie Carrington, that was all it took. I look at the whole world differently now. I assume this is what artists must feel like when they see everything in terms of how they can express what they are perceiving through their artwork. I just happen to want to do that through clay, wires, fabric, leather, and paint. I'll be sharing about how I come up with some of my pieces and things that inspire me as well as some of the more challenging things I learn as I try to keep getting better. I hope you enjoy. I'll post a few pics regularly as I go. Here are a few to start off.

"StoryTeller" (in a private collection)

French Nobleman (in a Private collection)