New views and processes


Cooling off. Polymer clay doll form after baking. Image: Su Leslie 2019

When we look at a piece of art, it is easy to forget that in its making, it may have gone through many stages or forms quite different to the end result.

Polymer clay doll-making is an excellent example, often beginning with a wire and aluminium foil armature around which clay is formed — sometimes for the whole body, but in many cases just for heads, hands and feet.


Once the clay is sculpted and baked it must be cooled before the soft materials that will form the body can be attached. Image: Su Leslie 2019


Clay, especially small pieces, are extremely fragile and need to be properly cooled before the next stage can begin. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I have made dolls in the past, but these belong to students at a recent workshop held by an artist friend. I was there solely as the photographer.

I must say though, it did rather inspire me.

Posted to the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | something different

Handy skill to have (pun totally intended)

My friend Claire teaches art classes and workshops, including one on doll-making.

She learned this skill so she could make 3-D models of the characters she wrote about and drew in her first published book, Little Wing.

Some of her students wanted to try their hand at making dolls too, so the workshops were born.

I recently spent a day photographing Claire and her students. When I arrived they were making hands, which I know from my own doll-making attempts are VERY fiddly.

And very rewarding when you get it right.

Posted to the Ragtag Daily Prompt | Skill

On inspiration, making stuff and labours of love

Su Leslie, choirboy doll. Polymer clay, wire, fabric, paint. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Choirboy doll. Polymer clay, wire, fabric, paint. Su Leslie, 2016. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Needing more physical projects in my largely online world, I’ve been pootling around making various things, indulging my enthusiasm for anything artistic or craft-based

The messenger bag I talked about a couple of weeks ago (here), worked well on its maiden trip to Wellington last weekend, and I’ve finally got around to photographing one of the dolls I made as a result of a workshop with my friend, artist Claire Delaney.

I love the doll-making process. Not only does it involve different techniques and processes (clay-sculpting, armature-making, fabric construction); it’s also wonderfully iterative. At each stage I’m surprised by something and often have to change direction in the project to accommodate what has evolved (especially at the clay-sculpting stage).

The boy-child claims I’ve used him as inspiration for my choirboy doll — but I can’t imagine what he means. Hehe.

The boy-child with a box of hand-painted eggs, ready for the annual Easter Egg roll on Mt Victoria, Devonport, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

The boy-child at 8; with a box of hand-painted eggs ready for our annual Easter Egg rolling. Angelic face, but a choirboy??? Image: Su Leslie, 2006

The boy-child, aged 11. Image: Su Leslie, 2009.

Well, maybe the hair? The boy-child at 11. Image, Su Leslie, 2009.

Claire is a talented artist, and a very good teacher. She began making dolls as an aid to illustrating the children’s book she has written and published.  Little Wing is a lovely story, beautifully illustrated. It is letterpress printed and hand-bound — a true labour of love.

Find out more about Claire’s art.

The making of Little Wing