Astral The Witch – Bespoke Up-Cycled Art Doll – From Rags to Riches

Meet Astral the Witch - A Bespoke Art Doll made from Up-Cycled Materials - From Rags to Riches

It makes my day when an order for a custom doll drops into my inbox.  It is by far my preferred way to work.  I always enjoy making dolls of course, but to make one especially for someone and fulfil a bespoke order always brings me the most satisfaction. 

Like so many of us, Astral’s path through life wasn’t clearly marked out from the start.  

Her story gradually wrote itself, woven together with a bit of good luck and a lot of hard work en route.  She was originally intended to be the first in a new range of dolls I am developing – Amora Encora  – a limited range of 50 certificated collector’s art dolls celebrating the beauty of nature.   Made from up-cycled materials, the new range will utilise a wide variety of textile art techniques.  I will be documenting the creative making process on this site, so each doll will be a vehicle for sharing textile art techniques, tips, tricks and experience as the range builds.  As always, profits from sales will also support Birmingham Hospice.  So it is – as they say – all good (I hope?). 

Be sure to subscribe for a free newsletter update to keep I touch with future posts and see the new range develop (link in sidebar).

The Original Astral - Celebrating the Beauty of Stars

Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll

Astral made a promising start in life.  I am often drawn to making a doll by the materials I have available to me in my stash.  I had some gorgeous  sparkly trim given to me by my friend Julia.  I also had some velvety soft dark celestial blue fabric with stars, moons and planets strewn over it (thanks Michelle).  My sister’s silvery curtains were perfect for a delicate, silvery underskirt, so Astral was all set to be Amora Encora AE01.  But for dolls, as humans, life rarely goes completely to plan…

Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll Removable Clothes
Astral - Removable Clothes

Painting Astral's Face

I always like to use a post as an opportunity to share a creative technique.  So before I complete Astral’s story, let me tell you about how I painted her face.

Most of the dolls I have made up to now have been Tilda Dolls.  Tilda dolls have very simple faces – two French knots for eyes, two dabs of blusher for cheeks and – traditionally – no mouth.  So creating an art doll with a painted face was a whole new ball game.

Astral was made using the same pattern and technique’s as the other art doll’s I have made – see my previous post.

Painting Astral's Face - What You Will Need

To make your doll’s face come to life, you will need:

  • A 3B Black Graphic Pencil.  I love Derwent pencils.
  • A brown gel pen with a 0.05 nib.
  • A soft rubber.
  • A selection of coloured chalk-pastel pencils.  I like the Stabilo range.  
  • White brown, red and black fine nibbed gel pens.
  • An Iron
  • Artist’s Fixative Spray
Handmade Rag Dolls Artist's Fixative Spray
Artist's Fixative Spray
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Face Painting - Stabilo Chalk Pencils
I used Stabilo chalk pastel pencils to colour in the features

Painting Astral's Face - Step by Step Instructions

  1. Trace the face design you want to use onto tracing paper with a lead pencil.
  2. Transfer the design to the head using a 3B  lead pencil.
  3. Outline the face using a brown gel pen with a 0.05 nib.
  4. Now rub out your pencil markings.
  5. Shade in the face lowlights using a sienna brown pastel crayon.  Think about where the light is falling – adding dark and light areas creates depth and creates a realistic, natural look.  Shade around the brows and temples (leaving a nice circular shaped forehead), down the side of the nose, around the chin and above the lips. 
  6. Shade very gently under the eyes – but avoid making her look as though she has been out all night?!
  7. Now fill in the facial highlights.  Use a white pastel crayon under the brows, over the top eye lid, around the nose and forehead, on the centre of the chin and on the top of the cheeks.
  8. Blush her cheeks using a darker shade of red on the top and the left hand side.  You can use brown and/or a darker shade of red to deepen the shading as you work.
  9. Mark in the tear ducts in red and the eyeball in green (or your choice of eye colour).
  10. I used blue on the LHS of the eyeball and black on LHS of pupil.
  11. Use a white gel pen to give the all important character forming highlight on the other side of the eye and the eye corners.
  12. Finish off around the top of the eye with blue.
  13. Draw in the delicate radials with a black lead pencil.
  14. Use a yellow pen to colour in the outside of her eyes.
  15. Iron and fix, using artists fixative spray.
  16. When dry, draw in the finer details with brown/red/black gel pens
  17. Draw in the eyelashes with lead pencil/gel pen
  18. Form the lip lines with red lead pencil/gel pen
  19. Lastly, fill in her lips and cheeks to give the look you want to create.
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Face Painting
Trace off the face design onto tracing paper with a 3B graphic lead pencil
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll- Face Painting
Place the pencil drawing face down on the doll's head
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Face Painting
Use your pencil to rub off the design onto the head
Astral Custom Order Witch Doll- Face Painting
The face will appear - it will be faint - but don't despair - it will be there!
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll Painting Faces

Paining Astral's Face - Tips and Tricks

  1. I can highly recommend Patti Medaris Culea’s on-line workshop for helping you to master the basics of painting doll faces.
  2. Be sure you have the doll’s head the right way up before you start to transfer the design!  The neck hole must be at the bottom.  It sounds silly, but I have done a couple the wrong way up and been absolutely furious when I came to attach my finished artwork to the doll!
  3. Use a soft rubber to rub out your light pencil markings.  It’s a good idea to get it out on some spare fabric first – hard rubbers can leave horrible dirty marks.
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Face
Astral's completed face

How Astral Became a Witch

I finished making Astral some time ago, but I hadn’t got around to listing her for sale on Etsy because I needed to make a certificate and write a poem to go with her.  Sometimes, things are just meant to be though?

The delay in listing meant that when I got an order from a customer wanting a witch doll, Astral was there – all ready and waiting.  Well – why shouldn’t witch’s have beautiful faces?  All she really needed was a witch’s hat, a cape and a broomstick?!  

Making Astral's Broomstick

Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll

Making Astral’s broomstick was a walk I the park – quite literally!

A nice, stout twig – with a few bumps and knots to give a nice gnarly look – was washed and scrubbed to remove the outer bark.  I coated it with PVA glue diluted with 4 parts water.

While the glue dried, I gathered the straightest of the twigs I had collected on my walk in the park together and chopped them neatly to size.  I used some of my favourite Hi-Tack craft glue to attach them to the broomstick and wound a thin rubber band firmly around them to hold them in place.

The rubber band didn’t look nearly pretty enough for Astral’s broomstick though, so I finished it off with a firm wrap of shiny blue metallic thread given to me by my friend Pam.

A walk in the park has never been so productive!

How to Make Astral's Hat

Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll Hat
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Hat

Astral’s hat was made out of the same soft blue celestial fabric that was used for Astral’s body.

I used a cardboard doughnut to shape the brim, sewing two layers of fabric together all around the outside and turning then inside out to form the brim.  I placed a wire inside all around the brim to make the hat poseable.

A cone of the same fabric formed the top of the hat, but I stabilised it using iron on interfacing before hand stitching it to the brim.  The hat was also wired inside, to give it some attitude.

Black sequinned roses that once decorated my first ever evening bag were used to decorate the hat’s brim.  I had only just enough!

Pretty huh?

A Witch must have Boots?

Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll Boots
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Boots

The custom order was fulfilled with the addition of a broomstick, hat and cape, but what girl could resist adding a pair of boots?

I made a pattern by tracing the foot/leg pattern and making it in the same way as the shoes (see previous post), but leaving most of the front and top open  so that the boots could be pulled into place on Astral’s legs.

Large pearly beads threaded with sliver cord saved from a gift made an easy fastening.

Some grungy sliver trim that was part of a Scrapstore mixed bag and a star pulled from a pair of earrings that had found their way into the Hospice Rag bag made the perfect finishing touches.

From Rags to Riches - Heart Up-Cycling!

Astral Custom Order Witch Doll - Up-Cycled Earrings
Earrings - salvaged from the Hospice Rag Bag

Astral was created largely from up-cycled materials.

  • Michelle donated the velvety soft celestial  fabric to make her body and hat.
  • The beautiful shiny fabric for her cape and boot linings came from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire when they did a wardrobe clear out recently.
  • Julia gave me the very special silvery trim.
  • The beads that were used to close her cape and shoes were from my friend Dawn.
  • My sister’s curtains made her underskirt.
  • Sue’s felt stash was broken into for the outside of her boots.
  • Pam’s blue metallic thread was wound around her broomstick to make it suitable pretty for Astral to fly away on.
  • Astral’s hat was trimmed using black sequin roses that once decorated the first evening handbag I ever owned.  That much loved little black satin bag was now no longer big enough to hold a mobile ‘phone which I don’t leave home without out, so – it was time to recycle it.
  • The stars on Astral’s boots were once a pair of earrings, salvaged from the Hospice rag bag.  There are still some nice bits left for future projects …
  • The gnarly wreath I used as a photo prop came from Birmingham Hospice’s Rag Bag.
  • Last – but definitely not least – the pretty orange knitted pumpkin I used for the photos was also a donation from another friend called Sue.  Sue’s are very generous people?!
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Cape and Hat
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll - Cape and Hat
Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll Underskirt and Trim
Underskirt and Trim

Astral's New Home

Astral - in her new home with Julia

“I got Astral  today THANK YOU SO SO MUCH, she is fabulous I absolutely love her, she is better than I ever thought she would be.”  Julia

Custom Order Dolls

I am able to make a variety of styles of doll to custom order.  I can also work to your own pattern if you have found something you particularly like but can’t want to make it up yourself.

Visit my Etsy shop to place an order for a custom doll.  Prices vary according to size and the amount of work/materials required.  All sales support the great work of Birmingham Hospice.

Astral the Witch - Bespoke Custom Order Art Doll
Astral - My First Witch Doll - but maybe not the last?
Birmingham Hospice Logo

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We
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      Nice to hear from you – I’m really glad you found the blog useful. Good luck with your community initiative – let’s keep in touch!

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