Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Art Doll ~ Ilia

Every now and then I find myself apologizing, "Sorry, I don't speak spanish".   I am what they call a "third generation" puerto rican.  My grandmother, who speaks a little bit of English, moved from PR to New York before my mom was born.  My mom is bilingual but isn't sure of every spanish word.  When I was little my mom says I refused to learn spanish but that since no one else around us spoke spanish, she didn't force it.  Now, we both regret it.  This was especially an issue for me when I worked as a bank teller fifteen years ago.  The spanish speaking customers would stand in line to wait just for me only to turn away in anger.  Some even decided not to do business with the bank at all, leaving in disgust.  I felt terrible.  So again, 'Sorry, no habla espanol".

Even though I don't speak spanish, I am proud of my puerto rican heritage and culture.  The island of Puerto Rico is a great tourist destination because of it's year round warm weather, historical landmarks, white sand beaches, good food and friendly people.    If you ever get a chance to visit PR you must plan to see one of the bio-luminescent bays.   (PR has three of only five in the world!)  One of the well known locations is off of Vieques.   At night you can see the water magically light up and glow.  It's like the evening forest scene in the film Avatar.  This rare and remarkable phenomenon is caused by millions of super super tiny luminescent half plant/half animal organisms that light up when disturbed by movement.*   I always leave the waters amazed at the wonders of Creation.

This next doll I have created pays homage to the lovely Puerto Rico and it's fascinating waters.  She is named after my grandmother, Ilia.

Ilia stands 12" tall in a traditional Puerto Rican dress.  The bottom of her skirt is layered with white, red and blue papers accented with two yellow stripes.  Her waist is tied with a long yellow sash and the top of her blouse has several layers of lace.  Her hair is tied back in a bun with a red carnation tucked in.  She has an under-slip trimmed with lace trim which reaches to her black mary jane shoes.   She comes with her custom stand, a Puerto Rico magnet and a glass jar filled with bay water, seaweed and two seashells from Vieques.** 

Here are some details about the dolls...
The dolls are made using paper mache with a paper clay overlay.  They have a wire armature running throughout their bodies including their hands and feet.  The arms, legs and head are movable as they are connected to the body with nut/screw joints.  They are painted with professional quality acrylic paints and sealed with a matte sealer.  Their clothes, hair, accessories and accompanying "gifts" are made entirely of paper (ie; paper mache, paper clay, cardboard, mulberry paper, paper tape, etc.) (unless otherwise noted) or they are painted on.  The clothing is not removable.  Dolls are signed and dated on their bottoms which may be hidden by their clothes.  Each doll is about 12" tall and comes with her own coordinating cardboard stand.   

Care and use of dolls...
Since these are art dolls, they are not made for children.  Especially due to the fragile nature of paper, they are to be handled very carefully.  Imperfections in construction and execution may be visible and should be expected since they are handmade.  They should not be placed in direct sunlight or in humid environments.  They should not be held by the arms or legs but by the waist or the behind.  The dolls can sit and be posed with careful and delicate attention to their clothing and hair.  They should not be forced to sit or move if there is resistance as this could cause a crack in the paper clay or a tear in the paper.  Keep clean with a dry cloth, paint brush, duster or dust it off with a cool hair dryer every now and then.   Please note that the more they are played with, the less resilient they become.   (Excuse me if I sound overly cautious; the dolls are sturdily made so with proper care they should last over a lifetime.)

* Information on the waters of Vieques:
** The magnet is commercially made of resin.  The jar and its contents are not made of paper.  
Inspiration for outfit:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crepe Paper Surprise Balls

For my bridal shower, 11 years ago, I wanted to make sure the guests had a good time.  My family arranged the venue, food, music and decorations but I contributed the games.  (Yes, it felt a little uncouth to help plan my own party...)   We played 'Don't Say or Do',  'Tissue Paper Wedding Dress' and 'Shopping List'.  But my favorite game was 'Musical Surprise Balls'.  For that game I wrapped a wearable item around alot of newspaper and crepe paper.  The guests had to pass/toss the ball around to music and when the music stopped, the person holding the ball got to unwrap it until the music started again.  When the ball was finally unwrapped, that person had to wear the surprise item.  This was hilarious because while some of the gifts were very nice (silk scarfs, jewelery and hair pins) other gifts were a hoot; shower caps, fake noses, bras and thick glasses.  It was even funny when my aunt had to wear a hair pin prize.  The hair pin was beautiful but since she had just gotten a haircut (a very very short haircut), she looked ridiculous.  Thank goodness everyone had a sense of humor and kept their prizes on the rest of the night.  


I was reminded of the experience above when I recently re-discovered two paper artists from California.  Their names are Anandamayi Arnold and Aimee Baldwin.  They make the most wonderful, realistic flowers, plants, birds, food and small animals from crepe paper.   And Anandamayi makes such perfect surprise balls it must be hard to decide to open them up. Oh well, you can't have your cake and eat it too.  


You can also purchase already made surprise balls online at stores like and