I loved her face, but the slightness of her base figure model and her outfit, though very screen-accurate, bored me. Elsa Lanchester is just much more fierce.
I wanted to reference her dance training, her cabaret and Victorian numbers from her burlesque revue days. She and Madeline Kahn had so much in common as performers, and yet you only see a glimpse of it in “Bride of Frankenstein.” She plays Mary Shelley as well, in the “Bride” prologue. Shelley calls her “an angel”, and the devil is the corner of her mouth as she smirks, “You think so.”
I always had the idea I’d do a custom outfit for my Sideshow Bride, something sassy and exciting.
I got stuff from model horse tack suppliers Rio Rondo (boy, don’t try to load that site on your phone!) and BJD clothing-making suppliers all over the world.
I got amazing tiny silver leather trim from a handbag company in Los Angeles. I saved every bit of ribbon from every bag of fancy cookies, every inch of silver elastic from a dress tag, for my Snow Queen project (reveal next year!). For my mermaid doll and my corsetcustomizingprojects I got a zillion different kinds and sizes of Swarovski crystals, beads, sequins and chains.
I learned how to bulk out the hips of a figure and smoothly sculpt them with epoxy clay when I was making the tiny doll corsets for my Horribelladolls.
I give them big curves to match the silhouette of a Modern Edwardian underbust, my own favorite corset style. Then I draft a tiny corset pattern and cut and glue a miniature corset over them.
I had absolutely no intention of making another Horribella at 8pm last night.
I particularly had no intention of using a single strand of embroidery floss to make tiny corset laces and tying tiny bunny loops with it, because I hate tying the tiny bunny loops. I went out the door for a night walk, and wandered a few blocks to the main shopping plaza.
I “accidentally” stopped in at TKMaxx to check out the Halloween stuff. There wasn’t much Halloween stuff (they get a little because they share inventory with the US TJ Maxx stores) but I saw this display cloche- with the base already painted blue.
I had an instant vision of a Gothic Rococo Horribella.
The last one lives in the library, because she matches the colors in there; I suddenly wanted one for the salon! I bought the cloche and a foot massager for the hubbin and hurried home.
Then I spent the next ten hours working nonstop like a fiend on the new dolly.
Even though I’ve been teaching, drawing, painting, embroidering and writing all month. I was so excited I never even took off my bra when I got home. Normally my front door is an Instant Bra Removal Field.
Making these dollies demands a kind of flow state where I grab things and glue things and melt things without stopping to think.
If I stop to think, I remember I have virtually no training in mixed media or sculpture and never intended to make this kind of art. So I don’t stop.
During the year of packing for the move, I had episodes where I managed my stress by meticulously, dementedly organizing every scrap of craft supplies I own. It was not an efficient use of my time, but it kept me sane. I had a vision of using all this stuff, in Berlin.
That meant when my workshop was finished, all I had to do was pop all the neatly bagged/sorted/labelled supplies into the drawers, and I now know where everything is.
My workshop is a decent imitation of the greatest art & crafts workshop I know, that of my friend Monique Motil.
I’m busting through projects and finally, finally using things I have had for years. Decades.
I used four different scraps of wired pink French ribbon on this dolly, and two of them dated back to the craft projects for my first marriage.
These scraps of ribbon have moved from St. Paul to Hartford to DC to Arlington to Alameda to Albany to Berkeley to North Berkeley to Albany to Oakland to Berlin. They have been in storage three times. I’ve had fifteen apartments, dozens of jobs, and three husbands.
You know what’s fantastic about getting older, being happy and feeling safe?
You can finally say, if not now, when? If not me, who? There will never be a better project to use any of these things on than the one in front of me right now.
Every piece of ribbon from a present I carefully saved, every pair of feet I cut off a plastic monster or pair of wings I cut off a plastic bug- all of this stuff is going in the hopper. I used a satin-covered button from a silk nightshirt I owned in 1992 to make the base of this Horribella’s hat. It took four tries, four little pieces of embroidered stag beetle ribbon used up, to get it to look right.
Don’t care! It’s my weird stuff and my weird lifelong decorator crab shell of crap, I’m gonna use it all!
I used eleven different ribbons/trims, four adhesives, epoxy clay, primer, spray paint, plastic toys, nail flocking powder and parts of three plastic bugs to make her, and I think she is the best Horribella yet. She is truly a Horrible Dolly. I am going to make all the horrible things.
I didn’t just make a new Horribella last night.
I also started a hideous Spider Lady with monster feet. She is going to be truly dreadful. I have lots of tutorials to study on my dollmaking Pinboard!
Look for continued unpleasant doll developments this September.
As always, when I make a doll I am deeply indebted to the incredible inspiration of Monique, creator of the incomparably creepy and beautiful Sartorial Creatures.
I am blowing through projects that have been waiting over a year, now that my workshop is finished. It’s so easy and comfortable to use and access all my tools and materials, and the light is so good in our kitchen. I’m especially thrilled to have finished my own Horribella doll at last!
The first Horribella was made as a host gift for a fae-themed party thrown by one of my beloved friend-muse-patrons. Her wings were hand-decorated with many crystals.
I particularly like the way the corset of this one came out.
The second was bought by one of my beloved friend-muse-patrons and lives in her SOMA loft.
And the third was traded to my friend Aimee Baldwin, for one of her extraordinary vegan taxidermy creations ( a mantis of course!).
I was really devastated to give up the third one, since it was so specially unpleasant, but I wanted that mantis badly.
So I saved the other half of the iridescent flower at the top of the corset (originally scavenged from the wings of some drugstore fairy doll that became a mermaid in a shadowbox at least a decade ago).
Then I saved the particular trims I used, and enough of the superfine damson-colored leather strips I ordered from a purse company in LA, and a tiny bit of the pleated burgundy lace, and just enough of the bug-printed emerald green French wired ribbon.
I sculpted a new body and head and painted them, but there was a reaction between the paint and primer.
Spray painting plastic, no matter how much time you spend on The Fwoosh, is unpredictable. So I had to scrape off the paint and reprime the pieces, and then pack them, because it was time to move to Berlin.
I was terrified that off-gassing primer/paint reaction could start a fire, so I waited to pack them ’til the very last day, and wound up throwing the pieces in a little box within one of the randomly packed boxes of the morning we left. Even though this project was incredibly important to me! And the materials to dress her were packed separately of course.
I am a crazy person, and sadly not always in a fun way.
(Yes, I started packing one year before we left, and I was still packing the DAY we left. Probably I shouldn’t have spent so many nights obsessively organizing my mixed media materials before we left. But it did make unpacking them an utter delight.)
So it was all horribly stressful! And I was still afraid that my Frankenstein mix of paints and solvents would start a fire and burn up our storage unit or shipping container!
But there was no fire, and the ship didn’t sink, and the train didn’t crash, and the truck didn’t go into a snowbank, and the box didn’t get dropped, and nothing got lost, and so I was able to assemble a Horribella of my own at last. She is not for sale!
As always when I make a doll, I am deeply indebted to my beloved friend-muse-Patron Monique Motil, creator of Sartorial Creatures and the most inspiring dollmaker I know.