Monday, March 26, 2012

My First Diorama

Until recently, I had never had a desire to create a diorama using dolls and miniature props scaled for them because I simply enjoy collecting dolls.  Lack of space for the extras required for diorama creation is another deterrent.  I have enjoyed viewing those created by others and am usually at awe at the intricate detail and lifelike scenes they are able to achieve.

On February 12, 2012, I lost one of my long-time doll friends, which prompted me first to want a doll in her honor.  Not just any doll would do.  I have what I define as tribute dolls in my collection that date back to the 1990s representing family and friends who are no longer with us. These are simply dolls that were purchased and named for the beloved, but for this particular friend, Ruth Manning, I wanted to go far and above what I have done in the past.  She was just that special to me.  For Ruth's doll, I wanted to do a doll makeover.

I decided to use an articulated playscale doll that could sit and be posed.  I chose Christie (friend of Barbie) because the facial bone structure closely resembles Ruth's.  She had prominent cheeks and a dazzling smile.  Olympic Gymnast Barbie's subtle makeup and articulation won me over.

I cut off the doll's original long brunette hair,  rooted salt and pepper gray hair to the doll's head, and styled it similar to the way Ruth last wore her hair.  During one of our many phone conversations, Ruth shared that after chemotherapy, her hair grew back straight. Before treatment, she wore it in a short, cropped Afro that she used to color but in later years discontinued that routine.  Post treatment, her then naturally straight, salt and pepper hair, remained short on the sides and longer on top.  Her tribute doll's hair is not exactly like she wore it, but the color and texture are quite close.

Like me, Ruth preferred to dress casually -- jeans and a tee-shirt (and for her, another shirt on top).  I used a pair of Barbie Basics denim jeans and an extra white tank top and pink long-sleeved knit cardigan that came with one of my LIV Alexis dolls.  To her pink cardigan, I added a pin from my doll pin collection, made using a group photo of dolls by her favorite artist, Helen Kish.  The white sneakers that came with Olympic Gymnast Barbie complete her outfit.  Ruth wore glasses that were either transitional lenses or graduated tinted lenses.  My tribute doll has indefinitely borrowed tinted glasses from another doll. 

I pierced the doll's ears and adorned them with gold hoop earrings purchased from an eBay seller who makes Barbie jewelry.  A little known Ruth fact is that she actually had three piercings in each ear. I was going to replicate this, but after rooting the doll's hair and leaving it styled with the hair covering her ears, I opted for only one piercing in each ear.

Now for the diorama, Ruth often shared photos of her dolls positioned on her living room sofa, which is covered in a soft yellow fabric with a tiny floral stripe.  I found a Barbie couch that is soft yellow to use in the diorama.  While looking through my old pictures, I located one from 2003 that shows Ruth's couch in its entirety with her seated on it holding one of her dolls.  It was as though she led me to that picture.  "Ah ha!"  I thought, "So that's what the couch looked like."  In the background of that image is a tall doll-filled shelf.  This was the inspiration for my diorama.  I am not going to share that picture here, even though she always told me when I asked her permission to use one of her doll images in a publication, "Debbie, you can always use any of the pictures I share with you." 

I made the display shelf for her diorama dolls using a small corrugated box.  The top, side, and inner flaps were cut off leaving just the rectangular shell of the box, which was covered with wood grain contact paper.  I used one of the top flaps to create the tier, which was also covered with contact paper.  Next, I gathered several of my tiniest dolls and figurines, one of which is a Riley with rag doll by Helen Kish that Ruth gave me in 2008 shortly after her terminal cancer diagnosis was made.  Riley along with the other tiny dolls are now part of doll-Ruth's doll collection. 

A picture of the three doll reference books I authored, stacked one on top of the other and printed out on card stock, creates the illusion of real books on the shelf along with the dolls I chose for her collection.  The only doll purchased for for the diorama is a mini Princess Tiana.  Ruth loved Princess Tiana and owned several Princess Tiana dolls and memorabilia.

I used two pieces of tile flooring to create the floor of the diorama.  Images of two framed paintings  were scaled to size and printed as wall decor.  I made a decorative plant using a sprig of live greenery from the backyard.  A red medicine bottle cap filled with dirt from the backyard serves as the flower pot.   Missing from the diorama that I might add later is an upright piano.  Ruth owned and played piano for her church.  She often shared images of her smaller dolls positioned on top of her piano.

My first diorama is a tribute to my friend, Ruth Manning.
So here is my first diorama, a tribute to my friend, Ruth Manning.  (Click the images to enlarge.)

Below is another angle of the diorama followed by a close-up of doll-Ruth, and another of her dolls.
Profile image of doll-Ruth, sitting in the presence of one of the things she loved the most -- dolls!

Close up of doll-Ruth, holding a baby doll that holds a doll -- she also loved dolls with dolls.

Ruth's shelf of dolls, doll reference books, and seated dolls on floor

Doll-Ruth and her dolls (minus the tile flooring, wall art, and plant) remain set up in a room outside my doll room as a reminder of my dear, sweet friend.  I miss our conversations, both online and via land line, but now I can remember her with a visual fondness each time I see her playscale likeness. 

The real Ruth and her dazzling smile can be seen in a 2003 image that she allowed me to include in her online doll collector's profile, here.

The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains. -- Josephine Baker

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28 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. :( The diorama looks really cool!

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    1. Thank you Ada for the condolence and comment on the diorama.

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  2. What a beautiful tribute to your friend Ruth! She is smiling down on you and saying well done my friend well done! In just your description of her and what she liked, I was able to get a glimpse into her life and her passion for dolls. Thanks for sharing this with us. Her memory and passion for dolls lives on! Your diorama came out really nice. I love all the little details, especially love the one pic with her on the couch holding a doll with a doll. Well done Debbie, well done :)

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    1. Thanks, Cecile! Ruth's memory will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those whose lives she touched. I am blessed to be among the touched.

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  3. You never cease to amaze me. I am thoroughly impressed! The work you put into this shows just how special she was to you. I LOVE the diorama. You did an excellent job.

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    1. Coming from one of the master's of diorama creation, your compliment humbles me, Vanessa. Thank you!

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  4. I love your diorama tribute and the Inspirational story

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    1. Thank you for reading and for complimenting my diorama, Simsgrl. I appreciate you!

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  5. Debbie this is so beautiful! I am so touched by the detail that you so lovingly put into this diorama to honor your friend. I know that Ruth would be thrilled to know that she is the inspiration for your first diorama. You did such an excellent job!

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    1. Thanks, Roxanne. As humble as she was, she'd probably be blown away by this diorama. I can hear her now saying, "Debbieeeee!"

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  6. Your diorama looks incredible! And I'm sorry for your loss.

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  7. Hi Debbie,

    My condolences on the loss of your dear friend. I don't think a doll collector could ask for a more beautiful and fitting tribute. What a moving memorial!

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  8. I am sorry for your loss, but it is lovely how your friendship inspired this lovely diorama and doll. Thanks for sharing this tribute.

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  9. Wow Debbie, this is a BEAUTIFUL! I enjoyed reading your tribute to her. I'm sure she is smiling down at you., saying as others have said "well done my friend, thank you". You did an excellent job on your diorama. I especially love all of the details. I hope that we get ti see more from you. ; )

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  10. A wonderful tribute. Great job on diorama.

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  11. This is a beautiful tribute. My condolences. Good friends are so very precious.

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  12. Mustiwait; Georgia Girl; Male Doll World; Veda - thank you, all!

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  13. Very Cute! I really love her gray hair. Great first outting! Now we need more!:) and a new video ;)

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    1. Thanks Ms. Leo!

      Not so sure if I'm up for a video.

      Baby steps.
      :-)

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  14. Nice memorial!
    I have the same african mini Barbie from McDonalds ;)

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    1. Thank you, Jorge. I have two other Caucasian McDonald's Barbies still in their original packaging that I should open and add to Doll-Ruth's collection. She collected mainly black dolls, but she had a few non-black dolls, too. A true doll lover... regardless of color.

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  15. Thank you for sharing her with us. This makes me smile and cry because our love ones touch us in so many ways. I love your diorama for her. What makes me cry is that she loved dolls and you have dolls in the scene too. The reason why I smile is that you have dolls in all sizes and you had a Princess Tiana, which she loved too.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Brini. I understand the emotions it evoked, too.

      Reportedly she had amassed 2000+ dolls. Her diorama would be incomplete without them.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!