Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Clothespin Doll Inspiration Past and Present


Wooden craft clothespins for doll making with (painted) circular wooden stand

In March 2006 during my A to Z Tips on Doll Collecting exhibit at the African American Museum, a workshop with local Girl Scouts took place simultaneously.  I left my exhibit to view the girls as they busily engaged in making dolls using wooden craft clothespins.  The craft clothespins used were like the ones shown above, made on the style of traditional one-piece wooden clothespins.   I was fascinated by this activity and the girls' enthusiastic creativity.

Girl Scouts at work making clothespin dolls using wooden craft clothespins

I took a group photo of the girls at work, shown above with faces blurred of these then minors.  Now, some eight years later, the girls are probably 18 years old or older.


Some of the girls posed for individual photos proudly holding their completed dolls.  Two of these photos are shown above.

I was so inspired by this activity that I wanted to try my "skills" at making at least two clothespin dolls.  I purchased a package of craft clothespins and a separately sold package of wooden circular holders.  I painted the clothespin brown using acrylic craft paint.  Like the girls, I used brown pipe cleaners to create arms and hands, fabric scraps for clothing, and hand painted the faces.  I added hair using synthetic fibers for two.  I believe the ones with the lighter brown hair might be clippings from my grandson's hair.  The dolls I made in 2006 are shown below.

Clothespin doll couples made in 2006
The photo above was taken for chapter 8 (on doll creativity) for my 2nd book, Black Dolls A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion.  I recently engaged in an online discussion on clothespin dolls, which led to my revisiting these wooden couples.  On re-inspection, their faces were not as bad as I remembered, although I still admit that painting faces is not something I have mastered.  I decided to see if I could improve their appearance before returning them to their display shelf.  The results of my attempt at this are captured in the following combined before and after images:

I added sclerae or whites to the eyes, changed the man's nose from two dots, and changed the width of the female's wide grin.  The man's complexion is a little darker because I used different paint for his face and sealed it with Mod Podge.

Again the man's complexion is a little darker now and they both have sclerae.  Definition was added to both noses, and Mod Podge was used to seal the paint.  This poor woman now has an uneven eye size, but hey, no one is perfect.
All this clothespin doll reminiscing and repainting led me to search eBay for additional Black clothespin dolls.  I found the following little girl who is perfect in every way, in my opinion.


Shown standing and seated, this new-to-me clothespin doll was made using multiple pieces of wooden craft clothespins and a wooden ball for her head.  Black yarn creates a perfect Afro hairstyle that is accented with one red ribbon.  She wears a machine-sewn red print dress with red pinafore and pantaloons.  The ends of the two inverted clothespins that form her legs were painted white to give the appearance of shoes. Cute is how I describe her; just cute!

Screen captured photo of 8-inch unfinished clothespin doll

Recently won in another eBay auction is a jointed 8-inch unfinished clothespin doll with how-to-dress instructions.  Hopefully the face painting I perform on this one will be much better than that done on my original four.  We shall see.

Still inspired...

On another note, but loosely related, there are limited edition Barbie Loves Girl Scouts dolls available through the Official Girl Scout shop:  Barbie, Teresa, and Nikki. 

Click here for more details and/or to order.

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10 comments:

  1. I think they are all adorable! It reminds me of elementary school when we would make these same kinds of dolls but would use acorns for the heads.

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  2. You are too kind, Muff.

    I bet your Acorn head dolls were cute! We made soap sculptures in elementary art class using Ivory soap.

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  3. Enjoyed your creative makeovers! I checked a doll-making book out of the library when I was a kid that had a chapter on clothespin dolls. At that time, however, those clothespins had gone out of fashion and craft stores didn't carry them. Maybe I can fulfill a childhood dream and try making some now.

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    1. Thank you! I think it would be wonderful for you to fulfill your childhood dream by making a clothespin doll or two, perhaps an entire family. If you do, please share the results.

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  4. Very cute. It is nice to see kids making the dolls. I use the clothespins with the ceramic flat heads to make dolls.

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    1. MDW,

      I'd also love to see your clothespin dolls with ceramic heads. They sound very interesting!

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  5. I can't wait to see your doll, I know it going to be cute. I believe my mother still has my doll in her china cabinet! Hmm, I might have to try and create one. Yes, I am ordering the girl scout barbie now, lol . Thanks for info!

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    1. I don't know about cute, Brini, but I am sure my next clothespin creation will be interesting. :-)

      Congrats in advance on the Girl Scout Barbie. Why does everything Barbie "need" to be pink?

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  6. These are cute! You did a good job of creating your dolls, and I like your enhancements. I can't wait to see how your jointed doll turns out!

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!