Guest Artist Gayle Wray

Guest Artist Gayle Wray

We are so please to have cloth doll maker Gayle Wray as our guest this month.

Gayle tell us a little about yourself and your doll making process.

I create vintage inspired, articulated, all-cloth, dolls, using Kona quilting cotton for the entire doll. I’ve developed a uniquely sculpted face and body pattern that follows the natural curves of the face and body. I began making cloth dolls with the intent to see how far I could take the art. I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is ultimately possible. I love working with fabrics, I lean towards natural fibers and I like to experiment with unusual materials. Ultimately, I wanted to create an articulated doll that could pose naturally and reflect its owners changing moods.Because my dolls move naturally, they can be posed in some very fun positions; all the better to show off the fabulous fashions and styles of the past. 

My passion for fashion design has helped me create the mood and era of my dolls while designing beyond the boundaries has helped open up new ways to create the details and accessories. I love using vintage finds, laces, and silks to make the garments and trims. I try to make as much of the trim and accessories as possible in the creation of a doll.  While I love and employ old style doll making techniques, I embrace technology and 3d printing. My goal is to create a doll that embodies vintage and timeless style. The 70’s and 80’s were an inspirational time for me, but I pull from all eras and interject nostalgic touches into all my designs.

I was drawing little faces at a very young age. It’s a part of me I had a feeling would become important later on. I learned odd skills and studied random crafts, all of which I use now. Though at the time they were non-related, they are now the foundation of all my work. It takes a lot of confidence to make a doll. As a young lady, I never considered that it would be possible for me to accomplish such a goal. In my 50’s, I gave it a try and I’m so glad I did!

It’s been five years since I first started making dolls. I continue to improve and find easier ways to accomplish some of the more difficult maneuvers. As we age, some types of doll work can become more difficult. I’d like to make the whole process easier on the hands and nerves, because I’d like to be making dolls as long as I can. I’ve always been an artist and have tried to learn as much as possible artistically. A love of people and a love of creating things with my hands . One day I had the thought that “maybe I could” and so I tried to make my first doll. She was far from perfect, but I adored her. That first success propelled me to work harder. I always learn from each doll I make. An infinite variety of looks exist in the world, encompassing every type of beauty; each deserves to be lovingly represented.

I started with life-sized babies. This is my first all cloth girl. My first lady doll was one I’d made for my grown daughter’s birthday. I had worked so hard on it. She became the precursor to all the dolls I’ve made since.

Authenticity is very important to me, especially when making a historic or commissioned doll. I research to get the vital details I need. I sketch and usually stay pretty close to the initial drawings. Sometimes a doll won’t like my choices and she’ll sit there for days in protest. I always give in and let the doll win when that occurs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never won a fight with a doll…

Gayle, where does your inspiration come from, and how do you deal with creative blocks?

I’m so inspired by real people. Just looking around and observing the people you run into on a daily basis can inspire you. If you look, you’ll see lovely people everywhere you go. Our doll making work is important; I believe it’s our way of boosting morale and spreading joy. I want someone to look at our dolls and say with a smile or a gasp: “what, why, how?” Creative blocks do happen to the best of us. I try to figure out where the block started. Sometimes I’ll have bitten off more than I could chew when trying to use a doll technique that is above my skill set. Being super patient with yourself helps if this happens. It’s good to dial the original design back a bit, so you can reenter your comfort zone and complete your work. I like to have a list of chores ready in case life hands me a mental block. First on the list is cleaning my doll room. Nothing will get your inspiration back faster than the mundane task of sorting out endless bins and tubs of forgotten doll making supplies!

As doll makers we have to become a seamstress, cobbler, hair stylist, and so much more, is there any part of your doll making that you find you leave until last because it’s difficult or do you love it all? Do you have a favorite part of the creative process in bringing your dolls to life?

Yikes, I have this personality component that hates to do the same thing twice. Trying new stuff all the time can be frustrating. Each try is not always a success. Having to creating a very specific hairstyle is super challenging. Free-form hair is my favorite. Let’s be honest, every part of the doll is difficult. It’s an absolute miracle they ever get made! Clothing might be the most difficult part. So many components must meet up and look pulled together. This is also my favorite part. Designing and sewing and outfit that turns out nicely takes time and is well worth the effort. And then there are the shoes… there’s so many different methods available and so many materials to make them with. I like making them by hand and I also like to 3D print them. It takes about five hours to print one pair and another hour and a half to make them glossy using an acetone vapor method. The pair below is covered in blue spandex and has a paper sole glued on over the 3D printed shoes. I use an XYZPro 3D printer, and I prefer ABS plastic filament.

Do you find you spend more time on one part of your dolls than any other?

To be perfectly honest, it can take more time for me to decide to make a doll than it does to actually make one. My doll body has 10 to 14 joints. Once she’s assembled, a very complex outfit can take weeks to complete.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a doll maker? What advice would you give new doll artists?

Follow your heart, follow your dreams. Make dolls that represent your heart and soul. Make the dolls that you wish you’d been given as a child and also as an adult. Reach out to established makers for support and advice. Make as many dolls as you can. Once you’ve gained some skills use them to help others learn to make dolls.

Do you have tips or tricks to take great photos of your dolls?

Just like people, your dolls need to be lit properly to photograph at their best. Let the light hug one side of the face and the other side be in partial shadow. Choose a background that is in a contrasting color than your doll, so your doll will not fade into the backdrop. Keep the backdrop simple so that your doll stands out. Reposition often. Take four times as many photos as you need. Keep only the 25% that are great. Use the best photo for promotion of the doll.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

People often ask me what my dolls heads are made of because they assume it’s sculpted of a hard material, or a cloth-over application. This is why I usually state that my dolls are all cloth with a soft flexible face.

I offer in person three day Angelina cloth doll classes a few times a year in Clearwater, Florida. Class dates are listed on my website. I’m also currently working on a 2nd edition of my book “Making Angelina”. The full course book with video training included shows you how to make an articulated cloth art doll from start to finish. All the patterns are included. Happy Dolling


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