When we think of dolls, we imagine young children playing, dressing plastic figurines in tiny outfits, of ‘Action Man’ or ‘Barbie’ and all the fun of innocent childhood games, but dolls have been used in magic or religious contexts across the globe throughout history. Earliest findings document the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans among the ancient civilisations creating doll-like figurines. Immortalising their gods or deities, they were used as burial artefacts as well as ornaments or playthings. These were often crude representations, manufactured from clay, wood or stone, but even in those ancient times, examples of dolls created as elaborate art existed. Discoveries of wooden ‘paddle dolls’, dating back circa 2000B.C. have been made during past excavations of Egyptian tombs while the earliest examples of dolls with moveable limbs pre-date A.D. by some 200 years.
The modern doll has its origins in 15th century Germany and with the dawn of the industrial age, new materials such as porcelain and plastics allowed for mass production. As a predominantly art-loving species, our fascination increased popularity in collectible figurines, opening a gateway for artistic creativity and to the world of ‘light painted’ dolls.
Painting with light, an imaginative technique employed by photographers to capture and create different, often mesmerizing effects, utilizes hand held coloured lighting sources and movement; it is the antithesis of photography and doll photographers take great advantage of this form of art.
Ilona Jurgiel, a professional doll maker and photographer with a sound background in the arts and literature, uses her multiple creative disciplines to infuse her dolls with the very essence of life, adding a sense of realism into each design and bringing together sculpture, painting with light, photography and ball jointed dolls. Immersing herself in the art from an early age, Ilona worked for years with pre-purchased resin based ball jointed dolls, stylising each creation with dress and traditional paint, all the while dreaming of creating her own artist Poupée from start to finish. A fortunate meeting with Lidia Snul, creator of BJTALES, led Ilona to study porcelain doll making, a highly complicated, yet extremely rewarding and versatile process.
“Porcelain”, Ilona says, “an extremely delicate yet highly durable medium, takes several stages of work to produce a finished doll, each requiring a different skill set; ceramics artist and sculptor, wig maker and designer with an intricate imagination for detail as well as mould maker and an understanding of physics to ensure the the joints move naturally and smoothly”.
There are very few porcelain doll artists in the world, and fewer still who do so, so skilfully as Ilona, so that each final piece is elegantly beautiful, unique its in own creation, yet truly representative of its creator’s brilliance in creating fine art. As important as the doll making processes are, the real mastery is seen in the technique and understanding of China painting, it is learning how to apply the subtle colours to a doll and how to ‘fire’ each of the painted parts. Both, China paint and porcelain require firing at high temperature and success is an art in itself. Porcelain’s delicateness can lead to faults while the paints too have their own demands. China paint is applied in layers with each layer fired separately and different colours fired at different temperatures, a set of processes requiring incredible depth of knowledge of both kiln and the chosen materials.
Combining doll making with her profession as a photographer, painting with light and her keen interest within the alternative scene, each doll is dressed, staged and posed, often, in a gothic or steampunk style, lighting and light filters create the mood, highlighting the intricate balance of detail and mystique Ilona captures into each finished doll. Reproducing such imagery in this way opens the eyes and channels the mind to the iridescent elegance and exquisite mastery of this beautiful craft, it conceptualises something idealised as a ‘double’, an abstract notion once referenced by Freud as ‘uncanny’.
To view more of Ilona’s incredible creations, her dolls and photography, take a look at her websites or find her on facebook.
Handmade Porcelain Art BALL JOINTED DOLLS http://lightpainteddoll.com/
Photography/Light painting photography http://lightpainting.co.uk/