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Altered dolls usually (but not always) start with ready-made, store-bought dolls. They may be modified or even deconstructed to make a different art doll or mixed-media figure.
These can include anything from themed, customized BarbieTM dolls, to Raggedy Ann gone wild, to McD’s doll toys that are made into jewelry or chess pieces.
However, that definition of altered dolls is the tip of the iceberg. For many doll artists, “altered dolls” mean anything that even vaguely resembles a doll. This takes altered dolls into paper arts, mixed media, and beyond.
My doll in the photo above is from around 2002 or so. She’s more an assemblage than an altered doll. My initial concept was to create a futuristic Kachina doll.
The face and feet were cast from existing dolls, using my mold process. The torso/body was a clear plastic cube filled with opalescent Easter grass. The arms were a single lucite rod, decorated with feathers.
(Thread didn’t attach the feathers as well as I’d hoped, so the thread was also glued in place.)
That doll was small enough to sit in my hand. (She was one of several I made at the time, and all dolls from that series are now in private collections.)
Here’s what’s important about altered dolls: There are no limits to what you can do!
December 2011 update
If you’re intrigued by altered dolls, here are some more recent altered art doll articles to inspire you. (If any of these links are broken when you visit, let me know in a comment. Thanks!)
C. Dianne Zweig – Kitsch ‘n Stuff: Altered Doll Assemblages: Using …
Altered Doll Assemblages: Using Up Your Vintage Junk. Creating Dolls Out of Vintage Junk I would love to be able to try my hand at making Altered Doll Assemblages out of vintage odds and ends. Like many of you who are …
Dianne’s illustrations look similar to the altered dolls and assemblages we used to make when I taught at Artfest. They’re quirky and strange and generally wonderful!
For me, those represent some of the roots of assemblage and altered dolls, going back to the Dada movement and maybe earlier.
Next, scroll down this linked article to see a few interesting altered paper dolls. I think this concept could be taken in very wild directions.
4, 9am – 4pm. I had a fun discovery today -. several completed altered paper dolls! 2 of them are Halloween themed, but I’ll still put them out. Here are 3 that I have scanned. The others need to be resized, etc. and I will share! …
If you like those altered paper dolls, you may enjoy the next examples of altered paper dolls:
Jumbled Crafts: Altered Dolls at Craft Room (offline as of 2020)
Well I have never done anything like this before but it was so much fun. I didn’t know where to start really but the ideas just kept coming as I went along. What a great idea it is to alter a paper doll and I am pleased …
Sue’s Art of Craft: My First Altered Paper Doll – Love It!
My First Altered Paper Doll – Love It! This month’s challenge at Craft Room is to make an Altered Paper Doll. Click the link in the sidebar for Craft Room Challenge to take part. I’ve never tried anything like this before and must …
Next, some art deco-style altered dolls at Etsy. What intrigues me is that the faces look like the ones I’ve made since 2002 (maybe earlier) using homemade molds. (The same kinds of molds I used for the futuristic kachina, above.)
I love seeing my ideas spread throughout the dollmaking community! (If you have other ways to use cast faces or other doll parts, please let me know. Leave a comment below.)
thechildrensgardenandseedcompany: My Latest Altered Dolls on Etsy
Create a garden that will delight children. Become sensitive to what delights children- smells, textures, tastes…Create a place for adventures! Friday, October 28, 2011. My Latest Altered Dolls on Etsy …
Now we shift to another extreme, a downright creepy altered doll. It’s one of Natasha Morgan’s stylish dolls, inspired by the DC Comic Book character, the two-faced Mr. Dent. (However, it’s not one of the creepiest dolls I found, when I was searching for altered dolls to share with you.)
Natasha Morgan Art Dolls: Harvey – A Two Faced Altered Doll Portrait
Harvey – A Two Faced Altered Doll Portrait. Named by my Husband after the Two Faced vintage DC Comic Book character Mr Dent, I was inspired to make Harvey by a challenge I was asked to take part in on behalf of my …
If you liked that doll, be sure to see more at Zuzu’s Alter It Monthly.
And finally, returning to altered paper dolls and doll-related paper arts, here are some interesting and elaborate dolls & figures. (The website has music that starts playing on its own. If you’re at work, turn down your speakers.)
ALTERED EXPRESSIONS: Matchbox dolls!!
Hi Betty, I’m so excited about your Matchbox Dolls tutorial…thank you so much! 🙂 I just love them! …
I could have continued this list for pages & pages, but I think it’s enough of an overview to give you some inspiration and starting points.
The concept of “altered dolls” is huge. From altered children’s dolls (plastic, etc.) to altered paper dolls, to assemblages and found art, to cast elements and odd bits & pieces… there’s a lot to play with!