Q. Did you play with paper dolls as a kid? Do you have a favorite vintage paper doll that still makes you smile?
A. Yes, yes… the Ginghams little girls from the 70s, and Betsy McCalls from my Grandmother’s magazines. I made a paperdoll of my Grandmother in her honor, it is called “Amazing Grace”.
I was a tiny tot–not even two, they said–when I sat on her kitchen linoleum and made a paper coatdress for my doll out of the waxy paper liner from a cereal box. It was primitive, a basic rectangular shape with two carefully torn holes for the doll’s arms to go through. I know, it’s not exactly a paper doll per se, but I think it counts.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of being in the paper art doll business?
A. The responses! Sometimes as an artist I think, “Well, I wonder if my art is as good as they told me it was?”
You know people won’t say it’s awful even if it is, so I wonder…Am I really a good artist?
The responses to my art have been overwhelming, just beautiful! I’ve made friends and they make me feel like making more art. Even if it never gets me famous or rich…even if I die a pauper, I made someone smile! I made them love me! That’s really all it is.
Q. If someone wants to pursue this as a career direction, what’s your best advice? What are the best books to read, if any?
A. First, go to eBay. Look at all the types of paperdolls there are, what sells commonly, and what is considered “rare”.
Realize that there are stupid people who won’t recognize true art but will pay ridiculous sums for things that can be easily mass-produced and resold on auction sites.
Then realize that one day you may be one of those stupid people because you’ll pay a million dollars for a tattered old stained copy of a Ginghams girls paperdoll booklet. Heh heh.
Then notice what the original artists’ works are going for; it may be exciting or depressing. I felt both.
You may notice other things selling by the same artists in other categories, such as art or books or jewelry. This is common because it’s very very rare to make enough money creating paperdolls alone, without a side business to help support it.
Most paper doll artists, serious ones, also make things to be sold at paper doll conventions, paper doll parties, and online at their websites. They have newsletters and fan-based groups to help support their promotions. They give programs or speeches at doll clubs.
Some famous paper doll artists are collectors or experts in related fields, such as regular dolls or dollhouse miniatures.
The really savvy artist will make use of all these things together to bring new viewers to their work.
Here are some important points:
- Make a website. Title it with the word(s) “paperdoll” in it, and submit it to the major search engines.
- Join several webrings to bring traffic to your website.
- Begin a list of contacts and send them updates on your latest works, life, everything! Let them get to know you.
- Also start a paper doll collecting group in your area. This helps with networking and keeps you busy!
From there it’s up to you. I wish you the best of luck!
Aisling’s note: JJ has generously shared one of her fun paper dolls, here. Right-click on that link to save it to your hard drive, and then print it at 200 pixels/inch. (216kb) To use it at a larger size, I recommend using VectorMagic.com to vectorize the image, then adjust it to the size you want.
Be sure to look for JJ’s websites for more of her paper dolls and related art. As of 2020, I don’t have a current link for her work. If you do, please leave the link in a comment, below. Thanks!
The following links were part of the original 2005 article. They may not be current.
JJ on Webring (was there in 2005 – if anyone knows where she is, now, leave a comment with her new URL)
$1 Download Paper Dolls by JJ Complete Catalog w/ Viewable Thumbnails http://www.angelfire.com/fang/jjspds/thumbs
Owner of “Portrait Paperdolls” To join, send an email to: [email protected]
Owner of “Ephemera Restoration” To Join, send an email to: [email protected]