Boup, Fox, Doll Heads

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November 17, 2006: We had a lovely gift at breakfast time one day this week. An Eastern Bluebird perched on the fence post near the trough and let us observe him for a good long time. They are in the area and we have bluebird houses but they are rarely seen at The Lair.   That same morning ten fat robins perched in the tree just as the sun topped the horizon and spotlighted them. They were all facing the same way and it was a beautiful picture. My wildlife lens and camera were not  set up, unfortunately.

We have been having excessive numbers of bees at The Lair the last two years and although they have not been aggressive, they are assertive. They buzz close around one's head, they light on me and crawl around, especially when I lie in the hammock under the trees and try to read. I am not comfortable with two or three stingers crawling all over me with their weapons cocked, although I have not been stung yet.

Because they seem to come mostly from the hill behind the house, today I decided to walk up there and look for the hive. I didn't find it but I happened upon a little elf asleep under one of our Spanish Oak trees! Of course he woke up immediately and was quite angry that he had allowed himself to be caught by a human like an incompetent fairy. It took a while but I convinced him I meant him no harm. I explained why I was there and he told me he is a honey elf. In fact, he is Bea Bea the Bee Brushing Fairy's brother! When he learned that I know Bea Bea well, he seemed more comfortable with me and opened up a bit about his work. He told me his name is Boup (it rhymes with loop) and his task is to work in the bee hive keeping the honey free from impurities.

I was treated to a tour of a local honey operation near Llano last summer. It is a fascinating process, but I was shocked at how many bees lose their lives or various body parts during the processing. The honey not only is cleaned, it is sterilized. It is necessary to have someone like Boup to remove the impurities from the honey, believe me.

Boup said he enjoys his work, although the worker bees can be rather bossy. The worker bees have a rule that the clean up crew cannot taste the honey. I do believe the evidence suggests that Boup, being an elf, and you know how they are, does not always follow the rules. He showed me the specially constructed sieve that he uses to remove impurities from the honey. It has holes in the bottom to let the honey drain back into the individual cells in the honeycomb. He honored me by doing something elves seldom do. He allowed me to take his picture:

elf doll

He wouldn't look at the camera. You can see the oak leaves
that showered down on him while he was sleeping.
He is holding his special perforated scoop with which he cleans the honey.
Bees were crawling on him front and back but that didn't seem to bother Boup.

elf doll back

One thing Boup didn't like is that the worker bees
insist that each honey elf must have his name
on the back of his vest. That makes Boup feel like they don't
trust him and want to be able to instantly identify any honey elf
who has honey dripping from his mouth.

elf face

Trying hard not to stare at his chin, I told Boup I could see why he wouldn't like that.
He ended the conversation then by saying he had to get back to work.
He must have cast glamour over me (you  do know that fairy glamour is for the purpose
of making you see whatever the fairy wants you to see, don't you?) because
although I didn't see him leave, he was suddenly not there anymore.
Boup never did tell me where the bee hive is.
He is a loyal elf despite his dissatisfaction with some parts of his job.


Boup is 19 inches tall, and his body is made of woven fabric; his head and ears are made of velour that has been painted with acrylics. His limbs are button jointed.
He is my original design and is one of the self-declared "graduation dolls" I am making  for the Advanced Doll Making course taught by Judi Ward.
Boup has the clay in the nose technique and his head and neck are constructed so that his head can turn, both techniques learned in the class. He has
fully articulated fingers. His face is stamped with an "Impress Me" stamp by Sherrill Kahn.
His features are painted with acrylic paints and colored pencils and are lightly needle sculpted.
He has "real" eyelashes attached to painted eyelids. His hair is made of yarn.

 Seeing no reason to try to reinvent the wheel, I used Judi Ward's patterns for Boup's glittery felt vest and his cotton knickers. I wanted Boup to have honey dripping from
his mouth but could not find just the right bead.
My doll making designer friend Kate Erbach provided the beautiful drop of honey for the elf's chin.
By the way, if you don't remember Boup's sister Bea Bea, she can be seen here.

When I first saw cloth dolls, I saw some made with tab joints and didn't care for them; they were so new to me and different, I found my eyes first went directly to them instead of to the whole doll. However, I knew I would not be happy if I did not make some tab joints while taking this class.  While I was designing Boup I made another set of elf legs with tab joints. They aren't as good as my next ones will be, but I learned a lot making these and now I have had a big change of opinion about tab joints. They actually are a very elegant way to join limbs allowing for freer movement and I now understand why doll makers like them and use them sometimes. I now plan to do so myself.  Here is the set I made along with a little hat I made for Boup, but he didn't like it and I had to discard it.

tab joints

Elf legs with tab joints and elf hat.
After next week I plan to begin work on Sabu, my next "graduation doll."

 Oh, I need to tell you that I had such wonderful response to my head designs (see below). I had posted the link in the Friends of Cloth Dolls forum to which I belong, and  I heard from doll designers/makers from all over the world and they all said they thought the faces were wonderful and refused my categorizing any of them as a failure. It was certainly a lesson to me to learn to see those doll heads/faces through the eyes of more experienced doll makers.

In fact, Kate Erbach loved them and took what I considered my worst failures, the two heads  on the front row below, and made a wonderful  elf doll with one, and is making another doll with the lady face. We have had such fun with this. Kate said she waited and waited for the elf doll to tell her his name, and he insisted his name is FARRIS! He is a carpet elf that sneaks around people who are sleeping on the floor and sings lullabies in their ears. Camilla thinks he has not been completely forthcoming with all he does and she thinks he also sneaks around making bad puns and stirring up trouble. Please visit Kate's Picture Trail site here and look on the left, you will see Farris the Carpet Elf  in the third and fourth place down. After I saw the picture of this wonderful doll, I sent Kate this picture of my real Farris taken when he was four years old.

farris and petey

Farris, age 4 holding his pet Bantam chicken, Petey.

Now look at Kate's Farris the Carpet Elf doll along with this picture and see if you don't see some similarities. Kate had not seen this picture when she made the doll. Many of my
friends have commented on the shoes Farris is wearing. They are boy's shoes and back then (we won't say when) they were considered boy's sandals.
Didn't you love Kate's doll? Wait until you see how she transforms the lady face on the first row below! She will choose one of the dolls and send me the other. Lucky, lucky me!

Farris and I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving!


October 30, 2006: I have been so busy with my doll design course I have had little time for anything else, and when you do one thing that doesn't leave much of interest to talk about to others.

As far as wildlife is concerned, we have had quite an influx of sparrows. We have seen Chipping sparrows, White Crowned sparrows, Field sparrows, and a whole flock of Rufus Crowned sparrows. The latter are a delight because they are so active and they flex their little rufus topknots often. They used to play around in the car port when we first moved in the house, but after the cats found us, they no longer stay near the house. The White Wing doves have moved on temporarily and we saw a Mourning dove at the feeder this week. I prefer the Mourning doves and am sorry they leave when the White Wing doves move in. It is almost time for the American Goldfinches to arrive.


This picture is not good compositionally but I like it because it captures two of the birds that frequent our feeders. The White Wing dove is on the left and the lesser Goldfinch, black backed race
is on the right. This was taken through two panes of window glass.

 Farris saw a gray fox cross our driveway and I saw the red fox trotting away from the fountain a week or so ago.



This is a better picture of the fox drinking at the fountain and then trotting across the yard. I had my tripod and large lens set up this time. Still taken through the window.

One of my tasks in the advanced doll design class taught by Judi Ward is to design various doll head patterns. I worked on twelve. Of those twelve I have four head designs that I like and will keep as patterns. Then I painted the faces, using sketches drawn from pictorial resources. I was less successful with the faces. I am posting my failures here because when I was studying art it sometimes seemed to me that all I saw were spectacular successes in art books and I wished the artists would show some of their struggle and failures so I wouldn't feel so alone with mine. 
I made my job more difficult by trying out media I had never used before on some of the faces. Here is an example, and also shows why artists must have faith:

face in progress

This is a doll head in progress. It is painted with water soluble oil pastels. If I had not seen a picture similar to this one in Patti Culea's  book on painting faces,  I would have tossed this head into the trash can. But this is just
an interim stage.

face blended

This is the same face after being blended. Okay, so there are problems with the eyes--too close together, and maybe not tracking well together--those are some of the problems we grapple with as doll artists. Believe me, it takes a lot of faith to get from phase one above to this phase. I might still use this character doll even with her warts.

doll heads

 These are the heads I made for the class. Only eleven are here; would you believe I don't know where the twelfth one is?
 The flash has exaggerated the values, the actual colors aren't as splotchy as they look here. My two most obvious failures are the two in the front.
The little guy on the left was painted with water soluble oil pastels, a medium that behaved very differently from any I have used before. When I finished I sealed his face and
after a day or two thought he looked washed out. I forgot I had sealed the face and painted over it again with strange results. I took him outside and sprayed purple watercolor all over him
and painted his mouth purple and now I rather like him, because I can see him on a little bent gnome body with a purple cloak.
The face at right front failed because I was trying a new needle sculpting technique following someone's directions and I failed to factor in that my head/face was larger than
the pattern the author had used and I slavishly followed her directions for eye size and they are too small for this head and are set way too high in the face.
The faces I like are on the back row, the fourth, fifth, sixth and last on the row. I like the man's face because it looks like a man. I made a huge mistake with that one, though.
I took the time and trouble to make a trapunto nose for that head--that is a nose that is stitched but has a cloth backing to it so I can stuff it separately and get some definition
to the face. I made all the heads first and then painted the faces. When I picked up that head to do the man's face I had forgotten about the trapunto nose and painted the
face on the back side of the head and didn't notice my mistake until I had finished the painting! I wasted all the effort of making the nice trapunto nose. These are beginner mistakes.
In the future I will not forget to check both sides of a head before painting the face.
 I like the honey colored  fairy head especially. The last head on the row I consider a success
 because she is supposed to look apprehensive and I think she does. What kind of doll I would use her on, I have no idea.
Although I am not fond of the look of her face, the head that is third from the right
is of interest to me because with her, for the first time I put a cloth mask on a cloth doll head, a profile head, in
order to hide the center seam that is part of that kind of design. I will do more masks. I like the technique and the effects.
These are my learning heads. I was disappointed that I didn't get any pretty faces. That is what my next goal will be. My favorite head pattern
remains the flat faced head that allows one to paint a more portrait like face. Most of these faces are needle sculpted, some lightly, others
more thoroughly. The only one with no needle sculpting is the one fifth from the left of the last row. I was satisfied with her look without sculpting.
Experienced doll makers, please be kind; you were here once. Be encouraged, beginning doll makers, these are the baby steps we must take to learn.

I have added an adorable new doll to the doll gallery. Her name is Nettie and you can see her here.

October 31, 2006: I posted the above information in the wee hours last night. This morning Farris called me to the window to see a special visual gift. I grabbed my camera so I can share it with you:

This precious baby didn't stay very long, I am glad I was able to document this gift from nature.

Last revised: December 21, 2006

Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.