Dollhouse BRAZIL

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Introducing the talented doll maker Dana Burton. The so absolutely natural draping, hairdo (wigging), and pose she gives to her dolls make them irresistible. Read more about this generous artisan who has been helping and inspiring so many enthusiasts to learn more about the art of creating dolls that look more like real people in miniature!

Dana Burton

Pictures in the end.

I like to create little alteregos of what 'might' have been in my life without those wonder 'life curves'. This opens up a whole range of pretty dolls to make. I then decided I liked teaching new people to create these dolls, rather than going the high collector end.

DHB: Dana, tell us a little bit about you...

I was on the early computer list, and I would give away some of my kits for free for people who were willing to try them. So they would give me feedback. And one thing led to another and my name got promoted. Back then the list had under 100 people in it. And when Sue decided to break up the list and give them to people as she couldn’t handle all the work, my name came up and I said ‘sure!’ And that was the start of it.

DHB: How did the list (MSATMiniDoll) happen?

Let’s see… Romantic female dolls. Basically everything I wish I could look like in real life but I can’t because I’m too old… Like long pretty hair, little pretty tiny waist, young pretty face: all the stuff that I wanted to look like…[DHB protests: don’t believe her, she’s beautiful and still young!]

DHB: What’s your favorite style for dolls?

first published on 07/18/2010

Of course, nobody makes perfect dolls… You can’t! At this scale it’s impossible. My theory is: if you make a doll that’s absolutely perfect with all the curls in the hair, perfectly spaced pleads, they don’t look real! Because there’s nobody perfect in real life. Unless you’re a bride and you’re on a bride photo and some photographer adjusted your dress and all the pleats… nobody is perfect!

And my biggest complaint, that people don’t understand, is that a ‘perfect, perfect’ doll, where every pleat is the exact same size, every hair is exactly in place… will look like a doll!

DHB: What makes a doll – your dolls – so realistic?

I personally think that 80% of dolls out there do look like dolls… And my whole career is based on showing people how to make them look like people caught in time. What that means to me is that most dolls aren’t posable, the clothes always look fat, and they don’t look realistic… When I started, most people wouldn’t put dolls in their dollhouses for the reasons that you mentioned, now half of them have dolls in their dollhouses, because I proved to them that they could do it. If you still don’t want to have a doll in your dollhouse, what you can do is: you can make an incredible beautiful doll that’s just perfect and you can turn her into the room, so you can see the back. Sometimes the face is a give-away, they don’t always do the faces nicely, they come with that random weird bug-eyes. So, with the face turned inside, you won’t see it. Or you can have a very nicely done mannequin. And as far as the doll falling over I have only dolls on a stand, so unless you kick your dollhouse, there’s no way it’s going to trip over…

So I guess what I would say is that if you do your homework and drape a doll realistically, it IS going to look like a real person.

DHB: Many people say they don’t want to put dolls in their dollhouses because they LOOK like dolls and that would spoil the illusion, they might fall down and break the delicate stuff in the house… What do you say about this?

Yes, it is! Beginners have this fascination for some reason over Victorian. Almost everybody that starts out wants to make that fancy, frilly, 200 pleats layer dolls. Even me, or other professionals, you don’t always get it right, it always gets a little bit heavy. If you’re just starting out, do simple dolls! Start with the servants. Work your way up to the fancy ladies. Don’t start out at the top, at the hardest doll possible, and then wonder why it doesn’t look good… Which is why there are so many people who do children, because children’s folding is very forgiving. You can make toddlers clothing, or you can make little girls clothing… Well, little girls are walked around by their moms who make sure they look perfect all the time, so if you try to make all the pleats perfect, that’s more realistic. But if you’re making a woman doll and all her pleats are perfect, well… not so much!

DHB: This is actually very encouraging for me and other people like me who absolutely can’t make anything just perfect! :)

I like dolls because it gives an additional historical dimension to a room. If you don’t have a doll in it… for example, if you have a bedroom and you just place a nightgown on the bed, it looks like she’s just got up and went somewhere. But if you have a bedroom with a nightgown on the bed and she’s sitting at the dresser reading a love story and she’s got a little bit of tears in her eyes, it’s a whole story that’s there.

So, to me personally, if you add a doll, it gives the room a whole new dimension to your story. Without a doll it’s just static. It may be perfect, it may be absolutely wonderful, but they’re static. That’s why I like to add another dimension. I guess the older I get, the more I like things with a story. I like having nuances of emotions and trying to figure out where those emotions came from or the background, or the ‘what ifs’… ‘What if that doll’s husband is really going to come back?’ and ‘What will she wear?’ Then you can go: ‘oh, I can make her a really pretty dress!’, or ‘oh, I bet she wants a sexy red one!’… or when I look at the doll I might think ‘hum, she doesn’t want anything sexy at all, she wants a pretty frilly one!’ then I can make her barefoot, long hair, the wind’s blowing, the skirt’s flying up, and she’s twisting just a moment because she thinks she hears something… all that is just a story you can get from a doll, all just little nuances you can’t have otherwise!

DHB: In Brazil there are very few people who make dolls, who dress dolls. What would you tell them to encourage them to change that?

I worked at Page Jewelers, as an assistant manager for many years.

DHB: What did you do before creating dolls?

I was on the early computer list, and I would give away some of my kits for free for people who were willing to try them. So they would give me feedback. And one thing led to another and my name got promoted. Back then the list had under 100 people in it. And when Sue decided to break up the list and give them to people as she couldn’t handle all the work, my name came up and I said ‘sure!’ And that was the start of it.

DHB: How did you find out you had this talent to create dolls?

Well, there are two ways that I know of for dressing dolls: either you see the doll and you ‘see’ what she will wear; or you see the material and you ‘see’ what dress it should be. I’m a ‘see-the-material-and-see-what-the-dress-should-be’…

DHB: Is this how you get your inspiration from? You look at the doll and start trying to imagine what story she’s ‘trying to tell'?

DHB: And now there are over 1,500 people there, from all over the world!

This whole year I’ve been doing ‘couture’, wedding dresses, so… yeah! (smiles) I don’t like just simple jeans and a shirt, or… a simple dress. I have enough of ‘frilly’ in me to be romantic in some way, because basically dolls are, again, what I can’t look like anymore, so I can put everything that I would love to be in my doll. And when I can do that, when I can channel my little wishes and desires and dreams into a doll, that’s going to turn out really good, no matter the era.

DHB: In Brazil there is no dollhouse tradition unlike in most English speaking countries or in Europe. So, unlike there, people here usually prefer ‘modern’ settings. Do you like to dress modern dolls?

Wow! That’s going to take longer than we have! (laughs…) Ok… right now I am doing a corset and she’s Marie Antoinette inspired, but it’s modern. The next one will be the romantic couple for a teaching class in Europe. Then, for the 2010 Membership Tutorial I have a medieval lady, for which I’m learning to make mini-macramé, as they have those belts in the front. After that I have to do a fairy doll, I already have the wings ready… I could keep going, but those are the top 4.

DHB: What are your current doll projects?

Well, I have the  mini-doll list, then I have the Frills & Fancy e-magazine, we have the Posse, which is the chat room and where I teach the Solutions Classes and the Bridal Classes; then I have an audio podcast; then I have ‘Dolls of Romance’ blog [unfortunately the blog served has shut down this service, and Dana didn't have a backup], which is actually my Gallery of finished dolls – they’re all sold and I don’t have anywhere else to place them; then I have the ‘Dolls of Romance’ blog; then there’s Miniature Art, where I place my tutorials, videos, audio podcasts, etc…

DHB: What about your general projects? You have the list going on…

Yes.

DHB: And the classes all over the world! You travel a far to teach them!

If you go to ‘Dolls of Romance’ you’ll see Bella Dona, at the top in the header is a very pretty doll. I don’t like her face, but her dress looks really good and her hair and the positioning – that would be my favorite.

DHB: Do you have any favorites, of all the dolls you’ve done?

All the professionals have, of course, beautiful dolls. And they, each in their own way, have their strengths. For example, Prisca does absolutely beautiful Tudor dolls. Her dolls are absolutely perfect! I always tease her that they don’t look real, they’re absolutely perfect. (laughs) It’s funny how personal lives affects our work… Prisca is Swiss, and everything she does is absolutely perfect! And that reflects on her work. And Tudors, you have to do them perfect, unless they’re in their undies (robes, etc), everything has to look perfect. Annemarie’s sculpts are absolutely gorgeous too.

DHB: Do you have any favorite doll, by another artist?

… (pause)… I have absolutely no idea! You see, it’s hard because if I looked at a doll and knew what it should be, or what it should wear, I could answer that. But mine happen when I see a material and it instantly ‘clicks’! So, I buy the material and take it home. So, I don’t really do a doll to do a style, I find the material and it ‘tells’ me where it should be…

DHB: Do you have any ‘dream doll’ that you haven’t made yet?

If you are thinking about making miniature dolls and you don’t have the supplies, and you can’t get the supplies there, just email me. We have a wonderful RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) program and I make sure that anybody can make a doll. You might not get the most perfect doll or the most perfect material, but you’ll get great things to start with. And if you show me that you’re going to keep going… I’ve made the dream happen for so many people. They made it happen for me, so I’m just passing it on.

But the most important is: you cannot be afraid to start! If you take one step at a time, on the list you’ll find lots of people to help you, you’ll find loads of information. I did it all by myself. I got books at the library; there was no internet list back then! When I first started the ‘code’ used to be ‘you don’t tell secrets, you don’t tell how to do things because it will become competition’… Which is one of the reasons I chose to go into teaching instead of making professional dolls for hundreds of dollars each. And don’t say ‘I can’t afford it’. You know what? If I can afford it, you can too! There’s always a way. You can trade with people. You can go to thrift stores to find supplies. You can’t put it off for another day!

DHB: Is there anything else you’d like to say to Brazilian miniaturists?

Yes, indeed! :)