Art Dolls

(URLs For Included Links Last Checked and Corrected: Jan. 6, 2015.)

What’s Your Reality Bubble?

Professionally speaking, Art Dolls are works of fine art that aren’t created to be played with and aren’t created by using commercial molds. They can take a day to a month or more and are sold for 100 US dollars, if the skill level is lacking, to 10,000 US dollars or more when made by highly skilled, better known artists.

Altering stuff made while using commercial molds means you used a commercial mold and therefore any work made with that isn’t an art doll in any professional sense. Those creations belong to different categories of doll. See the array of industry-recognized, doll categories and their titles covered on ODACA’s (Original Doll Artist Council of America) Standard Definitions Page.

My pinterest board on art dolls and spirit dolls shows some of the finer examples of art dolls.

Although some “art doll” artists who use commercial molds and commercially made doll parts may hold workshops and/or write books, they are usually not among those who are selling said “art dolls” professionally as active members in any of the better known art doll associations as professional art doll artists.

Why Differentiate?

Art is art, right? If it’s a doll, and it’s art, then it’s an art doll; case closed. Not so fast…

In the professional art doll world, many art doll artists can take weeks or months to create their art dolls and props. It’s a concern when doll crafters who use commercial molds or parts flood youtube and the marketplace and call their work “art dolls” or One of a Kind (OOAKs) Art Dolls. Differentiation using professional definitions protect the entire field of art dolls. 

I went to a SOFA exhibition (Sculptural Objects, Functional Art, and Design) around the year 2006 or so and wondered why there weren’t a bunch of art dolls there. Many people think art dolls are just for old broads over 50, or some such nonsense. Because “dolls.” The morass of what people try to pass as art dolls creates problems for the art doll field too. This is why some art doll artists make sure to classify their work as “figurative” or “fine art.” E.g., Hidden Hollow’s description of “Original One of a Kind Figurative Clay Sculptures & Other Works of Art,” by Dianne Mayne. Another example comes from Anna Klocko’s webpage, “My dolls, which I call Figurative Sculpture, are the culmination of many aspects of my artistic life.”

Pure Sculpts: I prefer to pure sculpt art dolls in clay, though the trunk of a doll may sometimes be stuffed fabric. When I say “pure sculpt,” it means the artist takes raw clay and sculpts it with their own hands (or feet if they don’t have working hands) or sculpting tools, as opposed to using commercial molds in any manner. Pure sculpt art dolls can reach the heights I want to as an artist, capture a precise moment or an expression, and can artistically push the envelope in some way. They are created as pieces of fine art. This is why if I altered a molded item, I’ll say that’s what it is, and if I make a pure sculpt, I’ll call it a pure sculpt.

Note: The following definition is based on various official and standardized definitions and additionally addresses OOAK clay art dolls, specifically, as opposed to all professional art dolls.

Pure Sculpt OOAK Art Doll Definition (My Definition) — An original one-of-a-kind (OOAK) doll made by the artist using no one else’s patterns or molds. The doll is made of any medium or combination thereof and is the artist’s original work and design — no class dolls, no reborns, no repaints, no commercial molds and no recycled or mass produced doll parts. A pure sculpt, the doll is sculpted completely by the artist’s own hands to fulfill their vision and is created as a work of fine art. Art Dolls go for fine art prices and collectors ask for them the world over.

Again, an art doll is original one-of-a-kind doll made by the artist, using no one else’s patterns or molds, made of any medium or combination thereof and is the artist’s original work and design — no class dolls, no reborns, no repaints, no commercial molds and no recycled or mass produced doll parts. Art Dolls go for fine art prices, collectors ask for them the world over.

Art Dolls (Fine Art) vs. Crafting: It’s generally understood, in professional art doll circles, that if you use commercial molds, then you’re crafting and you’re not creating an art doll. More on the different terms you might hear on ODACA’s (Original Doll Artist Council of America) Standard Definitions Page.

Professional, Standard Definitions

The Standard Definition for OOAKs: “When the original or first doll is sculpted, assembled, costumed and finished by the artist and this doll is never made again, it is called a one-of-a-kind doll. One-of-a-kind dolls are almost always entirely designed and handcrafted by the creating artist.”

ODACA (Original Doll Artist Council of America) Excludes the Use of Commercial Molds: “All work made from commercially available molds, even if significantly changed by the hobbyist, should carry original marks followed by “reproduced by . (craftsman’s name or initials).” To do otherwise can constitute infringement of creator copyright. Makers who sell works made from other’s molds as their own originals may also be subject to charges of fraud.” In case it’s not clear that commercial molds shouldn’t be used for art dolls, this is the standard definition for an art doll artist: “One who takes an idea and transforms it into a three-dimensional doll form by using his or her hands to sculpt or re-arrange raw materials.”

Wikipedia’s Definition of Art Dolls: “Art dolls are objects of art, rather than children’s toys, created in a wide variety of styles and media, and may include both pre-manufactured parts or wholly original works.”

Etsy’s Word on Art Dolls: “There’s no hard and fast definition to be found for an art doll. They can be made out of almost any medium or several different media. They come in various shapes, sizes, styles, and designs. They can be very realistic or abstract with barely anything recognizable on them. They can be human, humanoid, anthropomorphic, alien, fantasy, sci-fi, or just about anything in between. You can read more here.”

NIADA (National Institute of American Doll Artists) Doesn’t Allow the Use of Commercial Molds and Parts: “A NIADA artist who uses molds in his/her dollmaking is expected to produce such molds, or have them produced by a mold-maker from a sculpture made by the artist. No commercial or “repro” molds may be used.” See NIADA Artist Handbook.

International Art Doll Registry’s Say on Art Dolls:We accept figurative Art Dolls made from polymer clay, cloth dolls with original sculpted components, air dry type clays such as Paper Clay and also figures made from Epoxy Sculpt or Aves. We do not register works that are pre-manufactured dolls such as reborns or fashion doll repaints.  We do not register animal or other non-human sculpts other than fantasy (fairies, mermaids, centaurs, etc) and anthropomorphic dolls.” In case that isn’t clear for the crafters, “original sculpted components” means don’t use commercial molds and call your doll an art doll, specifically. 

For More…

See “The One of a Kind Debate” at

More about OOAKs at

Also see the NIADA site.

ODACA (Original Doll Artist Council of America) —

And then there are Spirit Dolls