Created for Best of Artists and Artisans web site
By Bridgette Mongeon © 2009
Camille Allen from British Columbia, Canada loves babies. She learned the art of making dolls from her husband’s grandmother, Clara Allen. Though her dolls are life-like, they certainly aren’t life-size. Instead, they are miniature babies created in clay.
Her first creation was so small she found it would fit inside an egg and now she has a line of “Egg Babies.” She says, “I think the fragile newborn baby is complimented by the egg shell, reminding us of how fragile new life is and how gently they must be treated and cared for.”
Later she put one of her miniature babies in a sea shell. “The shapes of and textures of different seashells either echo the soft curves of babies, or they provide an interesting contrast to emphasize them. Some “Shell Babies” have pearls in their navels or are holding a pearl, like two little treasures found in one shell,” states Camille.
The miniatures babies are made of polymer clay. Camille explains, “It is soft, but it can hold the tiniest detail, even fingerprints. Once I have completed a sculpture, I then fire the clay with heat to harden it. Sometimes the babies are cast into a mold and made into other materials like Resin or Porcelain or Silicone.”
Camille does not take commissions, instead shesculpts limited edition or one of a kind miniature babies that come from her heart instead of a photo. She has sold to people all over the world, and has even had her babies featured on the Montel Williams television show.
Some babies are available for sale on her website: www.camilleallen.com. All babies vary in price, but here is a rough estimate of the price ranges: Resin Limited or Large Edition Babies: $99 – $400. One of a kind: $1500 – $4000+ (US dollars). She is expanding to different lines of babies that will be available in more price ranges. She also has an email list for anyone who would like to see photos of new babies as they are created.
I asked Camille for some tips on sculpting as well as more about the process.
“Starting from a lump of clay, and tiny tools including toothpicks, sculpting a life-size or miniature baby begins. It takes many, many hours of patient concentration to form a realistic baby and finish with fine details – including wrinkles and fingernails. The babies have soft English mohair to imitate fine baby hair and are blushed with paints for realism to enhance their tiny wrinkles and creases.
A life-size baby takes me months to complete. Miniature babies take several days to several weeks, depending on how complex the sculpture is. It depends on how patient I am feeling, and how long I can concentrate at a time. Sometimes my eyes get tired sculpting in miniature, so I take many breaks. It is very time-consuming work.
I work with “Prosculpt” almost exclusively now. It has a good consistency and blends well. I try not to overwork the clay’s “skin,” trying to push the masses instead of dragging the skin layer very much. This helps keep a nice smooth outer layer. I use a 3 in 1 tool from www.artdolls.com for almost everything, except the baby’s nostrils, which require a toothpick or a needle if the baby is very tiny.
Troubleshooting babies faces: If the baby looks “old man-ish” the eyes are too high up in the face, also probably the upper lip is too long. If it looks like an alien, the eyes are probably too far apart, or too big. If it looks like an animal/dinosaur – like it has a muzzle/snout – then the nose/under the nose area is too big or protruding.
That is the process in a nutshell or should we say an eggshell or seashell. Her work touches the heart and fascinates the eyes while evoking an element of awe.