As teachers, we are on an eternal quest to discover challenging and rewarding tasks to set for the students of the
‘middle earth’. These soft sculptures are sure to inspire Middle school students and fulfil the learning
requirements for Technology subjects.
The project was approached from a combined Literacy, Textiles and Art perspective. Just like on the cooking shows,
I had some dolls at various stages of completion, with one that I began with the students. This was to both inspire
the students and break the task down into achievable goals.
Firstly, I needed to capture the students’ imagination and start the creative juices flowing. For this purpose
I used the completed dolls, picture books, posters and even music. The students were asked to choose one of the elements
of Earth, Wind, Water and Fire and were asked to complete a collage on their theme using images found on the Internet,
magazines or other literature.
The students were then asked to write a fact file on their characters including their personality, environment and
their story. They were encouraged to do this creatively, keeping in mind the selected element that they had chosen.
Next came the drawings. The students began sketching the way they wanted the dolls to appear. They focused on faces,
hair and clothes, as these are the ‘stuff’ that give the dolls their personality. They were persuaded
to give the doll a fitting title at this stage, a title that was suitable for a princess, fairy, mermaid, troll or
siren. Hence before they even began their doll, the students had an essence of its spirit. This completed the design
brief of the project and students presented these in the form of a storybook.
The second part of the quest was to create the dolls and all their fine features. Students already had experience with sewing
machines and garment construction techniques. They dutifully traced and cut patterns and stuffed the sculptures firmly
with filling. Joining the body parts was done by hand.
The students practised drawing the faces on paper and then on fabric before beginning on their doll. Outlines were
made with pacer pencils and then outlined in brown fine liners. Pencil markings were then erased and coloured pencils
were used to shade and colour the face. Next, black fine liner was used to strengthen any detail like eyelashes.
A few techniques of attaching hair and turbans, and draping clothes were demonstrated before the students were set
free on fabric scraps. All the time the students were reminded to stay true to the theme and the personality of the
dolls. Most of the clothing is draped then cut and hand sewn or held together with various decorative strings or
ribbons. The students were encouraged to be creative and inventive when decorating and embellishing their dolls.
Although this was an exciting quest, it is not for the faint hearted, as it does get pretty messy at times. However,
judge for yourselves the finished dolls and the proud looks on the students’ faces say it all.