What is Doll Making?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Doll making is an art form which revolves around the creation of dolls. There are a number of different schools, styles, and approaches to making dolls, ranging from the design of paper dolls to the creation of figures used in religious rituals. Doll making appears to be one of the oldest human art forms, as examples of ancient dolls have been found in archaeological sites all over the world.

Dolls like worry dolls are important to Guatemalan rituals.
Dolls like worry dolls are important to Guatemalan rituals.

Some regions of the world have become famous for their doll production. Several European countries have a notable history of doll making, as do China, Japan, and several African nations which produce very distinctive dolls of all shapes and sizes. Dolls can be made from ceramic, plastic, wood, cloth, and a variety of other materials, with many regions developing their own traditions, such as the jointed china dolls made in Germany or the bright cloth dolls produced in Africa.

Traditional doll making by artisans continues in some regions of the world. People who are interested in learning the art can sometimes obtain an apprenticeship with a doll maker. Traditional crafts include the production of dolls intended for children's play, the manufacture of figurines for religious ritual, making dolls for dressmakers, and the creation of dolls which are intended to be kept as collector's items. Learning traditional doll making techniques can be an interesting introduction to the history and culture of a region of the world.

Crafters sometimes enjoy doll making as a hobby. Some crafters fabricate their own doll components, whether they are making jointed ceramic dolls, carving wooden dolls, or creating soft cloth dolls. Others can order the components from companies which sell doll making supplies, and construct the dolls at home. Doll making is also usually accompanied by crafting clothing and other accessories for dolls, which is the most enjoyable part for some people.

Doll making patterns for paper and fabric dolls are available on many websites, and these sites can also feature patterns for garments and suggestions for doll decoration, along with tips for people who want to order doll making supplies. Those who want to fabricate dolls at home can also explore techniques like creating molds which can be used to cast plastics and ceramics for batch production at home. One of the advantages to this art form is that it is suitable for people of all levels of interest and skill, as people can get involved at whatever level they feel comfortable with, whether it involves hand forming porcelain dolls and tailoring period-accurate clothing or designing and distributing paper doll patterns.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


A company based in Japan has a festival every year to thank the community for its support. Every year, they have these wonderful prizes people enter for.

One year, there was a gorgeous Japanese doll as one of the prizes. She was beautiful. She had a genuine, handmade silk kimono, real hair, gold jewelry, a silk fan... I was 30 and I coveted that doll! I really wanted her.

They drew for it and I didn't win, and my husband and I almost went home. But, they were drawing for the grand prize next, and we stayed to see who won. Turns out, I did! It was a trip to Aruba! I would have been thrilled with the doll, but a trip to Aruba was once in a lifetime!


I got a rag doll for Christmas many years ago, and she was always one of my favorite dolls. She was made mostly of an old sock and had black yarn hair. The lady who made it sold them for a living and brought one into the company where my dad worked. He thought of his two little girls at home and decided a doll for each of us would be a great present.

The dolls came with a dress, pinafore, little corduroy booties and a sunbonnet. I loved my rag doll and named her Beverly. I still have her, and that's been a long time ago.

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