How to Make Folk Art Dolls With Moving Arms and Legs

by Rochelle Leggett
Folk art dolls often have a slightly rough look.

Folk art dolls often have a slightly rough look.

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Folk art is a term that refers to any type of art that is made by someone with little or no formal training, and styles of folk art vary from region to region, reflecting local culture, values and styles. This is also true of folk art dolls, which are dressed and styled to reflect the aesthetic values of the cultures they come from. You might want to try making such a doll yourself. Dolls that are poseable are often more interesting. Making a poseable doll is not difficult, but it needs some planning.

Items you will need

  • Aluminum foil
  • Heavy wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Paperclay or self-hardening clay
  • Clay tools
  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Brushes
  • Sealer
  • Jewelry pliers
Step 1

Create an armature for the doll from aluminum foil. Wad up the foil to form a general cylinder or hourglass shape for the torso, with a thin cylinder and ball on top for the neck and head. You may or may not need an armature for arms and legs depending upon the size of the doll; a large doll will most likely need an armature for arms and legs, and a small doll probably will not. Do not attach armatures for the arms and legs to the torso.

Step 2

Cut two lengths of wire and slide them through the torso of the armature at the hips and shoulders. The wires must go all the way through the doll. These will hold the arms and legs.

Step 3

Cover the head and torso with paperclay or self-hardening clay. Smooth the clay over the doll using your fingers and clay tools to sculpt the basic features. Add clay up to the wires, but do not cover them.

Step 4

Sculpt the arms and legs. When you are finished working, use wire to poke a hole into the top of each arm and leg. Wait for the sculpture to dry completely; this may take a few days depending upon the material and brand that you used as well as the weather.

Step 5

Sand, then paint the doll. Use a sealer to protect the paint if desired.

Step 6

Slide the arms and legs onto the wires so that they are all in the correct positions. Using the jewelry pliers, twist the ends of each wire into a curve to hold the arms and legs in place. Cut off excess using the wire cutters.

Step 7

Add any clothing, jewelry or hair you desire to finish the doll.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wire can be used to make moveable arms and legs for potentially any material. For example, for a wooden doll try drilling through the torso, arms and legs and threading wire through.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images