Thursday, October 22, 2009

Celebrating a Centennial Birthday...with Paper Dolls

MrMartha went to a Hundredth Birthday Party the other week....but it wasn't what you might think.

Two of MrMartha's dearest friends since 7th grade are twins -- and they both just turned Fifty!

They had requested no gifts at their party, but MrMartha had to do something cute and unexpected to commemorate the the thinking cap went on....and the answer was PAPER DOLLS!

Not just any paper dolls, mind you, but a snapshot in time of the twins. Circa 1971-72 when MrMartha first met them. Both of the dolls are wearing McMurray Jr High PE uniforms, and their extra outfits, while not specific replicas of the twins clothing of the time (MrMartha's memory is not THAT exact), captured the spirit of the era. MrMartha was actually channeling Jan and Marsha's Brady Bunch outfits.

Lesa and Heidi have been wonderful friends for nearly 38 years, and it was really fun to figure out a little project that would remind them of our shared history, as well as allow others at their party who may not have known them for as long -- or may not really know them together as sisters -- to learn a bit more about them and their history.

MrMartha framed one copy of the paper dolls to have on display at the party, put personalized copies for the birthday girls into commemorative folios, and then printed enough extra copies so that other party guests could take one as a souvenir of the occasion.

This is a super idea that is easily replicated, and could be a marvelous and unexpected gift for just about anyone celebrating a milestone birthday, graduation, wedding shower, taking a specific point in their life and history and turning it into a fun vignette.

The essence of paper dolls is their charm. Simplified shapes, and cute caricatures are much more fun than exact portraits or excessive detail.

There are lots of resources online for templates and ideas.....One that MrMartha investigated before starting this project is a wonderful archive of vintage Betsy McCall paper dolls which have that same fun 'snapshot of a moment in time' aspect that MrMartha was trying to capture. (really worth a look even if you aren't contemplating this project)

Read More to find out how (relatively) simple it is to create your own version of this idea.

The simplest way to achieve a great result, if you are not an awesome freehand artist (and MrMartha is certainly not!) is a combination of scanning and tracing (and rescanning and retracing), combined with a simple graphics program like Microsoft Paint. Find some templates or ideas you like online, or scan some vintage photos of your subject, and print them out. Then, trace the outlines and simplify, while you adjust and add aspects specific to the one you are aiming to evoke. This process takes a little time, and probably a few trys, but you will soon come up with something you like. Use tracing paper, a light board, or just tape the paper layers to a window. Scan your initial design, print it out, and then continue to adjust and retrace as needed until you are happy with it.

The completed original doll and costumes can be colored with markers, watercolors, etc, before your final scan, or you can rescan it in black and white and then use your graphics program to add color. Use the graphics program as well to add headlines and additional text. A short paragraph about the honoree describing some history, or bit of triva that may not generally be known, is a nice addition.

Keep in mind, the doll isn't meant to be a perfect portrait of the one it commemorates, but it should capture a sense of them, and have some whimsey. Do an image search for "vintage paper dolls" and also for "Betty and Veronica" or other comic book type drawings, and look at how those artists simplify facial features. Try to capture the general shape of the persons face, and things like upturned or long nose, etc -- but the overall love put into the project is a lot more important than an exact likeness!