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By Jean D. Lotz


I simply love wood dolls. They have a very unique charm. In my "Lotz Doll Pages" (http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/3808/lantmain.html), my Internet doll site , I present a great many wood dolls; old, new, beautiful, ugly, or strange. What should be noted is the great variety of unique doll styles that are represented within my wood doll web pages.

The task of grouping dolls into categories can get confusing since a single doll may be made of many different materials. For example a doll can be 90% wood and only have a porcelain head: is it a wood doll or a porcelain doll? In the past, this type of doll could have been called a wood doll in one paragraph of an article and a porcelain doll in the next. Also, it is very common to find a doll described as a "cloth doll with a wood head" even by large public museums. Guidelines are needed and have been established to avoid such confusing situations. According to the doll category guidelines set by United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC), the type of doll is determined by the content of the doll's head. Thus, a wood doll always has a wooden head irregardless of the types of materials used in the body construction.

In this article, I will design and present a few new wood doll plans that have some historical precedence. You'll get to know a little about some doll terms and doll history.

Copyright by Jean D. Lotz

The patterns presented here are my original designs (I maintain all copyrights). They are presented for your education and personal use. These plans are not intended for any commercial production.


Dolls for kids

A doll is one of the best gifts a carver can give to a child, but there are special safety guidelines that should be followed for any object made specifically for children. Any items (including dolls) made for children should:

Reference photos for dolls

It is a good idea to carve dolls from reference photographs. Collect some reference photos of children of the appropriate age. Magazine and newspaper photos are good for inspiration, but they are not ideal reference photographs. Ideally, you need to find a child of the correct age. Take some controlled photographs with parental permission and supervision. Take photos of the back of the child's head, the top of their head, several good profiles, 3/4 view and front views. While you're at it, also take photos of their hands and feet. I pay the parents for their trouble, but I also give a few coins to the little ones who still love pennies and quarters more than green paper with large numbers on it.

A self critique: seeing a head in 3D

As you carve or model a head, you can't just work from the front view. You also need to look at the profile, 3/4 view, front and back views. Slowly rotate the head 180 degrees horizontally and then rotate it vertically making sure it reads true all around. I can find most of my errors when I look at the top of the head and slowly rotate it vertically revealing more of the chin until I am looking at the front view of the face upside down. I do the same thing, starting at the chin, and slowly roll the head forward. The whole time, I am looking at the planes of the head for symmetry, balance, and depth. The depth of the eyes should be the same, the contours of the forehead, cheeks, and jaw bone should be symmetrical, and the chin should be centered under the nose and the mound of the mouth. Distortions of any of these features are clearly seen with this type of critique.

Naming and signing dolls

Sign and date all of your work in a small inconspicuous place but not where it will be permanently hidden. Signing the body of a clothed doll is fine since the clothes can be removed to see your labeling. You should include your full name or first initial and full last name, the date, and the doll number. Be sure to keep records of all of your dolls. Include a photograph and label the back of it with the name and the number of each doll. Simple Dolls - Poupard, Marotte, Scepter, and Rattle


A poupard is a one-piece doll which represents a baby in swaddling clothes. It can also be considered a "frozen doll" since it is not jointed in any way. These are simple folk dolls that have been made for centuries. A well carved poupard can be used in a crèche to represent the baby Jesus laying in a manger. If early poupard dolls represented baby Jesus, then it would explain why such a simple doll was so very popular for so long and in so many different parts of the world.

When researching antique poupards for this article, I found many later examples of wooden poupard dolls were crudely made. Most had a minimum of carved details and instead relied heavily on the decorative painting. But I found some stunning early examples of these carved baby dolls which were delicately carved and fabulously finished. These finer examples could rival any cherub or crib figure's delicate smile. Poupards were first made from wood but later they were made from a variety of cheaper materials like composition and papier-mâché. The quality of these popular dolls declined rapidly as attempts were made to mass-produce them, and their great popularity died.

The poupard is a good starting point for wood doll carving since a poupard doesn't involve any sewing skills. The head and facial features can be left simple or carved in great detail. The head can be bare, wearing a carved or cloth bonnet (see left) or wrapped. The body of a wooden poupard is traditionally turned on a lathe or roughly shaped to simply represent the swaddling clothes. These wrappings and ties can be indicated by carving detailed cloth draping over the baby's body. Shallow carving or decorative painting can also be used on the body. For example: the ties on a turned body could be indicated by chip carving a rope design.

A poupard is traditionally made with a flattened back. This helps keep the baby face up. This flat surface also gives the artist a convenient area to personalize the doll. For example: this flat area can be decorated with a special saying, special wishes, favorite biblical quotes, baby's birth anouncement, or gift inscriptions. This area can also be more elaborately decorated with a very shallowly carved or painted scene - perhaps a scene of a mother and a baby. Go ahead and use your imagination.

Don't forget to sign your doll on the flat back or on the back of the doll's neck.




Although they are not truly dolls: Marottes, Scepters, and Rattles are all made with a combination of a carved head and a turned handle. These are not poupards, but you may see them referred to as such in older doll books. Some doll collectors also acquire these doll-like objects, particularly if they are small enough to accessorize a larger doll. These items are also fun to make and fun to play with - especially if they make music or other noises.

These toys are usually embellished with ruffles, pompoms, ribbons, bells, charms, wigs and hats to dress them up. Jesters, clowns, gypsies, and other festively dressed characters are popular subjects of marottes and scepters. The area where the head joins the handle is typically draped with cloth or hidden under fancy collars. The illustrated young clown would make a fine topping for a marotte with his clown ruffle of netting or pompoms decorated with ribbons with ties ending in bells. A simple floppy clown's hat decorated with pompoms would finish it off nicely.


To create a rattling marotte, the head is carved separately from the turned handle. Drill the hole for the handle more deeply into the head to create a void which can be filled with small bells, small rocks, or other things that will rattle. Permanently seal the opening by installing and gluing the handle in place.

These toys can be signed on the back of the neck. Your signature will be preserved in case someone cuts off the handle and mounts the head on a cloth body.

Jean D. Lotz, sculptor/designer/woodcarver/doll artist
LOTZ STUDIO (lotz@communique.net)
P.O. Box 1308, Lacombe, LA 70445-1308,


LOTZ DOLL PAGES (wood dolls: antique, contemporary, HITTY, etc) http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/3808/lantmain.html