You've just bought a wonderful doll and you are in love with her look. You want to showcase her in your home or studio and perhaps photograph her. It would be fun to display the doll in a way that builds on the her unique qualities, right?
As a doll maker I fall in love with every doll I make and imagine a story to go with them. I love to set up unexpected vignettes that honor their best features. One of my favorite ways to display them is by creating a little scene that tells a story. Here are some ways to do this:
Your doll needs a context and possibly a chair or stand, so gather some props. Think about era and color. Is the doll vintage looking? Modern? Bright or soft colored? Gather items that compliment her look.
I like to use doll furniture, baskets, books, vintage boxes and vases for doll display. You could also display your dolls on doll stands. I don't use stands because my dolls are flexible and I like to show off different poses in my photos.
I collect vintage books in shades of green and blue. My favorite books in this color range are vintage gardening books which I find at thrift shops. Cloth bound books are nice but large paperback books, especially art books, also work.
I pay more attention to color and condition than the book's subject since I don't intend to read them. However I don't collect titles that might detract from the friendly feeling of my dolls. I'd hate to have someone be distracted by titles such as "The Art of War" or "Nerve Damage and its Causes".
If you don't have doll furniture, you can use books and baskets to prop up your dolls. This display was set up using a stack of books in a blue basket to create a bench for the dolls.
I collect doll furniture whenever I see it at thrift shops and stores like Hobby Lobby. It may be labeled something else, like "spring plant stand" or "candle stand" but look past the label and think about fit. Is the item a good size to perch your doll on or leaning against it? You can also find doll furniture on Ebay or Etsy. Type "doll furniture for 18" dolls" or "doll furniture, wicker" in the search line. Garage sales, flea markets and antique stores are another avenue for searching.
I prefer light colored or white doll furniture so the dolls are center stage when I put them together. Its easy enough to use spray paint on wicker or metal furniture, baskets and most vases. Painted furniture might need sanding down before you can repaint or stain it.
Easter time is a good time to look for baskets at thrift shops. Decide whether you want a handle or not - it can get in the way of some photos but allows you to hang the basket up for display if you have limited space for display. See the basket in the photo below for ideas.
You can set up a doll vignette anywhere. This doll's basket is hanging from pretty hooks in my laundry room. The floral hooks are from World Market (bought last year), the basket is from the thrift store and the aprons are from a flea market.
Consider changing up your doll occasionally by adding some color, such as a hat in spring or a scarf in winter. You can either make one yourself or look for options online (my shop has lots of options!). A tiny seasonal change like this can make you fall in love with your collection all over again.
This scene uses a shabby chic cage filled with wood excelsior and a silk flower bouquet, a vintage biscuit tin, and a vase of roses, all in colors that complement my doll's spring outfit. A few pages torn from a thrift shop book on roses and a vintage tablecloth round out the scene. If you have several dolls you can easily swap out the flowers or the backdrop pictures to take multiple photos of your dolls in this scene. This will give you a wealth of pictures to choose from if you want to create postcards from them or do a series on social media.
An old calendar with pictures of flowers or birds would work just as well as these book illustrations. They are temporarily taped to the wall with washi tape. It makes a really pretty backdrop for doll photos which you can then post on social media, or print on postcards or stickers to share with your friends.
I hope you found these tips useful. I'd love to hear how you display your dolls. If you can, send me a link to your photos!
This wicker chair was a natural color and dusty when I found it at a thrift store. I gently cleaned it up using damp paper towels, let it dry overnight and spray painted it pink. Now it makes every doll seated on it look special. I am always on the lookout for novel doll furniture.