Take a peek inside the workshop of a master doll maker

While Russian sculptor Michael Zajkov was working on his master's degree, he earned his living in the craft shop of a puppet theatre. When his studies were completed, it was a very natural transition for him to continue making movable figures, but instead of puppets, he began creating remarkably lifelike dolls. His debut with five dolls at Moscow's fourth international "Art Dolls" exhibition in 2013 led to instant renown among collectors and galleries. 

Now his creations are much sought after, with one mint condition (pre-owned) doll recently going for $4,000 on eBay. The artist's Instagram page (where he has over 575,000 followers) doesn't say how much they cost, but it would be safe to assume that the price tags of these hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind figures reflect the time and skill invested in them. And what a labor of love it is!

To create a new doll, Michael begins by sketching the doll's face, which he will then use as a template for the actual figure. He aims to give each doll a completely unique look. 

He creates each individual part of the doll's body and limbs; altogether there are 13 movable joints so that the doll can be adjusted to different positions.

The parts are first sculpted from clay. Once he's happy with each individual part, Michael suspends them from a rack with wires and bakes them in an oven so that they harden. If you didn't know this was part of a doll-making process, it could be a bit creepy, right?

The doll's head begins with a basic form made out of aluminum foil. Michael then applies polymer clay, building up the layers and adding elements until its features start to take shape. He even builds in skeletal structure underneath the outer layer — in this example, the teeth — to make the doll's face and expression especially believable.

Once the sculpture is finished and has been baked in the oven, he begins the process of painting the doll's skin. This is a painstaking process, as Michael aims to give the dolls a realistic looking complexion. Click play on the image below to see him painting this doll's lips. Each brushstroke is careful and deliberate.

No detail is spared in the careful creation of each individual body part. The hands begin as wire frames. Michael then adds clay and delicately forms the position of each finger, then bringing the hands to life with paint. Amazing how lifelike the skin is!

The dolls' hair is made from fine French mohair from Angora goats. The painted eyes are handcrafted from glass in Germany.

As beautiful as the dolls are in their own right, the handmade clothes and shoes that Michael creates are truly astounding in their detail and construction. He makes all the clothing in keeping with the Victorian era and uses valuable materials such as silk, batiste, and antique lace. The tiny shoes are produced from leather.

The detail extends all the way to the dolls' accessories. How sweet is this adorable teddy?

Take a look at the finished product. No wonder collectors have gone mad for these phenomenal works of art. 

Here is a photo of the master next to his work. Did you expect the dolls to be so small?

Michael's repertoire of dolls continues to expand; this is really just a small sample of his work, but more can be seen on his very active Instagram page where you can also watch videos of each step of the creation process. But be warned, once you visit, you'll find that several hours later, you're still there!

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