Thursday, August 17, 2023

Snow Crow Studio Dolls

I spend a fair amount of time every week browsing on Etsy.  There are so many talented artists displaying their work on that site, and I love getting lost in the dizzying diversity and creativity of the offerings.  Over the years I've found amazing doll clothes, jewelry, paintings, miniature food, stuffed animals, haunted dolls, baby dolls, and especially art dolls.  Every once in a while, I come across a doll artist who leaves me borderline obsessed.  On those occasions, I like to showcase that artist and their work here on the blog.  It's a nice break from all of the mass-produced items that I typically review.

My latest obsession began in August of last year, when a random Patreon contest alerted me to the presence of the marvelously melancholy paper clay dolls from Snow Crow Studio:

14-inch paper clay girl from Snow Crow Studio.

For the contest, I asked my Patrons to scour the internet for the strangest or most interesting dolls that they could find.  As you can imagine, the results were pretty hilarious.

This contemplative lemon-headed lady didn't win the contest (a cyclops Barbie had that honor) but I found her to be one of the more intriguing entries:

Seeing a doll with a lemon head is very bizarre.  I'll admit that it's not the kind of thing I'm typically drawn to.  But I'm not averse to dolls with unconventional heads--at least if Pinkie Cooper, Catwalk Kitties, and Meow Planet are any indication.

Anyway, for some reason I couldn't get Ms. Lemon Head out of my mind.  She looks like a beautifully-made vintage rag doll, save for the fact that her limbs are bright yellow and her head is a lemon.  Her combination of features is also confusing.  For example, that realistic mouth reminds me of an actual person I know, and yet it's paired with unsettlingly tiny eyes.  But somehow it's perfect.  There's just enough subtlety and charm that the doll as a whole works.

I knew that Ms. Lemon Head was from Etsy based on my Patron's photo, so I went and tracked down the exact shop: Snow Crow Studio.  That's when I became obsessed.  Scrolling through the listings of sold dolls, I was blown away by the range of characters.  There are dolls with human heads, dolls with vegetable heads, dolls with insect heads, dolls with bird heads, and dolls with bread heads.  There's even the volatile Ms. Cherry Baum, a doll with a bomb head!

I encourage you to explore the Snow Crow Studio site yourself, but the artist, David, also kindly agreed to let me share a sample of his photos with you here.

This moon-headed doll is one of my favorites:

I love her crater eyes (so clever!) and how her dress has a space-themed print.

David is especially good at insect dolls, like this incredible praying mantis:

Notice how her dress perfectly matches her painted head and limbs.

I think her arms (legs?) and her smiling mandibles are also amazing.

One of David's more recent dolls is this adorable axolotl:

I like her a lotl.
Again, the fabric of the dress is so interesting and so well-suited to the character.

I probably would have bought this doll if I'd been fast enough.  David's pieces come up for sale only rarely, and he has a solid following, so if you see something you like, you have to be quick!

I've discovered that the best way to have a chance at a Snow Crow Studio doll is to follow David on Facebook.  I don't have a Facebook account, but the page is public so I stalk it regularly to see what's coming next.

A few months after the Patreon contest, in early October, I saw this photo pop up on the Snow Crow Studio Facebook page:

This is part of a large group of dolls that David made for a museum event.  I love the two anthropomorphic dolls (especially that moon girl!) but I was riveted by the redheaded human on the far right.  She's not as strange as Ms. Lemon Head, sure, but she's a freckled redhead, so of course I was interested.  She also has heterochromia iridum, which I think is beautiful--and not something I come across a lot in the doll world.

Seeing that redhead started me on a mission to get my own Snow Crow Studio doll.  I knew which day the dolls from Facebook would start to appear in the Etsy shop, so I camped out and refreshed the page a zillion times a day.

Long story short, my vigilance paid off.  Not only did I get the redhead (woo hoo!) but she was one of the last dolls to be listed, so while I was waiting for her, I found a few other girls who I couldn't resist:

The Snow Crow Sisters.
These dolls cost about $120 each, which, as my mother said, is "yet another talented artist selling themselves short."  I couldn't agree more.

This spunky girl was listed with the name Little Lioness, with suits her:

Don't mess with this cub.
The brunette didn't come with a name, but is now called Luella Dove.  I love her vivid green eyes and beautiful shawl!

Don't mess with her, either, come to think of it.
After I'd enjoyed my trio of Snow Crow girls for a while, I decided that I'd been too greedy.  I'd originally intended to only get the redhead, so I kept her and offered the other two girls up as prizes for a naming contest on Patreon.  One of the results of that contest was that I got the perfect name for my redhead: Lark Thistle (thank you, gothielle!).

In today's review, I'll show you some more photos of Lark Thistle...and a few other Snow Crow Studio characters that found their way into my house over the past year.  Apparently I can't help but be greedy with these amazing dolls.

Here's Lark:

All of the Snow Crow dolls have heads and necks that are made out of Paperclay, which is brand of paper clay--or clay made out of cellulose fiber.  The Paperclay head merges with a firmly-stuffed fabric torso.  The skinny limbs are also fabric, but the fabric has been painted and sealed so that it feels stiff.

The hair--for characters who have hair--is soft yarn that's glued to the head.  I love the color of Lark's rusty red mane:

I worked with paper clay several years ago when I was still sculpting baby dolls.  It's a nice type of clay because it's completely non-toxic and does not require an oven to cure.  However, I found the substance difficult to use.  It can be sticky and wet, and I had trouble getting good definition.  This makes me very impressed with how smooth and precise Lark's features are:

Her head is pale, with widely-spaced eyes and an exaggerated pout.  Her lips are painted with a slight gloss, and her freckles and eyebrows are more lightly sketched in with what looks like watercolor pencil.

Lark's mismatched eyes are made out of plastic.  They have wonderful iris detail, but I wish they were glass.  Glass is so much more realistic and durable.  We've seen time and time again how plastic eyes can fade.

You deserve glass eyes, Lark.
Lark does not have any eyelashes--painted or applied--which I think suits the minimalism of her appearance.

Lark's face is round from the front, but flattened considerably in profile.  And she has little ears peeking out from under her thick hair!

Lark's sunflower dress is absolutely beautiful.  It's made out of cotton, and is meticulously stitched with machine work and some hand-sewn details.  The bodice is accented with a single brown button:

Underneath the dress, Lark is wearing matching bloomers that extend up her torso:

There's a Snow Crow Studio stamp on the back of her bloomers:

Both the dress and the bloomers are sewn in place and not meant to be removed.

The outfit is completed by a pair of brown painted shoes:

Because the dress and bloomers are not removable, it's hard to get a look at Lark's whole body.  But if we peek up under a sleeve, it's possible to see the button joint at her shoulder:

These button joints allow Lark's arms to lift up and hold their position:

She also has button joints at her hips, and so she can do some pretty impressive leg lifts:

Her joints and stiff arms also allow her to sit upright on her own:

Lark's skinny legs do not support her weight, though, so she requires a doll stand for display and for any action poses:

David offers $8 plastic stands in his Etsy shop that are adequate for holding the dolls.

Lark is about 14 inches tall, so taller than a standard Barbie like Lena:

Lark is a great size, and she has a substantive weight, too.  She's not cuddly and squishy like a rag doll, but I love the combination of textures in her design: the smooth clay of her face, her soft yarn hair, the crispness of her cotton dress, her spindly, bendable limbs, and that solid, sturdy body.

Lark can't strike a variety poses, so I took her outside where I could photograph her against a variety of backgrounds instead.

Her sunflower dress is perfect for a garden setting!

And I love how the different colors in nature bring out one or the other of her mismatched eyes:

I think maybe she wanted me to plant her in a flower pot, like an actual sunflower...

But I suggested that she explore somewhere less dirty.

The red plants that I could find outside were the most complimentary to Lark, probably because of her red hair:

And I love the added drama of late-day sun illuminating that hair from behind:

But this is my favorite picture of all!

Those crazy flowers are called bee balm, or Monarda.

A few months after I purchased my first trio of paper clay girls, I made the mistake of checking the Snow Crow Studio shop again.

Look who I found:

It's Frozen Charlotte!

Do you remember the Mezco Frozen Charlotte that I reviewed eons ago?

Well.  This Charlotte is even more creepy, and smells better, too.

Her construction is basically the same as Lark's, but she has some little differences that make a big impact. For example, her face and limbs are painted a very subtle shade of blue.  Which is eerie.  Also, her eyes are pearl-like beads surrounded by dark paint.  They look fogged over...or frozen:

She also has a slight tilt to her head, which is super creepy.  Famously evil characters often have an ominous head tilt:

But unlike Pennywise and Michael Myers, Frozen Charlotte is also quite beautiful!

She has long, ice-white yarn hair that came tied into a single ponytail in back:

I really love her dress. It's made out of white cotton, but it has painted embellishments around the neck, sleeves, and hemline:

The paint is extremely effective.  It looks like her dress got a little dirty and wet, and then froze.

I didn't mention any history in my last Frozen Charlotte review, so this might be a good time to include it.  

The original story of Frozen Charlotte, which came from a mid-1800s poem, is that a beautiful young girl named Charlotte went to a nighttime ball on a winter sleigh.  It was extremely cold outside, but Charlotte refused to cover herself with a blanket because she was vain and didn't want to hide her pretty dress.  By the time she arrived at the party, she had frozen to death.  Her beau discovered this as he tried to guide her out of the sleigh.

My question is, what was the boyfriend doing during the whole journey?  Picking his teeth?  Why did he only realize she was dead when they got to the ball?  Pretty inattentive, if you ask me.

Anyway, because of this tale, small, unarticulated porcelain dolls from the nineteenth century were dubbed Frozen Charlottes (or Frozen Charlies):

These fragile dolls remind me of the Mezco poem: Fair Charlotte was a frozen corpse, and a word she no more spoke.  Her flesh had become like fine china, and she just as easily broke.

Snow Crow Frozen Charlotte does not seem likely to break, though.  She's just wandering around, contemplating her bad life decisions:

Should've used the blanket.
Sometimes this girl spooks me, but other times all I can see in her is a beautiful, pensive sadness:

Picked the wrong boyfriend.
With New Jersey's current 90 degree temperatures and tortuous humidity, it's not a great time of year to photograph a frozen doll.

However, when Charlotte first arrived at my house, it was a frigid 11 degrees outside, which made her feel at home:

In the summer months, Charlotte lurks around in the most stark settings she can find, knowing that no matter how hot it gets, she can never warm up.

I took her outside to a garden, but she quickly ran away from the sun:

She's much more comfortable in the damp shade:

Here, her eternal cold makes a little more sense:

I was extremely happy with my duo of Lark and Charlotte.  They capture some of the range of Snow Crow Studio dolls, and I love each of them for different reasons: Lark is my sunny day girl, and Charlotte is an excellent winter specter.

But then sometime in February, I was checking in on the Snow Crow Studio shop, as I do, and I saw that a seagull doll had just been sold.  David makes a lot of crows, which are amazing, but it's rare to see a new type of bird.

That got me thinking.  My husband and I have a thing for pigeons.  We like birds of any kind, but we met while studying pigeons in college, so those particular birds are an unlikely romantic symbol for us.  In fact, we have a whole pigeon-themed room in our house, complete with pigeon art (some of it from Etsy!) and a purple couch.  I got this crazy idea that maybe David could make us a pigeon doll.

It was a long shot, because David only sporadically offers custom work, but I pitched the idea to him...and he agreed!  I was over the moon:

I don't see pigeon dolls every day (or most days) so this is a big deal for me.

We named her Livia, which is the species name for a common pigeon (Columba livia).

I think the shading around Livia's beak and eyes is especially good:

And I love the iridescent green on her neck!

Just like a real pigeon:

She has painted fabric wings with some shading and two grey stripes--again, just like a real pigeon!

Livia has button joints on her wings, so they can spin around:

Like a pinwheel!
She can also look pretty convincingly like she's flying:

One little change I noticed is that instead of the Snow Crow Studio stamp, Livia has a nice fabric tag on her bloomers, with David's name and the year:

Livia feels right at home in our pigeon room!

And frequently takes advantage of the purple couch:

But birds shouldn't be trapped indoors all of the time, so Livia also likes to roam outside:

Her favorite thing is to fly from tree to tree, exploring the different landscapes:

With little rests in between her flights, of course:

And maybe a snack or two:

When her curiosity and belly are full, she'll fly back home:

That looks photoshopped, but it's not.
I was delighted to have an anthropomorphic doll in my Snow Crow Studio collection.  But apparently I feel the same way about animal-themed dolls as I do about actual animals: I can never have enough.

I wasn't looking to add to my paper clay zoo, promise.  I was just innocently checking in with David's Facebook page...again.

And I saw a giraffe:

This was another instance of love at first sight.  My eldest has always been enamored with giraffes, and so I have a soft spot for them.  Also, look at this face!

She's so unbelievably sweet.  And the way she's painted is gorgeous:

I call her Zuri, which is a Swahili name that means "beautiful."

Zuri's spot pattern is very realistic:

Here's a photograph of a real giraffe for reference:

And the spots continue down Zuri's arms, too:

And on her legs:

Her construction is the same as the others, with bloomers under her dress and button joints in her limbs.  But because Zuri has such a long neck, she's quite a bit heavier than the other dolls!

Zuri cost the same as my other Snow Crow dolls, which is really crazy.  There was clearly so much work (and clay!) that went into her creation.

I took Zuri outdoors, and she immediately ran to the terrain that reminded her most of the savannah:

The grass was a little too tall, though, even for her:

So she sought some higher ground:

And took in the scenery:

As it turns out, relaxing and looking at the tall grass from a distance is Zuri's favorite pastime.

And I like looking at her!  I find her to be such a charming combination of cute, beautiful, and bizarre:

Enjoy your view of the grass, Zuri, I have one more doll to share.

Bye bye!
Okay, so I really thought I had a complete Snow Crow Studio collection after I purchased Zuri, although I confess that I wouldn't mind adding a doll with an inanimate head some day.  I still pine after that moon-headed girl.

But I certainly didn't think I needed another animal-headed doll...until I saw Ellis:

I mean, come on.  How is anyone supposed to resist an ostrich doll?

Ellis has an even bigger, heavier head than Zuri, with an impossibly long neck:

I love the ring of feathers at the base of her neck:

The Notorious Ruth Bader Gin-strich.
That ring of feathers is accurate to the appearance of a real ostrich, judging by this photo:

However, it must be said that the black and white coloring seen in this photo (and on Ellis) is a feature of male birds only.  Female ostriches are brown:

Kinda like the Enchantimal peacock situation.
But that doesn't make me love Ellis any less.  I guess she's a beautiful transgender ostrich.

With an incredible face!

I love her huge eyes and the slightest hint of a smile in her beak:

Ellis has large black wings with white tips.  They blend in perfectly with her black and white dress:

And of course Ellis has the same button articulation as the other dolls, so she can move her wings and legs and run all over the place:

She cracks me up.

I turned Ellis loose outside in a big garden, but asked her to sit for a quick portrait.  I think she looks very fancy next to this elegant planter:

After I snapped the portrait, she went dashing off to explore the flowers:

She marveled at how some of the grasses were even taller than she is!

And this fluffy hydrangea reminded her of ostrich plumage:

But Ellis' favorite plant was this dramatic smokebush!

I was pretty impressed with this tree, too, but not as impressed as I am with Ellis and her Snow Crow sisters.

Bottom line?  This is not a conventional review, so I don't have a grand conclusion to make regarding the pros and cons of these dolls.  To me, they're all treasures.  And they're all so different!  Their uniting feature is the body, which is roughly the same size across all dolls.  The dresses are alike, too, with different fabrics and varied sleeve lengths, but essentially the same pattern.  But the heads are all unique, and all such a delight!  Each doll has a fascinating presence on her own, but seeing my eclectic group of characters all together adds a whole new level of enjoyment.

I suspect that I like the group dynamic so much because it showcases the artist's strong voice.  There's such a clear love for (and knowledge of) the animal kingdom reflected in David's work.  Not only does he capture the essence of a wide range of species with skill and accuracy, but he renders the likenesses of mammals, birds, and insects with equal reverence.  There's also a vivid and wacky imagination shining through all of David's dolls.  He clearly sees distinct personalities in objects as inanimate and ordinary as a lemon or a slice of bread, and brings those personalities to life for all of us to enjoy.  Even though my selections from Snow Crow Studio are relatively tame, I also appreciate the streak of strangeness in David's aesthetic.  I love that there are monsters, frozen corpses, and goth characters in the mix.  And I like that all of the human dolls are wall-eyed and grouchy...and some of them have heterochromia iridum.   

I can't say for sure, but it feels like David is experimenting with an increasing number of new ideas for his dolls.  There's a sad little storm cloud doll in the shop this week, and last week there were some cryptids, which I'd never even heard of before.  A few months ago there was--of all things--a sliced gherkin.  What will it be next week or next month?  A teapot?  A planet?  A beetle?  Something in the fungal kingdom?  More likely, it'll be something beyond the confines of my own imagination.  All I know for sure is that whatever it is, I can't wait to see it.  

You don't need to buy it though, Emily.


  1. Oh. Oh, no.
    I'm obsessed.
    These dolls are pretty much most of the things I love in aesthetics--vintage surrealism and hand-crafted care...I may now have to stalk the artist now, too, because the spooky and surreal dolls are all ones I'd love to have. I'm almost upset these are individual creations from a single artist because everyone gets just the one, but they're so special because of that.
    Darn you, Emily. I'm completely resolved to get myself one of these dolls someday now. Thank you for showcasing such a wonderful artist!

  2. I'm so glad you decided to dedicate a blog post to these art dolls! The short peeks on Patreon were already very interesting. I love all the outdoor photography you did for this review. The pictures really bring out the beauty of the dolls even more. (Although I can't be the only one who wants to see more of the purple-couch-pigeon-room?! That sounds glorious.)

    The human dolls are very pretty but I have to admit that Charlotte is just a tiny bit creepy to me, hahaha! The animal dolls are my absolute favorite, especially the giraffe doll. The artistry is just insane, and I like how the animal dolls all seem to have some sort of human expression or emotion to them, even when at first glance they all have a similar stare. I could easily attribute different personalities to them.

    I had a brief look at David's other dolls and as a cryptozoology enthusiast, the Flatwoods Monster doll is absolutely brilliant!! Would love to see a Nessie doll next...

  3. These dolls are fascinating works of art. I don't know that I'd particularly want to own one, but I would love to see an exhibit of them at a museum. Charlotte is probably my favorite of yours - I have a soft spot for that blend of eerie and innocent. She reminds me of Coraline - the book and its illustrations more than the movie.

  4. These are incredible!! Wow, what a talented artist, thanks for the showcase. Charlotte is my favorite for the creepy dark Pearl eyes and details on her outfit.

    Your pigeon custom made me think of the internet-famous Japanese visual novel (interactive story) game Hatoful Boyfriend, where you are the only human girl in a school of uplifted, sentient birds— particularly pigeons. It’s a quirky sci-fi premise where you can just explore some interconnected backstories, puns, and date your pigeon peers… but there’s also deeper routes with horror elements. Livia would fit right in as a classmate at St. Pigeonation's Institute!

  5. Incredible! Beautiful dolls. My favorite is the pigeon! So much personality in that face!! Thanks for showing us these gorgeous dolls!

  6. These are beautiful dolls! I love the fantastical ones and animal themed ones best. The control the artist has over the paper clay medium is wonderful. It's very cool to see one of a kind art dolls featured here, along with the more typical content. I always enjoy how much variety of dolls you showcase, from high-end adult collector dolls, to play dolls for little kids, to everything in between. You also feature so many styles and mediums of doll, showing the beauty and charm of many materials, many eras, many creators. I think of your blog as really celebrating the fun of what dolls can be!

  7. So neat!
    Two thoughts:
    1. Do you remember Bert on Sesame Street? He loved pigeons too, and his favorite and smartest pigeon was called Bernice.
    2. Whenever you mention your purple couch I think of the drink called the purple cow, which is vanilla ice cream and grape soda. Also the silly rhyme that goes "I never saw a purple cow. I never hope to see one. But I can tell you anyhow, I'd rather see than be one!"

  8. Oh my gosh, I LOVE Frozen Charlotte! 😍 She has charmed me with her melancholy creepiness! I might have to peruse the artist's Etsy...

  9. These are incredible! I'm intrigued by how the artist is able to blend the clay and fabric so smoothly together. The dolls are impeccable in their simplicity; it's so hard to pick a favorite.

  10. They are really beautiful and so so special. I love little Lark and Charlotte even Charlie is a tiny bit creepy :) I checked the artist‘s Facebook and I looove the cats and the bats! He also had a shorter haired redhead and she was so so cute 🥰 I hope to get one, too one day 🥰 Great post, Emily and so happy you got your Pigeon ❤️

  11. Emily, have you seen the series "Star Vs. Evil Forces"? I think you'll love it.

    And "Over the Garden Wall" too... It's a so special miniseries.

    1. I'm Lilium, forgot publish my name.

  12. That giraffe doll is amaaaaaazing. Wow.

  13. Thank you for introducing is to a fabulous new artist, I immediately went and followed. These dolls are so unique, their really is a distinct voice throughout. I think Livia is my favourite of the lot, though the dolls with object heads really tickle my fancy, and the detail on the giraffe is just breathtaking. I can't imagine how long that took

  14. I absolutely adore the pigeon doll! This artist is apparently in my state, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Definitely keeping an eye on his work.

  15. Have you ever seen Quirky Qritter's dolls on Etsy? I've got a couple of them, even though I'm not fond of BJD. The characters were just hard to resist.

  16. just occurred to me with these dolls outside and pictures- you are writing children's books... (and we're reading them of course). get thee to a publisher...