The DIY workshop
a project by Vishal Rawlley
supported by Open Space

Students of Pearl Academy of Fashion, Jaipur, participate in a DIY Doll Circus, 28Jan - 1Feb 2013

The Proposal

DIY stands for Do It Yourself - it is an ethic that prides in making things on your own. It relates to fashion when it is about personalization, customization, individual style and unique statement.

Dolls, mannequins, puppets, toys – represent us and embody our fantasies. When these are animated by hands, strings, motors or levers, they can perform dramas, enact spectacles and create a circus show.

The DIY Doll Circus shall be an event in which participants shall create a world of fashion and design with a party atmosphere. The miniature world of dolls and toys shall be our creative lab where we experiment with ideas, play with forms and come up with innovative presentations.
The exercise shall begin with a workshop where the participants shall be exposed to all matter and media relating to dolls, doll worlds and doll creation: essays, books, films, animation, puppetry, construction tools, digital techniques and hand-craft.

This shall be followed by a make-session where the participants shall be provided with materials, tools and implements to construct dolls and doll worlds. Participants have to design clothing, fashion accessories, sets and backdrops for their dolls and doll worlds. The idea is to construct miniature exhibits which could be in the form of a fashion store, photo studio, discotheque, beach strip, ramp, kitchen, garden, etc. The exhibits should be animated with puppetry, electro-mechanical toys, music videos, interactive screens, DJ sets, choreographed dances and blinking lights. Participants should think of a fashion theme which they bring alive with art, craft, music, dance and drama.

On the exhibition day these creations shall come together to create a circus carnival. The DIY Doll Circus shall be an immersive experience comprising of live performances, screenings, games and interactive fun.

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Here is a bunch of visual clues to the kind of elements the DIY Doll Circus may involve:

Doll Party Music Video: 
Doll Vampire Theme Party: 
American Doll soul transfer: 
Doll Episodes:
Mechanical Toy - Lion Tamer:
Motion Patterns: 
Pop-up Sculptures: 
Fashion accessories:
Doll Dance performed by a human:
Doll Dance stop motion:
Doll Dance toy:
Toy Music:
Japanese Toy Music Video:


The Workshop

This 5 day, 8 hours per day, workshop was conducted with 20 students from the Foundation Class - mostly girls, except two boys. They were 18-20 years in age.

Students were asked to do a number of exercises which introduced them to new ways of using their craft. This involved using novel devices such as cell phones, LED lights and magnets. Students were also encouraged to use fashion and design to make a political statement, a social comment or a personal expression, rather than cater to markets and trends. Some links:

Abhinandita Mathur, who collaborated on this workshop, introduced students to the concept of gender sensitivity, patriarchy and feminism. This was done by exposing students to the work of photographers who have artfully used fashion and styling to imbibe their images with cultural codes which reflect social attitudes, especially towards gender. Some links to photographer's works:
Mariel Clayton:
Sean Lee: and
Bernard Faucon:

Exercise 1 - Mobile Phone Dolls

Students made dolls out of their mobile phones by adding a face and body to the phone. These phone dolls were given voice and character by using features of mobile phones to play music, blink lights, vibrate, show images and videos, and react to incoming calls.

This exercise was a demonstration in transforming and repurposing ordinary gadgets. In this exercise a factory made phone was transformed into a personal object and an emotive thing.
Above: Some of the phone dolls created by the students. Below: A video of one of the dolls

Exercise 2 - Reading Images, Constructing Identities

Students were asked to write an image description. We wanted to uncover what an image reading tells us about our own attitudes when we describe a scene. How is this reading encoded in the image? We specially showed images of 'mise en scenes' and tableaux created with dolls. In these mini doll worlds some photographers have created allegories of domestic life and social mores.

In this exercise we wanted students to reflect upon the construction of image and identities - which is part of a fashion designer's job.
Above: Photos by Mariel Clayton shown to students. Below: Students reading their image descriptions.

Exercise 3 - The Doll Circus

In this exercise students engaged in making their own thematic doll worlds. A number of these displays, created in detail, were impressive in craft and design. Students created lively worlds with dolls, music, lights and props.

The finale of the workshop - conceptualized by the workshop leaders - involved dressing up a 100 dolls as angels and flying them on gas balloons. These little angels carried with them messages, from students and staff of the academy, addressing the issue of 'respect for women'. This symbolic act, of launching a 100 angels with a 100 messages into the sky, brought a 100 people together. The act was performed with the hope that these messages, carrying the words and feelings of a hundred people, would spread and multiply wherever they landed on Earth.

Below: Some images from the tableaux created by the students. Clockwise from top: Scene of a sea beach, girls dip their feet in the water; A ramp walk with a girl in peacock dress being slid in with magnets under the floor; Girls a grape crushing ceremony; A circus scene.
Clockwise from top: Scene of a sea beach, girls dip their feet in the water; A ramp walk with a girl in peacock dress being slid in with magnets under the floor; Girls a grape crushing ceremony; A circus scene.
The 100 Flying Angels
Above: The 100 Angels get outfitted with wings and tails and strings
Above: The Angel ready to take flight Above: The Angel carries a message
Above: Some of the messages carried by the Flying Angels
A video of the event
A special thanks to the students and staff of Pearl Academy, Jaipur.