Miss Piggy paperdolls…
And an Interview with Erin A. Ellis
Art by Erin A. Ellis
Erin, We spent countless hours looking for paper dolls for this valentines issue, before we finally found you. Yours stand out. The clothes look like they’d actually fit the dolls.
Was it hard to get the right fit?
It’s always tricky getting the right fit for the doll outfits. I use a lightbox to trace the outfits onto the finished doll but sometimes they’re still a little off. I’m not sure how that happens! Somewhere in between the tracing, drawing, inking and coloring, things shift. Once I scan all the outfits onto my computer, I layer them on top of the finished doll in Photoshop. There are always minor adjustments to be made, but it’s worth it to make sure that the outfits fit the doll.
Are you making new clothes for them or giving them outfits they were known to have?
Since I choose subjects from movies or tv shows I like, I draw outfits that the characters are known to have. I spend a lot of time scouring the internet looking for reference pictures. I want to make them as accurate as possible!
How did you decide to make paper dolls? Did you play with paper dolls as a kid? Do you have a particular set that stands out? Are you still chasing that dragon?
I’ve loved paper dolls ever since I was a kid. My sister and I probably have thousands (mostly all still up in my parent’s garage, much to the chagrin of my father)! We would get books of paper dolls every birthday and Christmas. We’d cut pictures out of my grandmother’s Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. We’d ask my mom to draw us animal families and copy characters from our favorite fairy tale books. It’s safe to say we were paper doll crazy!
Tom Tierney was the ultimate paper doll artist, and a huge inspiration to me. I have a lot of his books, so it’s hard to pick a favorite!
You have several sets and I wanna play with them all. What set came first? How do you decide which set to make next?
The first of my more recent sets are the Schitt’s Creek characters. I was late to the game, and didn’t start watching it until the pandemic hit. It was one of very few things that brought me joy during lockdown. I felt so inspired and needed to create something – I realized I had to make paper dolls!
It was really hard to choose which outfits to draw because they were all so wonderful. I had so much fun making them and they got such a positive response, it really reignited my passion for drawing paper dolls.
I decide what subject to make next by whatever inspires or excites me at the moment. Sometimes it’s a new show or movie (I’ve been watching We’re Here on HBO and I’m itching to do a Shangela doll), and sometimes it’s a show or movie that I’ve grown up loving (Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be up next).
The characters and clothing have to be fun to draw, otherwise I’ll lose interest and get distracted by another project.
Miss Piggy and Miss Yvonne, they were both known for being fashionable, but Ronnie Vino?
Yes I know, Ronnie is a weird choice! I love At Home With Amy Sedaris – I’ve seen it a couple times through and it still cracks me up. I saw that the official At Home With Amy Sedaris Instagram account did a Fan Art Friday, and I thought: “why not?” I made a paper doll of my favorite character, regional wine lady Ronnie Vino, and some of my favorite At Home accessories. She was so much fun to draw (I loved adding the wine flush to her cheeks and nose), but I admit: coloring her outfits was a pain! She has a lot of patches on her pants and vests and there were so many little details to figure out.
I’m happy with the finished product though – and so was Amy Sedaris!
I notice you sell your artwork on Etsy, including the doll range. Do you have any advice for those pursuing a career in the arts?
It’s hard to dispense advice when I still feel like I’m trying to figure things out myself! It’s taken years for me to find what style works for me, and what items I like to make. You have to really enjoy what you’re doing and don’t force it, because you won’t be happy with your work when you’re not feeling it. I often come out of the holidays feeling burnt out and tired, and it takes a while to get that creative energy going. But that’s okay! I know it will come back, it just takes time and the right idea.
About The Artist
Erin A. Ellis is an artist based in Somerville, MA. She graduated from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and received a BFA in Illustration. She works mostly in pen and ink and watercolor. She draws, paints, prints, and packages her work all out of her in-home studio under the watchful eye of her cat Ralph.