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Entering Dolls in Competition
and Judging Dolls

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As an artist and a sculptor, I often dream of joining the realm of the World's Most Beautiful Dolls - that place where there is recognition and your artist's dreams come true!!

On the other hand, if I can touch a heart, reach out to an emotion, make someone laugh or smile, brighten a day - that is what art is about, to me.

Perhaps it is no different than the watercolorist or oil painter, we strive do be the best we can. Taking an innate object such as clay and transforming it into an object of movement and clarity is my objective.

I am a "self-taught" artist. I have not had the joy of attending art schools and what I have done has been thorough many hours of toil and enjoyment, although not the speediest of experiences. I have learned that entering dolls in competition provides an educational experience to make me a better doll artist. The critique provided by a qualified judge gives me the measuring stick I need to improve the quality of my dolls.

  • But - be aware!

Entering a doll in a competition means you are at the mercy of the judges. MAKE SURE THE COMPETITION YOU ENTER HAS QUALIFIED, TRAINED JUDGES AS WELL AS A "POINT SYSTEM" ON WHICH TO JUDGE. Nothing is worse than having a wonderful creation and entering a competition which is totally subjective and the judges don't "like" your work. Maybe they just don't like blue eyes or big ears!!!!

The Seeley Educational Doll Judging System is one of the best I have seen thus far for porcelain dolls, in that it promotes a system which compels the doll maker to improve his/her product without thinking he/her must "beat out" the other doll people. To learn more about their system of judging I suggest you refer to the book Judging Dolls by Mildred Seeley, available through Scott Publications. Mildred offers an excellent system divided into four parts,

  • Training of Judges
  • The use of a standardized score sheet for each doll
  • The educational, encouraging and fair attitude of the judges, and
  • Use of exhibit cards.

The sample judging sheet shown below provides an overview of potential scoring during competitions. Please note that all shows are different. Knowing what to look for during the competition is important. Most clubs/shows will provide you with a copy of their scoring sheet in advance of the competition if you request one.




Rules for original exhibitors - Usually follow the rules that exhibitors must not use any doll or commercial mold, or other, to create his/her original doll. This generally applies to the head, hands, body and feet.
(Judges marks are entered to the right of the points available for each category.)

1. Originality................................25 points

Shows creative talent....... 1 - 10

Unlike any other doll....... 1 - 5

General Appeal.............. 1 - 10

2. General Overall appearance................. 20 points

Proportion of head and body. 1 - 10

Proportion of hands and feet 1 - 5

Costume appropriate for doll 1 - 5

3. Workmanship.................................20 points

Smoothness of the bisque.... 1 - 5

Symmetry of face............. 1 - 5

Parts of the doll fit together 1 - 5

Eye cutting and fitting...... 1 - 5

4. Painting....................................20 points

Cheek and other blending...... 1 - 5

Lashes, brows, lips........... 1 - 5

Eye painting.................. 1 - 10

5. Costume..................................... 15 points

Originality................... 1 - 5

Color Coordinated............. 1 - 5

Fit and sewing................ 1 - 5


Originality....... ______

Workmanship....... ______

Painting.......... ______

Costume........... ______


SCORE............. ______

COMMENTS: ___________________________________________________________

90- 100 Points = Blue Ribbon

75 - 89 points = Red Ribbon

65 - 74 Points = White Ribbon

Below 64 - Honorable mention

Rosette ribbon will be awarded to the "Best of Show".

  • Selecting a category for competitions

The selection of a category for your doll is also of utmost importance during a competition. Most show delegates will assist you if you have a problem with discerning the proper category.

Competitions are beginning to provide separate categories for pourable mediums such as porcelain from hard mediums such as polymer Clay. The techniques used to produce the dolls are entirely different.

For an excellent sample of category definitions for original dolls in a variety of mediums, and a sample critique form, please visit the Kansas City Doll Fair. The form was used in their 2004 Doll Competition. Not all competitions use the same grading system.

Here is a sample of the KC Doll Fair Original Category
  • Doll must be the original idea and work of the artist entrant.

  • All parts of the doll must be entrant's original work (no pre-formed hands/legs or dolls created from a mold created by another artist).

  • Costume must be the work of the entrant.

  • All mediums except those dolls entirely of fabric, which is in the Cloth Division.

  • Mediums may include, but are not limited to, polymer clay, air-dried clay, paper mache, wood, mixed media with fabric, porcelain, other pourable media such as resin, FlumoŠ, cast metal or vinyl and made from the artist's original mold.

  • Props and Tableau setting may be constructed of any materials appropriate, and may consist of purchased items.

  • Dolls created in a face-to-face workshop/seminar given by professional artist or which have been entered in a previous KCDF competition are not eligible.

  • No more than 2 dolls in any one Category please
  • 1. Character Doll Any original creation which does not represent an actual person (portrait), fantasy figure, or figurative art.

  • 2. Fantasy Doll Doll is created with a theme, such as a fairy, Santa, clown, futuristic, etc, or done in a "fantastic manner" such as an animal, or other non-human, etc.

  • 3. Portrait Doll Any original creation made to represent an actual person, living or deceased. Please include photo(s) of person of which the portrait doll represents.

  • 4. Figurative Art Dolls which can't be categorized in any other sub-category, for example, an original doll cast in bronze. Click here for photos of Example 1 and Example 2. Head and limbs must be represented in some manner.

  • 5. Tableau A scene with a doll or dolls (5 maximum), with dimensions of 18" by 18" maximum; height not over 30". Doll(s) must be grouped on single base unit.

  • Dolls with props, other than hand props, or imaginative use of a doll stand (judge's determination), are considered a Tableau.

  • If more than one doll in tableau, individual dolls are not judged specifically (judges discretion) - just the overall Tableau.

  • One or more artists may enter dolls for one Tableau, but Tableau's are awarded as one unit, not as individual artist's pieces.
  • How to use the critique to improve your skills

If the judges are trained and provide an unbiased opinion of your doll based on standards within the industry, you can walk away from a competition knowing what you need to improve. Once you get past the shock of having a blue ribbon or the disappointment of a lesser-scoring ribbon, look at your scoring sheet with a discerning eye and it should tell you what areas you need to improve. The judges comments are of utmost importance and a good judge should provide enough information for you to learn where your "weak" areas are and how to improve your skills.


I have only entered 5 doll competitions, but received 5 out of 5 blue ribbons (Pretty Good!), ranging in scoring from 92 - 99. No trophies yet, but I did receive the Best of Category award for one of my dolls shown in competition. I don't look at it as a "Best of Category" in a fair competition because it was the only one entered in the original artist category in a small town!!

I got marked down once from a judge because one of the accessories I attached to a doll was not "life-like" or painted correctly even though it was a direct replica of what I wanted to portray, they just didn't know it. That's where the 3x5 index cards come in...(if they read them). Prepare a card for submission with your doll to explain costuming, accessories, and any relative information about your doll.

Take it all with a "grain of salt". Improve what YOU believe needs improvement and let the rest go.

A long time ago my Brother, an oil painter and artist, told me I could paint the clouds on the canvas any way I wanted them, they were MY CLOUDS. That has stayed with me through many years of art and sculpting. No one can tell you what to do. Do it "YOUR WAY" and it will be the best.

I encourage you to enter competitions as they are a way of judging originality, painting techniques and overall designs for your doll.But be selective about the competitions you enter and be aware of the judges and the categories for competition. Most of all, DON"T DO IT IN A HURRY!! Allow yourself enough time to present the best that you can do. Best of luck in all of your endeavors!!

Comments and editorials to this article are welcomed!! IF YOU ARE A JUDGE OR A COMPETITION PARTICIPANT I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU.
Just Contact Michelle

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